Metalworking is not limited to fabricating. Forging is another form by which metal is manipulated. Both forging and fabricating have their strengths and weaknesses, and one method may be better suited for your needs than the other. Let’s break down the differences between the two methods.
Forging is a metalworking process that shapes heated metal through repeated pounding with heavy machinery. The process requires specific dies depending on what the end product will be. Due to the compression that the workpiece undergoes, impurities in the material are heavily compressed in the forging process, giving the final product a desirable metallurgical structure.
Fabricating is a blanket term for the cutting, forming, and assembly of processed metals. These processes add value to the material and often contain welds stronger than the base material. Fabrication shops employ heavy machinery like laser cutting tables, brake presses, and welding robots to create parts for large projects or finished products for direct customers. A fabricated part is less costly and capable of more customization than a forged part because it obviates the necessity for a unique die for different specifications.
Forging relies heavily on the price of raw materials, and deals with greater starting weights. The final forging is rarely the completed product. Typically, machining is required to meet specifications. Which adds time to the job. These three factors—price of raw materials, greater weight, and extra processing—make for a more expensive product. Forging also has limitations that fabricating does not. The structure of a forged piece of metal is limited to the die used to shape it. A forged piece is generally a part or a piece of a part, and often requires further assembly and processing at a fabrication shop to be completed. This increases lead time and adds complexity to a single order by using multiple vendors.
A defining characteristic of fabrication is the inclusion of welding. Assembly and fabrication are often used interchangeably because of the role that welding plays in a fabrication shop. Advancements in technology have made previously impossible welds attainable, but manual welding is still the most prevalent method of assembly. Plate rolls and press brakes are other hallmarks of a fabrication shop. Bigger rolls and press brakes enable a company to take on bigger and more demanding markets, such as nuclear and mining industries. Cutting tables are also commonly found. While oxyfuel cutting is the most common method, plasma cutting tables are becoming increasingly prevalent among fabrication shops due to their dropping cost point and ability to make high quality cuts on common alloys like stainless steel. Due to the various capabilities under a single roof, fabricating facilities are true one-stop-shops.
Both fabricating and forging create quality products. The differences lie in the process of the production, one method forming carefully with specialized machinery, and the other pounding heated metal repeatedly until the desired shape is achieved. AT&F has a long history of expertise in fabricating metals, and we are proud to provide the highest quality fabrication to our customers. The value that AT&F adds to a project is unmatched by any forged part, and you can be sure that AT&F is investing in your success.