Most metals can be flattened and cut into sheets, coils or rolls of varying thickness, ductility and gauge. Generally, there is a range or thickness gauge between 8 - 13 inches which are labeled 'sheet metals' by the metal industry. Otherwise they're referred to as 'plates' if thicker and 'foil' or 'leaf' if thinner.
Steel, stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, brass, copper, nickel, tin, cold-rolled steel are some of the metals commonly processed into sheet metal. However, technically, most metals can be used. For instance, precious metals like gold, silver and platinum are also converted to sheet metal and used in the jewelery trade.
In large cities like Sydney, there is a high demand for sheet metal in the construction, interior decor and sanitary fittings industries. Sheet metal is converted to ducting, pipes, tubing, building facades, shelving and storage units, industrial floors and sign-age. It is also used heavily in the automobile and aircraft industries, where it can be shaped into airplane bodies/wings and car/auto/ship bodies. Sheet metal is also stamped and molded for jewelry or to form fine gears and mechanisms for watches, clocks and stop-watches. Additionally, it is also used in refrigeration and air-conditioning units to build the exterior bodies of units and by hospitals and clinics to make operating and examination tables, interiors of service lifts, mortuaries and washable floors in high-spillage areas.
Cutting technologies have evolved from simple hand tools like heavy shears and water or plasma cutting to computer-aided laser cutting, which is clean, precise and safe. There are many cutting companies which offer customized cutting solutions for specific industries.
Regarding career options, in Sydney, there is huge requirement for skilled sheet-metal technicians who are ITI-certified. During apprenticeship and training, students are required to be physically fit, with good eye-hand co-ordination, maths and spatial skills and be highly motivated. Some institutions in Sydney offer free/funded training and apprenticeship. More and more women are entering this field today and exploring the available career options. A career in this field is attractive for those who are creative, like to work with their hands and have good team-player skills.
Apprentices are also exposed to job opportunities in the industry and areas where sheet metal is used in manufacturing. One area that's emerging as a great career choice in sheet metal work is architecture. Trained sheet metal workers are in demand in areas like cladding, roofs, louvers/windows/ventilators, decorative and ornamental finishing work and they can finally go on to become project managers, estimators or independent contractors.