How Software Technology is being Applied to Automate Metal Fabrication Processes

May 27, 2022

By: John Tomblin, Senior Solutions Architect
GlendaleBizz, a division of Sofvue, LLC
Printed with permission of Data Titan, Sofvue, LLC and the author

Metal fabrication is a broad term used for thousands of processes that produce shapes, cuts and molds to fabricate millions of parts and components. Over the past few years, with the continual improvement of software systems, along with improved fabrication processes, manufacturing technology has evolved significantly and is being reshaped into something that fifty years ago would have been labeled “science fiction”.
Let’s take a closer look at five factors improving the metal fabrication industry.

1. Robotic Automation

Automation is disrupting every industry, and manufacturing is no exception. Advanced automation systems, particularly with robotics, is being implemented across manufacturing units to increase both production and deliverability. Additionally, using robotic technology allows fabricators to run operations around the clock while maintaining product quality. Robots are also faster, can make precise cuts and welds and are great at doing repetitive tasks.  This allows manufacturing companies to maximize productivity, produce more widgets and do so without hiring more staff or expanding support resources. Add the shortages associated with the lack of a skilled workforce and increasing price pressure, and you have the perfect storm for adding more automation resources to your business.

Automation also reduces the risk that a worker develops a Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) caused to muscle tissue, nerves and ligaments, from making the same repeated muscle motion. By adding robotic technology and software systems, employees can focus their efforts on other tasks that are better left to people… not machines.

2. 2D & 3D Printing

Designing and developing new products is a tedious and time-consuming process. From concept and design, to engineering, then prototyping, to fabrication, it can take months and sometimes years to take a product from inception to delivery.  That said, 3D printing capability is rapidly changing how the development process works, and using 3D prototyping software solutions, allows fabricators to see, touch and compare different printed prototypes to find the best solution, all before investing in any actual production effort.  Additionally, especially in the past five years, 3D printers, once relegated only to small items, are now much larger and can print large items, like boats!  Watch this video to see a 25’ boat built using a 3D printer.  Yes, that’s right -- a boat.
3. High-Tech Sensors

Sensor technology isn’t new, but their use has been widening since the early 1960’s. Metal fabricators can now use data produced using sensor activity to track key metric work-related information to improve manufacturing processes and parts.  Some examples include output volume, total product time, order fulfillment time, etc.

These insights help metal fabricators improve their processes and workflow. Metric data can also be used to determine, for example, when a process fails, or when a process fails intermittently, that a deeper problem exists.  Sensor data can also better forecast how much time is needed to complete both metal fabrication steps, as well as the overtime needed to complete a job.
4. Mobile Apps and Websites

Today, whether for metal fabrication, printing a 3D boat, or using robots to create an end product, you will not get far without the software and mobile apps that control how most technology works.

Customize or off-the-shelf software and mobile apps drive the narrative. With custom software, you can measure metrics, produce reporting, track sensor data and in some cases, change how a robot interfaces with the fabrication process.  Mobile apps are also becoming more common in fabrication processes.  Not only can they be used to monitor and track fabrication, but show customers the status of an order, what stage of completion the fabrication or manufacturing is at, and even when the customer can expect to see their delivery.  In fact, as of this articles date, we are developing a web-based application system, along with two accompanying mobile apps, in the manufacturing industry that do exactly that.

An experienced mobile app development company in Glendale can help you develop a tailored app that meets your business’s unique requirements. This will also enable you to maintain a greater competitive edge, better support your customer base as well as modernize your company’s user experience for your customers, employees and management staff.
5. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

I’m always cautious in how I use the word “AI”.  Real AI doesn’t exist yet… and we should all be terrified at the eventual outcome given that real AI can think on its own -- “Humans not included”.  Just think Skynet from the Valhalla Entertainment film, “The Terminator”.  So, using the term loosely, “AI” is yet another technology that has the capability to change how metal fabricators work. For example, AI-powered robots can pilot themselves around a facility and employ machine vision and navigation algorithms that might be too difficult for a person to navigate. This same technology can help robots avoid obstacles and mitigate the chances of accidents.  Packed with machine learning algorithms and results driven “AI”, fabrication robots can self-learn over time and prove even more beneficial for metal fabricators.   Similarly, AI-powered analytics can help fabricators quickly identify patterns and issues in their workflows and quality assurance, allowing floor managers and supervisors to make smarter, data-based decisions on empirical information instead of guesstimates.

Role of Software in Metal Fabrication Facilities

To capitalize on these five technologies: automation, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, or sensors, you will need software that allows you to control and manage the fabrication processes. The range of options is limitless, from off-the-shelf solutions to custom designed web-based and mobile solutions that streamline the entire fabrication process.

Wrapping Up

The five technologies addressed in this article are changing every part of the fabrication and manufacturing business model -- and for the right reasons. Investing in the latest technologies helps reduce employee fatigue, improve efficiency and boost productivity, and when you are interested in talking with a company who can develop a custom web-based application or mobile app for your metal fabrication business, you need not look any further than GlendaleBizz. GlendaleBizz develops ultramodern software and mobile apps for Glendale manufacturing and metal fabrication firms who need more than an off-the-shelf solution. When you’re ready, we’re ready. Simply give us a call at 623-845-2747.


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