in Blog

April 29, 2021

AR, ML, and automation: How AI is changing the metal fabrication industry


Artur Haponik

CEO & Co-Founder

Reading time:

8 minutes

In short, metal fabrication is the creation of metal structures that are next used in various other industries. Is there room for intelligent solutions in this specific sector? As it turns out, yes! There are at least three significant aspects of AI in metal fabrication. And in this article, we are going to examine all of them.
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As it usually happens–AI has two major purposes. To speed up the work and make it more effective. When it comes to metal fabrication (and a broadly understood metalworking industry), intelligent solutions revolve around automation. The main idea is to allow the automated building of end-products and conducting accurate post-processing methods.

Automated processes

Until recently, the metalworking industry was intensively based on human labor. But as the technology develops, deadlines are at your heels, and human work becomes ineffective, automated processes can really save the day. Not that long ago, thanks to smart manufacturing, we’ve entered the era of smart machines. Such AI-fueled machines can do almost all the repetitive tasks and reduce the instances of errors and delays in the manufacturing process. That’s why, more and more often, metalworking machines are powered by AI-based algorithms. This way, they can:

  • Cut
  • Bend
  • Assemble
  • Forge
  • Cast
  • Weld
  • And press fabrications without additional human assistance

The reason is simple. Almost all the already-existing machines in your plant can be easily integrated with computer systems that manage their work. This includes lathes, washers, drills, shears, sanders, and shapers.

All you have to do is train these machines to do their job autonomously. This is how machine learning works. You start with data and a process that needs to be done. ML specialists train specific ML-based algorithm so that it knows what task has to be performed and how. With that initial process done, the machine can start working on its own, and human work is reduced to supervision.

More efficient cutting techniques in metal fabrication

In metal fabrication, cutting is one of the essential aspects of daily work. In short, effective cutting techniques are based on reducing the waste produced during the process and maximizing the use of intelligent solutions. With the help of intelligent solutions, you can increase the cutting quality and monitor potential glitches and problems.

You see, the same algorithms that can be used to improve the work can also be used to monitor the status of each machine. And if it’s not working properly, the operator can undertake the necessary corrective actions to make sure everything goes back to normal.

metal fabrication

Product personalization

And here’s another interesting aspect of AI in the metalworking industry. Thanks to the digital manufacturing solutions, you can extend computer-aided control and automation of diverse processes in order to start creating the non-standard versions of your products without the need to organize an entirely new production line.

This means manufacturers can go from mass production to mass personalization. With smart manufacturing, you are able to manufacture physical products in smaller batches to meet the individual needs of each order.

metal fabrication, machines, factory

Benefits of automation in the metal fabrication industry

There are several critical advantages of this solution:

  • Reduced human labor: Because machines can operate autonomously and can easily perform the vast majority of tasks recently done by human workers, the need for human labor is significantly reduced. In fact, their role is diminished to supervision and handling emergency situations.
  • Reduced costs: Because everything happens automatically, you don’t have to hire so many plant workers. This way, you can easily save some vital financial resources and transfer them to other departments and projects in your company.
  • More effective work: Let’s face it; humans will never be as effective in repetitive work as intelligent machines. Machines are never sick, never go on a vacation, don’t mind working 24/7, and almost never make mistakes. The truth is, automation is the key to far more effective work in any industrial facility. At Addepto, we strongly believe that you should automate as many processes as possible. It’s the next milestone in your company’s history!
  • Safer working environment: Again, we have to be honest here. The broadly understood metal industry is not the safest workplace ever. And that’s yet another advantage of automation. Because you can train machines to perform all the repetitive and time-consuming tasks, you can also train them to deal with the most dangerous ones. As a result, everybody wins. You get the hardest job done, and your employees are much safer.

These four advantages of automation in metalworking are apparent. Sooner or later, your company will have to implement automation. Not because it’s necessary, but because it’s profitable from every possible angle. If you’re thinking about implementing automated solutions, we invite you to reach out. At Addepto, we help companies all over the world implement AI-based solutions, also related to automation.

metal fabrication industry, man, working

Machine learning in the metalworking industry

We’ve already partly discussed this area of the metalworking business. In fact, it’s machine learning that allows full automation of work in industrial facilities. You see, machines have to be trained to do a specific job. To make that happen, you need a lot of training data (concerning the process that’s about to be automated), the product your machines will be working on, and the expected outcome. This training can be executed thanks to machine learning. But the role of ML doesn’t end here.

As you know from our other blog posts, machine learning is all about improving automated work over time. In other words, machines are supposed to do the specific job, yes. But they are also supposed to be better and better as they gain experience. With machine learning, the metal industry can even develop some new products and solutions that don’t need to be reworked manually. As your ML-based algorithms improve themselves, the need for additional manipulations and adjustments on the outcome decreases. The more consistently the specific machine is used, the more effective it becomes. Ergo, the quicker it can work on metal products and rework crucial or unwanted components.

So, in a sentence, yes, machine learning makes both your metalworking processes and end products better and better.

gears, quality improvement, growth, strategy, goal, metal industry

Augmented reality and digital twins in the metal fabrication industry

Now, let’s switch to AR. We’ve discussed this technology in our article about CV applications in e-commerce. There, the purpose of AR is to help customers discover products as thoroughly as possible before placing an order. Here, AR is used primarily in the process of planning, testing, and improving existing metal products. With augmented reality, manufacturers can discover all the aspects of the product and indicate areas that need improvement. The role of digital twins is similar. It’s a technology that allows you to create an exact digital replica of every tool and machine you want.

Let’s say your company makes indexable cutting tools. For obvious reasons, you have to test each new product before it reaches the market. You should also have a thorough database that contains all the relevant information regarding your products–all the dimensions, materials used, pressure and temperature capacities, etc. It’s possible to use all that data to create a digital twin or AR software that will allow you to replicate the product in a digitized form. As a result, you can conduct all the testing and simulations without the need to use the actual product in real-world conditions.

This way, thanks to AR and digital twins, you make adjustments and tests much quicker, more effectively, and, in the long run, cheaper, too!

workers, safety

Build a safe working envirinment with digital twins

Interestingly, you can also use digital twins to improve the safety of your working environment. How is that possible? Manufacturing companies operate using complicated and expensive tools and instruments. Some of them can even be dangerous when not handled correctly. That’s why it’s important for everyone working in the facility to safely navigate the space without endangering themselves or other employees.

And this is where digital twins come in handy. You see, by creating digital twins of these machines, you can help new employees get acquainted with them without the risk of any damage or even injury. It’s the safest way to train new employees before they start the actual work.

safe working in metal fabrication, man, glowes
To sum up, concerning the metalworking industry, artificial intelligence is here to stay.
With intelligent solutions, your manufacturing company works in a much more effective, profitable, safe, and smart way.

As a result, you can save a lot of money, time, and resources you’re working with. Soon, AI-based solutions will come to every production plant. It can be a massive game-changer for your company as well. If you’d like to find out more, just drop us a line! Addepto is an experienced AI consulting company. We are specialized in implementing intelligent solutions to many branches of business and industry.

Let’s find out what we can do together!


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