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Stone & Metal Material Handling Similarites

Recently we have been tkaing a look at some of the comparisons between working with stone and working with metal. Both materials are used in fabrication processes. In fact we published an article entitled: Stone Fabrication vs. Metal Fabrication that took a look comparing these professions. One intereting aspect that stood out when we were examining these was that stone slabs and metal plates have some similarities. Similarities that make handling these materials alike in some ways. In this article, we will explore stone & metal material handling similarities.

Handling Stone Materials

In the realm of stone fabrication there are several materials that require handling. Stone slabs are much too heavy to be lugging around by hand. Even if they weren't as heavy as they are, they would still be awkward. The variety of natural stone surfaces that are handled in a stone fabrication shop include the following:

  • Granite
  • Marble
  • Limestone
  • Quartzite
  • Soapstone
  • Onyx
  • Slate
  • Sandstone

In addition to natural stone slabs like the ones mentioned above, fabrication shops also handle the following man made materials:

  • Engineered Quartz
  • Porcelain Panels
  • Large Ceramic Tiles
  • Sintered Stone

As you can see, the kinds of materials that are handled by "stone" fabricators is varied and even includes materials that are technically not "stone" per se. There is a reason for this though as we will touch on momentatrily. But first, let's look at handling metal materials.

Handling Metal Plates

Stone is not the only industry that involves handling, positioning, and moving around large pieces of material with a lot of surface area. Metal fabrication professionals move large metal plates in some cases and these can be very heavy as well. For example, this steel plate weighs somewher around 300 lbs. and it is only .190 thick. Some of the materials that are handled in the metal industry include plates made from the following materials:

  • Aluminum
  • Brass
  • Copper
  • Stainless Steel
  • Steel

Commonalities

As we have already mentioned whether you are talking about stone fabrication or metal fabrication, there are some large, flat, pieces of material that can be very heavy and awkward to handle. That is where the material handling equipment that we are going to mention comes in. Because stone and metal have grippable, surfaces and they are not necessarily thick, handling them and storing them does not have to be a hassle.

Lifting Clamps for Metal Plates and Stone Slabs

Thin panels of just about any grippable material are a good candidate for lifting clamps. Handling stone slabs or metal plates can be as easy as attaching a boom to your forklift and using one of the scissor lifting clamps or wide grip lifting clamps to grab hold of it and lift it vertically. This makes light work of an otherwise heavy and hard to lift panel of material in an upright position; that is, standing on edge.

Vacuum lifters

The large flat surface of stone, sintered materials, and metal plates mean that these materials can also be picked up another way from tha flat position or the upright position. Using a vacuum lifter to pick up stone slabs or steel plates from a horizontal (flat) position works much the same way as we described with the clamps. However, the vacuum uses suction to hold onto the material instead of gripping it. Again, a tough task made easier with this remarkable piece of equipment.

Storage Racks for Stone (and Metal?)

Depending on the way your warehouse or fabrication shop stores material you may save some room using a storage rack. For stone slabs storing them in the vertical position makes the most sense because each slb is 100% unique and it is very likely that you will need to get a slab from somewhere in the middle of the run.

For metal plates, even though they are okay to stack for storage, it might save space to actually store them on an edge in one of the storage racks that work for stone slabs or steel plates if that is something that would work for your situation.

As we have seen in this article, stone slabs and steel plates (and other metal plates for that matter) have characterisitcs that make them great candidates for using some of the same material handling equipment. Lifting clamps, vacuum lifters, and even storage racks might just be the thing that turns a cramped work space that requires a lot of back work into a spacious area with a light workload.