What is Structural Steel Fabrication?
Structural steel fabrication is a multifaceted process of cutting, bending, and assembling steel for the purpose of creating the final structural products. In the fabrication process of steel structures, several pieces of steel members of various forms are put together following engineering design drawings and assembled to form different structures of predefined shapes and sizes. The steel structural process is quite complex involving skilled manpower. Fabricated steel structures are found everywhere including in buildings, industrial equipment, tools, the construction industry, and various other final products.
However, note that structural steel fabrication doesn’t mean all the weldings that are performed for strengthening or repairing steel. Steel fabrication is a highly specialized skill requiring wide experience and understanding to convert raw steel components into final useful products satisfying the requirements of various codes and standards.
The Stages of Structural Steel Fabrication
The major stages that are involved in the structural steel fabrication process are:
Structural Steel Cutting
First, the product drawing is received from the design team. It is read thoroughly to understand and find out the required steel members. Next, the structural steel fabricators cut the steel using methods like shearing, sawing, chiseling, plasma cutting, water jet cutting, or laser cutting. The steel structural fabrication process is done in a closed manufacturing facility involving abundant safety measures.
Bending Structural Steel
The bending of structural steel is performed by fabricators either by hammering or using machines. Machines are used when the number of repetitive bending on the project is large.
Assembling Structural Steel
In this stage of the structural steel fabrication process, steel elements are combined together to give it a final shape. This mostly involves welding and bolting. Assembled parts are quality checked at this stage.
Cleaning the surface and Blasting
In the next step, the structure surface is cleaned of the unnecessary elements stuck over the surface during cutting, bending, welding, or other steps. Several cleaning methods like surface rusting, blasting machine treatment, etc are used to clean the surface and make it ready for painting.
Painting the Steel Structure
Painting is the last stage of the structural steel fabrication process. Anti-rust paints are used to resist corrosion from environmental impacts. The steel structures are generally painted with 1 layer of anti-rust paint and 2 layers of normal paint or coating. The coating sometimes is used to resist fires.
Various design software packages are used in recent times to supervise the steel fabrication process. Steel structures are usually produced in the facility and finally assembled at the construction site.
Reason for Fabricating Structural Steel
Fabrication of structural steel provides multi-dimensional benefits in construction and other projects. Some of the advantages are:
Affordability: Compared to other available metallic options, steel is stronger and quite cheaper. Hence, steel provides more value in the fabrication industry.
Prefabrication Ability: Prefabrication reduces the amount of required work to be done on-site. Structural steel is easily prefabricated and carried to the construction site for final assembly. For fast-tracking projects, prefabrication saves a lot of construction time.
Low Maintenance: Steel requires less maintenance as compared to its other counterparts. Also, the steel provides easy repairability and long-lasting capabilities.
Appearance: Steel provides an enhanced appearance to projects regardless of the look required.
Environmental: As steel can be endlessly reused and recycled, it is environmentally friendly. Steel production requires less energy and generates less carbon dioxide.
Strength: Structural steel is one of the strongest metals and weighs up to a third less than comparable metals. It is highly durable.
Malleable: Structural steel is malleable and can be formed into any complex shape to meet project requirements. Also, structural steel, being an alloy, the properties can be adjusted as required.
Structural steel is coated with fire-resistant materials to make it highly resistant to fire. It is water-resistant. When designed and built properly, It can withstand storms and earthquakes.
Uses of Structural Steel Fabrication
The modern age can not be thought of without structural steel. Structural steel fabrication is used in all industries like construction, manufacturing, automotive, shipbuilding, and other industries. Some of the applications of structural steel fabrication are listed below:
Manufacturing Industries: The manufacturing industry uses structural steel to produce industrial stairs, platforms, steel ladders, mezzanines, steel handrails, and more.
Construction Industries: Steel beams, steel plates, girders, steel sections of various shapes (H, I, L, Angle, Plate), etc form parts of a large group of fabricated steel structures in the construction industry.
Energy Industry: The energy industries highly rely on fabricated structural steel. Transmission towers, pipelines, wind turbines, oil and gas well platforms, nuclear plants, etc all use various structural steel fabrication methods.
Mining Industry: Structural steel fabrication is part of the mining infrastructure. Various structural steel sections like fittings, pipes, grating, rods, beams, rails, etc are widely used in the mining industry.
Shipbuilding Industry: The shipbuilding industry is heavily reliant on structural steel fabrication for its parts like ferries, recreational boats, and supertankers.
Aerospace Industry: To manufacture various aircraft parts, Structural steel is essential.
Automotive industry: Automotive engines and various safety features uses structural steel fabrication in the automotive industry.
High-rise, Industrial, Residential Buildings, Parking Garages, Bridges, etc
Structural Steel Fabrication Elements
The normal elements for the structural steel fabrication process are:
- Steel plates
- Formed and expanded steel pipe and tube stocks.
- Structural Sections like I-sections, H-sections, C-sections, L-sections, etc.
- Welding Wire