A Deep Look into Fabricated Bollards

Peek into the world of bollard fabrication and manufacturing

Fabricated bollards placed in a row in front of an underground parking entrance
R-7901 fabricated steel bollards provide added security and act as deterrents for vehicles.

Fabricated steel bollards are not only aesthetically pleasing but functional in helping to protect pedestrians and buildings from traffic. Fabricating and manufacturing steel and stainless steel bollards follows a different process than traditional metal casting of site furnishings. Looking around at the city street and observing the built environment is a richer experience when we know where the objects around us have come from.

Sparks fly out as steel is being cut and fabricated by a laser cutting machine
Laser cutting emits a narrow, high-energy beam of light that carves, melts, vaporizes, or burns material.

Metal fabrication and machining

Fabricating metal involves precision shaping by grinding, cutting, or boring. This process is known as machining. Typically, the process is performed on a lathe, which will rotate the metal against tools that trim corners and edges to cut the piece down to a desired shape or measurement. In other machining applications, a hole or set of holes will be formed directly through the metal surface. As such, the metal drill could be classified as a machining tool.

Machining can be roughly defined as the process of removing material from a workpiece using power-driven machine tools to shape it into an intended design. Most metal components and products require some form of machining during the manufacturing process. Other materials, such as plastics, rubbers, and paper goods, are also commonly fabricated through machining processes. The different types of machining tools include: grinding machine, cutting machine, boring machine, drilling machine, milling machine, and turning machine.

The art of machining has tremendously evolved over time. Dating back decades ago, it started from the handmade bow lathe in the 1770’s, to the much improved boring mill in the 1800’s. Fast forward to present time, and we’re now able to achieve high-quality surface finishes and extreme cutting precision with laser cutting. Laser cutting involves a laser machine, like a CNC machine, which emits a narrow, high-energy beam of light that effectively melts, vaporizes, or burns material. This process is well-suited for shaping steel or etching patterns into a piece of material. Advanced CNC machines control operations on all 3 axes (x, y, and z) and can flip the part and switch machining tools automatically, resulting in a high-quality finish and level of precision.

CNC machines are automated and result in a high-quality finish and level of precision
High-quality surface finishes and extreme cutting precision is available with CNC laser cutting.

What is bollard machining?

Fabrication is all about taking a raw piece of material and making it into something functional. It’s the building of some sort of structure with metal, usually steel to make something usable that will last a long time. The fabrication process for steel bollards has three main steps: cutting the material, welding the parts together, and grinding or polishing the finished product. The precision from each step ensures that the finished product is of the highest quality.

The manufacturing process for bollards depends on the desired material. For instance, iron and aluminum bollards are often manufactured using sand-casting. However, fabricated bollards require a high finish, which in result requires for machining when being manufactured. Stainless steel bollards are then polished, to achieve its sleek and modern design. While stainless steel grade 304 is the most used steel around the world, 316 provides vastly superior corrosion resistance to chlorides and acids. Both 304 and 316 stainless steels use nickel to keep an austenitic composition at decreased temperatures. Stainless steel can maintain a long life and be recycled indefinitely. Stainless steel bollards are often used as architectural and decor pieces where they have a more decorative purpose compared to their cast iron counterparts, which generally have a more industrial grade finish.

Fabricated finishes

Did you know stainless steel can be finished in 13 different ways? Let’s dive into the characteristics of these finishes and why you might use a particular one versus another. There are five mill finishes in which steel is produced; these finishes can be used as-is or altered further based on the desired finish outcome.

These finishes include: hot-rolled and annealed; hot-rolled, annealed, and passivated; cold-rolled, annealed, pickled, and passivated, with an additional pass through highly polished rollers; annealed in an oxygen-free vacuum; and cold-rolled, annealed, pickled, and passivated.

Then, you have six various finishes to choose from, which apply an increasingly smooth layer to the surface of the steel. These finishes include: coarse, brushed, satin, matte, reflective, and mirror. Matte finish is often used in restoration or small projects where a distinctive look is desired, while brushed and coarse finishes offer a texture which is both noticeable to the touch and visible to the eye. Each finish carries different corrosion resistance and hygienic levels of steel. Rougher finishes are not good for surgical instruments or food-preparation surfaces, where surgical sterilization is necessary. However, they offer a distinctive, corrosion resistant material for decorative objects. On the contrary, smoother steels are much more effortless to clean and offer a superior ability to withstand exposure to corrosion sources.

Stainless steel bollards mounted on detectable warning plates along a walkway
R-8902 stainless steel bollards provide superior protection against corrosion and weathering.

Fabricated bollards in steel and stainless

Fabricated bollards may be chosen as site furniture for the modern look they bring to a perimeter. As decorative covers or standalone bollards, they offer sleek, geometrical profiles with attractive additions like cuffs or annular rings. Strong and contemporary, both steel or stainless steel can be optionally finished off with powdercoat or IronArmor in six different colors to match the site aesthetics.

Engineered bollards created for impact protection are also fabricated rather than cast. Crash-rated bollards, designed and tested for their stopping power, are made with concrete, rebar, and structural steel. These high-impact bollards are designed to stop vehicles and secure perimeters against targeted vehicle attack.

You might also see fabricated bollards indoors. These smaller bollards are often used for asset protection, around inventory or equipment, keeping the wheels of cleaning machines or scooters from bumping and causing scuffs or damage. They are also often placed to guard escalators, preventing wheelchairs and strollers from rolling into danger. Bolt down bollards provide guidance, caution, or aesthetic functions to designers. They are easy to install and relocate and feature a wide surface flange for effective stability.

Both steel and stainless steel provide unprecedented value at different price points. Steel has magnetic properties and a higher thermal conductivity. Its practical and economic properties make it a great fit for a wide range of projects. Both crash-rated and high-impact bollards are composed of steel pipes filled with concrete. Crash rated bollards are even tougher due to use of steel for its subgrade footings. Stainless steel is typically nonmagnetic and has more hardening properties than steel, making it less malleable with lower thermal conductivity and heat distribution. Stainless steel is most known for its added protection against corrosion and easy maintenance. It is also popular for its aesthetic elements and its ability to add sophisticated design value to any infrastructure.

Bollards are a strong and effective part of a security plan. They are useful in many locations, be that a commercial or residential area. They are a first line of defense against wheeled vehicles and protect those walking past or around them, as well as the buildings they are placed in front of.

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