FEM sponsor local football team

FEM are proud to announce we’ve sponsored our local football team Kiverton miners FC U12’. We are keen to support local kids’ clubs with sporting activities at their centre.

This newly created team are in their first season and are already top of the league and aiming for promotion!

The passion of the coaching staff and the time they invest are a massive part of the success of the team and the positive environment they have created:

Manager: Adam Travis
Assistant manager: Dougie Travis
Coach: Ali Nicklin
U12 treasurer: John Watkinson

Catering staff:
Jackie Travis
Kim Travis
Christine Watkinson

Good luck for the rest of the season lads!

Why you should use mild steel for fabrication

When it comes to factors like versatility and cost-effectiveness, not many metals can offer as good a performance as mild steel. As the world’s most common type of steel, it has broad applications and is relied upon in daily life, thanks to its ability to be cut exactly to size and modified to suit where it is needed during the mild steel fabrication process. In this article, we will be exploring the benefits of mild steel as well as why it should be used for fabrication. 

 

First, what is mild steel? 

Mild steel is a form of low carbon steel, meaning it contains only a small percentage of carbon. Carbon content in steel can vary depending on the desired characteristics; with low carbon steels containing 0.05 – 0.25% carbon, increasing the properties of pure iron. 

Even though there are different grades of mild steel, they all have carbon levels that fall within the above-mentioned range. Inclusion of additional components enhances useful characteristics of steel, like anti-corrosion, abrasion-resistance, and strength. 

 

What are the benefits of mild steel? 

Cost-effective 

Mild steel is the least expensive of all steel types with many everyday objects being created from it such as vehicle chassis, motorbike frames, and a lot of kitchenware. The reason for its affordability is its carbon content, making it strong enough for a variety of jobs without being costly tensile. When it is needed for large orders, high quality mild steel fabrication companies like FEM can produce it en masse with a much lower cost than other steels, ensuring the best possible results and happy customers. 

Weldable 

In comparison to high-carbon steel, it is far easier for mild steel to be coalesced. Due to certain properties the metal has, electric currents can move through it without altering its ‘makeup’. This is different to other metals like stainless steel, where special techniques are required to ensure it is welded to a professional standard. This lessens expenses for labour and electricity, plus provides a solid end product from its simple fabrication. 

Ductile 

Ductility measures how much a material can be deformed by elongation without it breaking. These materials can stretch up to 15% of their original form before irreversibly changing and no longer returning to their initial shape. Along with materials like copper and thermoplastics, mild steel is able to bend, stretch and have reasonably large forces applied to it, making it easier for form, shape, and weld as needed. 

Recyclable 

A key benefit of most steels, including mild steel, is that it can be indefinitely recycled without losing its quality. Thanks to its magnetic properties as well, mild steel is especially easy to recover from unsorted waste and scrapped mild steel is essential to be able to produce more of it. Recycling scrap metal as much as possible is much cheaper than mining iron ore and processing it to create more. 

 

Why should mild steel be used for fabrication? 

When considering the benefits of mild steel above, it’s easy to see why mild steel is used in fabrication. It’s a key part of a wide range of industries and its useful properties and cost effectiveness make it a popular choice over other types of steel. To understand the importance of why it is used in fabrication, take a look at the list of a few examples of mild steel products and uses in various industries: 

  • Steel frame buildings- mild steel is commonly used for construction frame materials because of the high strength beams. 
  • Gates and fencing- two products where high security and aesthetic appeal are important, mild steel offers both of these important qualities. Low carbon steel is difficult to break and can be painted, primed, or galvanised to be corrosion resistant and provide a decorative finish. 
  • Machinery parts- one of the most sought-after traits of low carbon steel is malleability, which makes it well suited to use during production of sheet metals within car body kits and other key machinery components. 
  • Pipelines- mild steel is a top choice for creating steel pipes for various projects. This is because of their impressive ductility and being easy to weld whilst flexible enough not to break under pressure. Mild steel pipes can also be insulated to ensure their performance in colder weather, improving the long-term quality of the pipework. 
  • Structural steel- Low carbon steel is suitable for structural steel fabrication as it has consistent yield strength and is malleable. These properties and the cost-effectiveness of the metal means mild steel can sometimes be preferable over structural steel in smaller applications. 

 

If you’re looking for high quality mild steel fabrication UK, our team of experienced engineers at FEM can help. Contact us today to discuss your project requirements and we will deliver impressive, bespoke metal work that goes above and beyond your expectations. 

Why aluminium is the top metal for doors and windows

With the harsh cold of winter starting to fully kick in, you will probably start feeling the effects in your home and workplace. These effects can be significantly improved by using high quality aluminium fabrication for your doors and windows. Aluminium is an extremely popular choice for doors and windows and given the impressive benefits it offers, there’s no surprise as to why. In this article, we’ll be exploring the advantages of aluminium and hence the reasons why it is the go-to metal for modern doors and windows. 

 

Light weight 

Aluminium is a very light weight metal, coming in at 2.7g/cm3 which is around one third of steel or copper. It is actually one of the lightest metals commercially available on the market. This makes it great for window and door frames as the last thing you need when opening and closing your windows or doors is to struggle with how heavy they are. 

 

Corrosion resistant and low maintenance 

A key concern when purchasing windows and doors is whether they will deteriorate over time and face the challenge of corrosion. You don’t have to worry about this with aluminium though as when it comes into contact with air, a protective layer of aluminium oxide is created on the surface. This layer is highly resistant to corrosion no matter what the weather throws at it, and it won’t be damaged by any cleaning products either. 

Also, unlike timber or uPVC frames, aluminium fabrication door designs won’t swell, crack, split, or warp over the years. Corrosion protection can be solidified even further by anodising or painting (normally by powder coating) the surface. Cleaning aluminium will only require the occasional wipe with a damp cloth or soap water. It doesn’t take much effort to keep them looking fresh and new no matter how many years you have them. 

 

Malleable and strong 

Aluminium can be easily bent, pressed into shape, or drawn out into a thin wire without compromising any of its strength and without cracking or breaking. It is the second most malleable metal and the sixth most ductile, which is ideal for windows and doors. This is because the aluminium frame profiles can be easily bent or pressed into the desired shape without any risk of them breaking, making customisation much easier. 

 

Fully recyclable 

Aluminium is quite unique when it comes to recycling metals. It is 100% recyclable, and the quality of the recycled aluminium is exactly the same as the original metal. This means it can be recycled over and over again, which is especially advantageous from an environmental and sustainability point of view with a smaller carbon footprint and lower costs. Nearly 75% of all aluminium that has ever been produced is still being used today. 

 

Thermal efficiency 

As well as being a good conductor, aluminium is known for being a great insulator too, due to it reflecting the radiation of heat back to its source, like how aluminium foil keeps your food warm. Keeping the heat in is essential at this time of year, not only to stop your house or office feeling the cold but also to save you money on your energy bills. The thermal insulation features of aluminium are advantageous in summer too. If you want efficiency and value for money over the long term, aluminium fabricated windows and doors are your best option. 

 

Soundproofing 

Aluminium windows and doors have excellent sound insulating properties, which is a benefit many other materials can’t provide. They have fusion-welded joints that ensure the overall sealing of frames and stop entry of external noise. So, by choosing aluminium fabrication you can get a quiet, relaxing, and stress-environment in your home or workplace. 

 

Aesthetically appealing and customisable 

Aluminium can be easily anodised, or powder coated to give it a decorative smooth or textured finish. This, alongside the natural look of aluminium itself, mean that your new doors and windows will only be high performing in all the key areas, but they will look modern and stylish too. 

 

If you’re looking for professional, high-quality aluminium fabrication services or any other metal fabrication contact FEM today. Our team have extensive experience in the industry we pride ourselves on exceeding customer expectations with every bespoke fabrication project we do. 

  

What is metal extrusion?

Stock material and custom metal work come in a wide variety of cross-sections, many of which will have been created using the process of metal extrusion. The importance of metal extrusion can’t be understated as products that are made this way can be found in a range of industries such as construction, manufacturing, retail, information technology, and more. 

Having even a surface level understanding of some of the key metal fabrication and manufacturing methods as well as their capabilities can be helpful to engineers. Therefore, in this article, we’ll be exploring what exactly metal extrusion is, a quick history of it, types of extrusion processes etc. 

 

Brief history of metal extrusion 

The process was invented by Joseph Bramah in 1797 when he pushed soft metal through a die using a hand-driven plunger to create metal pipes. Joseph Bramah also went on to develop the very first hydraulic press for Thomas Burr in 1820. This hydraulic press produced the first lead pipes that transformed the metal manufacturing industry. 

 

What is metal extrusion? 

The extrusion process involves forcing a metal (hot or cold) through a die which then imparts the die shape to the extruded metal as it moves through the cavity. When the material emerges from the die it is referred to as “extrudate”. The metal experiences compressive and shear stress in order to be moulded into the die shape.  

The nature of these forces and the increased temperatures mean materials can be formed with otherwise brittle properties using this process. It’s not just metals that are suitable for extrusion, non-metals like ceramic, plastic, clay, concrete, and polymers can be used in the process. 

Key features 

  • Extrusion is an inexpensive process thanks to less waste and having a high rate of production. 
  • It can make brittle materials because of only applying compressive and shear forces on the billet. 
  • Products possess elongated grain structure in material direction and a smooth surface, reducing post-treatment.  
  • Thin wall thicknesses achievable via extrusion: 3mm steel, 1mm aluminium. 
  • The process forms very complex cross-sections with a uniform wall thickness throughout the product. 

 

What is the process of metal extrusion? 

The extrusion has evolved and been through a number of changes since its initial invention. This process is used to give consistent material input for 3D printing and other additive manufacturing applications, in addition to extruding final products. The material is then deposited one layer at a time to form the desired product. Extrusion is very important and beneficial when it comes to bespoke metal fabrication. Read on to see the steps of a generic metal extrusion process below. 

Preparing feed metal 

The billet/ingot is the feed metal that functions as the raw material. It’s important to note that feed metal has to adhere to specific standards set by the designers. Normally it will have a circular or square profile, but it can have other shapes too. The feed metal itself is formed with methods like hot rolling or continuous casting. 

Getting ready for extrusion 

The raw material goes into an extrusion machine such as a press, heated (hot extrusion) or not (cold extrusion) depending on the method used. 

Extrusion 

Next the extrusion itself can take place by putting compressive force that pushes the material towards the die, which has a small opening. In response to the high pressure, the metal leaves the die through that opening, taking the shape of the die during the process. As soon as this is done, pressure is released, and the next step can begin.  

Heat treatment and post-processing 

Heat treatment is the next part of the process as the product needs to have its properties improved and get it ready for its service conditions. The heat treatment process will differ depending on the metal. For example, if using aluminium, the extruded part is cooled first, then stretched and cut to the required lengths. The pieces then go through ageing where they are heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and held for four hours so that they harden. 

 

What are the different types of extrusion processes? 

There are several different types of metal extrusion forms that can be used, and while the main principles stay the same, they are applied differently to successfully create a range of bespoke metal fabrication products. All metal extrusion processes can come under one of the following categories.  

Hot extrusion 

In hot extrusion, the metal is fed above its recrystallisation temperature to soften the metal and allow it to flow through the die opening. The high working temperature stops the material from going through work hardening and the pressure level means that it is necessary to use a lubricant. Setup for hot extrusion is costly to buy and maintain, so it is only really profitable for large scale products. 

Cold extrusion 

When extrusion is done at room temperature it is known as cold extrusion. The method stays the same as hot extrusion except the material isn’t heated at all, or only marginally before the process is started. Advantages of cold extrusion include shorter batch timings, finer tolerances, a smoother surface finish, and lack of oxidation. Disadvantages are the potential need for more power due to the material being difficult to work with, the mechanical properties of the material can change during the process, and it takes longer at lower temperatures. 

Warm extrusion 

Warm extrusion is when the process is completed between room temperature and recrystallisation temperature of the metal. Compared to the previous processes, warm extrusion provides benefits like more control over extrudate properties e.g., ductility. The temperature never goes above the critical melting point at any time during the metal forming process. 

Friction extrusion 

The heat generated by friction between the die and feed metal is used to heat the latter during friction extrusion. Therefore, the feed metal doesn’t need any pre-heating, but it uses the internal energy to increase the extrusion temperature. Despite being previously overlooked, this type of process has gained more attention recently thanks to its benefits in additive manufacturing. 

Microextrusion 

This process produces parts of the small, sub-meter range that are intended for special applications, but it does require small dies and rams, which is difficult with stringent accuracy requirements. The end result of microextrusion will fit within a 1mm square. Other issues arise when working with small products like grain boundaries and structure, deformation defects, and creating stability. 

 

If you need expert metal fabrication in Sheffield, contact us at FEM today. Our team have extensive experience in the industry and strive to create the highest quality products for our customers.

Why is steel used in the automotive industry?

Steel is a metal that is heavily used across the engineering landscape. There are a number of different alloys that can be produced for multiple applications across industries. The automotive industry is one example of a landscape that has many uses for steel alloys, like mild steel in various components within vehicles. In this guide, we’ll be answering why steel is such a key part of the automotive industry and the benefits of it within this area. 

Why steel is used in the automotive industry?

Mild steel fabrication and the automotive industry go hand in hand as mild steel is the least expensive and most broadly used of all metals in this sector. This means it’s always a go-to for automotive projects that require a large amount of metal. 

As well as suiting a car maker’s desire for lightweight vehicles (a must for making cars as fuel efficient as possible), but it is also very affordable and with the right steel fabrication work, can be engineered in many different ways to meet requirements for crash safety and performance. 

The unique flexibility of steel doesn’t take away from its strength or deflect energy if a collision does happen, and as you probably already know, the importance of impact resistance in car manufacturing cannot be understated. 

Another reason mild steel is used so extensively in the automotive industry is it exhibits what’s known as ‘ferromagnetism’. This essentially is the basic mechanism by which specific materials can be turned into permanent magnets. When at room temperature, the atoms in mild steel are organised to create a structure that is mostly ferrite (which is magnetic). Car parts are often made from mild steel because of their attractive potential. 

What is steel used for in the automotive industry? 

In the case of a large number of vehicles, the composition of it is more than 50% made of steel. The majority of this steel is located in the skeletal body of the car, often referred to as the ‘body in white’ which is the foundation for the rest of the vehicle to be created.  

High-quality steel fabrication companies like our team at FEM, can shape and develop steel products for automotives in a range of ways to ensure it adheres to safety regulations and any other requirements the manufacturer needs. 

Benefits of steel in automotives 

Steel has been the metal of choice for pretty much all vehicles since the days of horses and carriages and there are many benefits that explain why. 

It’s predictable 

Fabricators and manufacturers are very familiar with the features and characteristics of steel when used in cars. There is a deeper understanding of the metal and how it will respond in nearly any automotive application. As a result, there is certainty and predictability with steel that guarantees all vehicles that are produced will be of the highest possible standard. 

It can easily be reshaped and restored 

In the event that a steel vehicle takes collision damage, it can be effectively reshaped back into its original form thanks to its inherent “memory”. The physical structure can be restored without more advanced technologies being required. Also, steel can be easily welded, cut, and joined with standard welding equipment and fabrication. 

No special joints are needed when crafted into a vehicle 

Manufacturing vehicles requires professional bespoke fabrication to ensure everything looks and performs how it should and problems like galvanic corrosion are avoided. Whilst good in some cases and industries, if galvanic corrosion happens in a vehicle it will lead to the eventual disintegration of elements as electrons move. When automotive structural parts are made of steel, the manufacturer doesn’t need to worry about preventing possible corrosion by using special, insulated joints. 

Conclusion 

As you can see, steel is very beneficial to the automotive industry, so it is no surprise as to why it is one of the most favoured metals. At FEM, we specialise in various types of bespoke metal fabrication including mild and stainless steel fabrication to name a few examples. If you’re looking for metal fabrication services get in touch with us today to discuss the requirements of your project. 

Uses of structural steel in the transport industry

Efficient transport is essential for our modern way of life and steel plays a key role in providing strong, safe, and sustainable transport solutions. Steel facilitates the transport of goods and our mobility, whether it’s by bicycles, cars, buses, trains, etc or in the networks that support them, steel is crucial to every mode of transport. In this article, we’ll be looking at exactly how steel is used in the transport industry and the benefits of it. 

How steel is used in transport 

Steel is well-suited to the transport sector because it is strong, durable (meaning better safety in case of a collision), lightweight, affordable, UV-resistant, and fully recyclable. Additionally, regularly reinforced concrete roadways have a steel rebar to structurally support them and help to improve fuel efficiency for bigger vehicles. 

Design and development innovations in new high-strength steels have also played an important part in boosting the efficiency of a lot of these transport modes whilst significantly reducing the lifecycle of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Including automotive, roughly 16% of steel produced around the world is used to meet society’s transport needs. Steel is also vital to relevant infrastructures such as roads, bridges, ports, stations, airports, and fuelling. Some of the most notable applications include: 

Ships and shipping containers 

Shipbuilding normally requires structural steel fabricators to make plates for the hulls. The modern steel plates of today have much higher tensile strengths than they did in the past, meaning they are a lot better placed to efficient construction of large container ships. A specific type of plate is available with a built-in resistance to corrosion, which is great for building oil tankers. 

Steel fabrication like this make it possible to create much lighter vessels than there has been before, or vessels with more capacity of the same weight, offering important opportunities to save on fuel consumption and CO2. To put this into context, steel ships transport 90% of the world’s cargo, and around 17 million containers of various types make up the global container fleet, most of which are made of steel.

Trains and rail cars 

Rail transport utilises steel in the trains and for rails and infrastructure. For short or medium-length journeys, rail minimises travel times and CO2 emissions per passenger kilometre in comparison to almost all other types of transport.  

Steel accounts for up to 15% of the mass of high-speed trains and is vital. The main steel parts of these trains are bogies (the structure underneath the trains like wheels, axels, bearings, and motors). Also, freight or goods wagons are made almost completely from steel. 

Aeroplanes 

Steel is an integral part of engines and landing gear. 

What are the benefits of structural steel? 

Structural steel has a wide range of benefits which make it lend so well to the transport industry. These are: 

  • Contains recycled steel and can be recycled continuously 

  • Strong and safe which is key to busy transport services 

  • Durable and long-lasting, saving time and energy as it won’t need replacing on a regular basis 

  • Cost efficient 

  • Can be easily remanufactured if needed 

  • Reusable rail tracks

Where can I find structural steel fabricators near me? 

At FEM, our family-run team of structural steel fabricators have extensive experience and skills to create bespoke metal products that fit the exact requirements our clients need. To discuss your steel fabrication project needs, contact us today. 

Spreader beam vs lifting beam: What’s the difference?

If you need to carry out a job that involves lifting or moving big, heavy objects or fragile loads, investing in a load spreader beam or a lifting beam can make difference to the efficiency and safety of the operation. Both types of beams share the same goal of distributing the weight of the load to make it more stable, but they do so in different ways. In this guide, we’ll be looking at the difference between the two beams and the circumstances in which each one would be used. 

What is a spreader beam and how is it used?

A spreader beam evenly spreads the weight of a load over two or more pick points with the support of two slings that rig the beam to the hook. These beams have two attachment points on the top, allowing for a 45–60-degree angle to the crane hook and two equally spaced lower pick points. 

The extra rigging at the top alters the forces that are applied to the spreader beam. Due to the lift forces travelling along the vertical bottom rigging, and then moving to the inward-angled top rigging, forces that are put on the beam are compressive instead of bending forces. 

Spreader beams are 3-4 times lighter and so cheaper than a lifting beam with the same capacity. Compressive forces are simpler for the beam to handle than bending forces applied to a lifting beam. This means they are often used to carry very wide or heavy loads. 

What is a lifting beam and how is it used? 

A lifting beam is a below-the-hook piece of lifting machinery that is designed to offer extra pick points for loads where one pick point won’t be enough for load stability. To balance the lift forces throughout the beam, they usually have one attachment point on the top of the beam and two or more evenly distributed pick points on the bottom. 

Lift beams attach directly to the hook, they don’t require any top rigging. This makes them especially useful in cases where there is limited headroom like inside a building or underneath a structure. 

On either end, lifting beams help to produce similar pulling forces between the top centre hook and the bottom hooks. Forces move upwards through the bottom slings then throughout the full length of the beam. This force results in a bending effect a lot like a stick when bent over a knee.  

To get past the bending forces, lifting beam manufacturers typically need to make sure the beams are bigger, stronger, and heavier than spreader beams. Therefore, they are more expensive per foot and per ton of capacity.

What are the similarities and differences between a spreader and lifting beam? 

Both these types of lifting devices are very similar as their main goals are still the same and it’s easy to get them confused for one another. Also, the LEEA definition of the beams states that a lot of designs are a hybrid of the two systems and the equipment as a whole, including spreaders and hybrids are collectively called lifting beams, which doesn’t help with the confusion. This is why the differences between spreader and lifting beams are so important. 

The design of each of these lifting solutions influences how force is generated and used to lift heavy loads. A lifting beam absorbs the majority of the stress from the load, whereas the spreader beam shares that stress with the slings. The lifting beam is easier to use as it doesn’t need as much overhand clearance or rigging, but it is much more costly and less stable than spreader beams. 

How do I choose between a spreader beam and lifting beam? 

When looking at lifting beams and spreaders for your project and deciding on the right one, you will want to ask yourself: 

  • What am I lifting? 
  • How am I lifting it? 
  • What is the size and weight of the load? 
  • Where is the load being lifted to? 

 

It is important to think about how heavy the object being lifted is and where the lifting points are situated. Spreader beams will be more effective for loads with wide spans. However, if the length of the load needs support throughout the lift, then a lifting beam would be the better choice as a spreader beam would not be able to support loads in the centre. 

No matter which type of beam you choose for your project it is important to go to a high-quality manufacturer to produce a bespoke lifting beam for you. Bespoke metal fabrication for load lifting beams is essential to ensure the project runs smoothly and there are no risks to the health and safety of workers. 

Where can I find steel fabricators near me?

If you’re looking for either a spreader beam or a lifting beam, or other types of steel fabrication in Sheffield, our team at FEM can help. We offer professional bespoke fabrication services as each project, business, and industry is unique and the requirements for your steel fabrication will be unique too. Contact us today to discuss your metal fabrication needs. 

Environmental benefits of steel

Using steel is various projects has a lot of benefits. As well as being a key aesthetic elements in modern architecture and design, and its strength and versatility in the construction industry, working with steel has environmental advantages too. Easily sustainable and recyclable, steel is an important element of the cyclic economy that humanity needs – one that reuses rather than always producing from scratch. In this guide, we’ll be looking at the environmental benefits of steel and why steel fabrication is useful. 

 

Steel is recyclable 

One of the main reasons why steel is thought to be environmentally friendly is how easy it is to recycle. Steel is reported to be the most recycled material in the world and its metallurgic properties ensure that when it is recycled, its quality doesn’t deteriorate in any way. This means that it can be melted down and reused over and over without being negatively impacted at all. 

The recyclable nature of steel significantly reduces the environmental effect of making it new from raw materials. For example, producing steel cans from recycled steel uses 75% less energy than manufacturing them from raw materials. Recycling 1kg of steel prevents 2kg of greenhouse gases from getting into the atmosphere and stops products from being dumped in landfills. This allows the material to be reprocessed which in turn conserves precious and costly raw materials. 

 

Less waste 

A big factor that makes working with wood and other similar materials so damaging to the environment is the amount of waste that comes from unusable offcuts. Bespoke steel fabrications are custom-made by professional engineers like us, which means every project is made to order all the way down to the smallest of details. This ensures wastage is pretty much non-existent, while the waste that builds up with wood also needs removing in some capacity, (e.g., removing offcuts in a truck or using water) putting more strain on the environment. 

 

Saving energy 

Constructing a steel framed house, for example, is beneficial to your energy usage and bills all year round. Steel’s natural strength means it can hold thicker and more efficient insulation. Therefore, when winter comes around you will use a lot less energy trying to keep your home warm with heating and boilers. Equally during the summer, steel framed buildings offer better air quality and minimise humidity, so you won’t be relying on dehumidifiers and air purifiers, further lowering both your energy costs and your carbon footprint. Saving energy and reducing each building’s carbon footprint is an essential step in becoming more environmentally friendly and helping with the fight against climate change. 

 

Quick construction 

The highly efficient nature of building with structural steel means the construction process as a whole is simplified. A quicker construction rate and less manpower minimises overall resource consumption on each project. Pre-engineered steel buildings are lighter in weight compared to concrete or wood, so the product is easier to handle. Also, steel structures don’t need as much space as ones comprised of masonry, concrete, or wood. It might not seem like it will make a big difference but when it comes to conserving the environment, every little bit helps. 

 

Durable and long-lasting 

Once you build with steel, you won’t have to worry about damage or having to build the structure again after a few years. Steel is designed to last and can withstand whatever the weather throws at it. It won’t crack, warp, twist, split, or rot, and it will resist rust and corrosion too. It’s ability to last a long time reduces the impact of raw material consumption and the widespread felling on trees which is extremely damaging to the environment. 

 

Why should steel be used in fabrication? 

The environmental benefits alone are enough of a reason as to why steel should be used in fabrication, but there are also a lot of other advantages too like low cost, flexibility in customisation, visual aesthetic and more. 

If you need steel fabrication in Sheffield, FEM can help. Contact our team of experienced engineers to discuss your project needs today and experiences our cutting-edge steel fabrication services first hand.

History of aluminium in the aerospace industry

Aluminium and the aerospace industry have a close relationship that goes way back. From engines to propellers, fuselage frames to fuel tanks, where there’s aviation you will find aluminium fabrication. The industry benefits greatly from the many advantages the metal provides to ensure aircrafts, helicopters, and spacecrafts can all operate safely and efficiently.  

It has become so integral in fact, that around 75-80% of a modern aircraft is made up of aluminium. In this article, we’ll be exploring the history of aluminium in the aerospace industry as well as the useful benefits the metal brings to the table. 

History of aluminium in aerospace

The Wright brothers

On 17th December 1903, the Wright brothers made history with the first human flight using their airplane, the Wright Flyer. During this time, automobile engines were very heavy and didn’t have enough power to achieve take off. So, the Wright brothers created their own special engine in which the cylinder and other elements were constructed from aluminium. 

Given that aluminium was not easily available and incredibly expensive, the plane itself was made from Sitka spruce and bamboo frame covered with canvas. It would take more than a decade for aluminium to become more widely used in the industry. 

World War 1

Wooden aircrafts got the ball rolling in the early days of aviation, but during World War 1, lightweight aluminium started to replace wood as the key part of aerospace manufacture. In 1915, German aircraft designer Hugo Junkers built the first ever full metal aircraft; the Junkers J1 monoplane. Its fuselage was made up of an aluminium alloy that utilised copper, magnesium, and manganese. 

The golden age of aviation 

The years between WW1 and WW2 were known as the golden age of aviation. Throughout the 1920s, Americans and Europeans were competing in airplane racing, which resulted in innovations in aircraft design and performance. Streamlined monoplanes replaced clunky biplanes and there was shift towards all-metal frames using aluminium alloys.

In 1925, the Ford Motor Company branched out into the airline industry with Henry Ford designing the 4-AT, three-engine, fully metal plane using corrugated aluminium. The plane was nickname “The Tin Goose” and became very popular with passengers and airline operators. By the mid-1930s, a new streamlined aircraft shape came to the forefront. Planes built during this time had tightly cowled multiple engines, a retracting landing gear, variable-pitch propellers, and stressed-skin aluminium sheet fabrication. 

World War 2

During WW2, aluminium was required for multiple military applications, especially construction of aircraft frames which led to a huge increase in aluminium production. The demand for aluminium was so high that in 1942, WOR-NYC broadcast a radio show called “Aluminium for Defence” which aimed to encourage Americans to contribute any scrap aluminium for the war effort. Aluminium recycling was pushed, and “Tinfoil Drives” offered free movie tickets in exchange for balls of aluminium foil. 

From July 1940 to August 1945, the US produced an impressive 296,000 aircrafts and over half of these were made mostly from aluminium. The American aerospace industry could meet the needs of not only their own military but also their allies, including Britain. At the height of production in 1944, American aircraft plants were building 11 planes an hour. By the end of WW2, the US had the most powerful air force in the world. 

The modern day 

Since the end of the war, aluminium has become an essential part of aircraft production. Whilst the composition of aluminium alloys has got better with time, the benefits of the metal have always been the same. As a result, aluminium is used extensively in modern aircraft manufacture. 

The Concorde, which flew passengers at more than twice the speed of sound for 27 years, was made with an aluminium skin. The Boeing 737, the best-selling jet commercial airliner is made up of 80% aluminium. Modern day planes use aluminium in the fuselage, wing panes, the rudder, exhaust pipes, the door and floors, seats, engine turbines, and cockpit instrumentation. 

Space exploration

Aluminium is not just crucial to airplanes but also to spacecraft as well where low weight combined with maximum strength is even more important. In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik 1, which was constructed using an aluminium alloy. 

All modern spacecrafts are made up of 50-90% aluminium alloy. These alloys have been used heavily on the Apollo spacecraft, the Skylab space station, and the International Space Station. Aluminium continues to be essential for the Orion spacecraft which is currently under development. The craft aims to enable human exploration of asteroids and Mars and the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, is using an aluminium-lithium alloy for Orion’s main structural elements. 

The benefits of aluminium

With many beneficial features, aluminium was an obvious choice for aircraft manufacturing. Wood was originally used but it tends to rot and splinter without extensive maintenance. Similarly, steel is stronger than aluminium, but it is also much heavier. Therefore, steel is only used in cases when extremely high strength is required like on landing gears or particularly high-speed planes. Some examples of the benefits of aluminium include: 

  • Lightweight- using aluminium significantly reduces the weight of an aircraft. Weighing about a third less than steel, it enables an aircraft to either carry more weight or have better fuel efficiency. 
  • High strength- the high level of strength aluminium has means it can replace heavier metals without losing any strength from the other metals, while benefitting from its lighter weight too. Also, load-bearing structures can maximise aluminium’s strength to make aircraft manufacturing more reliable and cost-efficient. 
  • Corrosion resistance- corrosion can be very dangerous for an aircraft and its passengers. Aluminium is naturally highly resistant to corrosion and chemical environments, meaning it is even more valuable for aircrafts operating in corrosive maritime environments. 

 

Using aluminium in fabrication 

It is thanks to these impressive benefits that aluminium is so sought-after, not just for use in the aerospace industry but many other industries, making aluminium fabrication an essential service. Bespoke fabrication using aluminium allows products to be made for clients that will be strong, lightweight, durable, resistant to anything, and long-lasting, whilst also meeting the requirements of the project. 

If you’re looking for high-quality, professional, and experienced aluminium fabrication in Sheffield, contact our team at FEM today and we can make your bespoke metal product needs a reality. 

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? 

Electroplating 

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 

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. 

Anodising 

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. 

Conclusion 

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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