Metal Forming Types: A Guide to Methods And Applications

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In the sphere of manufacturing, metal forming plays a pivotal role. This crucial process shapes the world around us, from the smallest components of electronic devices to the expansive structures in the construction industry. Forming metal isn’t just about changing the shape of a material—it’s about creating possibilities. The techniques and methods applied in the metal forming process not only dictate the structural integrity of the formed metals, but also influence the overall efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the manufacturing process.

Understanding the importance and application of different metal forming types is instrumental in choosing the most suitable forming process for specific requirements. It’s critical to know how to explain the processes used in forming metals to make an informed decision. A variety of forming techniques are available, each with its unique benefits and limitations, which we will delve into in this guide.

Familiar Techniques of Metal Forming

A. Roll Forming

Roll Forming

Roll forming is a continuous metal forming process that progressively shapes a metal strip by passing it through a series of contoured rolls. This process is highly efficient for producing large quantities of constant cross-section parts.

Roll forming offers a range of advantages, including high productivity, consistent quality, and material savings. The method also allows for the manufacturing of complex, formed metals with precision and uniformity.

Roll forming finds applications in various industries, including automotive, construction, and appliances. It is widely used for making parts like metal roofing, siding, and panels due to its high speed and accuracy.

B. Extrusion


Extrusion is another widely used metal forming process that involves forcing a metal through a die of a desired cross-sectional shape. This process can be likened to squeezing toothpaste out of a tube; the paste takes the shape of the tube’s opening as it is pushed out.

Commonly extruded metals include aluminum, brass, copper, and steel. Aluminum is often a popular choice due to its high malleability, making it easier to be formed.

One of the primary advantages of extrusion is its ability to create complex cross-sectional shapes with excellent surface finish. It’s a versatile forming process of metal, suitable for both brittle and ductile materials. Moreover, it provides close tolerances and a wide range of shapes, contributing to its popularity in the metal forming industry.

Extrusion is typically used in sectors where precise, long, and straight metal parts are required. These include the automotive industry for making structural parts, the construction industry for window frames and structural components, and the aerospace industry for manufacturing aircraft parts.

C. Press Braking

Press Braking

Press braking is a forming process predominantly used for bending sheet and plate material, most commonly sheet metal. It uses a punch and die set, with the sheet metal placed between them. The punch applies force on the sheet, causing it to bend at the desired angle.

Press braking is known for its adaptability and precision, enabling complex bends and folds. The process is also easily controlled and adjusted, making it highly flexible for varying product designs and volumes.

Despite its numerous advantages, press braking has certain constraints. For example, it might be less efficient for high-volume, identical production runs as compared to roll forming or stamping. The process is also limited by the size of the press brake machine, which can restrict the length and thickness of the metal that can be formed.

Press braking is widely utilized in several sectors. For instance, in the automotive industry, it’s used for creating vehicle parts. It also sees extensive use in the construction industry for making beams, channels, and other structural elements. 

D. Stamping

precision stamping

Stamping is a metal forming process that involves placing flat sheet metal, in either coil or blank form, into a stamping press where a tool and die surface forms the metal into a net shape. This process can include a variety of sheet-metal forming manufacturing processes, such as punching, blanking, embossing, bending, flanging, and coining. For a detailed dive into this method, consider exploring What is Metal Stamping?.

One of the fundamental aspects of stamping is the use of stamping dies. These are metal forms that come in various designs to bend, stretch, and shear the metal sheet in a specified sequence with extreme precision. Stamping is a key process in the metal forming industry due to its ability to create intricate, high-strength parts at low costs and with minimal waste.

The benefits of stamping include the ability to produce high-volume parts at a rapid pace, a higher degree of accuracy, and the capacity to make more complex shapes than other forming processes. Another significant advantage is the use of secondary operations that can be incorporated into the sequence to add holes, threads, or contours to the formed metals.

Stamping sees widespread application in various industries, including automotive, where it is used to manufacture components like brackets, gaskets, and other complex shapes. It’s also crucial in the aerospace industry to create lightweight, yet sturdy, aircraft parts.

E. Forging


Forging is a metal forming process that involves applying compressive force to a piece of metal to change its shape while it’s in a solid state. This process is conducted using a hammer or a press. Forging is one of the oldest known metal forming techniques and offers excellent structural and mechanical properties.

In forging, the metal is preheated and then placed between two dies that contain the shape of the desired product. The impact of the hammer or the pressure of the press deforms and shapes the metal workpiece.

The benefits of forging include higher strength and structural reliability of the formed metals. The process also enhances the metal’s resistance to fatigue and impact. It is known for creating parts that are stronger than those made by any other metalworking processes.

Forging is employed extensively in various sectors. In the automotive industry, it is used to manufacture axles, bearings, and shafts. The aerospace industry uses forging to create structural components of aircraft. The energy sector also relies heavily on forging for the manufacture of turbines and pumps.

F. Casting


Casting is a forming process in which molten metal is poured into a mold, which contains a hollow cavity of the desired shape, and then allowed to cool and solidify. The solidified part, known as a casting, is then ejected or broken out of the mold to complete the process. This method is suitable for the creation of complex shapes that would be difficult or uneconomical to make by other methods.

Two common types of casting include die casting and sand casting. Die casting involves forcing molten metal under high pressure into a mold cavity, while sand casting involves forming the mold cavity from sand and usually involves less pressure.

The primary advantage of casting is its ability to create very complex parts with intricate features or internal cavities. Parts can be made with a high level of detail and from a wide variety of metal types, including iron, steel, stainless steel, aluminum, copper, and more. Another significant benefit of casting is its scalability. It can be used for small batch production runs as well as for mass production.

However, casting also has some limitations. For instance, the quality of the cast part can be affected by the cooling rate, which might lead to imperfections. The process also involves a high initial setup cost, particularly for complex parts.

Casting finds extensive application in various sectors. In the automotive industry, it is used to manufacture engine blocks, cylinder heads, and other complex parts. In the aerospace sector, casting is used for making parts like turbine blades. It also plays a critical role in the construction industry where it’s used to produce various fittings and fixtures.

Selecting the Appropriate Metal Forming Method

Choosing the right metal forming process involves considering several factors that can significantly affect the outcome, performance, and cost-effectiveness of your project. In this section, we’ll discuss these aspects and analyze various metal types and their uses. We’ll conclude by examining roll forming as a potential choice for your metal shaping needs.

A. Aspects to Consider

When deciding on the appropriate metal forming process, the following considerations are vital:

  • Material Type: Different metals and alloys have distinct properties that affect how they respond to forming processes. For instance, aluminum and stainless steel behave differently under the same process. Understanding these properties is crucial for choosing the right technique.
  • Production Volume: Some forming techniques like stamping and extrusion are more cost-effective for high-volume production runs due to high initial tooling costs. In contrast, methods like press braking might be more suitable for smaller volumes.
  • Complexity of Design: Certain design features might require specific forming techniques. For example, complex geometries might be better achieved with casting or extrusion, while simpler shapes might be done with roll forming or stamping.
  • Budget and Time Constraints: The cost and time involved in setting up the process, creating the tooling, and running production are also major considerations.
  • Tolerance Requirements: The precision needed in the final product can also determine the choice of forming process. Some techniques offer higher precision than others.
  • Finish Quality: The desired surface finish and aesthetic quality of the final product can also influence the choice of process.

B. Analysis of Metal Varieties and Their Uses

Different metal types are more suitable for some forming processes than others due to their distinct characteristics. For example:

  • Aluminum: Lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and excellent thermal and electrical conductivity. It’s commonly used in extrusion and sheet metal forming.
  • Stainless Steel: Highly corrosion-resistant, durable, and aesthetically pleasing. It’s often used in press brake forming, casting, and stamping.
  • Copper: Excellent conductor of electricity and heat, highly ductile, and corrosion-resistant. It’s frequently used in extrusion, stamping, and sheet metal forming.
  • Brass: Highly machinable, ductile, and has good corrosion resistance. It’s commonly used in extrusion and casting.

C. Examination of Roll Forming as a Potential Choice

Roll forming, a type of forming process, involves continuously bending a long strip of metal, typically coiled steel, into a desired cross-section. The strip passes through sets of rolls, or stands, each performing incremental parts of the bend, until the desired cross-section profile is obtained.

Roll forming is ideal for high-volume applications, and it can produce parts with a consistent profile and tight tolerances over the length of the part. It is most economical for producing large quantities of constant-profile parts with a consistent cross-section.

Additionally, roll forming has lower waste levels compared to some other processes, leading to cost savings, especially in high-volume productions. It’s versatile and can work with a variety of metals, including stainless steel, aluminum, and copper.


To wrap up, understanding different metal forming methods such as roll forming, extrusion, press braking, stamping, forging, and casting is crucial to realizing successful and cost-effective projects. Each forming process has unique advantages, characteristics, and suitable applications, which gives each its niche in the metal forming industry.

Choosing the right metal forming process is a significant aspect of any manufacturing project. It influences the overall product quality, cost-effectiveness, and even the project timeline. When you pick the appropriate metal forming process, you ensure a harmonious blend of design, function, and manufacturing, leading to better results and potentially significant cost savings.

We invite you to delve deeper into the fascinating world of roll forming, one of the efficient and versatile metal forming processes. Whether you’re dealing with long production runs or seeking consistency across parts, roll forming could be an ideal solution for your needs.


1. What are the two types of metal forming? 

Metal forming is primarily categorized into two types – Hot forming and Cold forming. Hot forming processes, such as forging and hot extrusion, involve shaping the metal at high temperatures. Cold forming processes, such as stamping and roll forming, shape the metal at or near room temperature.

2. What are the 4 metal forming operations? 

The four primary metal forming operations are rolling, forging, extrusion, and drawing. These processes use different techniques to deform and shape the metal into desired form

3. Is metal forming expensive? 

The cost of metal forming varies widely and depends on several factors, such as the complexity of the part, the type of metal used, the chosen forming process, and the production volume. Generally, processes like forging or extrusion can be more expensive due to their need for specialized tooling and higher energy consumption.

4. What is the difference between metal forming and forging?

 Metal forming is a broad term that encompasses several techniques used to shape metal, including forging. Thus, forging is a type of metal forming process, specifically a hot forming process, where metal is heated and shaped by compressive forces.

5. What is it called when you make metal? 

The process of making metal from raw ore is known as smelting. However, when you shape or form metal into a specific design or product, it’s known as metal forming or fabrication.

6. What are the five basic metal working operations? 

The five basic metalworking operations are cutting, bending, forming, joining (such as welding or riveting), and finishing (like polishing or painting).

7. What are the 5 sheet metal operations? 

The five basic sheet metal operations include shearing (cutting the sheet), bending, deep drawing (forming 3D shapes from a flat sheet), punching (creating holes), and stamping (creating raised or recessed patterns).

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