You likely don't spend much time thinking about who makes the products that fill your home. Even if your business relies on manufacturers, unless you spend time in a plant, you probably know little about the actual day-to-day work involved. There are actually multiple types of processes a manufacturer uses, and those can be grouped into four main categories: casting and molding, machining, joining, and shearing and forming.
The four main types of manufacturing are casting and molding, machining, joining, and shearing and forming.
If the products you’re creating start out as liquid, chances are the manufacturer uses molding. One popular type of molding is casting, which involves heating plastic until it becomes liquid, then pouring it into a mold. Once the plastic cools, the mold is removed, giving you the desired shape. You can also use casting to make plastic sheeting, which has a wide variety of applications. There are four other types of molding: injection molding, which melts plastic to create 3-D materials such as butter tubs and toys; blow molding, used to make piping and milk bottles; compression molding, used for large-scale products like car tires; and rotational molding, used for furniture and shipping drums.
It would be difficult to make products like metal parts without the use of some type of machine. Manufacturers use tools like saws, sheers and rotating wheels to achieve the desired result. There are also tools that use heat to shape items. Laser machines can cut a piece of metal using a high-energy light beam, and plasma torches can turn gas into plasma using electricity. Erosion machines apply a similar principle using water or electricity, and computer numerical control machines introduce computer programming into the manufacturing mix.
You can only get so far with molds and machines. At some point you need to be able to put multiple parts together to make one piece. Otherwise, just about all you can create is IKEA-like furniture that needs to be assembled, part by part. Joining uses processes like welding and soldering to apply heat to combine materials. Pieces can also be joined using adhesive bonding or fasteners.
When dealing with sheet metal, shearing comes into play. Shearing uses cutting blades to make straight cuts into a piece of metal. Also known as die cutting, you’ll often see shearing used on aluminum, brass, bronze and stainless steel. Another metal-shaping process is forming, which uses compression or another type of stress to move materials into a desired shape. Although forming is often used with metal, it also can be used on other materials, including plastic.