What are the different types of metal finishes?

Metal finishing is the last, but very important step in the metal fabrication process, preparing the products to be used. On their own, a lot of metals can’t perform long term the way we would want them to. This is where finishes come in.  

The process allows new properties to be added to the metals, for example, electrical, chemical, heat, and corrosion resistance. Additionally, metal finishing improves visual aesthetics and offers an extra level of durability. The type of metal finish needed, depends on the intended use for the product. 

Choosing the right metal finish  

There are a number of factors to consider when selecting a finishing method for your metal work. The term metal finishing includes more than one execution process. This means there are multiple ways to achieve the metal finish required. Some key questions to think about when choosing the right finish include: 

  • Which finishing process works best with your products intended use? 
  • Is the metal finishing service right for the materials used in your project? 
  • Can the finishing technique keep up with the demands of your production speed? 
  • Is the metal finish the most cost-effective solution without affecting the quality of the end product? 

What are some examples of metal finishings? 


Also referred to as metal plating, electroplating is one of the most common metal finishing services available. Electroplating involves a thin layer of metal being coated onto a substrate. This is normally because the original part doesn’t have the properties to work on its own.  

So, a suitable metal coating is applied to improve the performance of the product. The electroplating technique offers several benefits that will vary depending on the type of metal coating used. Some examples include, added strength, durability, corrosion resistance, and visual appeal, to name a few. 


Galvanising is the process of adding a protective zinc coating to a metal. The layer of zinc is applied by dipping the product into a bath of zinc solution. It is a process that is best suited to products made of steel and therefore popular with steel fabricators 

This is because when molten, zinc reacts with steel and sticks to it to create a protective seal. Even if some of the metal is damaged, the seal is strong enough to protect the other areas. Zinc coating is a very cost-effective solution that extends the life expectancy of steel products. 

Powder coating 

Powder coating is a great option for products that require the best visual aesthetic. It is double the thickness of paint which is why it is considered to be a much more durable solution for finishing metals. The process involves melting the powder and applying it to surfaces in a range of colours and textures.  

Powder coating is the best choice for parts that have regular movement as it effortlessly yields when added to the material. Products that have powder coating are less likely to chip but unlike paint, they are more difficult to touch up. 


Even though the process of anodising is similar to electroplating, it is actually the opposite. Electroplating can be carried out on several different metals, whereas anodising is specifically suited to aluminium. Also, anodising changes the molecular composition of the product’s surface and offers key benefits.  

These include reducing wear and tear, boosting resistance to corrosion, and forming a stronger finish. This metal finish is colourless, but dyes can be added if a visual appeal is needed for the product. 


There are many different metal finishes that will be better suited to different projects than others. If you’re looking for metal fabrication in Sheffield, contact our friendly team at FEM today to discuss your requirements. 


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Pros and cons of laser cutting

Cutting is one of the most basic and widely used processes in the metal fabrication industry. Over time as technology has advanced, laser cutting has become the go-to technology to carry out cutting tasks because it has a number of advantages over other methods. However, it does have a few disadvantages too. In this article, we’ll be discussing both the pros and the cons of laser cutting so you can get a balanced understanding of the process if you need fabrication in Sheffield. 

The pros of laser cutting 

Engineers often prefer to use laser cutting due to the long list of pros it offers. Let’s look at some of the most important ones below: 


Laser cutting doesn’t need tools to be exchanged for each separate cut. The same setting can cut multiple different shapes within the same material thickness, saving a lot of time and energy as well as allowing you to be flexible. Also, the intricate cuts don’t cause any issues. 


Accuracy and precision are two of the main advantages of laser cutting in comparison to other thermal cutting processes. An accuracy of +/-0.1mm gives you the chance to achieve a high level of precision without requiring any after treatment. In a lot of cases, working to such a high standard means no extra tolerances are necessary. 

Easy repeatability 

+/-0.05mm means parts can be cut accurately that need to be pretty much exact copies of each other. 

Quick process 

Laser cutting is much faster than traditional methods of mechanical cutting, especially when it comes to completing more complicated cuts and projects. In comparison to other thermal cutting methods such as plasma or flame cutting, laser is the front runner in terms of speed, but only up to a certain thickness, which is about 10mm. Although, the exact advantage point will come down to the power of the laser cutter. 


The process requires little manpower because modern laser cutting machinery is designed to be easily automated. Experienced machine operators like our expert team of local metal fabricators still play a key role in the overall quality.  

However, the speed of the cutter and little demand for manual labour ensure lower costs in comparison to other cutting methods. Some machines even have feeding systems alongside follow-up conveyors. Naturally, these setups mean a higher priced laser cutting machine. 


With the correct setup, laser cutters will only leave a small burr and most of the time it doesn’t need removing. However, this will depend on the material, its thickness, and a few other factors. Another benefit is having a small heat affected zone. This means that as the microstructure along the HAZ changes, a smaller HAZ area leads to more predictable and dependable parts. 

Contactless cutting 

During the laser cutting process, only the beam touches the material. So, there is no friction from the machinery that could damage the tools, which will save you a lot of time and money on replacing tools further down the line.


This is one of the most important pros of laser cutting, its versatility can be demonstrated in two key ways. Firstly, laser cutting can be used for a wide range of different materials. Examples include various metals, MDF, acrylic, wood, paper, etc. One machine can be programmed to carry out different jobs, but the ability of cutting some of the materials will come down to the power of your machine. 

A lot of laser cutters aren’t just used for cutting. They can also be used for laser marking which has many applications when creating everyday products. Finally, the technology is appropriate for use in a variety of profiles. Tube laser cutting for example, can carry out the process on anything from box sections to open channels. 

The cons of laser cutting 

Despite it being used to make parts for almost every industry, laser cutting does have some drawbacks that need to be considered. 

High level of expertise needed 

As previously mentioned, a specialist operator is needed to ensure the most is made of the laser cutter’s potential. The right configuration will guarantee the cutting quality is always up to the high standard that is expected from this modern technology. 

Metal thickness limitations 

When looking at laser cutting in relation to other thermal cutting methods, it’s not the best option for cutting very thick plates. The largest thickness that will be suitable depends on the machinery available and the skills on hand. As a rough guide, metal is often laser cut up to 15 or 20mm. 

Upfront costs 

Laser cutting machines are extremely expensive to purchase, they can be double the cost of waterjet or plasma cutters. Even though the running costs and high efficiency do make up for it in the long run, the initial investment in laser cutting machinery is very big. 

Emission of fumes 

As we’ve seen, one of the benefits of laser cutting is its versatility in being able to cut different materials. However, the thermal cutting method often leads to emitted gases and dangerous fumes being dispersed. This is especially relevant when cutting plastic. Therefore, a high quality but normally expensive ventilation system will be needed in order to have a safe working environment.

Metal Fabrication in Sheffield

Despite a few minor downsides, it’s clear to see that laser cutting has more pros and is highly beneficial to the metal fabrication industry. If you’re looking for metal fabrication in Sheffield, contact the team at FEM today.

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