Metal plates, which generally have a thickness of more than ¼” (6 mm), are capable of holding very high tolerances and dimensional stability and are often used to machine parts and building and construction materials as well as to create fixtures, molds, gauges, PCB substrates, or even high precision machine components. However, the mechanical properties of some metals may require the use of specialized equipment to machine them with precision. This can be challenging for small fabrication and machine shops that lack the money and floor space for this expensive and bulky machinery.
In this article, we discuss some of the applications of metal plates and how outsourcing custom metal plate cutting to a reliable metal supplier can provide you with long-term value.
Various Applications of Metal Plates
Some of the most popular applications of the most commonly used plate metals, including aluminum, stainless steel, brass, copper, and steel, are detailed below.
Aluminum plates are made with 6061 and 3003 alloys. While 6061 is hard and machinable, 3003 is comparatively softer in nature. 6061 plates are ideal for producing sailboats, vehicle bodies, marine equipment, and scaffolding. Similarly, 3003 plates are ideal for applications requiring formability, such as pressure vessels, cooking utensils, and heat exchangers.
Type 304 and Type 316/316L are two commonly used stainless steel (SS) plates for applications requiring high corrosion resistance under adverse conditions, such as marine and chemical industries. 304 SS plates are used in food processing equipment, utensils, and car parts, while 316 SS plates are used for manufacturing chemical containers, coastal panels, and equipment for chloride environments due to their superior strength and chemical resistivity at high temperatures.
Copper plates are available in alloy 110, also known as Electrolytic Tough Pitch Copper. As it is made up of 99% pure copper, it has the highest electrical conductivity next to silver. Thus, these plates have many uses, including in wiring, electrical components, motors, and electromagnets.
Brass alloy 260 plates (70% copper + 30% zinc) are known for offering exceptional corrosion resistance in almost any environment. This particular alloy is popularly known as the “workhorse” among all brass alloys. 260 alloy plates are useful for designing engraved plates, radiator cores, tanks, appliance parts, and ammunition casings.
Titanium plates, though costly, are ideal for applications requiring excellent formability and high corrosion resistance across the medical, aerospace, oil and gas, and defense industries. Available in various grades, they are used for a wide range of products, including skiing plates and surgical hardware.
Metal Cutting Economics
Four major factors need to be considered when cutting metal plates: tolerance, surface finishing, dimensional stability, and thickness. However, attaining all of these requirements can be challenging for fabricators. For instance, you need high-speed saws to cut titanium plates to a precise tolerance. Similarly, 300-series SS plates struggle to retain dimensional stability during machining due to inherent internal residual stress present during cold working.
However, beyond ensuring the correct mechanical requirements, there are also other challenges, such as the economics of metal machining, that smaller fabrication and machine shops often face when considering in-house metal sawing. Some of these challenges are described in more detail below.
Initial Capital Investment
Adding a complete in-house sawing setup requires a large capital investment. This can be challenging for smaller fabrication and machine shops that are restricted to tight budgets. In these instances, it might be a better choice to outsource any metal cutting needs to a reliable service provider.
Slow Production Process
In some cases, custom metal plate cutting is not a quick process. The key to achieving optimal results is maintaining a slow cutting speed coupled with a high feed rate. Moreover, the initial setup time and post-machining formalities take a considerable amount of time. If not managed wisely, your production time may get delayed, ultimately affecting your deadlines.
Cutting metal plates with chainsaws or table saws generates a lot of metal waste.
However, without prior operational experience, even advanced machines cannot guarantee optimized material utilization and could result in having to make additional material purchases to meet production requirements. Also, unless you are properly recycling these remnants, you’re ultimately losing value.
It’s important to have well-trained and certified technicians operating advanced sawing equipment, as they will have the expertise to fix machine malfunctions or program precise metal plate cutting requirements. However, because skilled technicians are in high demand, it may cost you more in labor to hire them.
Precision metal cutting requires large and expensive equipment that can often take up too much valuable floor space for small fabrication shops and manufacturers. It could be beneficial to outsource your custom metal plate cutting to a metal service provider who specializes in precision metal sawing, conserving your floor space for other essential processes.
Though implementing high-end machines and automation can make custom metal plate cutting much easier, the risk of safety hazards also increases, as accidents can occur due to exposure to sharp blades and toxic fumes. Moreover, working in an extremely noisy environment for prolonged hours may cause adverse health effects.
However, many of these health and safety hazards can be mitigated by outsourcing your metal sawing to a reliable metal supplier and service provider. You can also save time and money on labor, costly machine setups, and metal waste management. An ideal metal supplier also offers a metal recycling service to help you find value from metal scrap generated during production.
Custom Metal Plate Cutting from a Trusted Local Metal Supplier
For more than two decades, Industrial Metal Service has supplied new and recycled metals to customers in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. However, we also provide custom metal plate cutting services using our state-of-the-art specialized sawing equipment.
We use advanced sawing machines, such as the Amada PCSAW 530 X band saw with pulse cutting technology, the MetlSaw circle cutter, and the MetlSaw NF12-T12, to ensure speed and precision. The Amada PCSAW 530 X has a band speed of 15-120 m/min continuously variable and a sawing capacity of 30-530 mm to quickly cut titanium plates to the dimensions you require, while the MetlSaw NF12-T12 can cut even 12-inch thick aluminum plates to a surface finish as low as 12 microinches.