For a long time, metal manufacturing has been one of the most expensive processes to build anything around the world. The procedures to treat raw materials were complex, tiring, difficult, and neither time nor cost-effective at all. After technology gave metal manufacturing a much-needed boost, the use of operators was still required to set the sheets of metal appropriately and die the cast on the punches that need to be done on them.
To this day casting metal parts still requires heavy human involvement, even if machines handle most of the manufacturing process. Working with positive and negative bends, require operators that manually turn the parts to get the job done. Moving the pieces to each new stage of development also requires human involvement with operators properly trained in attentiveness and effectiveness to handle the tasks as quickly as they can.
As technology takes over the stages of sheet metal manufacturing, these are some of the benefits that get increased as development continues:
· Decreasing the Human Error Factor
When it comes to sheet metal manufacturing, automated robots and computers software handle the flow of the tasks as well as the placement of parts and punches in the building process. The use of automation technology is to make sure that each part is set in the right position by using CNC technology. Handling the material becomes an automatic task that is done the same way over and over.
The training of humans is less focused on accuracy and more driven towards speed and effectiveness. The ambitions of this technology have expanded to bigger projects where human technicians play even lesser roles. This can only happen under a combination of specialized software, and hardware controls allow parts to be moved from one stage to another with precision, thus eliminating human contact with the part.
The operator role is required to make sure that all the equipment is working as it should.
· Non-Stop Production
A sheet metal manufacturing company that relies on human technicians can only work on limited time frames. It doesn’t have to do with the technology: it’s the human factor the one putting the limitations to the quotas of production. When these manufacturers upgrade their equipment to automated hardware, most of these restrictions disappear, and sustained production becomes the norm. When human operators are involved, most machines experience some sort of downtime. It’s a hard truth, but also something that serves as a motivator for technicians to upgrade their knowledge.
A company that hasn’t embraced automated means of production also has to deal with hassles such as unions, holidays, and break days due to illnesses or injuries. The human factor also involves the cost of training an operative, if a company prepares a worker and feels unsatisfied for any reason he may quit looking for another position, thus making the company lose money.
With a reduced workforce and specialized hardware, the role of humans is reduced to menial tasks or simply to monitor the fulfillment of tasks by the automated systems. These machines are up to the job even when they are unsupervised. As a result, the company can profit more and treat better their human resource.
On top of the increased productivity, automation of sheet metal manufacturing can run a cycle in much less time than handcrafted tasks. The ratio of productivity depends a lot in the specs of each project, but so far a single sheet was handled on half a day by a full team of technicians in the past, while automation means can handle ten times that number in a single morning.
The results for the developer is a product delivered in lesser times than the one anticipated, and for the company means more time to take on more clients. Given the versatility of these machines, even complex tasks can be handled easily know at better costs.
· Costs and Flexibility
As we mentioned already sheet metal manufacturing handled with the latest technology can lower the prices at the end of the company delivering your product. Automated CNC technology also brings a lot of flexibility to each project since robotics is always involved. This makes companies more competitive and able to deliver a larger number of parts in a single day.
The use of 3D printing and prototyping also makes it possible to make revisions on the go to avoid the loss of full shipments. Retooling is handled in ways we wouldn’t even have dreamt twenty years ago.
The automated systems can also be programmed to handle multi-stage tasks in an effort to decrease the forming time of parts, but should only be done on projects with a tight schedule. The number of work that represents a hazard for humans is mostly taken out of their hands.
The flexibility we mentioned early has also made the resources of sheet metal manufacturing available to small-scale projects. As a result, small companies can now compete in the free market by creating short runs on their products to test the waters and finding acceptance. It’s a win-win scenario for everyone involved!
*Image from on http://thomortiz.tumblr.com