An Introduction to Pipe Fabrication
What Is Pipe Fabrication?
Pipe Fabrication is the manufacture of straight lengths of metallic pipe and piping components, which include wrought or forged elbows, tee and reducer fittings, forged flanges, and the pipe itself, to provide a simple or complex piping systems to safely transport or process liquids, gases, and solids.
You might not recognize the importance of it when you see it, but pipe fabrication plays a critical part of our society’s infrastructure, ensuring the commercial, institutional, and industrial facilities we rely on and work in, are safely designed, mechanically correct, and thoroughly tested or examined for the service the piping system was designed for. The fabrication of piping typically includes cutting, beveling, welding, and bending (or other pipe forming operations); and is performed by skilled tradespeople.
Pipe fabrication demands a high level of precision among hundreds of components with equally challenging assembly and installation processes. In any construction project where a network of piping is involved, pipe fabrication requires comprehensive planning, scheduling, and execution according to the design, location, timing, and budget requirements. In this blog, we’re breaking down all these moving parts, looking at the tools, equipment, planning, and other requirements that go into each step of the process.
Where Does Pipe Fabrication Take Place?
Some projects call for a field construction solution. Whether it’s more efficient, effective, or appropriate to fabricate pipe in the shop or on-site depends first and foremost on the size and scope of the project, but is influenced by numerous factors, including:
- The weather
- The pipe material and dimensions
- Accessibility and safety concerns
- Availability of on-site support personnel
- Required welding facilities and resources
- Scheduling and collaboration with other trades
- If the project is for new or existing piping systems
- Environmental and quality control needs
While piping can be fabricated in the field close to the pipe installation job site, for the purpose of this blog, we’re focusing on projects where the pipe fabrication is performed in a workshop and then transported to the job site for final installation. Pipe fabricators typically have a productive workshop facility to handle projects of various sizes. A purpose-built workshop that protects the worker and the work from the elements along with efficient machinery and equipment, and a skilled craft workforce makes Shop Fabrication the ideal response for most piping projects.
The Pipe Fabrication Process
Pipe fabrication is a detailed process from beginning to end. All engineering information, such as drawings, inspection and testing requirements, and applicable codes and standards related to the project, are all contained in a document called the Pipe Fabrication Specification. All pipes and their fittings must be manufactured and assembled according to the spool drawings in the pipe fabrication specifications. It’s also vital for pipe fabricators to consider the size of the assembly for transportation purposes. Subassemblies are often helpful in separating large projects into more manageable elements when moving between the shop and the project site.
Once the Pipe Fabrication Specification is solidified, the pipe fabrication process looks like this:
- Marking: Pipe materials are marked and verified according to the Pipe Fabrication Specification.
- Tagging: Pipe materials are tagged using a stamp or paint to ensure pipe heat numbers are displayed on all sections before cutting.
- Cutting: Pipe cutting methods, such as a saws, gas torch, grinding, or plasma cutting, are chosen according to the type of steel or other metal in use.
- End preparation: Beveling and fit-ups are completed following an approved specification and WPS.
- Welding: Pipe welding planning ensures all seams will be positioned and aligned correctly in the final assembly.
- Pipe and Fitting Welding: Pipes and fittings are supported and secured for a fit-up inspection. If passed, the joints are welded.
- Details Marking: Various identifying details of the piping system, inspection details and signature, and welding date are marked near joints. The pipe spool number is marked with a paint marker and aluminum tag.
- Heat Treatment: Preheating and PWHT may be completed depending on project requirements.
- Inspection: Non-destructive testing ensures that all steps of the fabrication process have been completed and meet or exceed the project requirement and regulations. Piping that passes is released for painting or construction. Piping that does not pass must be repaired and reinspected. Piping that is to be painted will require another inspection prior to being released for construction.
Pipe Fabrication Tools and Equipment
Pipe fabricators rely on a wide range of specialized equipment to get their jobs done safely and efficiently. Most pipe fabrication equipment designed to handle medium- to large-scale projects is intended for use only in the workshop where there’s appropriate space, protection from the weather, reliable security, and quality control complete quality control capabilities.
However, many pipe fabrication tasks for small-volume projects or those with strict freight limitations may also be completed in the field. Regardless of where the work takes place, here are some of the key tools that allow pipe fabricators to create the countless complex precision piping systems that surround us.
- Saws and Thermal Cutting Equipment
- Rotating Equipment
- Pipe End Finishers
- Welding Machines & Equipment
- Pipe Benders
- Pipe Fit-Up Tools
- Pipe Flangers
- Rigging & Transportation Equipment
- Pipe Jacks
- Fork Lifts
Dedicated Pipe Fabrication Specialists
The final slice of the pipe fabrication pie is the fabricators themselves. Some pipe fabrication projects are straightforward, while others include hundreds of intricate steps or require some unconventional thinking to find the right solution to a piping problem. No matter the challenge, it’s the skilled craftsmen that make the difference in delivering exceptional pipe fabrication solutions, and nowhere is that truer than at APEX.
With more than 180 precision welding and forming procedures, our team collaborates with business owners, architects, designers, and engineers to deliver exceptional pipe fabrication solutions for Fortune 500 companies and many other clients.