Technology has transformed many aspects of running a business and processes in industries, as well. The metal fabrication industry has seen a fair share of these changes too. While it might have taken a long time for this industry to embrace technology, more and more industry players are adopting new systems, tools, and strategies in an attempt to stay afloat in the market.
Thanks to the ‘connected’ world and modern systems, smart technologies are now an accepted norm in the industry. Among other reasons, advanced technology provides a more efficient and more intelligent systems that make work easier in the manufacturing industry. What many people believed was impossible is now a reality in metal fabrication.
Connected machinery and the Internet of Things (IoT) are changing the world of modern factory and machine operations, milestones from how things were done back in the day. According to Industry Week, the likes of Laser Cutting, 3D printing, and fabrication methods have revolutionized the world of metal fabrication – this has led to a sharp decrease in the demand for steel. Outlined below are 5 of the disruptive trends currently gaining traction in the metal fabrication industry.
Back in the day, 3D printing was only a conventional manufacturing and product development tool. This means it was out of reach for the common consumer. Technology has, however, made it possible for 3D printing to become a reality even in industrial settings. Users can now use all kinds of materials for 3D printing ranging from plastic, concrete, masonry, and even steel.
These printers keep growing and getting larger by the day, hence capable of handling the most complex of projects at incredible speed and results. An excellent example of this is a building creating and assembled in China using 3D printing – this is from a report in the Arch daily.
The nature of 3D printing has dramatically evolved, considering the components used/developed, maintained, and ordered from the same. Thanks to the advanced 3D printing, industries can now record fewer wasted materials and even lower energy demand and use.
The improved efficiency in modern-day 3D printing makes it a much greener alternative, and faster development cycles when compared to metal fabrication a few decades back.
Less Need For Steel
Modern innovations, development practices, and the advances in technology have led to a significant decrease in the dependence on steel. One of the reasons for this is because steel is not only a bulky material and expensive, but also a little tough to work with.
Thanks to technology, the decreased dependence for steel translates to lower overall production costs and speedy fabrications for the same strength and agility that steel has. Manufacturers now have more options to choose from instead of steel, some of which are just as strong or even stronger than steel itself. Elements such as titanium, cobalt derivatives, and aluminium have been brought to the picture thanks to modern technology.
Disruptive Digital Channels
The internet-enabled ‘connected’ functionality seen with modern tech is also causing massive disruptions in the landscape as well. 3D printing isn’t the only disruptive digital technology today. Big data systems can be (are) used to help improve business strategies, operational efficiencies, as well as ensure more personalized customer experiences today. This has considerable input and influence in the metal fabrication industry in more than one way.
First, big data influences component/product development as well as the supply chain. This is to say, the metal fabrication industry today relies more on digital channels to reach out to target/potential customers. They also use the same channels to facilitate better customer support, which again increases the chances of building personal relationships with customers. A wide range of digital channels ranging from systems usage, cloud-based technologies, and customer support comes in handy in this industry.
Cyclical or Green Economy Practices
Thanks to the wake of 3D printing, the metal fabrication industry has realized more ways in which it could improve its internal and environmental efficiencies. More and more companies are adopting innovative ideas through re-manufacturing, sharing, and re-using steel and similar metals in an attempt to reduce waste on the same.
Precision additive manufacturing, sheet metal manufacturing, grinding, and subtractive million are some of the new developments made in the metal fabrication sector. These not only increase accuracy but also reduce the amount of waste that could otherwise end up in landfills. This helps safeguard raw materials and the mother nature, a move not previously seen in the metal industry. It is also worth noting that some of these practices will help level out the demand for various goods, processes, and materials.
Automation and Robots
Robots and other automation systems have been adopted in a wide range of manufacturing processes as a way to supplement human labour. The advanced robotics, thanks to machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), the future of autonomous implementation and full automated advanced robotics is near. These robots will help increase productivity in the manufacturing sector, among others, significantly. Putting into account the fact that robots can work tirelessly for hours, industries would be able to output more in the long run. This is unlike when a company depends solely on human labour with all the caveats that come with the same.
As long as the robots are well-maintained and serviced regularly, you can be assured of indefinite operations. This is one of the reasons researchers and developers are looking for ways to perfect machine learning and AI technologies.
A day is coming when metal fabrication factories and plants will entirely rely on automation systems and advanced robotics. This way, customers will only need to make an order for their components digitally, then the information is sent electronically to the factory where the systems will begin work immediately. The only human input required would be to review, package, and ship the items to the customer once completed. The reduced human input and interaction also mean increased accuracy, reliability, and lower operational costs.
How to Deal with Potential Challenges
Although technological advances may bring about improved efficiency, there are undoubtedly various challenges that the industry will have to cope up with. The automated systems and advanced robotics, for example, will require time to learn the ‘ropes’ and integrate fully. This means lengthy development and review processes to ensure these systems can work independently without requiring oversight.
Green practices are more likely to evolve too. While re-manufacture and recycling may be a thing today, the future might hold something different or more efficient. There might even be newer and better devices that will make the processes more environment-friendly and economical. Whatever the future holds, the modern fabrication industry will have evolved to higher heights and in a different landscape.