The metal fabrication industry has come a long way since we started smelting bronze in clay furnaces centuries ago. We’re still honing our skills and learning to make the most of the resources available. As we near the end of 2020, here are six promising trends and technologies that are improving the metal fabrication industry:
1. Using Collaborative Robotics
The metal fabrication industry is no stranger to robotics. It made sense to use robots for jobs that might be too dangerous for human workers, but they were massive and required their own working spaces. Today, robotics technology has evolved to the point where these devices can work safely alongside team members to complete tasks.
These collaborative robots, or cobots, are ideal for dangerous or tedious tasks. They may also help offset the industry’s 290,000-person labour shortage. This has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is driving even more people out of work. Cobots may be in their infancy in the metal fabrication industry, but they are quickly filling a necessary niche.
2. Implementing Automation and CNC Machines
Computer numerical control (CNC) machines are an integral part of the metal fabrication industry, but until recently, they required human intervention and programming to function. Incorporating automation into the CNC portion of metal fabrication can remove some repetitiveness from this step, increasing efficiency and productivity in the long run.
Eliminating repetition reduces the chance of employees developing repetitive stress injuries, which also opens them up for better opportunities in their careers. CNC automation is becoming more popular during 2020 and will continue to thrive as the industry moves into the future.
3. Upgrading Cybersecurity
New technology is slowly taking over metal fabrication as a whole, and with this change comes the need for increased cybersecurity to ensure networks remain secure. A survey found that between 2017 and 2018, 88% of manufacturing executives reported at least one cyber incident during the previous 12 months.
That could include an attack, data theft or other cyberthreat. In 2018, IBM called manufacturing one of the most frequently hacked industries in the world. These events put business and client information at risk, so cybersecurity is one tech trend that will need to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind moving into the future.
4. Adopting Agile Methodologies
Modern aluminium smelting techniques might use a method that can trace its roots all the way back to 1886, but the industry itself needs to embrace agility in the modern age. This has become increasingly apparent in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic threw an enormous wrench in operations.
Things may start returning to normal in the next year or two as COVID-19 vaccines become available and it becomes safe to return to work. However, agility in this industry is essential to keep companies moving forward as we wait for a return to normality.
5. Embracing Digitisation
Like many industries, metal fabrication has been slow to adopt the digitisation that is quickly defining the rest of the world. It’s essential to know that building a technology-based platform doesn’t mean eliminating the human factor. Rather, it’s a step in the right direction regarding efficiency and productivity.
Business owners in metal fabrication need to take this time to embrace digitisation and make the most out of the tools available to them. Adopting digitised technology will increase the need for cybersecurity, as mentioned above, but it is a trade-off well worth the effort.
6. Using 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing
3D printing may have started as a tool for hobbyists, but it’s quickly emerging as one of the most versatile tools in nearly every industry. In metal fabrication, additive manufacturing provides a new level of customisation to an already versatile industry.
Metal powder bed fusion allows manufacturers to create nearly anything with almost no waste because any unused powder can be recycled and used again.
Changes in Metal Fabrication Beyond 2020
We’re just starting a new decade, and the trends we’ve seen throughout 2020 will continue to grow and adapt as we make our way into the future. Things like digitalisation, collaborative robots and 3D printing will continue making the metal fabrication industry more efficient and productive as we look at 2020 and beyond.
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