Differences Between a CNC Lathe and CNC Mill

cnc mill and cnc lathe

A CNC lathe and CNC mill are two of the most important machines for custom fabrication and machining services. These machines are the mainstays for many machine shops, and many jobs cannot be completed without these machines. The CNC lathe and CNC mill are similar and can complete many similar projects, but there are important differences between them as well. Let’s take a closer look at these important machines.

Differences Between a CNC Lathe and CNC Mill

What is CNC Machining?

First, what is CNC machining? CNC machining is a subtractive process, which means that the machine starts with a solid piece of metal (or sometimes plastic or other materials) and cuts away pieces to create a shape. Both CNC mills and CNC lathes are subtractive CNC machines. This differs from additive manufacturing, which adds material to create a shape. 3D printing is one type of additive manufacturing.

CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control, this means that the lathe and mill both use a computer control system to make precise cuts and create exact shapes. A CNC machine uses a digital plan to tell the machine what cuts to make, where to make them, and how to do it. This requires an operator’s help, but once the machine is set up, it can usually work independently. Though lathes and mills have been used for hundreds of years to create essential items, CNC machining makes this process much faster, safer, and more efficient than the traditional lathes and mills used many years ago.

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What is the Difference Between a CNC Lathe and CNC Mill?

Both a CNC lathe and a CNC mill use a digital, pre-programmed plan to create an object from a piece of metal, plastic, or other materials. CNC milling and CNC turning, which is done on a CNC lathe, are similar processes, but they have some differences, and each machine is ideal for particular parts.

The main difference between a CNC lathe and a CNC mill is the way the machine and the part rotate. A CNC lathe rotates the workpiece or bar stock against the cutting tools to make a shape. By contrast, in a CNC mill, the cutting tools rotate around the bar stock. This difference is subtle, yet they allow each machine to create particular objects or make particular cuts with speed and efficiency.

What Do CNC Lathes and CNC Mills Make?

The subtle differences in functionality between a CNC lathe and a CNC mill make each machine ideal for different parts. A CNC lathe is ideal for conical or cylindrical pieces, while a CNC mill can work with more complex shapes. A CNC mill can create flat surfaces as needed, make deeper holes, and make pockets, planes, grooves, or edges. A CNC lathe usually creates shapes, parts or objects that are mostly uniform across the conical or cylindrical surface, such as screws, shafts, knobs, disc cams, or crankshafts.

Types of CNC Lathes and CNC Mills

There are many different types of CNC lathes and CNC mills. The speed of the lathe or mill, the metals or plastics that it can work with, the size of the object it can produce, how accurate or precise it is, and the type of cuts that it can make all differ by machine. The type of part or item you are working with may work better on some CNC machines than others.

For simple components or products, a machine with a high level of precision or complexity might simply add unnecessary costs. However, if your parts or components have very tight tolerances, they’re made from very tough metals, or they are very complex, a more advanced CNC machine will probably do the job best.

What Materials do CNC Lathes and CNC Mills Work With?

CNC lathes and mills usually use metal bar stock to shape a part or item. Most commonly, this is some type of aluminum or steel, though it can also include many other metals, such as brass, copper alloys, or alloys containing high nickel, titanium, or carbon. Other CNC lathes and mills may also work with different types of plastic or wood as well.

How easily a CNC machine can work with a metal or another material depends on several factors. The material’s hardness, flexibility, melting point, conductivity, and other properties may play a role in the machining process. Some CNC lathes or mills are not designed to work with very tough metals. Some metals will crack or bend more easily, and machines designed for very tough metals might not be effective. It’s also important to consider the cost of the metals, and what you need the part or item to accomplish. Aluminum, for example, is easy to machine and highly affordable, but it might not work well for parts that will be subjected to intense stress, corrosion, or temperature extremes.

How Can You Choose the Right CNC Machine?

Your machine shop or fabrication facility can tell you more about the metals that they work with, machine tolerances, and the level of complexity their machines are capable of. It’s also helpful to ask about design files and how to simplify a design to reduce costs. Take a look at the custom fabrication guide to learn more about machining services at APEC, or contact us to get a quote.

Robot Welding Vs Manual Welding


Welding is one of the most important processes in manufacturing. From prototypes to rapid production of small metal parts to fabrication of large metal machines, welding helps to keep all the pieces together. There are many different types of welding and different welding techniques. Robot welding uses robotic assistance and automation, while manual welding relies on human ingenuity and expertise. Let’s take a closer look at robot welding vs manual welding, and see which might be best for your fabrication project.

Robot Welding Vs Manual Welding

What is Robot Welding?

Robot welding may refer to completely automated welding processes (usually spot welding), or it may refer to robot-assisted welding. Robot welding has helped to make many manufacturing and fabrication processes safer, as the robots can move human operators further away from dangerous or monotonous tasks. As technology has progressed, robot welding has become more sophisticated and more efficient. A robot can be programmed and designed to perform many different types of welds, including arc, resistance, spot, TIG, MIG and more. However, it is still no substitute for manual welding from an experienced welding.

A robot welding machine might be programmed to perform a particular weld over and over again, such as in an assembly line. Or, a robot welding machine may work alongside a person; a person prepares the materials and the robot performs the weld. Finally, a robot might assist a person and work under an operator’s instructions to perform tasks that an unassisted person might not be able to perform otherwise.

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What is Manual Welding?

Manual welding is performed by a person, using many different types of welding machines. With the right experience, a welder can perform many different types of welds, including arc, resistance, spot, TIG, MIG and more. Someone may become a welder by completing an apprenticeship program at a business or completing a formal training program. Welders may gain a certification through the American Welding Society to show that they can perform particular welding operations and work with different types of materials or in different industries.

Manual welding technology has also advanced alongside robotic welding technology. This technology has allowed welders to make more complex welds, use different techniques, use different materials, and weld safely and more efficiently. In some cases, the line between manual welding and robotic welding can become blurry, as a welder might use robotic assistive technology to improve their speed or technique, or get distance from a dangerous job.

Advantages of Robot Welding

There are a number of advantages to robot welding. Though robots can sustain damage, they can also be repaired, and their injuries are much less serious than those a human would endure in welding. This makes robot welders ideal for dangerous jobs that might over-exert a person. Robots are also ideal for performing repetitive, monotonous tasks. The robot can be programmed and set up one time and perform the task over and over again without the need for much supervision. A person is more likely to become fatigued by this job and make mistakes or even suffer injuries.

Advantages of Manual Welding

Manual welding also has many advantages. Though human welders might not be as exact or as tireless as robots, they have the ability to perform more complex tasks without the detailed programming or technology that a robot would need. For detailed work or complex welds, especially those that are not in straight lines or at right angles, a person is likely to complete these welds better. A person should also supervise robots, even those that are completing monotonous tasks. If a robot is damaged or isn’t calibrated or programmed correctly, it could potentially perform the task incorrectly numerous times and create multiple defects before it’s noticed. A human supervisor will notice this and, with the right tools and training, will be able to fix it.

Both manual welding and robotic welding have advantages and disadvantages. These types of welds can be ideal in different situations. If you are fabricating large or complex products or machines, or you require especially detailed welds for food-grade machinery, manual welding may be the best choice. If you are working with numerous, smaller parts and large runs, robotic welding may be best.

APEC’s experienced welders and robotic welding machines have fulfilled many different custom fabrication jobs. If you have questions about manual or robotic welding, or other fabrication processes, contact us.

Tips to Reduce Costs on Your CNC Machine Job


CNC machining includes a wide variety of machine and machining techniques, which can produce many different types of products. From complex product prototypes to high-volume manufacturing runs and everything in between, CNC machining helps to fill in production needs, develop new products, design solutions, and more. With the right tips, you can reduce costs on your CNC machine job and make your overall project more cost-effective.

Tips to Reduce Costs on Your CNC Machine Job

1. Perfect Your Design

Whether you have a simple and straightforward design or a complex blueprint for a prototype, one of the best ways to reduce costs on your CNC machine job is to complete and perfect your design. When your design is clear from the start, the machine shop you work with will not have to spend time and resources making edits or changes. A clear and readable design will also help to prevent defects or misunderstandings that could extend your timeline and add unnecessary costs.

If you have already used your designs at your own machine shop and you are seeking a manufacturing partner to fulfill demand, it may still be a good idea to assess your files. What is clear for your shop and your staff might not be clear to another.

If you’re not sure how to perfect the design of your project, here’s a few questions you can ask a machine shop to find out.

  • File types: ask what file types are ideal for the machine shop, and create these files, if you can.
  • Weld specifications: the machine shop may need details about weld specifications, and can provide some guidance if you’re not sure what these would be for your project.
  • Changes: ask if there are any changes you could make to your design to make your project simpler or more affordable. Sometimes, small changes can substantially reduce costs.
  • Machines: ask what machines the machine shop will use to complete the project. Also, ask if there are alternative machines that could make the project simpler, or if the machine shop anticipates any challenges to completing your project.
  • Questions: ask the machine shop if there are any aspects of your design that are unclear or if they have any questions, so you can clear them up right away.

Learn more about the benefits of custom fabrication and what to expect
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2. Choose the Optimal Process and Machine

There are many ways to complete a CNC machine job. Sometimes, a relatively simple machine can complete a job with speed, accuracy and efficiency. Other times, a more sophisticated machine can complete the job much faster or more cost-effectively.

If you already have experience with your own or another machine shop, you may already have a machine in mind that can do the job. If not, or if the project is unfamiliar to you, it may be more difficult to know what type of machine is ideal for your project. Asking different machine shops the right questions can help you narrow it down. Also, understanding the functions of different CNC machines, such as laser welders, lathes, mills, rollers, and other machines can help point you in the right direction.

So, what questions can you ask to help find the right machine and reduce costs on your CNC machine job?

  • Example products: Ask about the ideal or most common products each machine produces. This will give you a better idea of each machine’s optimal functions and whether or not the machines available are right for your project.
  • Sizes: Every machine has some limitations on the size of the objects it can work with. Ask about size limitations on each machine if it isn’t clear. This way, you can make sure you get the right fit.
  • Speed: Ask how fast each machine works, and the average rate for each machine. If you have a variety of small pieces or a number of repetitive moves required, you can get a baseline price for each. This will also help you compare rates for different shops and help you see which machine shop has the best equipment for the job.
  • Differences: If two different machines seem to be appropriate for a particular aspect of your project, ask about the differences between each. For example, a lathe and a mill are similar machines, but each has optimal jobs. Understanding the differences can help you find the right machine.

3. Use the Right Materials

The right materials can make a big difference in the overall price of your project. This may seem obvious, but it’s important to consider multiple aspects of your materials. For example, a material may seem more affordable at first, but if it causes the product to rust or fall apart prematurely, it won’t be more affordable in the long run. Finding the right balance between durability and affordability can help you reduce costs on your CNC machine job.

Depending on your project, you may want to consider different metal alloys or plastics. Consider how you need your product to perform and make a list of the following factors to find the ideal material for your project.

  • Flexibility: Some materials are easier to machine than others. Consider this as you decide what materials to use.
  • Temperature: Some metals or plastics will melt, warp or freeze at extreme temperatures, or with excessive friction.
  • Corrosion resistance: If your product will be exposed to weather, salts, acids, or alkalis, you’ll need to consider corrosion resistance.
  • Weight: Some materials are less durable, but lighter, which can be a notable advantage for some projects.
  • Cost: Cost, of course, is an important consideration. Finding substitutes can help you avoid demand spikes or work around material shortages.

Asking the right questions can help you reduce costs on your CNC machine job. Talk with different machine shops and experts to learn which designs, machines, and materials are ideal for your project. To learn more about the machines and functions available at APEC, take a look at our custom fabrication guide.

How Can Robot Welding Help Your Fabrication Shop?

benefits of automation

Robot welding has been an important part of manufacturing for decades, and has continued to improve as technology has advanced. This technology has been used by high-volume production lines since the 1960’s, and has become more accessible to specialized fabrication shops in recent years. Robot welding can help fabrication shops in many ways, and provides many advantages to workers and clients. Let’s take a closer look.

How Can Robot Welding Help Your Fabrication Shop?

Robotic welding systems and other automated welding machines can help to protect workers, create more uniformity between jobs, reduce expenses, and more. There are many different types of robot welding machines, including those that require some assistance from people and others that require only basic supervision. Which type of welding automation system you choose will depend on the type of projects you’re working with, the volume of work your fabrication shop deals with, and how you’d like to scale in the future.

Filling Labor Shortages

Around the world, manufacturers and fabricators are experiencing a shortage of qualified welders. This is just one facet of a much larger manufacturing labor shortage occurring in the U.S and around the world as populations age, and skills training becomes more difficult or expensive. Many young workers also perceive manufacturing jobs as paying less and introducing more danger, unhealthy working conditions or unstable long-term employment outlooks compared to other careers, and are more reluctant to enter these fields.

Robotic welding systems can help to bridge labor shortages. Though these machines require some supervision or assistance, depending on the type of system and the job at hand, robotic welding machines can provide consistent, reliable welding services. These types of machines are especially useful for repetitive welding tasks that are often monotonous and dangerous for a person to complete.

Protecting Workers

Arc welding, a relatively recent welding type to be completed by machines, operates at temperatures as high as 6,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Besides high temperature, welding presents a number of other hazards, such as deadly arc flashing, inhalation of gases and fumes, damage to the eyes, and much more.

Robotic welding allows workers to take a step back from these dangerous conditions. A robot won’t be affected by exposure to gases and, even if it is severely damaged in some way, it can be repaired or replaced, but a person cannot. Numerous safety features, such as arc shielding, fencing, emergency shut-offs, and more also help to prevent dangerous incidents from occurring in the first place.

Exact Execution

It’s unrealistic to expect a person to do a job the exact same way every time. However, this is exactly what robots are designed to do. This also applies to robot welding, and makes repetitive processes much easier, safer, and more exact.

Once a robotic welding machine is programmed and set up properly, it will perform the job specifications exactly. As with any machine or device, malfunctions or damage can certainly happen, but they can be corrected by a supervisor or operator. With these issues detected and corrected, the machine will return to its regular function, and perform a weld to exact parameters.

Faster Production

A machine that performs the same job over and over not only reduces errors, but it won’t become fatigued or tired out, as a person would. The robot can work as much or as long as its construction and output allows, and it can stop when it’s not needed. Welders generally work at about 50% arc-on time, while a robot welder can work at 75-95% arc-on time, depending on the machine and the project. This allows robot welders to get the job done faster.

Less Waste, More Efficiency

Even though they’re able to work longer, robot welding systems can also save energy. Robot welding machines do not need to turn on and off as much as machines operated by people. This limits the most energy-intensive part of the process; start-up.

As long as the robot is monitored for damage or malfunction, it won’t produce defects that require corrective welding either. This means the welding machine isn’t wasting energy on extra welding jobs. This also reduces mistakes and reduces the amount of scrap.

Robot welding requires more upfront investment, but it also gives your shop more flexibility. During slow periods, you can simply turn the machine off, instead of trying to rearrange your workforce. These machines can also create a safer work environment, especially when you are working with repetitive, simple welds that can be monotonous and hazardous for workers.

Types of Metal Rollers and How They’re Used


Metal rollers are an important part of every machine shop. Metal rollers, also called sheet metal rollers or metal roller benders, can create a wide array of arcs, bends, cylinders and circular objects. This equipment is also an important part of custom material fabrication. Which type of metal roller is best for your project depends on the dimensions and type of metal you’re working with. Let’s take a look at the types of metal rollers available and how they’re used.

Types of Metal Rollers and How They’re Used

Types of metal rollers can be divided into 2-cylinder, 3-cylinder, and 4-cylinder rollers. Each machine may also be equipped with additional features to make particular constructions faster or easier. Different metal rollers may be preferable for different jobs depending on the overall size of the object, circular vs conical rolls, the type of metal, and other factors.

2-Cylinder Metal Rollers

As the name implies, 2-cylinder metal rollers use two rollers to curve sheet metal into a desired shape. One large roller coated in urethane and another, smaller steel roller applies force to sheet metal to create an arc or curve. 2-cylinder metal rollers are ideal for smaller projects with thinner metals. These machines operate fairly quickly, so they’re capable of producing numerous components in a short time frame.

2-cylinder metal rollers might be used for:

  • Filters
  • Canisters
  • Pipes
  • Tubes

3-Cylinder Metal Rollers

3-cylinder metal rollers are similar to 2-cylinder rollers, however a third, off-set roll creates additional bending power. This type of sheet metal roller is often used for sheet metal thinner than an inch thick, though they can handle thicker metals. The third roller provides more control over the final shape, so it can be used for tighter cylinders. When the metal sheet leaves the roller, it can then be welded into a completed cylinder shape.

These types of metal rollers can be used for a wider range of materials and mid-range size projects, such as:

  • Pipes
  • Tubes
  • Ducts

4-Cylinder Metal Rollers

4-cylinder metal rollers use an additional roller beneath the uppermost roller to apply constant pressure. provide even more control and precision over the rolling process. In addition to cylinders, these sheet metal rollers can also make square- and rectangular-shaped objects. These machines tend to be faster, more accurate, and they are capable of working with much larger objects and much thicker metals.

4-cylinder metal rollers can integrate easily with CNCs and automatic controls for additional accuracy, speed and efficiency. These machines can be used for a variety of applications, including much larger applications than the previous rollers. 4-cylinder sheet metal rollers can work with much thicker, tougher metals and construct much larger or more challenging items, such as:

  • Industrial pipes or tubes
  • Large shaft components or fan bodies
  • HVAC components

Other Considerations

Additional features will allow metal rollers to work with other materials and produce different or more complex objects. For example, different metal rolling machines are capable of working with different sizes, as well as different levels of complexities. Some metal rollers can also work at an angle, so they can produce conical shapes.

Some sheet metal rollers use overhead supports to work with lighter metals or larger constructions more easily. These supports prevent the cylindrical shape or arc from collapsing as it is rolled. Side supports work similarly, preventing objects with large radii from recurving.

Safety measures are also an important consideration, especially for machine shops working with pre-owned metal rollers. To keep workers safe, sheet metal rollers must be equipped with emergency stops, control circuitry, safety breakers and detached operator controls.

If your material fabrication project requires cylindrical or conical constructions, it will be important to choose the right sheet metal roller. With the right equipment, your fabricator can construct your components more quickly and inexpensively. Ask an engineer for more information about types of metal rollers, how they’re used and how these impact your project.

5 Tips to Optimize Your Custom Metal Fabrication Design


When it comes to custom metal fabrication, the original design is extremely important.Your custom metal fabrication design will ultimately decide how your product is made and how it turns out. When you optimize your custom metal fabrication design, you can take advantage of shorter lead times, cost savings, increased durability, and many other advantages. Here are 5 things to keep in mind when optimizing your custom metal fabrication design.

5 Tips to Optimize Your Custom Metal Fabrication Design

1. Clarify Your Design

With more specificity in your design, your fabricator will have a better idea of what you are looking for. This helps to reduce errors that can occur when your project moves from design to fabrication. The first thing to specify will be your measurements and dimensions. Double check to be sure these are accurate.

You’ll want to specify the following in your drawings:

  • Tolerances
  • Locations and depths of any holes
  • Surface flatness
  • Radius of corners
  • Material thickness
  • Overall height, width, length

2. Simplify and Edit

With the essential elements of your drawings clearly marked, the next best way to optimize your custom metal fabrication design is to simplify. Maybe you’ve already pared your design down to the essentials. But if you haven’t tried an editing step yet, take a closer look before sending your designs to your fabricator.

Look for elements that don’t add to the function of your design. Are these aesthetic elements essential? Or, you might look for elements that are redundant. If, for example, your metal fabricated component will fit securely and maintain its function when it is attached with one screw, two screws might add unnecessary expense. You might also look for exterior elements that are overly detailed or overworked. For example, a right angle can simplify the cutting or stamping process, while a curved corner adds complexity without adding value.

3. Collaborate with Your Fabricator

Knowing how to simplify or optimize your design can be difficult if you are not sure what the ideal fabrication process looks like. Many different processes can be used in metal fabrication, including cutting, welding, machining, stamping, casting, and many more. And, there are different approaches and techniques for each process. By making small changes to your design, you may be able to substantially simplify the overall fabrication process. However, it can be difficult to know exactly how to do this if you are not familiar with these fabrication processes.

Once you’ve specified the dimensions and other essential elements of your design, and you’ve taken a hard look at the vital and decorative details, talk to your fabricator about how you can streamline the fabrication process. By making just a few adjustments to your design, expert fabricators can move your project through the most efficient processes.

4. Consider Your Metal Options

There are many different types of metal alloys. Different metal alloys are made to fill different needs and resist different types of corrosion, heat or force. Some applications require very resilient metals that can withstand temperature extremes, intense force or corrosive substances. These metals are also more expensive, and more difficult to work with. Other applications are not exposed to such extreme conditions, and can complete their function with more common alloys.

Choosing the right metal alloy can help to dramatically reduce costs and simplify the fabrication process. To choose the best metal alloy, it’s important to understand the product or component’s function, and the forces it will be exposed to. This might include any of the following:

  • Force: This includes many factors, including persistent bending, heavy impacts, abrasion, heavy weight, and much more.
  • Temperature: This includes heat, cold, and dramatic swings between these extremes.
  • Corrosive materials: This might include common elements as simple as air and water, or uncommon elements like acids.
  • Lifetime: the length of time your product or component is meant to last will impact the materials as much as the regular use conditions.

5. Consider Your Finishing Options

Materials are not the only way to ensure your fabrication project looks and functions the way that it’s supposed to. The right finishing option, such as powder coating, metal plating, anodizing, galvanizing and more can help your project withstand corrosion and extend its lifetime. These finishing options can also help your component or project look the way you want, with the right colors, textures, or shine.

Working with experts is the best way to optimize your custom metal fabrication design. Combine your industry expertise with the expertise of fabricators and engineers to perfect your design and create a durable, top-quality, cost-effective product. Get in touch with our experts today to get started.

Metal Finishing Options for Custom Fabrication Projects


The right finish on your custom fabrication project can help to protect the metal, extend the lifetime of the project, and create a clean, polished look. There are many metal finishing options for custom fabrication projects. Which you choose will depend on what you want to accomplish with your metal fabrication project. Here are a few of the options available.

Metal Finishing Options for Custom Fabrication Projects

Powder Coating

Powder coating is a common metal finishing option for custom fabrication projects. This process not only provides a tough, durable exterior, but it can also provide any color or texture. With powder coating, the custom fabrication project can take on any type of gold, silver, brass or other types of metallic finish. The project can also be any color or shade, with glossy or matte finishes, and even different textures. Powder coating is also efficient and highly versatile. This provides many options for many different projects.

Metal Plating

In some cases, a custom fabrication project may need a different type of metal plating. Metal plating can help the project resist corrosion, especially from galvanic corrosion. Galvanic corrosion occurs when two different metals come into contact with each other and a corrosive electrolyte, usually water or salt. In these conditions, one metal is an anode and the other is a cathode. The anode corrodes faster, destabilizing the project overall. Metal plating can help to prevent or slow this process by interrupting the reaction. Metal plating can also be used to give a project more stability by using a tougher metal that will resist scratches or wear-and-tear. Or, it can be used to create a particular look, such as with gold or silver plating.


Anodizing is an effective metal finishing option particularly for aluminum custom fabrication projects. This process usually uses an acidic solution to strengthen the naturally-occurring film that helps aluminum resist corrosion. Anodizing metals not only resist corrosion, but they are also more resistant to other types of wear-and-tear, such as damage from UV. This process also makes it easy to dye the metal at the same time.


Galvanizing or zinc coating is a popular metal finishing option for custom fabrication projects made from steel or iron. In this process, a layer of zinc is deposited onto the metal surface, usually through hot-dip galvanizing or through electrogalvanizing. The layer of zinc helps to prevent rust from forming on the metal’s surface. This process also creates a distinctive, spangled look. Since it is especially useful for steel fabrications that will be exposed to the elements, it’s common for automobile components, bicycles, roofing, nails and similar items.

Sand Blasting

Sand blasting is a different type of finishing option. Instead of covering the surface with a protective layer, this process wears away imperfections through friction and abrasion. Small defects can be eliminated, the process can produce a clean, smooth surface, or it can be used to prepare an item for painting or another type of finishing.


Many metal fabrication projects are already made from a durable, corrosion resistant metal, and do not require additional layers. In this case, the metal may simply be polished to give it a clean, finished shine. Polishing uses gentle friction to eliminate minor scratches and imperfections, and give the metal a brighter shine. This simple process can be used for many different types of metal, from stainless steel to brass to chromium and many more, as well as metal-plated products and products with other types of finishes.

Hot Blackening

Hot blackening is another method for improving corrosion resistance in iron-based alloys, and also creating a distinctive look. This process uses black oxide to stabilize the surface of the metal and prevent it from rusting. While hot baths of black oxide are usually used to create this effect, the process can also be completed using a mid-temperature or cold bath. Once completed, the metal will have a distinctive black, matte appearance. THis process is commonly used for automotive parts, tools, and firearms.

This list includes a few of the most common metal finishing options for custom fabrication projects, though there are many others. If you are looking for a particular appearance for your metal fabricated components or products, resistance against particular threats, or you have other concerns with metal finishes, contact us. We’ll help you find the right finish for your project.

Benefits of Powder Coating for Metal Fabrication

benefits of powder coating for metal fabrication

Powder coating is a versatile, highly effective method for coating metal fabrication projects. For most finished products and components, powder coating is a more durable, more attractive coating than wet paint. It also has other advantages. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of powder coating for metal fabrication projects.

Benefits of Powder Coating for Metal Fabrication

Full Coverage

Powder coating is applied through a different process than wet paint. As the name suggests, powder coating is first applied to the product or component as a dry powder. This powder is electrostatically charged, so it sticks to all exposed surfaces, including even the hardest to reach places. Then, the powder is heated in an oven, where it melts and sticks to the surface. This process allows powder coating to cover the product completely and smoothly. There’s no need for additional coats and there’s no risk of unsightly drips or runs.

More Efficient

Powder coating is also a more efficient process than other types of painting or coating. Since the powder sticks to the surface electrostatically, there’s no excess paint lost during the process. There’s no dripping and also no drying time needed. While wet paint may require several hours to fully dry, powder coated parts can be fully cured and cooled in as little as ten minutes.

Any Color or Texture

Powder coating gives you unlimited options for the final appearance of your product or component. In addition to a wide range of colors and shades, there are also many different finishes available, including flat, satin, glossy, metallic, clear, iridescent, and even glitter. This can help you achieve the final result that you’re looking for, without extra expense. A shiny metallic finish can help the part or component keep its high-quality appearance while still protecting it from damage, or a matte yellow finish can help meet safety requirements. There are many, many different options available.

Protection from Corrosion

Corrosion affects all metals. Corrosion can occur simply through contact with oxygen in the air, resulting in oxidation. However, covering the surface of metals can help to protect from oxidation and corrosion. Powder coating completely covers the metal surface, preventing the air from contacting the metal and thereby preventing oxidation from occurring. Powder coatings can also help to prevent other types of corrosion, such as corrosion from acids or bases that come into contact with the product. The powder coating layer forms a protective covering that can help to extend the life of the product.

Improved Durability

Corrosion isn’t the only damaging force that can affect metal fabricated parts and components. Scratches, abrasion and regular wear and tear can also damage metal fabricated parts over time. This is another benefit of powder coating for metal fabricated parts and products. The powder coating forms a protective layer over the component that helps to resist scratches and friction. This keeps the product looking like-new, longer.

Attractive Appearance

Besides added durability and corrosion resistance, powder coating is an easy way to give your part a finished, attractive appearance. Powder coating doesn’t require multiple coats like wet paint does. It goes on once and produces a smooth, uniform, clean appearance across the part or component. The curing process works quickly, so your part or component is ready for shipping or assembly fast.

There are many benefits to powder coating for metal fabrication projects. Powder coating is highly versatile, with many options for colors, finishes and textures. This process also works on all types of items, from large finished products to small components and everything in between. If you have questions about powder coating for your metal fabrication process, contact us. We’re happy to give you any information you need, and help you find the ideal powder coating for your project.


Choosing the Right Alloy for Your Custom Fabrication Design

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Choosing the right alloy for your custom fabrication is the first and, often, the most important step in creating a high-quality product or component. There are many factors to consider when choosing a metal alloy for your fabrication, and there are many different alloys available. In this blog post, we’ve included a few of the most widely-used alloys, though there are hundreds of others.

Choosing the Right Alloy for Your Custom Fabrication Design

To choose the right alloy for your custom fabrication design, it’s important to know the task the component or product will be fulfilling, the environment it will be working in, and stresses it must withstand. Here are a few of the factors you should be aware of, though this is not an exhaustive list.

  • Temperature: Many metals will warp or freeze up at high or low temperatures. Temperature considerations are especially important if your product or component will be working outdoors, or if friction or coolant will cause temperature swings.
  • Corrosion resistance: All metals corrode to some extent, though some alloys are much more resistant to corrosion than others. If your product or component will be in contact with moisture, salts, acids or alkalis it’s important to consider an alloy that will resist corrosion.
  • Durability: There are many different types of durability. For example, some alloys are highly resistant to bending or warping, but will snap past a certain threshold, while others are made to bend under pressure. Consider the amount of force or weight that the alloy must withstand, as well as the type of force it will face.
  • Weight: If a component in a machine is too heavy, it will require the rest of the machine components to work harder. It’s important to know just how heavy the component or product can be before it becomes impractical.
  • Fabrication process: Some alloys are more difficult to weld, machine or form, which will complicate the fabrication process. Knowing how the product will be fabricated can help to choose the right alloy.
  • Cost: Materials cost is always a factor. If finding the right alloy means overextending your budget, you’ll need to reassess. Keep in mind that cost isn’t limited to the initial cost of the materials themselves, though. Cost may also include a component’s upkeep or cost of replacement if it’s corroded or damaged.

Many of these factors involve a balancing act. For example, metals with high durability tend to be heavier and more expensive. Metals with high temperature thresholds or corrosion resistance can be more difficult to work with, and more expensive and time-consuming to fabricate. This is why it’s helpful to be specific about how you need the alloy to perform, so you can balance all of these elements together.

Types of Alloys in Metal Fabrication

There are hundreds of different types of metal alloys. Combining different metals in different amounts will yield different results, and new alloys are being developed all the time to take on complex challenges. The most commonly used alloys in metal fabrication generally contain steel (which is itself an alloy of mainly iron and carbon), aluminum, and nickel.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is an additional extension of the steel alloy, and it is one of the most popular metal fabrication materials. There are many different types of stainless steel. Stainless steel may contain additional chromium, nickel, tungsten, titanium, molybdenum and many other metals. Some very specific types of stainless steel used in military applications even contain depleted uranium. These additional metals help to determine the unique properties of each stainless steel type.

304 Stainless Steel

SAE 304 stainless steel, also known as A2 stainless steel or 18/8 stainless steel, is the most common type of stainless steel. It’s made from chromium, nickel and steel, and has a number of versatile characteristics that make it suitable for many different applications.

304 stainless steel has a clean, shiny appearance, high corrosion resistance, decent durability and it’s easily formed and welded. This makes it a go-to alloy for custom fabrication, appliances, food processing equipment, consumer goods, pipes, fasteners and many more. There are a number of sub-types of 304 stainless steel using varying amounts of carbon, which can change its temperature resistance, corrosion resistance, and tensile strength to meet the needs of specific applications.

316 Stainless Steel

SAE 316L stainless steel, also known as A4 stainless steel or marine grade stainless steel, is similar to 304 stainless steel, but with some differences in composition and function. This steel alloy contains molybdenum in addition to chromium, nickel, and steel, as well as small quantities of silicon, phosphorus and sulfur. These additions make it more resistant to corrosion.

Just like 304 stainless steel, there are different sub-types of 316 stainless steel which contain varying levels of molybdenum, carbon and nitrogen. These differences change the strength and corrosion resistance of each alloy. This type of steel is ideal for environments with high corrosion, such as chemical refining, textile bleaching and coloring, surgical implants and applications near or in seawater.

Aluminum Alloys

Aluminum alloys are another popular choice for many metal fabrication products and components. Like steel, aluminum alloys can be mixed with many other metals, including nickel, magnesium, titanium, cobalt, lithium, and many more. Each unique alloy presents different advantages and disadvantages.

The main advantage of aluminum alloys is their lightweight composition. This makes aluminum alloys a preferred choice for many automotive and aerospace applications. Aluminum is also relatively inexpensive and it can be used in extrusions, adding flexibility in the manufacturing process. However, there are some drawbacks; aluminum alloys are generally not as durable as stainless steel, and they’re more sensitive to stress and heat.

Nickel Alloys

Nickel alloys also present unique benefits for some custom fabrication work. These alloys most commonly contain metals similar to aluminum alloys and stainless steel alloys, like chromium, molybdenum, iron, copper and titanium, among others.

Nickel alloys are used in some of the most demanding applications. They are very resistant to thermal expansion and electromagnetic interference, which makes them ideal for sensitive measurement instruments and electromagnetic shielding. Many nickel alloys are also highly corrosion-resistant against common corrosive substances like seawater and even uncommon, highly corrosive substances like hydrochloric or sulphuric acids. This high resistance to temperature extremes, extremely corrosive substances, and mechanical force puts many nickel alloys in the category of superalloys.

There are many more unique alloys used in all types of different applications. Stainless steel alloys are often the right alloy for custom fabrication work, though not always. If you are working with a challenging application with high temperatures, corrosive materials, weight constraints, or other obstacles, there are other metal alloys that can meet your needs.

How to Find the Best Contract Manufacturing Partner


Outsourcing some aspects of your manufacturing can help you meet demand, speed up your process, simplify designs and much more. There are a number of benefits of subcontracting manufacturing, but realizing these benefits means finding the best contract manufacturing partner available. This contractor must be able to work with your team and produce high-quality work that meets your specifications. Here’s what to look for and what you’ll need to find the best contract manufacturing partner.

How to Find the Best Contract Manufacturing Partner

To find the best contract manufacturing partner, it’s important to know about the manufacturer’s capabilities and facilities, their process, and it’s also helpful to have as much information as possible on the project that you want completed. When you know what you’ll need to complete your process, you’ll be in a better position to assess whether or not a contract manufacturer will work well with you.

The Manufacturer’s Facility

One of the most important aspects of finding the best contract manufacturing partner is assessing the manufacturer’s facility and equipment. A manufacturer with a wide range of welding, cutting, forming, machining and other fabrication equipment will give you the most flexibility.

When your manufacturing subcontractor can perform many different tasks, you can rely on one business instead of looking for different subcontractors every time your needs or projects change. Also, a manufacturer with an array of technology may be able to help you lower production costs or utilize a more effective process. For example, laser cutting may be faster, but it adds heat to the process, which can be a concern for some materials. A water jet is slower, it may be a better option in some situations.

Drawings and Design

The drawings and designs behind your project are the foundation for all future work. It’s helpful for these drawings and designs to be as detailed as possible. This will help to reduce errors as your subcontractor turns your design into a repeatable manufacturing process, and finally into a finished product.

Ask about the subcontractor’s CAD files and their engineers’ experience with different types of files. Will the engineers be able to confidently work with your drawings? If your engineers’ file types, programs, or experience are different than your subcontractors’, it can create problems. Understanding the design and engineer process, or taking a look at example CAD files from a project similar to yours can help you find the best contract manufacturing partner at the start of the project.

Skills and Knowledge

Working with an experienced contract manufacturing partner increases the chances of receiving high-quality products in a timely manner. This includes the company’s engineer staff and salespeople, as well as welders, machinists and fabricators. Ask about the subcontractors’ experience, and that of their staff.

In addition, it’s helpful to know the variety of skills that the subcontractor can offer you. Do they specialize in mechanical fabrication only, or can they also offer electrical engineering? Can your products also be painted and finished at the location? In addition to a variety of skills, it’s also important for your subcontractor to be aware of applicable codes and regulations, especially for electrical engineering.

Ability to Make Changes

Computer aided manufacturing (CAM) allows manufacturers to create highly repeatable parts at a high volume. Combining CAD files with CAM can make the manufacturing process easier, more consistent and more efficient. When using CAM, in many cases, the parts are tied directly to the drawing files. This means that the parts are generally more consistent, but it also means that it’s easier to make changes down the road. Asking about the manufacturing process as well as the design process, and how they are connected, can help to improve consistency and prevent costly changes later on.

Clear Directions

As previously mentioned, clear directions and detailed drawings are some of your best tools in finding the best manufacturing partner. When you know exactly what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to easily see which subcontractor is right for the job.

Here are a few of the things that you should know before you speak with a subcontractor. If your project is relatively simple in scope and design, you may not need all of this information. However, if your project is complex, it’s best not to leave important elements to chance.

  • Up-to-date and detailed drawings
  • Accurate bill of materials
  • Weld specifications
  • Manufacturing practices

If you don’t have this information, your subcontractor may be able to help fill in the gaps. Ask about the fabrication process beforehand, so there aren’t any surprises when you receive your products.

Choosing the best contract manufacturing partner can help to ensure that your project goes smoothly. Consider these aspects, as well as your own design and documents, and you’ll be in the best position to find a reliable manufacturing partner.