5 Ways of Strengthening Thin Metal Strips
Sheet metal is one of the most common metal forms used in metalworking applications. This is because it is strong, lightweight, and non-corrosive. Its market has particularly expanded over the years with analysts predicting growth of 4.09% between the years 2018 and 2022 globally. Despite its many applications, its lightweight construction makes it prone to deformation. Knowing how to modify and strengthen thin metal strips enhances their performance for any application, including body repairs, restoration, or rebuilding projects. Here are techniques used to strengthen thin metal strips.
1. Bending the Edges
Bending the edges of the panels reduces the risk of the sheet deforming and enhances its structural integrity. This is because most of the damage sustained on the thin steel sheet happens on the outer edges. Once the edges bend, the rigidity and thickness of the vulnerable areas increase, eliminating the risk of deformation.
Note, the extent of the bend depends on the metal’s minimum bend radius. As such, excessive bends may cause the sheet metal to crack instead of strengthening it. There are several ways of bending sheet metal. The simplest involves clamping the stainless steel metal on a table and using your weight to bend it over. Alternatively, you can use a body hammer and the edge of a dolly to fold the metal to create a firmer bend. However, if you want to make crisper bends and have a little more control, a metal brake should come in handy. The type of metal brake used determines the size and the thickness of the metal you can bend. High-quality metal brakes are designed to handle 20- and 18- gauge thin metal strips easily.
2. Creating Structural Grooved Seams
This technique is most effective when you want to create a round shape on metals such as copper and brass. Creating ribs or groove designs into the sheet metal increases strength significantly while adding to the design of the panel. This is because the stretched metal on those areas hold tension better and improves its structural rigidity.
You can use a hammer and brass, wooden, or plastic chisel, or a panel beater bag to make the grooves. Bead rollers also make excellent tools for adding grooved seams, and large tools like the Pullmax come in handy.
3. Creating Hemmed Edges
This method is similar to bending in that it adds more strength and resilience to thin aluminum strips. The process still involves bending the sheet metal panels at the edge, but this time you determine the size of the bend depending on the project requirements. A small piece of wire is used to improve the final look for the panels while enhancing the metal’s rigidity.
4. Stretching the Metal Profile
Stretching the profile of thin metal strips improves their strength significantly. The process changes the shape of the metal and creates a curve or bulge on the panel. You can use a regular hammer, a power hammer, or an English wheel designed for creating compound curves. While the metal sheet stretches regardless of the tool used, you can determine the degree of the stretch based on the amount of work and the time invested in the project.
5. Punching Holes on the Metal Sheet
Normally, punching holes on a metal panel reduces its strength, but if you’re stretching it into the edge of the hole, the material is strengthened. Creating a grooved seam or bead around the hole strengthens the sheet metal. Sheet designers use hammers to punch holes, but tools such as the small draw-through punch-flare have been developed to make work easier.
A combination of these methods should strengthen thin metal strips while creating attractive designs for a range of applications. You also need a handful of metal fabrication tools on hand for the best results.