Steel shaping and cutting come with a number of challenges, typically related to the types of materials used.
Steel, as we all know, is a fairly robust material, which is great in terms of the strength of the finished product it is being used in; but this can make the material quite difficult to shape.
Shaping and cutting steel with hand tools is possible, but it takes a lot of time and effort, eliminates almost any chance of accuracy and uniformity, and may even work out to be costly due to mistakes and wastage.
Because of this, manufacturers have come to understand the importance of using the right methods and equipment for profiling, such as those offered by laser, profile and plasma cutting services.
These all fall under the umbrella of steel profiling.
Let’s explore what this means in a little more detail, to give you a better understanding of what it involves.
What is Steel Profiling?
The term ‘steel profiling’ is at once a simple concept, and also a fairly complex one.
On the face of it, it is simply a method for cutting, bending or shaping steel to fashion it into a particular shape.
This could be for the creation of machine parts, tools, products or even construction materials; and depending on the type of outcome you are looking for, you will have profiling done through one of several ways; namely laser cutting, plasma cutting, or profile cutting, each of which uses a particular type of machine to arrive at a finished product.
Each of these methods is slightly different for each other, and the one that you select will largely depend on what you want from the finished product.
This makes it important for those looking for these services to converse with service providers first, to arrive at an understanding of which method would be the best fit for the desired results.
These methods can also be applied to a number of different types of steel, each time providing work that is characterised by intricacy, accuracy and (in the case of CNC processes) uniform.
What Methods are Used for Steel Profiling?
As we have stated above, there is more than one way to shape a sheet of metal, and the route you choose to take will depend on your budget, the type of finished product you are looking for, as well as the materials you are working with during the process.
These methods include laser cutting, profile cutting and plasma cutting services:
Laser Cutting Services
As its name would suggest, laser cutting is a type of steel processing that makes use of laser cutting technology to fashion metals into shape.
It is best suited to industrial applications, but advancements in affordable and compact technology mean that this method is starting to be used by everyone from small businesses to hobbyists.
Through this method, a high-powered laser is applied to the metal, effectively melting it into a molten form. These lines that have been cut to molten are then blown away from the workpiece using high-pressure nitrogen.
This method is often appreciated for its low energy consumption, extreme degrees of accuracy and the ability to keep the workpiece in the right position through the entire process. It is also regarded as one of the fastest methods for profiling steel and other metals.
Plasma Cutting Services
Plasma cutting services are best used on conductive materials since electricity is required to create the searing jets of plasma used to actually cut the material.
Because of this, this method is most typically used with metals such as stainless steel, steel, aluminium, brass and copper; but it can also be applied to any other conductive metal too.
This method is great for increased cutting speeds with minimal wastage. It also works without warping the metal being worked on.
Plasma cutting can also be used for a wide range of applications, making it a remarkably versatile solution for shaping metal.
Oxy Steel Profile Cutting Services
Oxy steel profile cutting offers a low-cost approach to profiling and is best applied to plates or sheets of metal with a two-dimensional profile.
This method also generates a lot of heat by causing a chemical reaction using refined oxygen and steel.
This creates an iron oxide likened to fast-acting rust (which is carefully controlled) to shape the metal sheet.
To start, the metal sheet is heated with a flame to just under 1000 degrees Celsius.
From there, a highly targeted jet of pure oxygen is applied to the heated area to create the process of oxidisation, which creates a cavity in the metal and removes the cut material at the same time.
This method offers the benefit of incurring low operational costs while providing the worker to operate on remarkably small spaces.
What Types of Steel can be Cut with Steel Profiling?
While each of the abovementioned methods is considered ideal for certain types of materials, the general rule is that conductive metals are best suited to all types of profile cutting.
It is important for the workman and the client to understand, however, that each type of metal comes with its own set of unique properties, requirements, benefits and complications.
Some of the most commonly used types of metals in profile cutting include steel, stainless steel, aluminium, brass and copper (to name a few), which are used for their workability, strength, cost-effectiveness, robustness and of course, conductibility.
Let’s explore the properties of each of these steel types in a little more depth:
Steel’s most notable qualities are ductility and durability. On top of this, it also offers an incredible strength to weight ratio making it the ideal material for construction.
Because of this, it is one of the most widely used materials in both construction and manufacturing where tensile strength is essential. It is also very good for welding and can be further strengthened through a process of tempering.
Of course, like any material, steel also comes with its downsides. Steel tends to incur high maintenance costs over time, particularly when used in damp, humid or coastal environments where galvanic corrosion and rust may attack it.
It also can’t be moulded into certain shapes and directions, since it tends to become brittle under certain conditions.
A little further up the ladder is stainless steel, which offers similar benefits to steel with a few extras. Like steel, it is hard and tough but also ductile; allowing it to provide strength and workability in equal measure.
On top of that, it is also magnetic and can also retain its strength even after cutting and applying high temperatures to the material.
Its top advantage is that it is highly resistant to corrosion, which means that it can be used in applications where the presence of moisture and an electrolyte might lead other metals to break down. It also has great aesthetic properties, which make it well suited as a building material.
For all of its strong points, there are still one or two downsides to using stainless steel that may render it useless in certain applications.
For instance, it isn’t a very good thermal or electric conductor; and it also comes at a relatively high price when compared to other alloys.
Aluminium also contains a number of unique and advantageous properties when compared to other alloys. Like stainless steel, it is also highly resistant to corrosion. Unlike stainless steel, however, it is an excellent electrical and thermal conductor.
It is also quite ductile, making it easy to work with under the right conditions and offers impressive strength, though only when used in applications with low temperatures. It is also non-magnetic, making it a popular choice for electronics with moving parts.
Like any other alloy, however, it does come with its own set of disadvantages which may limit its application. Aluminium, for instance, doesn’t react well to tooling since it forms aluminium oxide when this is done, which makes the alloy abrasive.
At high temperatures, aluminium is actually flammable, making it badly suited to high-temperature applications; and it doesn’t offer the strength of steel since it is a much softer alloy.
It is also quite a bit more expensive than steel, making it ill-suited to applications where cost is a concern.
Brass is actually an umbrella term for a range of alloys that are made up of copper-zinc in varying combinations, and it is the proportions of these compounds that give it its unique properties; which means that they will change from situation to situation.
It is known for being extremely ductile, making it an ideal material for profiling. It also offers lowered friction when used with other alloys, which essentially contributes to less wear and an extended lifespan.
Unlike mild steel, brass also retains its strength and integrity in low temperatures, where other alloys are likely to become brittle. It is also an excellent material for any applications that require heat exchange since it has excellent thermal conductivity.
It does, however, require a lot of maintenance to keep it in top condition, which can make it expensive in the long-run. It also doesn’t weather very well, which means that it should never really be applied to any outdoor applications.
Copper is remarkably conducive to both electricity and heat, which is why it is most commonly used in electronics and data transfer; where these properties make it invaluable to a number of industries.
It is also highly ductile and malleable thanks to its softness. This is a double-edged sword for the alloy, however, since this also robs it of the strength offered by the other alloys on the list.
One of the biggest disadvantages haunting copper is the fact that it is considered a semi-precious metal. This obviously means that it comes at quite a hefty price, and where used in unsecure areas, is often the object of theft.
The Benefits of Steel Profiling Services
With this information behind us, let’s take a bit of a closer look at how you and your business can benefit right now by using the myriad of steel profiling services available to you.
While each method of steel profiling offers its own unique set of advantages, these ones apply across the board:
Precision & Accuracy
Because of their highly focussed approach to steel cutting, laser, oxy-fuel cutting and plasma cutting services all offer incredible degrees of accuracy and precision in their work. This makes profiling ideal for intricate work where every detail needs to be accounted for.
Because of the exceptional precision work offered by profiling, it is well suited to works that are made up of intricate details. This is, even more, the case when it comes to processes that use CNC machining, where these details are digitally constructed and used by the CNC machine to reproduce their likeness on the workpiece.
Increase Production Turnaround Times
Profiling also offers much more efficient completions of jobs, resulting in faster turnaround times, without sacrificing any degree of accuracy or quality in the finish.
This amounts to quicker completions and better profitability during manufacturing, especially where there is a high demand for the object being manufactured.
Contact Pure Stainless Steel Manufacturers for Details
Here at Pure Stainless Steel Manufacturers, we offer a range of specialised steel profiling services that includes everything from laser cutting, oxy-fuel steel cutting and plasma cutting services that are carefully geared to give you the best quality and workmanship at the most competitive prices.
If you would like to know more about our offers on steel profiling services or would like to use our services as steel manufacturers in South Africa, be sure to contact one of our representatives for further details or visit our website for information on our offers.