In most cases, there are no differences when you talk about sheet metal working and sheet metal forming. They both mean that you are using various processes to work on sheet metal materials for various industrial applications. So, you can use these phrases interchangeably in most situations. However, these two phrases might also have some specific uses when you refer to specific manufacturing processes in various industries.
In this guide, you will learn more about the differences between sheet metal working and sheet metal forming processes.
What is Sheet Metal Working?
Sheet metal working refers to the various processes involved in working with sheet metal materials, which include shaping, bending, cutting, shearing, welding, punching, trimming, and many others. These processes constitute the whole sheet metal working operation, regardless of the industrial applications you are working on.
You will need to use various tools and equipment to perform the sheet metal working operations, such as shrinker, stretcher, cutter, grinder, presser, and many more. These tools will help you shape the sheet metal materials according to the design blueprint you have for each sheet metal. You will then combine various sheet metals to build certain hardware products based on your industrial applications.
There are various sheet metal materials you can use in the sheet metal working processes, including aluminum, regular steel, stainless steel, brass, copper, titanium, tin, carbon steel, etc. Depending on the purpose of the sheet metal working process, you can combine various sheet metal materials to build specific hardware products based on your project requirements.
What is Sheet Metal Forming?
Please note that you can use the phrase sheet metal forming interchangeably with sheet metal working, as they will have the same general meaning. However, for sheet metal forming, you can use it for specific sheet metal working processes.
Sheet metal forming refers to the sheet metal working processes you will do for specific purposes in any industrial application. It is related to the forming process of certain hardware products using the sheet metal materials.
For instance, if you need to build the roof area for an automobile using sheet metal materials, then you will use the sheet metal forming process to shape and form the required hardware product. In this case, the sheet metal forming processes will involve only specific sheet metal working processes that you will use to form or shape the roof area of the vehicle, which might include bending sheet metal, forging, extrusion, rotary swaging, and many other processes.
Most Common Sheet Metal Working Processes
There are various sheet metal working processes you can perform to shape the sheet metal materials into the products you would like to build. Each process will require the use of certain tools or equipment, and you might need to apply different processes to each sheet metal material.
Here are some of the most common sheet metal working processes you can perform in your manufacturing production:
- Bending. Sheet metal bending is the most common sheet metal working process that involves bending various parts of the sheet metal materials to produce certain U-shape or V-shape on the sheet metal by using the pressing equipment. There are also press brakes you can use to customize the press based on your design requirements.
- Cutting. Cutting is the process where you cut the metal sheet material into different sections. The purpose of the cuts may vary, such as to separate two sections together, to remove certain areas on the sheet metal, or to trim the sheet metal. You will use the regular cutting tools for this process.
- Laser cutting. This is similar to the cutting method, with the only difference being that you are using laser cutting technology to perform this process. This might be a more expensive process, but you can cut with more precision, and you can also cut thicker sheet metals easier.
- Punching. By using the punch tool, you can impress certain shapes on the sheet metal material, depending on your needs. It uses the pressure from the punching tool to create the shapes by subtracting those shapes from the material. The shapes can be circle, rectangle, square, triangle, or any other special design shapes.
- Ironing. Ironing is the process to help flatten the metal sheet surface and eliminate wrinkles from the surface. Just like ironing fabrics, you can also perform ironing on metal sheets by using the ironing tool for the sheet metal materials. You will need to apply certain temperatures to achieve the result you want.
- Welding. Welding allows you to combine two or more sheet metals together by using certain welding techniques. With welding, you will apply high temperatures at certain concentrated points around the sheet metal surface. You can combine various sheet metal materials by using the welding technique.
- Embossing. Embossing is the process of creating emboss on the sheet metal surface, which is the form of raised images on the metal surface. You can do this to create branding for your products or for various other purposes.
- Stamping. This is similar to the punching process, with the only difference being that you don’t make holes on the stamped area. The purpose for this process is to create a flat image or indentation on the sheet metal surface, which you can use for branding, part identification, and others.
- Roll forming. With the roll forming process, you are bending continuous sheet metals to form rolls until you get your expected cross section. This process requires you to use drum rollers to allow you to work with long sheet metal strips.
In general, sheet metal working and sheet metal forming are phrases that you can use interchangeably, as they have almost the same meaning between each other. However, in the sheet metal forming processes, you are applying certain sheet metal working processes for specific hardware production purposes, whereas sheet metal working might refer to the general processes of working with sheet metal materials.
Also, in some cases, sheet metal forming processes might include special processes depending on their applications, such as forging, rolling, extrusion, and many others.