The Right Tools for the Job

Fabricating Sheet-Metal Duct Systems With Computer Technology

Duct systems were originally carefully made by craftsmen skilled in sheet metal fabrication. Each piece needed to be configured individually, then cut from flat sheets of metal. The pieces would have to fit together with precision in order for the system to work in a functional manner. How is this accomplished in the present technological age?

Computer-assisted sheet metal fabrication

Before computers, sheet metal was fabricated from flat sheets of metal, using triangulation and other geometric formulas in order to achieve the correct three dimensional design when a piece of metal was fabricated into the intended shape. Creating an entire system of duct work was very labor-intensive. Computer programs can now make all of these designs with a few strokes of a keyboard.

Sheet metal fabrication software can accomplish the amount of output in a few hours that would take skilled layout mechanics many days to perform. To build a duct system, you first need to determine the size of the duct and the fittings that connect them together. Each part will be given individual measurements. These measurements will then be entered into a computer that is programmed with special sheet metal fabrication software.

This software contains icons in hundreds of shapes that are commonly used in sheet metal fabrication. The operator only needs to enter the dimensions in blank spaces provided. The software will then determine how much metal will be needed to make all of the pieces required and the most efficient way to cut the metal, in order to reduce waste.

This information is then relayed to an automatic cutting table with a computer terminal of its own. A sheet of metal is placed upon the table, and a laser torch cuts the metal into the shapes required. Each piece of metal will receive an adhesive label, printed from the fabrication software, that explains exactly how the piece of metal should be fabricated to achieve the desired result, and how the pieces should be joined to create a three-dimensional object.

Sheet metal fabrication software also permits the creation of custom parts when shapes that are commonly used are not sufficient. Duct systems are designed to conform to available spaces in buildings in the most efficient manner for air flow. However, when systems are installed , there may be unforeseen obstructions that require specially designed fittings that allow the ducts to navigate around them.

Creating these fittings to bypass obstructions or overcoming other obstacles is simple with modern software. It will not only make unusually shaped designs, but will also refuse to make a fitting that will "choke", or restrict air flow in the duct system. This feature ensures that the project can not only be completed on schedule, but also without "cutting corners", or sacrificing quality for speed.

Experts like Waters Brothers Contractors, Inc. can give you more information.