Sheet metal is metal formed into thin, flat pieces, usually by an industrial process. Sheet metal is one of the fundamental forms used in metalworking, and it can be cut and bent into a variety of shapes.
Thicknesses can vary significantly; extremely thin sheets are considered foil or leaf, and pieces thicker than 6 mm (0.25 in) are considered plate, such as plate steel, a class of structural steel.
Sheet metal is available in flat pieces or coiled strips. The coils are formed by running a continuous sheet of metal through a roll slitter.
In most of the world, sheet metal thickness is consistently specified in millimeters. In the U.S., the thickness of sheet metal is commonly specified by a traditional, non-linear measure known as its gauge. The larger the gauge number, the thinner the metal. Commonly used steel sheet metal ranges from 30 gauge to about 7 gauge. Gauge differs between ferrous (iron-based) metals and nonferrous metals such as aluminum or copper. Copper thickness, for example, is measured in ounces, representing the weight of copper contained in an area of one square foot. Parts manufactured from sheet metal must maintain a uniform thickness for ideal results.
There are many different metals that can be made into sheet metal, such as aluminium, brass, copper, steel, tin, nickel and titanium. For decorative uses, some important sheet metals include silver, gold, and platinum (platinum sheet metal is also utilized as a catalyst).
Sheet metal is used in automobile and truck (lorry) bodies, major appliances, airplane fuselages and wings, tinplate for tin cans, roofing for buildings (architecture), and many other applications. Sheet metal of iron and other materials with high magnetic permeability, also known as laminated steel cores, has applications in transformers and electric machines. Historically, an important use of sheet metal was in plate armor worn by cavalry, and sheet metal continues to have many decorative uses, including in horse tack. Sheet metal workers are also known as "tin bashers" (or "tin knockers"), a name derived from the hammering of panel seams when installing tin roofs.