Thoughts And Perspectives From The Team

What Is Heavy Metal Fabrication?

AUTHOR T Bailey, Inc.

PUBLISHED Oct 1, 2021

This is the process of constructing large industrial applications, like tanks, reservoirs, and smokestacks out of steel. 

Building structures like these require a huge amount of powerful equipment, teams of skilled craftsmen, and many decades of experience to manage the weight of logistics involved effectively. 

If you’re new to the world of heavy fabrication, continue reading to learn more about this exciting field. 


Heavy Metal Fabrication: an Overview

Heavy fabrication is a complex discipline that requires the careful coordination of many teams to machine, mold, assemble, coat, and deliver large steel applications. These heavy fabrications include pressure vessels, penstock, casing, standpipes, reservoirs, and a huge variety of shop-built tanks. 

Because applications like these are used in nearly every market, you’ll find heavy fabricators working within most industries, including oil refining, transportation, manufacturing, air and seaports, military facilities, and food production, to name a few. 

What is Involved in this process?

The heavy steel fabrication process usually involves a combination of the following steps: 

  • Cutting. All heavy metal fab projects begin with using saws, waterjets, lasers, and other cutting machines to cut steel sheets to the required size.
  • Drilling & Punching. These techniques allow steel sections to be bolted together and are performed using high-pressure punching tools or high-speed twist bits. 
  • Bending & Rolling. Tanks, casing, piling, and other applications are cylindrical. Getting the heavy metal into this shape is done using high-powered rollers, press brakes, and other tools. 
  • Welding. Shop-built tanks are assembled in the shop, while field-erected tanks are welded together on the job site. 
  • Surface Prep & Coatings. To help an application stand the test of time, applying a series of industrial coatings is usually necessary. These protect the steel from corrosion and help maintain drinking water quality in AWWA D100 tanks and reservoirs. 

Here at T BAILEY INC., we also perform site preparation as part of our metal fabrication process. 

Tools Used By Heavy Metal Fabrication Companies

Building large steel tanks, penstock, and pile cap frames requires specialized heavy metal machinery. To give you an idea of what it takes to fabricate projects of this scale, here are some of the tools used at our metal fab facility: 

  • Large rollers capable of forming 2.75” x 10’ wide steel plate
  • Multiple 20-ton overhead bridge cranes
  • 11’ x 50’ water table cutters
  • RT hydraulic cranes capable of lifting 60-tons
  • A fleet of forklifts with a 55-ton capacity
  • CNC plasma cutting machines

We also use advanced heavy welding equipment to ensure high-grade welds. All our welders and procedures are qualified according to code and routine inspections, including x-ray examinations, are performed to verify weld quality. 


Light Manufacturing vs Heavy Manufacturing

At this point, you’re likely wondering, what’s the difference between light and heavy fabrications? Here are two ways you can tell the difference: 

1. The Scale of Fabrication

What is being created? Heavy fabrication involves building large tanks, steel casing, dolphin caps, industrial steel stacks, and other large-scale projects. 

On the other hand, light manufacturing is used to create smaller products like household products, medical equipment, restaurant equipment, and small farming applications.

2. The Size of the Fabrication Facilities

Another heavy vs. light industry difference is the scale of the facilities producing the products. 

Light industry is small scale and can sometimes be performed in a space as small as someone’s garage, whereas heavy metal fabrications require massive amounts of space. 

T BAILEY INC., for example, sits on 30 acres of covered facilities and outdoor workspaces, including a 104,000 sq ft fabrication shop and 16,000 sq ft industrial painting facility. 


Best Materials for Heavy Metal Fabrication

While aluminum, brass, bronze, and even copper are great materials for light metal fabrication, heavy fabrications require more robust material. 

Heavy fabrication projects need a metal that won’t crack, bend, or be compromised by extreme changes in weather. This is why we use carbon steel and occasionally stainless steel. Steel tanks are impervious to the elements and can stand for over 100 years when properly coated, welded, and maintained. 


Industry-Leading Metal Fabrication Near You

Since 1991, T BAILEY INC. has been serving the Northwest with high-quality metal fabrication. Our expert crews have decades of experience assembling steel fabrication projects of immense proportions, including multi-million-gallon water reservoirs, complex penstock bi/trifurcations, and turn-key tank farms in remote locations like Alaska.

Please visit our steel fabrication page or contact us today to learn more about our expansive heavy metal fabrication capabilities.