4 Things You Should Know About A Career In Sheet Metal Fabrication

Rarely have skilled laborers been as much in demand in the US as they are right now. As senior workers retire and leave positions open, fewer and fewer qualified younger workers are available to take their place. If you're intrigued by the prospect of secure, interesting work in this area, you might consider a career as a sheet metal fabricator. Here are four points to keep in mind as you do so.

1. Prospects Are Bright

Industrial sheet metal fabricators face a bright future in the job market. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for this field is expected to grow 15% by the year 2022, which is faster than the national average for job growth.

The annual median pay for sheet metal fabricator is $43,290, which works out to over $20 per hour. Considering that entry into the trade requires only a high-school education (and, of course, subsequent training), you might do well to consider this route if you're not planning on getting a four-year college degree.

2. You'll Need Training and Certification

Although sheet metal fabrication may not require a great deal of formal education, it's still a complex field requiring a mastery of the relevant principles, tools, equipment, and procedures. To become a sheet metal fabricator, you'll first need to undergo proper training at an accredited institution so you can receive certification. A typical training course might include

  • How to read and understand blueprints and welding symbols
  • Basic geometry, arithmetic and algebra for accurate measurement
  • Welding
  • Metallurgy
  • Workplace communication

Some training programs include a practical learning requirement such as an apprenticeship. You can also apply for apprenticeships on your own. Apprenticeships give you important hands-on training in custom sheet metal fabrication and other skills.

3. Fabrication Involves Multiple Tools and Techniques

You might be surprised by the sheer range of tools, equipment, and techniques you get to employ in your work as a sheet metal fabricator. Each of these requires skill, experience, and caution to implement effectively. The basic tasks can be categorized as stretching, cutting, shrinking, welding and bending. Some of the most common techniques used to achieve these goals include

  • Welding—There are many different ways to weld two pieces of metal together. Oxy acetylene welding is the traditional method involving the use of a high-temperature torch. TIG welding is a more precise method using an electric arc instead of a flame. MIG welding is an advanced technique that uses a special gun to melt the filler material when it contacts the metal. 
  • Shrinking—You may use a variety of techniques to shrink metal. These include metal tucking (using a hammer to force the metal into place), heat shrinking (which requires the use of a torch to alter the metal's temperature), and the use of a hand-operated shrinking machine.
  • Bending—You may find yourself bending metal over a form with a hammer, or you may use a machine called a metal brake to create precise bends and curves (such as 90-degree angles).
  • Cutting—Shears are frequently the weapons of choice for cutting metal. While old-fashioned hand shears are still a staple item in the metalworker's tool belt, you'll also use power shears when faster cutting is required. Your workplace may also have you using angle grinders or plasma cutters.

4. It Can Be Physically Demanding

Before you leap into the world of sheet metal fabrication, you should know that it may require a lot from you physically. For instance:

  • There's no getting around the fact that large metal pieces can be hard to lift and manipulate. 
  • As in so many other occupation, you'll be standing over your equipment for long periods of time, so think about whether your feet can take that sort of stress. 
  • You'll be squatting, bending over, and generally contorting yourself to perform awkward processes. 
  • Last but not least, daily use of potentially hazardous equipment means you'll be facing a degree of risk, even with safety clothing.

As you can see, sheet metal fabrication is a fascinating and potentially rewarding world unto itself, as long as you view the occupation clearly and weigh its pros and cons. Use resources like http://www.wrobeleng.com to learn more about the job.