Industries in the Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing subsector transform metal into intermediate or end products, other than machinery, computers and electronics, and metal furniture, or treat metals and metal formed products fabricated elsewhere. Important fabricated metal processes are forging, stamping, bending, forming, and machining, used to shape individual pieces of metal; and other processes, such as welding and assembling, used to join separate parts together. Establishments in this subsector may use one of these processes or a combination of these processes.
ROBOFORMING: The Future of Metalworking?
Automation in metal fabrication continues to become more mobile
Think about an automated precision sheet metal operation, one with all the technological bells and whistles at every manufacturing step. A flexible manufacturing system brings sheet from a live-inventory tower system to a laser cutting bed. Blanks are cut, sorted, and stacked automatically with part removal automation, then brought to a robotic press brake with automated tool changes and a robot with an ultraflexible gripper that’s able to handle a range of workpieces.
As part of analyzing the process, think about the judgments and decisions the operation requires. Consider a mobile robot with an arm that moves blanks to a conveyor or other processes downstream. When presented with a pallet of four stacks, which stack does the robot take from first, when, and at what pace and sequence? Are integrated solutions needed to handle or prevent unexpected or rare events, like an air knife or other device to prevent double picking of blanks? Will the mobile robot need to navigate around different obstacles?
New Process Converts Scrap Aluminum Into EV Parts
Engineers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) here have developed a new manufacturing process that can convert recycled aluminum into parts for electric vehicles. They worked with Magna International Inc. on the foou-year R&D project that dramatically reduces the need to mine and refine raw aluminum ore.
The Shear Assisted Processing and Extrusion (ShAPE) process collects scrap bits and leftover aluminum trimmings from automotive manufacturing and transforms it directly into suitable material for new vehicle parts. It is now being scaled to make lightweight aluminum parts for EVs.
“This innovation is only the first step toward creating a circular economy for recycled aluminum in manufacturing,” claims Whalen. “We are now working on including post-consumer waste streams, which could create a whole new market for secondary aluminum scrap.”
A pressing case for predictive analytics at MacLean-Fogg
Metform chose to focus specifically on the AMP50XL’s drive train because “that was the area where we saw the biggest opportunity for improvement.” While they’d previously been gathering data from the machine for predictive-maintenance use, the old process was neither efficient nor of adequate detail, they realized. “From a data collection standpoint, there was a lot of spreadsheets, a lot of handwritten notes, a lot of tribal knowledge,” Delk said. “We wanted to make sure we could gather that information and put it into context as we were analyzing the equipment.”
“We’re able to monitor the machine health, see in real time how the machine is doing and see a signal of a problem before it becomes a major problem. We have a long way to go in terms of learning how to better use the system and gain further confidence in the system, but at this point, I’m really pleased with the progress we made. I’m anxious to expand this to the other nine Hatebur presses.”
Metal Forming Division: long live the loop
“For us in the Metal Forming Division, accuracy and early error detection are particularly important.”
A critical factor is the high production speed of the roll forming lines, which can process up to 120 meters of sheet metal per minute. The later a defect is detected, the more material and time is lost.
“The goal of digitalized roll forming is to replace the previous process monitoring, such as checking the dimensions afterwards, with automatic inline measurement to allow us to move from process monitoring to digital process control.” If this goal is achieved, we could be looking at up to four times the accuracy in production.
The Anatomy of a Roll Forming Line: Complete Process from Coil to Crate
6 steps to Industry 4.0 in metal fabrication
Implementing Industry 4.0 doesn’t happen with the flip of a switch. It’s an evolution that, in time, will change the nature of how the metal fabrication industry and the rest of the world makes things.
Rapp sees a fully autonomous plant become much more flexible, not limited to rigid process-specific departments or value-stream layouts. In the connected plant, all required materials and workpieces will follow the path that makes best use of the entire operation’s available capacity. Job routings could change on-the-fly as AGVs move material, tools, and cut parts to where the processing capacity is, exactly when they’re needed.