Understanding the impact of automation in sheet metal manufacturing will not start without knowing the different stages of industrial revolutions. There are four stages of industrial revolutions namely: the first industrial revolution, the second industrial revolution, the third industrial revolution, and Industry 4.0. The first revolution introduced mechanization. The second revolution introduced the emergence of different new energy sources and communication. The third revolution brought out the rise in electronics, telecommunication, and automation. Industry 4.0 would later improve on the robotics aspect due to the introduction of the internet and massive advancement in machine language and automation.
Automated machines and advanced robotics are now integral to many manufacturing processes. They are important as they enhance product quality, productivity, efficiency, and cost. For example, in sheet metal manufacturing, many companies use automated machines and systems such as beamlines, laser cutting, etc. handling, painting, etc., to ensure they produce quality sheet metal parts. Automation in sheet metal fabrication is beneficial, and below are five ways by which it enhances the industrial sheet metal industry:
How Automation Enhancing Industrial Steel Metal Manufacturing
Currently, many manufacturing companies, especially rapid prototyping ones, use automated machines and robotics in their production plan. Consequently, processes such as CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, 3D printing, etc., are becoming overwhelmingly popular. Below are a few reasons why you should invest in automation especially for sheet metal fabrication.
This is perhaps one of the most important benefits that automation brought to sheet metal fabrication. Sheet metal manufacturing puts accuracy, precision, and consistency as important attributes because it is majorly used in mass production. In mass production, the final products must be precise, i.e., alike in terms of quality, dimension, size, etc., and accurate i.e., similar to the intended design in terms of quality, dimension, size.
Automated machines and robots can do any task without any difference at every point in the fabrication process. This shows that they have an insignificant margin of error. This is unlike human workers that need to adapt to the working condition, mechanism, and other things related to the job which affects performance. Therefore, under every circumstance, automated machines and systems will perform sheet metal processes such as welding, drilling, or moving things consistently without difference in precision and accuracy.
Another important benefit that automation brings to sheet metal part manufacturing is efficiency. Human operators are efficient. However, automated systems and machines are more efficient. In certain scenarios, it is possible for a robot to do three to four times of the average human work at the same amount of time. Also, there is a reduction in variation in product quality due to their precision and accuracy further making automation more beneficial.
Automation gives manufacturing companies an edge when client demand is unpredictable or the labor market is tight. Consequently, these companies can efficiently produce more sheet metal parts with the same number of human operators and resources. Also, efficiency reduces the lead time such that there is reduction in over-promising and overworking human workers to meet deadlines.
Automated machines and systems come with software and sensors that help track work-related data. For example, when using them, it is possible to know the amount of work done on the facility floor, task completion, and the machine’s performance during a task. The sensors and software record and hold large quantities of data which on analysis can help smoothen the manufacturing process.
For example, sheet metal shops that use automation in sheet metal fabrication can use the data to check for mistakes in final products. They can analyze the data and check for what is responsible for an error in the final product and how to resolve such issues in the future.
Consequently, this data will help in producing more error-free products, improve manufacturing time forecasts, and help sheet metal part manufacturers to offer better estimates to final customers. It will also help in improving the work schedule.
Latest generation of automated machines and systems used in sheet metal fabrication comes with safety features that make the process less dangerous for human operators. For example, some robots have motion-detecting sensors that can turn the machine off when a human approaches. Others, especially collaborative robots (cobots) come with specialized cushions and force-limiters to reduce injury risk. Also, some robots use AI-powered tech to move around the facility where they avoid other machines and workers to reduce the chance of injury.
Automation does not only improve safety by its own inherent features. It also alleviates potential problems seen in human operators. For example, according to statistics, about 13% of all workplace injuries occur due to human workers sleeping during work. Aside from that, robots do not have issues with focusing, giving attention, etc which are safety issues in steel metal manufacturing.
Automation will lower the overall cost of production. While the initial cost of purchasing the systems and machines will be high, over time, there will be a cost reduction. This is possible as robots will allow you to produce more products that are of quality (which attracts potential customers) and quantity (which means you deliver more value) without the extra pay for human workers. Also, automated machines and systems must exist with human workers. Therefore, when the huge profits start coming, you will be able to pay your worker better. Therefore, it is a solution where everyone benefits.
Sheet metal manufacturers that invest in the use of automated machines and systems will see the long-term benefit of robotics and automation cost-wise. This will also lead to the development of other areas of their facilities.
Industry 4.0 and the massive improvement in automation especially in the manufacturing world is undoubtedly a big step for many companies. The demand for a high-quality product without a check by consumers for the productive power of a business is high. Therefore, business owners, especially those in sheet metal part manufacturing, have a lot to benefit from automation. Automation is essential as it shortens production time (efficiency), improves consistency, precision, safety, and lowers the cost of production. Consequently, the technology is a crucial asset for sheet metal part manufacturers that want to increase productivity and quality.