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Metal Fabrication: A New Generation of Technology

April 2, 2015

Metal Fabrication: A New Generation of Technology

As a trade, metal fabrication appears to have existed for over 7,000 years, according to archaeologists who discovered metal and stone tools and weapons in southern Serbia. While this metal fabrication of yesteryear involved manual labor and handmade tools, today’s metal fabrication trade continues to advance through the aid of various types of technology.

Future Metal Fabricators

As technology advances, so does the need for a new generation of experts in the metal fabrication trade, asserts Tulsa Welding School. Today’s metal fabricators need to not only have skills in the trade, but also aptitude for advanced fabricating processes, computers, and other forms of technology. Below are some existing metal fabrication technologies that will figure prominently in the future of the trade, which future metal fabricators may need to be familiar with to be able to work in the field.

Plasma and Laser Fabrication

Two related existing processes that continue to advance as future contenders in the metal fabrication trade are fabrication via plasma and laser. Gilchrist Metal Fabricating is one company on the cutting edge of these modern metal fabrication processes:

Plasma cutters allow fabricators to keep tight tolerances, reduce waste, reduce fabrication time, improve quality, and eliminate the need for templates or cutting and grinding by hand

Laser cutters likewise facilitate more high quality metal fabrication through such benefits as higher precision and accuracy with closer tolerances, less waste and greater cost efficiency, higher quality and levels of production, and the ability to produce intricate shapes.

Robotic Fabrication

Robots have been featured in some of the earliest science fiction shows, such as the original 1960s Lost in Space television show. Genuine robots and robotics, however, are present-day technologies that also have a place in the future of metal

fabrication. Gilchrist Metal Fabricating implements robotic welding and fabrication processes that provide increased accuracy, tighter tolerances, multiple axes (up to 5), faster lead times, and greater consistency.

3D Fabrication

While Star Trek writers showed creative genius and ingenuity decades ahead of their time with their replicators, 3D printing is here today and continuing to demonstrate its amazing place in present and future metal fabrication. Fans of The Big Bang Theory may recall an episode when two of the show’s characters used a 3D printer to replicate miniature models of themselves.

Federico Sciammerella is an Assistant Professor in the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology at Northern Illinois University. Sciammerella explained that 3D printing uses a process called powder bed fusion in which either a laser or electron beam fuses metal powders layer by layer until the computer-generated image is a complete 3D item. The metal fabrication trade can likewise use this process to create layers upon layers of 3D printed material, turning a computer-generated model into a 3D product.

Personal and Professional Perspectives

Professional sheet metal fabricator Ed Barr teaches classes at McPherson College in sheet metal restoration, specifically for cars. He believes the future of metal fabrication will continue to expand through the use of mechanization. Barr also stated that the field of fabrication is a good career choice, particularly in niche areas such as automotive restoration.

Claus Myllerup, of Lloyd’s Register Energy in the UK, likewise believes that innovations in the areas of 3D printing and additive manufacturing will significantly increase advances in the energy and metal industries. Specifically, in a January 2015 report, Myllerup indicated the possibility of a growth rate of 390% in additive manufacturing over the next several years. This is important because it indicates collaboration between the two industries that could result in safer, higher quality products to address environmental issues, such as preventing oil spills.

February 7, 2013

The Continuing Benefit of Robotic Welding

When robotic welding systems were first introduced to the industrial world, they ushered in a level of precision, accuracy, and repeatability that was virtually unheard of. Automated robotic welding systems have allowed businesses around the world to drastically increase productivity while reducing welding costs – this has effectively allowed machinists and fabricators to maximize their return on investment and give more back to their customers.

Robotic welding provides a high level of efficiency and repeatability for production welding jobs

Robotic welding provides a high level of efficiency and repeatability for production welding jobs

However, taking full advantage of robotic welding isn’t just up to the machinery. Achieving better results and improved productivity also relies on careful equipment purchases, effective software programming, operator training, and – in many cases – the types of complementary equipment used to help deliver the necessary results.

At GMFCO, we’ve invested in some of the most advanced robotic welding equipment to give customers the competitive advantage in terms of both precision and cost efficiency when it comes to high volume welding. Our robotic welding systems are equipped with a number of add-ons  to ensure that our customers get the full-benefit.

While high volume welding equipment like robotic welders provide a high degree of efficiency, the peripherals that many fabrication companies add bring the performance delivered by robotic welding equipment to an entirely new level. In terms of a definition, peripherals include virtually any equipment integrated into the robotic welding process to add to its effectiveness, ranging from custom grips to advanced inspection fixtures (commonly known as “gooseneck fixtures”).

For example, many machining and fabrication processes require welding with consistent wire stick out. One common peripheral, a wire cutter, cuts the welding wire to a specific length or stick-out to achieve numerous, reliable and highly repeatable welds for extended production runs.

Another important (and common) peripheral frequently used to improve robotic welding systems is the nozzle cleaning station, also called the “reamer”. The reamer peripheral is used by itself or with a sprayer to apply anti-spatter compound while also cleaning the robotic gun nozzle throughout the welding process.

Regardless of the specific peripheral used – the level of innovation being applied to robotic welding continues to make the available level of precision and efficiency higher than ever before. Especially in a time where there is a noticeable shortage of certified welders, robotic welding has skyrocketed as an increasingly common automation technology.

One of the most active industry sectors in terms of robotic welding has been the automotive industry, which has been groundbreaking in providing greater production and cost efficiency throughout the welding process. In virtually any television program about car production and manufacturing, you will notice a plethora of robotic welding machines, which speaks to the popularity and utility of the machines.

Robotic welding, while relatively new, has experienced a tremendous amount of growth since its introduction to the US industry in the 1980s, around the time when the automotive industry started to use robots for spot welding. When that happened, the automotive companies seemed to collectively wonder, “How else can we use robotics?”Since then, their application has continued to grow. In many cases, some might say, “But what about honest, hardworking welders working around the world?” Fortunately for them, robotic welding equipment continues to exist harmoniously beside its rational (but less predictable) human counterpart – mainly due to the fact that robotic welding is still only feasible for high-volume production welding.

For more on robotic welding and how it’s done  at GMFCO, feel free to contact us today.

December 13, 2012

Architectural Fabrication: The Foundation of Our Skyline


In many ways, architectural fabrication literally shapes the world that you see. At GMFCO, it’s one of our favorite areas of metal fabrication. To learn more about this exciting aspect of the industrial world, read on.

That white fluffy plant may be the fabric of our lives, but when it comes to our homes, buildings, workplaces, and everything in between — metal is the foundation. While metal architectural fabrication may be the the bi-product of centuries of innovation in architectural industry, today it remains the one of the key component of the toughest buildings and structures around the world.

Fabrication, by definition, generally involves building metal structures in a number of ways. These may include cutting, assembling, grinding, milling, bending, and shaping using machines with computer numerical control (CNC) capability as well as welding, laser cutters, press breaks, and more.

Metal fabrication is one of the key processes responsible for today’s architectural structures, but that’s not exactly where it all began. Take for instance some of the most primitive building materials. It all started with the crudest materials from the earth. Fabric, mud, rock, thatch, clay, and virtually everything early civilizations could get their hands on were the defacto building materials of choice. As it turns out these societies managed to produce surprisingly strong structures from raw materials — but the best was yet to come.

As civilizations began to discover the ability to create more advanced materials metal fabrication was born. This naturally lead to the genesis of metal architectural fabrication, where larger buildings could get the strong foundation needed through increasingly advanced metal fabrication techniques. Metal architectural fabrications are often used as both a structural framework for large buildings and an external surface covering for many components of a building, both inside and out. Typically, steel is the standard metal used for architectural fabrication.

In 1884, the first building to ever be built with a frame of structural steel was the Home Insurance Building of Chicago, Illinois, built in 1884. Save for small amounts of masonry to lend extra protection and stability against the winds of Chicago, this building (later demolished to make room for the Field Building), was the first building to carry both its external walls and its floors entirely on the same metal frame. Coincidentally, this building is also known as one of the first skyscrapers in the world. Begging the question, “did metal architectural fabrication make the skyscraper possible?”  

Today, where the historical building once stood stands a plaque that reads, “This section of the Field Building is erected on the site of the Home Insurance Building which structure, designed and built in eighteen hundred and eighty four by the late William Le Baron Jenney, was the first high building to utilize as the basic principle of its design the method known as skeleton construction and, being a primal influence in the acceptance of this principle, was the true father of the skyscraper, 1932.”

As you read between the lines, it’s widely known that the Home Insurance Building in Chicago greatly influenced the future of skyscrapers as we know it. But that’s not all, with the advent of the modern skyscraper as an increasingly metal structure –the architectural fabrication industry came into prominence, leading to all of the intricate and beautiful architectural components you see today, from flowing metal spiral staircases to architectural structures that epitomize form, beauty, and function.

As you can see, metal fabrication and architectural fabrication have literally shaped the world we see every day. Next time you’re in the city, take a moment to notice for yourself the influence it’s had.


February 22, 2012

Where were the bollards?

Check out these 3/16" thick polished stainless steel shrouds covering steel reinforced concrete bollards protecting the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston, Massachusetts!

We have seen it so many times in the movies, a group of criminals drives right up, or sometimes even through the front of a bank. The criminals then take the cash and head for a quick exit. In the real world most of these dramatic entrances and exits would be highly unlikely due to something called a bollard. Sorry Batman fans, the Joker’s dramatic opening scene in the Dark Knight which consisted of a bus crashing through the front of a bank is purely Hollywood at its finest.

So what is a bollard? The most basic definition describes them as a short vertical post. If this seems uneventful or unimportant, think again. Fixed bollards are used to create a stand off area around a vulnerable building. Some of these attackers could be classified as criminals, vandals, activists, extremists or terrorists. Even the American Bar Association (ABA) has stated that bollards are a direct contributing factor to the United States homeland security. The United States capital building is protected by bollards at various locations around the building. Note that the bollards on the far left and right represent flower pots. These flower pot bollards have a much more serious purpose than most people even realize.

In the security world there are two main kinds of bollards. The first type of bollard is a non-crash resistant bollard. The second type is a crash and attack resistant bollard. These crash and attack resistant bollards are used to protect government, military and buildings that require high security. At Gilchrist Fabricating Company we were proud to be involved in creating stainless steel shrouds that covered steel reinforced concrete bollards. These bollards protect the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston, Massachusetts from potential attackers. These bollards are more stylized than traditional bollards and are quite classy if we do say so ourselves!

Bollards come in all different shapes and sizes. Street bollards are created from a variety of metals. These metals include iron, steel and aluminum. In addition some bollards can be created from stainless steel like the Gilchrist Fabricating Company’s steel shrouds at the Boston Federal Reserve Bank. Steel versions of bollards are mainly used for protective purposes while iron and aluminum bollards are used for more ornate designs. In addition most protective bollards are filled with concrete to add extra strength.

Eddy Gabriel’s toadstool bollard in Antwerp, Belgium

Over the years bollards have even inspired artists. Colorful brightly painted bollards have appeared in Geelong, Australia. These decorative bollards created by Jan Mitchell are painted to resemble human figures and have been placed in public areas. The bollards in Geelong are now a well-known feature of the city. In the city of Antwerp, Belgium artist Eddy Gabriel painted a bollard to represent a toadstool. This painted toadstool bollard was the leading inspiration that transformed the quayside of the river Scheldt into an open street art gallery. So the next time your friend asks you “what’s the point of these posts”, you can now enlighten them!




January 10, 2012

Robotic Welding: More than Just Sci-Fi Automatons

Have you seen the movie Wall-E?  The one about the robot whose job it is to clean up what can only be described as the American wasteland? Sure, it was a great movie — but I’m not sure that robots are quite that advanced  yet. Either way, robotics has come a long way, and while we might not be capable of getting the service we would get from Wall-E quite yet, when it comes to things like robotic welding, we’re getting closer and closer.

So, what is robotic welding?

In the most simple terms, robotic welding is exactly what it sounds like — it’s the automated welding of two or more metal pieces by a robot. Generally, there are two varieties of robots for robotic welding service. They include articulating robots and rectilinear robots, which are slightly more difficult to explain.

What do you think of when you hear "Robot"?

There are two popular types of industrial welding robots.  The first is the articulating robot, which uses arms with rotating joints that move like a human’s arm, complete with a rotating wrist that can move irregularly. Next, the rectilinear robot moves in regular lines along the X, Y, and Z axes, while also taking advantage of a wrist with rotational movement.

Unfortunately, robotic welding robots don’t roll around autonomously like Wall-E, they don’t “feel” either, but they’re capable of some pretty amazing things  — such as the flawless welding of aircraft and automotive components. To perform these tasks, the robot performing the robotic welding service performs both the weld and the handling of the part,

Recently, a growing aspect of robotic welding services is robot arc welding. Arc welding robots consist of a mechanical unit, which makes the robot move, and a controller that acts as the robot’s brain. To direct the arms of the machines, Arc welding robots use a number of different coordinate systems.

Welding robots are used by manufacturers to fabricate a variety of products faster and more cost effectively, from cars and trucks to large aerospace components. So while the inspiration of Wall-E might not be as lovable as the robots we see on the big screen, you can be sure that robots, such as those responsible for robotic welding, have a huge impact on our world — helping to more quickly and efficiently produce the things we need.


GMFCO Plays Host to Critical Campaign Stop by Mitt Romney

We were honored to host the Mitt Romney campaign on Monday, January 9th as he spoke about job creation, the economy, and other issues concerning the manufacturing and fabrication industries.

January 3, 2012

Metal Fabrication The Foundation of our Lives

It’s one of those things you can’t do without. Every day, you take advantage of it. But chances are you don’t even know about it.  It keeps you safe. It gets you where you’re going. It supports you when you sleep. Chances are it isn’t obvious already, but metal fabrication is one of the most unsung heroes of your life – and it impacts you every day.

Metal fabrication dates back to some of the earliest recorded history, having a place in ancient societies ranging from the Indus River Valley civilizations, the ancient Egyptians, and the Romans. With that said, metal fabrication with its many applications has literally shaped the world, the way we see it, and the way we live our lives on it.

Most historians accept the notion that the first metals discovered and used by humans were iron, tin, and gold. While gold turned out to be much too soft for anything other than decoration (as exemplified by the Egyptians), Tin and Iron were actively mined and utilized by virtually every civilization. In fact, there is a direct correlation between the rising trajectory of many civilizations and the point they each discovered that various ores could be melted, molded, forged, and fabricated to make the tools that make life easier, such as tools, weapons, and rudimentary machinery.

What made the technological development of civilization even more rapid was the drastically growing number of uses each civilization found for metals, which inevitably led to the industrial revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries, making metal fabrication not just a novelty or a minor aspect of society, but a key aspect driving culture and commerce around the world.

While metal fabricators have incorporated advanced computer controlled machinery as well as tools like robotic lasers and cutting tools, the fact remains that they still do the same thing their ancient metal-fabricating forefathers did. They take raw materials and they make it something new and useful.

From the car you drive or the sink you use to wash your dishes to the beautiful artistic metalwork you might witness in a new, modern building – metal fabrications are everywhere. For a more recent example, consider this: with the oil spills of 2010 spreading across the Gulf of Mexico, metal fabrications were used to try and contain the spills. Or for the physics students out there, many experiments conducted to learn more about “dark matter” take place in large pressure vessels used as vacuum chambers, yet another product of precision metal fabrication.

So as you can see, whether you’re looking at a simple screw or a state of the art airliner – it’s all the result of metal fabrication. Even though the tools have evolved and what once took hours now can take mere seconds, metal fabrication with its rich history has undeniably shaped our world and the way we live in it.

December 30, 2011

Robotic Welding: Keeping Together the Things That Get You There

 Have you ever marvelled at how technology has given us so much? Every day, it seems like the people around us our even ourselves, complain about phones being too finicky, websites being too slow, and technology in general letting us down. But think for a second about how amazing technology is, enabling us to do things that people hundreds of years ago never would have even fathomed.

Robotic welding is a critically important technology that you benefit from every day

Let’s focus on one of those things, something you might’ve never thought about in depth before now: robots. More specifically, the industrial robots responsible for robotic welding. To put it simply, robotic welding is the process where robots are equipped with welding tools to quickly, precisely, and efficiently weld together many of the things you use every day.

In the United States, the automotive industry is one of the biggest users of robotic welding.

The automotive industry is one of the United States biggest buyers of robotics welding systems to produce pipes, manifolds, mufflers, and much more. You drive a car just about every day don’t you? Well that means you’ve been directly affected by robotic welding. What about flying? It’s likely that you’ve been on a flight before. Well, when it comes to welding in tight spaces where precision is key – robotic welding fits the bill, making short work of the cramped and repetitive welding that takes place on the engine and wings.

Ultimately, when it comes to just about any industry taking advantage of robotic welding – what we, the nonrobots get, are better cars, cheaper flights, and the convenience of all the things made possible by robotos that our oldest anscestors never would have dreamed of.



December 20, 2011

Putting Metal in Your Life: Metal Fabrication and More

Quick. Take just 30 seconds to look around you. If you’re at home, look around your home or your garage. If you’re at work, glance around your workstation. Regardless of where you are, keep an eye open for metal products, and chances are you can find quite a few.

“Who cares?” you might wonder, “Things are made of metal, that’s just the way it is.” But it goes much deeper than that. How do you think the earliest tools were made? They were fabricated. Metal fabrication is when any metal is manipulated, turned, pressed, bent, cut, or meltedto take another form. As you probably already guessed, metal fabrication was used to create the earliest tools and weapons used before history was even recorded. That’s right, rudimentary tools and weapons, the ones that are somehow responsible for our existence today, are all the result of metal fabrication.

Metal fabrications are all around you…you just have to know where to look.

For example, the metal arrowheads used to give arrows their killing power were and continue to be created through metal fabrication, where a raw material  (usually steel) is manipulated with heat and pressure to form the required shape. While arrows might have been made of stone and bone before early man discovered metal, it still goes to show the monumental impact that metal fabrication has had on the history of the human race, and that’s no exaggeration.

As another example, you could consider the very first automobile or aircraft. Without the first modern automobile or airplane, the world would be a very different place. We would be less connected and our own personal world’s would be much smaller. Because the science behind metal fabrication continued to grow more and more advanced, greater precision became possible and the end products got better and better, ultimately leading to the ability to reliably produce the powerful vehicles we see today.

Most of the time, metal fabrication is used in the industrial sector and high-tech industries, but it is also frequently used when it comes to creating jewelry and other products. However, regardless of industry it is undeniable that metal fabricating of every magnitude is extremely important to modern society – as it was to virtually every society before ours.

Materials Used

As time has progressed, the number of metals available has expanded and evolved as they were discovered and consistently improved upon, eventually giving us materials like stainless steel, carbon steel, and more. Regardless of the type of metal, because metal fabrication is used every day to create many of the things we constantly use, it eventually became obvious which metals worked better for different products. For example, most automobile parts and many appliances are made out of iron and steel that has been manipulated with various turning, bending, and shaping processes. On the softer side, gold and silver are often used inside electronics as a conductor of electricity.

Needless to say, without metal fabrication the world would be a much different place. Your computer couldn’t exist without all the tiny fabricated metal parts that make it tick, your car wouldn’t run, and your house would probably still be made of wood or clay.  So no matter how you think of it – metal fabrication is essential to our way of life.


December 15, 2011

Metal Fabrication: A Piece of History That Never Stops

Fabrication is when one thing is manipulated to become something else. Unfortunately, the most common usage of the word might have something to do with the how the truth is so often “fabricated” into something else.  However, the most useful type of fabrication has been and most likely always will be metal fabrication.

Metal fabrication helps keep us powered and fed….

It is thought that metal was discovered before people even been to write, and that it was first used to make rudimentary tools and weapons – such as arrowheads and spears. Since then, metal fabrication has come a long way to include metal bending, metal forming, welding, laser cutting, and much more – expanding its utility far beyond the realm of weapons and basic tools.

Metal Fabrication through History

As most high school students know – metal was first used for basic tools. You may picture a primitive arrowhead or a spear, fastened with rawhide with feathers attached– and as far as history can tell us, you wouldn’t be too wrong. These ancient examples of metal fabrication were found in caves, and for the most part every metal fabrication found was created to be used. There was no primitive plasma cutting and metal fabrication done for decorative purposes – only for survival. As far as we can tell, these were the earliest cousins of the modern, technologically savvy, metal fabrications we see today.

The Importance of Metal Fabrication Services

Hundreds of thousands of years ago fabricated metal parts helped ancient humans survive. Today, things aren’t much different. Stainless steel, iron, aluminum, copper, and more are all used to provide us with the products we need every day, from automobile parts to metal fabrications for use by the military, and everything in between.  Metal fabrication can include:

It supports us in all sorts of places…

Types of Metal Fabrication

Metal fabrication is done for a wide range of industries and applications. Metal fabricated parts include everything from car parts, aircraft components, boat propellers, holding tanks, shark cages, weapons, and much much more.

Contract assembly: while not specifically “metal fabrication” contract assembly often involves fabrication of some sort. Contract assembly pertains to one customer contracting fabrication, machining, or assembly work to an experience provider who has all the necessary machinery. The contract assembly company usually organizes delivery as well.

Metal bending and forming: hydraulic press brakes are the most common type of machine used to performing metal forming – a long shot from what primitive man would have used. Metal bending is done with shaped dies and mandrels to bend tubular sections without kinking them while rolling machines are used to form plate steel into a round section.

Plasma Cutting: Plasma cutting is one metal fabricating process that ancient homo sapiens surely would have loved. Plasma cutting uses a plasma torch to cut varying thicknesses of metal – usually steel – with extreme accuracy.  Through a combination of pressurized inert gas and electricity, metal fabricators create a high powered stream of pressure capable of melting metal and

simultaneously blowing it away before it can dry into the cut

Welding: is a time honored technique of joining two metals. Slightly different than plasma cutting, welding can use a variety of energy sources – including heat, electricity, friction, and even ultrasound.

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