Metal stamping is an integral part of fabrication, and robots are changing it for the better. Fabrication robots are becoming more popular with the rise of innovations in “fabtech.” Technology is helping fabrication companies improve their processes and operations. Robots are the ideal way to increase productivity without compromising on quality. Metal stamping robots take a key part of the fabrication process and automate it with precision.
Fabrication robots can be used in the metal stamping process in a variety of ways. Some manufacturers have the robots do the actual stamping. Others have a robot arm pick up pieces to be stamped and put them on the press. Many manufacturing companies combine the two methods, however.
Metal stamping uses special machinery to shape, puncture, or detail pieces of metal. A great example is the cutouts that appear on the tops of soda cans. Metal stamping is generally a simple but delicate and precise process. It requires repetitive, consistent accuracy. So, assigning a robot to the task rather than a human is ideal. The fabrication robot can stick to a programmed stamping process indefinitely.
Assuming it has been programmed well, the chances of the robot making a mistake are minimal. In fact, greater precision is considered one of the top advantages robots have over humans. For example, a pharmaceutical robot at the University of California filled 350,000 doses without performing a single error.
This kind of highly productive, low-waste performance is valuable in metalwork, as well. Fabrication robots are improving the quality of metal parts while also speeding up the fabrication process. They can get more pieces stamped in less time than humans with greater safety and consistency.
The average metal stamping robot is fitted with special end-of-arm tooling. This allows the robot to pick up the metal pieces it needs to move. Depending on the shape of those pieces, the robot might have a claw gripper or suction cups. The robot arm picks up the metal pieces and precisely fits them into the stamping press, which itself is often automated.
If there are multiple steps to the stamping process, the fabrication robot will move the metal pieces between presses, as well. For example, one press might stamp a logo onto a door hinge plate. Another press might stamp the screw holes into the plate to finish it.
As mentioned above, one of the greatest advantages of fabrication robots is that they can perform repetitive tasks consistently well. There is no risk of a robot losing focus or nodding off on the job. It will continue performing a task the exact same way until it loses power or gets switched off. This is perfect for metal press tending.
Fabrication companies have begun adopting collaborative robots for press tending. This kind of robot is ideal for fabrication because it is designed to work alongside humans. It may not be able to assemble an entire car by itself, but it can help employees do that by running a metal stamping press. One of the key advantages of using cobots is maximizing the value of employees. When robots are running simple, repetitive tasks, humans don’t have to. This allows employees to focus on more important, complicated, or creative tasks. A human may still have to step in occasionally to perform a quick tooling change or set up the metal press. However, fabrication robots still greatly improve efficiency, even with maintenance needs.
In addition to efficiency, fabrication robots improve workplace safety. This is a common motivator for utilizing robots in industrial settings. Manufacturing and fabrication processes often include the use of tools and machinery that can be highly dangerous. If an accident occurs, someone could get seriously injured. A metal press can even be dangerous if it is not operated carefully. Robots and cobots minimize the risks that employees are exposed to on the job. If a robot malfunctions, it can simply be repaired.
There are several types of metal stamping, but they all have a few things in common. Metal stamping uses something called a die to alter metal pieces. The die is specially made for whatever the stamp is supposed to accomplish. For example, if a piece of metal needs holes punched in it for screws, the die would be round like a paper hole puncher. The die is fitted into the metal stamping press. This machine holds the metal pieces in place and uses the die to stamp them.
Some metal presses can perform progressive die stamping, which allows multiple dies to be operated at once. Transfer die stamping, on the other hand, moves the metal pieces from one press to another to perform multiple stamps. This is often less expensive than using one progressive die stamping machine. With today’s technology, such as fabrication robots, transfer die stamping can be just as efficient as progressive die stamping, as well.
Metal stamping is a vital part of the fabrication process. Countless products, from zippers to automotive parts, use metal stamping. Without stamping press technology, these products would either not be made at all or take significantly longer to manufacture.
Fabrication robots are bringing processes like metal stamping into the digital age. Today, high productivity is key to success for businesses and manufacturers. The more efficiently a product can be fabricated, the greater the return on investment will be. Robotics offers high value in manufacturing for several reasons.
In addition to safety and efficiency, fabrication robots are versatile. They can be used in a variety of ways and are easy to customize. One robotic arm, for example, could be used for metal stamping, parts assembly, packaging, or even welding. It would simply require different end-of-arm tooling devices for each application as well as the right programming. This level of customization makes fabrication robots a great investment for manufacturers. They can slowly integrate more robotics into their process by trying out one robot in several different roles.
Similarly, while technology does age, the right maintenance can keep a fabrication robot running well for years. So, for example, if the initial investment in the robotic arm was $10,000 and it was used five days a week for five years, it would only cost the manufacturer an average of about $38 per day or $5 per hour. That is significantly less than it would cost to pay an employee to do the same work, even with maintenance costs. With diligent maintenance, the robot could likely run much longer than five years, as well. This cost reduction element makes fabrication robots a great return on investment in the long run.
Without effective metal stamping, countless important everyday items would not get made. Fabrication robots are revolutionizing metal fabrication with improved efficiency, safety, and cost optimization. These robots offer numerous benefits to manufacturers and employees alike. Between fast, precise production and safer working conditions, fabrication robots are improving the manufacturing world one metal stamping press at a time.