Recent Innovations In Modern Parts Fabrication
Currently, we are entering a new industrial revolution that is being driven by the digitization of the manufacturing industry. Known as “Industry 4.0”, manufacturing experts recognize this time as the fourth manufacturing revolution in the past 150 years.
Each of the first three industrial revolutions—steam and water-power mechanization, mass production and electric power, and the digital and automation age—fundamentally changed the world and how we live and work. Now, with Industry 4.0, we’re experiencing another seismic shift thanks to autonomous and smart manufacturing systems powered by artificial intelligence and data.
Advances in technology are rapidly allowing manufacturers to fabricate parts and products that are more sustainable, lighter weight, and more efficient. Also, disruptive technologies like 3D printing, machine learning, and artificial intelligence allow researchers to develop innovative materials faster, significantly reducing the time it takes to get products to market.
Developing parts and products using eco-friendly manufacturing and materials encompass the product life-cycle from production through recycling. The objective of sustainable manufacturing is to achieve zero environmental impact.
One major benefit of the advancement of sustainable manufacturing processes is increased business growth and global competitiveness. The ability to support sustainable manufacturing depends on the properties of the materials used in the process.
As a result, material suppliers, chemical producers, and manufacturers are collaborating to produce sustainable, innovative materials.
The metal fabrication industry has been proactive in limiting emissions and greenhouse gases, and metal manufacturers are the largest recyclers in the United States. Steel and aluminum, the metals used most often to fabricate parts, are among the most recycled metals and environmentally-friendly metals to produce.
A Move Towards Sustainability
Researchers are exploring new ways to make metal and other materials more sustainable. For example, scientists in Canada have developed a method of processing metals without the use of toxic solvents and materials. This method also consumes far less energy than the typical methods for processing metals.
In addition, many countries are starting to include sustainability measures in legislation. For example, the European Union requires auto manufacturers to build cars made with 85% sustainable materials. Ford, a US auto manufacturer, has taken it upon itself to create innovative materials for car interiors that are completely biodegradable.
Another major shift in modern parts fabrication has been a process called lightweighting. Lightweighting is the process of reducing the weight of a product or part to reduce the energy it takes to move it.
The auto and aerospace industry has focused on lightweighting for decades, but it’s now becoming a cornerstone of Industry 4.0. One of the main benefits of lightweighting is that the products manufactured retain the strength of heavier materials while improving sustainability by reducing energy consumption.
For example, reducing the weight of a car by 10% can result in an 8% decrease in fuel usage. Manufacturers replace heavier metals with magnesium and aluminum alloys, polymer composites, and carbon fiber, reducing the weight of a metal part by half. Commercial aircraft are now made of about 50% composite, a fraction of traditional metals’ weight and far stronger.
Carbon fiber composite is one of the more popular lightweight materials being used in modern fabrication. While it does have a higher price point than some of the more traditional metal options, it is five times as strong as steel, twice as rigid, and weighs about 50% less.
3D printing technology, also called additive manufacturing, is another process at the forefront of the new industrial revolution. The first commercial 3d printer hit the market in 1987, but manufacturers didn’t begin using 3D printing systems for wide-scale industrial production until recently.
Initially used for speeding up the prototype process, 3D systems are used to manufacture highly complex and precise parts and products for every industry, including aerospace, automotive, and medical.
The impact of 3D printing has transformed the on-demand production of medical equipment and devices, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitals and manufacturers used 3D printers to rapidly create everything from surgical masks to ventilator parts to replenish stocks depleted by the pandemic.
In 2020, the 3D printing market was $1.25 billion for the medical market alone and is expected to skyrocket to over $6 billion by 2027.
How Additive Manufacturing Works
Additive manufacturing doesn’t rely on the same level of equipment, material, and tools required in traditional manufacturing methods. Instead, the process requires only a 3D printer, a digital file of the object you want to create, and 3D printing filaments. The 3D printer scans the digital blueprint and then uses the printing filament to create the object layer by layer.
Additive manufacturing dramatically reduces the time and cost of manufacturing a wide range of products. For example, a 3D printer can create a prosthetic, robotic hand for about $50 compared with the average price of $10,000 for a traditionally manufactured hand. A hearing aid can be 3d printed in one day compared to a production time frame of one week with more traditional production methods.
A Michigan state agency recently awarded a grant to The Federal Group USA to obtain one of the most advanced and innovative 3D printers available. This 3d printer manufactures products and components in intricate detail and with remarkable precision using carbon fiber, fiberglass, and Kevlar filaments. TFGUSA was selected for this grant based on its commitment to producing innovative materials and advancing digital manufacturing technologies.
Along with driving material innovation, Industry 4.0 is transforming material management across the supply chain. Manufacturers rely increasingly on robotics, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and other forms of digitized services to interconnect the entire process. Smart supply chain systems allow manufacturers to improve efficiencies, reduce costs, and speed products to market.
Once fully realized, Industry 4.0 will establish an ecosystem of technology and data to produce efficient manufacturing and supply chain processes that deliver innovative materials faster, more affordably, and more environmentally-friendly. According to Accenture, the transformations driven by Industry 4.0 could bring $14.2 trillion to the worldwide economy by 2030.
Industry 4.0 With The Federal Group USA
Although many businesses are beginning to adopt Industry 4.0 practices, The Federal Group USA has been dedicated to forward-thinking engineering and global manufacturing since 1980. Our team continually explores new methods and technologies to improve manufacturing processes, efficiencies, and capabilities.
We work with innovative materials to fabricate custom products and components using the latest in metal fabrication and precision machining technology. Whether your business needs any metal fabricated products, or if you’re interested in our 3D printing capabilities, contact The Federal Group at 800-759-2658 or online.