Trends We See in Structural Steel
Structural steel and metal fabrication continue to change and evolve. Advances in technology have precipitated many changes in recent years. Metal fabrication shops that follow the advances and trends will always be able to offer the best results in fabrication. Staying up to date on technology is crucial to meet the needs of customers moving forward.
As green regulations increase for fabrication shops, forward thinking metal fabrication and welding facilities will increase their focus on improving sustainable practices in production. There is an increasing emphasis on sustainability in structural steel fabrication with a focus on reducing waste, energy consumption, and carbon emissions. This is achieved through the use of recycled steel, energy-efficient processes, and eco-friendly coatings. Biofuels are becoming more common in all construction and fabrication equipment, significantly reducing the overall carbon footprint of the industry. As we move forward in structural steel fabrication, these sustainable practices are becoming more common. Customers will also benefit from these efficiency and sustainability gains.
Advances in Technology
Technology is advancing at a rapid pace, and metal fabrication is working to keep up with the many advances we see. Structural steel fabrication has adopted advanced technology such as 3D modeling, Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Building Information Modeling (BIM). All these technologies work to develop more precise and efficient structural design and fabrication. Prototyping for projects of any scale can be significantly improved by these advances in design technology, allowing fabricators to see the challenges in manufacturing and fabrication of large scale projects. Although virtual design has been around for many years, the sophistication in the technology is growing with increased complexity and versatility.
Construction and fabrication equipment is now also wired to interact and communicate with users as well as other equipment, helping to improve efficiency, safety, and overall results. As device communication continues to evolve, processes will become even more efficient and effective.
Automation and Robotics
There is a growing use of automation and robotics in fabrication shops to increase efficiency, precision, and worker safety. This can include robotic welding, cutting, and material handling. Automated machinery allows for precise calibration and uniform handling, resulting in products that are designed to fit exactly together. Although there is no substitute for a highly trained fabrication expert, aligning these experts with the advances in automation and robotics allows for the precision cutting and fitting with the expert knowledge of the fabrication specialist.
Digitization and Data Management
We are seeing an increase in enhanced data management systems for tracking materials, project progress, and quality control. Incorporating this advance in data management is helping to streamline operations and improve project management. These advances make it easier for all parties to communicate and understand the progression of the fabrication project. Project management can be easily seen by every team working on the project, materials can be tracked, and there will be fewer errors in communication that can lead to project delays.
Lean Manufacturing Principles
Lean manufacturing principles have gained popularity recently as a way to streamline workflows. The principles of lean manufacturing consist of defining value, mapping the value stream, creating flow, and continuous improvement. Application of lean manufacturing principles will reduce waste, improve workflow, and increase overall efficiency in fabrication processes. Defining value – what the customer’s actual needs are – is paramount to discover early in the process. Mapping the value stream will eliminate activities that do not add value to the end product, which will reduce waste that can cost the customer. Once the value stream is mapped, the process can be streamlined, which will create a continuous workflow. By breaking down steps, leveling the workflow, and ensuring a smooth flow, the process will move, waste-free, through fabrication. A focus on continuous improvement will always ensure the process is working well.
Customization and Prefabrication
A shift towards more customized and prefabricated structural components to meet specific project requirements will reduce on-site labor and installation time. With prefabrication, there is less risk for problems with dirt, moisture, and other environmental hazards because the sub-assemblies are created in factory environments. Costs can be controlled as time and materials are carefully calibrated within the shop.
High Strength Steel Alloys
The use of high strength steel alloys will reduce the weight of structures while maintaining overall structural integrity. These materials can help lower costs and improve sustainability. They are lighter, more energy-efficient structures, but also highly resistant to corrosion and wear, making them ideal for applications that require a high degree of durability. High strength steel alloys can be customized to meet the specific needs of each project, offering designers and engineers greater flexibility in creating innovative products.
Laser Cutting Technology
Laser cutting allows for precision cutting of steel components, enabling intricate designs and reducing material waste. The accuracy of laser cutting ensures that there is little to no waste of materials, which helps reduce costs and add value to metal fabrication. Laser cutting is highly efficient, reduces time in the shop, and streamlines the fabrication process. Intricate shapes and designs would be impossible to achieve with other methods, making this advance in technology a real advantage in metal fabrication.
Looking ahead in the steel industry is crucial to facing upcoming challenges. The increased demand with a reduced supply of raw materials will increase prices, but many advances in technology are ready to combat those challenges with increased efficiency and efficacy. Quality metal fabrication shops will always remain diligent in monitoring trends and ready to evolve alongside the industry. To learn how we can help you build a better product, contact Swanton Welding today.