When it comes to metal fabrication processes, roll forming is one of the most affordable available.
The ability to manufacture both simple and complex quality parts in large quantities makes roll forming a favorite in a variety of industries, including power distribution, commercial refrigeration, warehouse and data storage, and more.
We’d like to make the case for why roll forming is worth your investment.
Roll forming is a metalworking process that uses contoured tools to bend flat sheets from coiled steel into a finished, uniform profile.
Engineers and architects request roll forming when they require a bend – sometimes multiple bends – of a metal channel, angle, or complex shape.
Manufacturers are able to roll form before, during, or after other fabricating steps. The process is repeatable over long runs.
There are a few metal forming processes used to create a slender, linear metal part in medium to high volume.
Obviously, we’re partial to sheet metal roll forming. For us, it comes down to:
- Cost: In-line fabrication and high-volume ordering make roll forming cost-effective
- Capabilities: A variety of metals can be roll formed into complex shapes
- Quality: Roll forming produces consistent shapes with an attractive finish
Let’s explore these in more detail:
Tooling for roll forming can get expensive, but long-term use will eventually net cheaper labor costs per piece. Besides, if metal is purchased strategically, the “roll forming tools are too expensive” argument evaporates into myth.
When tooling costs are overcome, opportunities are opened for:
- Higher-volume orders (better cost efficiency)
- Larger runs (see above!)
- Expanded in-line fabrication (lowering labor costs)
A roll forming crew feeds material via coiled steel, reducing material handling and equipment run-time costs. There’s less wear and tear on the tools. Scrap waste is significantly decreased.
Meanwhile, certain other manufacturing processes (say, press braking) require separate processes for punching, perforating, or notching, adding labor, and other costs.
The flexible roll-forming process allows for the creation of any shape, no matter how complex the desired cross-section profile is. (The ideal use is for long, slender shapes.)
Because the material is coiled and fed through, there are no limits on length. Roll forming also allows the shaping of metals already painted, plated, or coated.
Material-based limits to roll forming are also nearly nonexistent, unlike extrusion. The process works with:
- Carbon steel
- Perforated metal
- Prepainted coil steel
- Even some non-metal materials!
That wide variety of material can turn into specially shaped roll formed parts. Get ready for:
- Graceful curves
- Awesome arcing
- Multiple angles and radii
Custom roll forming also allows for the in-line secondary operations such as:
Perhaps one of the more striking advantages of roll forming services is it produces parts that are more consistently uniform across runs.
Roll forming machines easily and precisely form high-strength steels while accommodating for springback. Even extremely tight tolerances are no match for roll forming.
Whereas other metal forming processes are rough on metal surfaces, roll forming creates an attractive finish. It’s great for aesthetic projects where tool marks from other types of forming are not an option.
Roll with the Right Manufacturer
Roll forming is almost always the answer for medium-to-high-volume projects. A great sheet metal roll forming company will also aid in part design and may be able to cut tooling costs by optimizing the part for roll forming.
A comprehensive partnership with a good roll former can offer you value from the beginning to the end of your project. From design consultation to finished goods inventory management for immediate shipment, your roll forming partner should look for ways to cut your costs and lead times.
Streamline Your Roll Forming Costs
Working with an experienced supplier, you’ll learn how to cut costs without sacrificing quality. To learn more about metal roll forming costs, grab our free book:
(Editor's note: This article was originally published in September 2017 and was recently updated.)
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