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Steel Industry is essential to almost every phase of modern life and a powerful part of the economy. We can see some of the prominent trends related to the implementation of new and advanced technologies. Comprehensive, advanced machining technology is encouraging governments, manufacturers, and other businesses to rely on Steel for their projects.
Let us understand, in particular, the Structural Steel Fabrication – the Process & Its Uses
Steel Fabrication is the making of metal structures through cutting, bending, and assembling means. Steel Manufacturers create machines, parts, and various structures through raw materials & multiple processes.
The process involves Cutting that includes Sawing, Shearing, or Chiseling & then moving to another method called Torching. This requires handheld torches (such as oxy-fuel torches or plasma torches); and numerical control (CNC) cutters (using a laser, mill bits, torch, or water jet) also in this process.
Bending is the next step achieved by hammering (manual or powered); even press brakes & tube benders help to turn the Steel. Custom Fabricators and Repair, Inc. also use press brakes to air-bend metal sheets into form. Through CNC, they place bend lines in specific positions.
Assembling is the next step achieved through welding, binding wires, riveting, threaded fasteners & even through crimped closures.
The Regular Steel fabrication elements are:
- Plate Metal
- Formed and expanded metal – Tube stock
- Welding Wire/ Rod
Structural Steel Fabrication is a multifaceted process involving a series of steps, which include:
- Surface cleaning
- Cutting and machining
- Punching and Drilling
- Straightening, bending and rolling
- Fitting and reaming
- Quality control
- Surface treatment
Without structural steel our world would look quite different. There would be no skyscrapers. Buildings would be just a few stories tall and additional square footage would be made up in length and width. Cities would sprawl much farther than they do today. Structures built of materials other than steel would not withstand the extreme weather and seismic events the earth throws at us.
Structural steel makes our world possible, bestowing seven benefits that keep it at the forefront of today’s construction industry.
Safety is the primary goal of any building; steel provides a majority of the safety benefits everyone expects when they enter a structure.
Steel is non-combustible. It does not ignite nor spread flames.
It is resistant to rust and corrosion when properly coated.
It does not mold or mildew.
It resists splintering and shattering during extreme movement.
When built to code a steel structure will protect occupants and contents from fire, high winds and heavy snow and ice during conditions that would burn, shatter or collapse a building constructed of concrete or wood.
In fact, the safety benefit of steel begins during construction. By using prefabricated building solutions construction time is significantly shorter, meaning less time and fewer reasons for accidents to occur. Reducing or eliminating onsite cutting, forming and welding mitigates the chances for workers to suffer cuts and burns.
Reduced Construction Costs
Prefabricated building solutions provide another benefit of steel - lower costs across the project.
A reduced timeline results in reduced hours of paid labor.
Prefabricated steel sections arrive ready for assembly. Onsite cutting, unnecessary welding and fastening are not required, saving time and increasing site safety.
When the frame and envelope are completed quickly, skilled trades can enter and begin work more quickly.
Stringent fabrication tolerances and a tightly controlled manufacturing environment reduce rework from construction errors.
A shorter schedule reduces general condition costs across the board.
With fast construction the structure is quickly operational, generating revenues sooner than traditional construction projects.
Steel buildings and frames are remarkably adaptable. They are easily expanded either upwards or to any side. Because steel is extremely strong for its weight it can support the added weight of new stories. The overall weight of the structure is still lower than one built with concrete or wood, so the foundation experiences less stress from the added floors.
Besides expanding the building’s size, the interior of a steel frame building can be reconfigured with little trouble. Clear span construction provides open space without obstruction created by columns. The area can be configured and reconfigured into a variety of spaces with lightweight interior walls, ceiling systems and movable flooring.
The predictable properties of steel allow designers and fabricators to meet tight tolerances with precision and accuracy. Variation in cutting, punching and rolling that occurs with onsite manual processes is eliminated. Steel members have known strength and dimensions, allowing architects and engineers to predict the feasibility of their designs accurately.
Steel building manufacturers maintain a controlled environment with internal quality control programs dedicated to delivering the expected product. Assembly and erection are performed under controlled conditions at the building site, where the contractor monitors the location and elevation of the structure as well as field bolting and welding.
Serviceability and Resilience
Usability and occupant comfort are critical elements of building operations. A steel building can be designed to eliminate vibration from human, machine or weather movements. Steel exhibits a predictable amount of sway in common conditions with limited movement.
Steel structures are easily repaired, even after extreme damage from high winds, seismic activity or explosion. They resist buckling, distortion and warping under excessive loads.
Most of the unique building designs seen today are not possible without steel. Steel is a dynamic material capable of being formed into endless shapes from simple to complex geometries. Its strength allows slender designs not possible in wood or concrete.
Steel building interiors can have floating floors and disappearing walls. Large windows that let in natural light are only possible with a steel frame. Steel frames readily integrate mechanical systems, reducing building volume and energy consumption.
Steel is one of the most sustainable materials in the world. It was green before green was a thing.
Structural steel made in the U.S. contains 93 percent recycled material, on average.
98 percent of all structural steel is recycled into new products.
Steel loses none of its strength or other physical properties even after repeated recycling.
The steel-making process has a 95 percent water recycling rate with no external discharge.
The net consumption of water per ton of steel produced in a mere 70 gallons.
The steel industry reduced its greenhouse emissions per ton by 45 percent since 1975. Building manufacturers and contractors generate minimal waste during fabrication and erection. All scrap is recyclable and can be resold.
Steel possesses some fantastic features of being durable, corrosion-resistant, and tensile. Also, being lightweight & higher in strength, it is an excellent option for construction.
Structural Steel is much more affordable than other metals such as copper, silver, gold, aluminum, and magnesium. Even while installing after fabrication, it offers increased efficiency saving both money and time.
The list of the benefits of using structural steel for your building project is far longer than the seven mentioned here, but this is a fair start. For a long-lasting, aesthetically pleasing, and energy efficient building, the only real choice is steel.
Structural steel is used in construction or building projects. In its most basic definition, structural steel is defined as steel shaped for use in construction, but that doesn’t give a very clear picture of what structural steel actually is. As your local structural steel company in Bryan, Texas, we want to help give you a clearer understanding of what sets structural steel apart from other forms of fabricated steel by covering its two main characteristics: composition and shape. Also defining structural steel as per AISC Code of Standard Practice.
Structural steel is a carbon steel, meaning it has a carbon content of up to 2.1 percent by weight. After iron, carbon is the most important element in carbon steel. Increasing the amount of carbon in the composition of steel results in materials that have high strength and low ductility. Depending on how the steel will be used will determine the carbon level or content needed.
Low-carbon steel, also known as mild steel, is the most widely used form of carbon steel and what is most commonly used for construction purposes, which is why low-carbon steel is what is most often thought of when referring to structural steel. Low-carbon steel typically contains 0.04 percent to 0.30 percent carbon content, which makes it strong yet more ductile than other forms of steel with higher carbon content. Although both medium and high-carbon steels (steels with a carbon content ranging from 0.31 percent to 1.50 percent) can also be considered structural steel, these are typically used for mechanical engineering purposes.
An overview of structural steel would not be complete without discussing the different shapes of structural steel. Getting back to its basic definition, structural steel is simply steel designed for different uses in building construction.
A structural steel shape is a profile formed with a specific cross section. Below are a few common structural steel shapes:
I-beam: An I-shaped cross section capped with flanges on either side
Z-shape: Half a flange going in opposite directions resembling a “Z”
Angle: An L-shaped cross section
Tee: A T-shaped cross section
Bar: A rectangular, cross-sectioned long piece of steel
Rod: A round or square long piece of steel
Because of the ductility of structural steel, the variety of shapes, thicknesses and even sizes can be customized to meet specific building needs. At Custom Fabricators and Repair, Inc, your trusted structural steel company in Bryan, Texas, we design and manufacture structural steel to meet your project needs.
AISC defines Structural Steel as follows: (From AISC Construction Management of Steel Construction Copywrite 1999)
“Structural Steel,” as used to define the scope of work in the contract documents, consist of the steel elements of the structural steel frame essential to support the design loads. Unless otherwise specified in the contract documents, these elements consist of material as shown on the structural steel plans and described below:
Anchor Bolts for structural steel
Base or bearing plates
Beams, girders, purlins and girts
Bearing of steel for girders, trusses or bridges
Connecting materials for framing structural steel to structural steel
Crane rails, splices, stops, bolts and clamps
Door frames constituting part of the structural steel frame
Expansion joints connected to the structural steel frame
Fasteners for connecting structural steel items:
- Shop rivets
- Permanent shop bolts
- Field rivets for permanent connections
- Field bolts for permanent connections
- Permanent pins
- Floor plates (checkered or plain) attached to structural steel
- Grillage beams and girders
- Hangers essential to the structural steel
- Leveling plates, wedges, shims and leveling screws
- Lintels, if attached to the structural steel frame
- Marquee or canopy framing
- Machinery foundations of rolled steel sections and/or plate attached to the structural steel
- Monorail elements of standard structural shapes when attached to the structural steel
- Roof frames of standard structural shapes
- Shear connectors – if specified shop attached
- Struts, tie rods and sag rods forming part of the structural framing
Other Steel or Metal Items:
The classification “Structural Steel,” does not include steel, iron or other metals items not generally described in the AISC Code of Standard Practice Paragraph 2.1, even when such items are shown on the structural steel plans or are attached to the structural frame. These items include but are not limited to:
Cables for permanent bracing or suspension systems
Chutes and hoppers
Cold-formed steel products
Concrete or masonry reinforced steel
Door and corner guards
Embedded steel parts in precast or poured concrete
Flagpole support steel
Floor plates (checkered or plain) not attached to the structural steel frame
Grating and metal deck
Items required for the assembly or erection of materials supplied by trades other than structural steel fabricators or erectors
Ladders and safety cages
Lintels over wall recesses
Open-web, long-span joist and joist girders
Ornamental metal framing
Shear connectors if specified to be field install
Stacks, tanks and pressure vessels
Stairs, catwalks, handrails and toeplates
Trench or pit covers
When starting a new commercial or residential project, you will want the right structural steel fabricator behind you. While there are different types of fabrication materials, structural steel frequently comes out on top when it comes to strength, ductility, and durability. But it’s not just about the material; for project success–especially when it comes to complicated projects with multiple stakeholders and tight deadlines–the fabricator you choose matters. With inexperienced fabricators, small glitches can snowball into more significant issues. Here are ten things to look for in a structural steel fabricator.
- How Experienced is the Structural Steel Fabricator?
When you’re looking for a structural steel fabricator, experience matters, and the first thing you’ll want to check is their current and past projects. You want practical, hands-on experience, and to guarantee it, you’ll want to see examples of their work. Can they point you towards similar projects?
You will also want to vet everyone involved in those projects. You’ll want to see:
Engineers – are they good at translating shop drawings into viable projects? Can they show you examples?
Tradespeople – are they certified in their field and dedicated to what they do? Can you see examples of past work?
Project Managers – do they understand the process in-and-out? Can they show you how they’ve broken down past projects?
structural steel fabricator
Vetting structural steel fabricators is a two-part process that includes understanding what they’ve done and who you’ll be working with.
- What is Their Process?
It is essential for complex architectural metal fabrication and industrial metalwork projects that structural elements arrive at just the right time, demanding close collaboration from detailers, erectors, and fabricators. How does the structural steel fabricator break their process down? For complex projects, you’ll want to see a detailed breakdown that covers costs along the way. You can ask:
Is the process extensive and realistic?
Does it take into account and add buffers for approvals you’ll need?
Does it include necessary permits that the fabricator is responsible for?
Does it include visits to the work site to assess the specifics of delivery and installation?
Does it account for all safety checks and precautions?
Does it allocate time for communication with each of the different stakeholders?
If the structural steel fabricator brushes over any questions or requests for higher specificity and accuracy, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
- How Well Will the Structural Steel Fabricator Communicate Wi th You?
How does the steel fabricator plan to communicate each step with you and other stakeholders throughout the project? For challenging projects, small failures of communication can snowball into big issues. Ask the steel fabricator:
Who will I be speaking with for the duration of the project?
What’s the best way to be in touch?
If I can’t reach you, from who and when will I hear back?
How will I be alerted to milestone achievements or issues?
You’re looking for easy, transparent communication with a fast turnaround. If the structural steel fabricator doesn’t have an established process for communicating with customers that meets all three needs, you should look elsewhere.
- What Certifications Do They Have?
What certifications does the structural steel fabricator you’re considering have?
AISC – AISC issues the most widely recognized standard for quality in the structural steel industry. AISC demands a rigorous evaluation that includes an administrative review, documentation audit, and on-site audit.
CWI – Are welders Certified Welding Inspectors? CWI is issued by the American Welding Society (AWS) and helps to validate that welders show the highest level of quality workmanship.
Local certifications: steel fabricators are typically approved to work in various counties and cities. Make sure that the steel fabricator you’re considering is approved to work onsite.
- Does The Structural Steel Fabricator Specialize?
In structural steel fabrication, it’s not about general experience, it’s about project-specific experience. Does the structural steel fabricator you’re considering specialize, or are they big enough that they’ve successfully completed different types of projects? If not, they may stumble over the project, leading to setbacks and financial pitfalls.
Structural steel projects can be so large and multi-faceted, that they require an attention to detail that only an experienced fabricator can give. It’s important to find a company that can handle the grade, type, and gauge of metal needed for your project, any additional fabrication required, as well as any coordination and communication required.
- Will They Use a Sub-Contractor?
It should go without saying that any structural steel fabricator you take on for your project has the capabilities to do it, but many may subcontract part of the project out. This doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker as long as you make sure that the company you choose can handle the project from start to finish. If they are sub-contracting work out, do a background check of the sub-contractor as well. Whoever is working on your project should have the equipment, skilled staff, materials, and production capacity to complete your project on time and within budget – whether or not you’ll be working directly with them.
- What is Their Capacity?
Does the structural steel fabricator have the capacity to meet your needs? One recurring issue of smaller steel fabricators is their inability to meet the high supply-demand of their clients. If you have a massive project, you’ll need a minimum workforce and allocation of facility tools and equipment. A company may employ 30 employees, but only a fraction of them may be qualified to provide the services you need; similarly, a company may have the right equipment, but they may have concurrent demands from other clients. Ensure that the structural steel fabricator you’re considering has enough specialists and equipment to meet your needs for the duration of your project.
- What Tools And Equipment Does The Structural Steel Fabricator Have?
Speaking of tools and equipment, does your structural steel fabricator have the right ones for your project? Ask the fabricators to give a tour of their facility and workshop so you can see firsthand their tools and equipment. For tough fabrication jobs that require accuracy and expertise, you will most certainly need advanced tools and equipment. A tour is also another opportunity to make sure you have a rapport with your fabrication partners.
- How Highly Do They Value Customer Service?
Do you feel like you’re at the center of the steel fabricator’s attention and that they’re committed to your satisfaction? No matter the fabricator’s size, look for guiding principles that include customer service at the heart of their organization. For this, you can assess your treatment during the vetting phase and validate your impressions by checking with references – great steel fabricators won’t hesitate to send a few references your way.
- How Seriously Do They Take Safety?
Finally, does your steel fabricator take safety seriously? Ask the fabricator:
Do they meet the latest OSHA requirements for design and construction?
What is their safety record?
Do they have a comprehensive safety program that protects their employees?
When is the last time OSHA inspected them?
It is also possible to look at recent OSHA citations in the metal fabrication industry to better understand how fabricators are focusing their compliance efforts.
The Bottom Line When It Comes to Structural Steel Fabricators
Welding is the most economical and efficient way to join metals permanently. It is the only way of joining two or more pieces of metal to make them act as a single piece. Welding is vital to our economy. It is often said that over 50% of the gross national product of the U.S.A. is related to welding in one way or another. Welding ranks high among industrial processes and involves more sciences and variables than those involved in any other industrial process.
There are many ways to make a weld and many different kinds of welds. Some processes cause sparks and others do not even require extra heat. Welding can be done anywhere — outdoors or indoors, underwater and in outer space.
Nearly everything we use in our daily life is welded or made by equipment that is welded. Welders help build metal products from coffeepots to skyscrapers. They help build space vehicles and millions of other products ranging from oil drilling rigs to automobiles. In construction, welders are virtually rebuilding the world, extending subways, building bridges, and helping to improve the environment by building pollution control devices. The use of welding is practically unlimited. There is no lack of variety of the type of work that is done.
In simple terms, plasma cutters push an electric pilot arc through a narrow opening which is filled with gas. Plasma gas can be any choice of oxygen, argon, shop air, nitrogen, etc.
This process heats up the gas to a temperature sufficient for it to transition into a plasma, the fourth state of matter.
As an electrical conductor, the plasma can then form a circuit with the metal (or other material) that is being cut and this causes the plasma arc to be able to cut through the material.
The restricted opening is known as a nozzle. These narrow opening forces the gas through at a very high speed, and the very high-temperature gas passing through the nozzle onto metal allows it to slice through the metal in much the same way as a knife passes through butter.
The pilot arc, which is produced in most high-quality plasma cutters, acts between the electrode and the nozzle to ionize the gas before the arc transfer begins.
In lesser models of the plasma cutter, you may find that the plasma creation begins when the torch tip is used to force a spark by being touched to the metal surface or it might use a starting circuit (a high-frequency design which is very much like a spark plug in a car engine). It’s worth noting that you can only use a plasma cutter that takes advantage of a pilot arc to run CNC cutting machines.