What Steel Fabricators Do

Jan 21, 2019

Steel fabrication is a production process of building objects out of metal, using cutters and other industrial tools. A large fabrication shop can make multiple tools and structures for contractors and other users of heavy equipment. The work may involve cutting, bending, and welding with an emphasis on customization. Here's a deeper look at what steel fabricators do after bidding on large construction projects.

Beginning at the Drawing Board

The first step in designing a metal product begins with concepts drawn by an engineer to gain a contract approval. This design is composed in a computer-assisted drawing (CAD) software program. The software includes templates that allow the engineer to quickly create structural shapes and dimensions. The program can also keep track of raw material inventory. CAD software is able to generate quick sketches to give the client a rough idea of the project with measurements, materials, and other details.

CAD software is used to design a wide variety of products, from kitchen sinks to steel towers used on big machines. The software is useful for drawing multiple engineering sketches so that the client can narrow down choices, which lead to blueprints. The four stages of crafting blueprints are:

  1. Bill of materials (BOM) - identification of materials
  2. Title block - drawing, title and number with specifications
  3. Revision table - changes from earlier drawings
  4. Body of the drawing - outline of the body with final requirements

Blueprints are vital to any fabrication project since they provide the exact instructions on how the structure is crafted. These blueprints are converted to shop drawings used by co-workers to communicate on making cuts, bends and welds based on precise measurements.

Fabrication Phase

The fabricator must make sure their shop has all the necessary saws, punches, lasers, and other tools to complete the project. Each piece of the project is assigned a unique part number and plate location, which helps organize and speed up the assembly process. At this stage the fabricator will cut customized parts, such as components that hold the machinery together. The fabrication team then cuts the necessary pieces based on the blueprints and then gives the parts to the assembly team.

The fabrication stage includes all the processes that bring the product to its workable form, whether it involves cutting with various types of saws, welding, folding steel, or punching holes into metal. There may also be a need for machining with a lathe, in which special shapes are cut as material is removed. Cutting long pieces on sheet metal is known as sheering. Another fabrication process is stamping, in which raised lettering can be stamped on metal.

Modern types of fabrication involve 3D printers, which allow for developing a wider range of products. Whether or not this technology is used, fabricators must ensure that the parts fit together appropriately for assembly, otherwise they may have to create additional custom parts.

Finalizing the Product

The assembly team will make sure the parts can be assembled properly before disassembling the product and preparing it for shipping. At this stage the client will have the option on finishing touches, such as special paint or finish, which must be compliant with government regulations. Once the project is completed it is sent to client based on agreed-upon shipping arrangements.


Steel fabricators work every day to add machinery and structures to the modern world of construction and technology. For more information on steel fabricators call us at Echols Saw and Supply at 602-278-3918. We're a family business of over thirty years, serving the aerospace industry, lumber mills, and machine shops.

Category: steel fabricators