Today’s metal processing is so complex, no 19th century factory owner would understand them. But you don’t need a complex understanding of every metal processing treatment just to appreciate the results of them. Metal processing services allow for more durable, lighter weight, longer lasting, and better fitting parts for applications across all industries.
Whether you want to design a better car, make airplanes safer, or just create the next hot household product, you need to stay abreast of the latest changes and advancements in metal processing. So what’s coming in 2018 to the world of metal processing? These five emerging trends are all worth keeping in mind as you make your plans for the upcoming year.
Metal Printing is Exploding
3D printing was once limited to plastics and polymers with a liquid or malleable form, but now metal powder and metal processing advancements make it possible to shape practically any small and low-strength metal part in a printer. Sinterizing is a metal processing technique that seals the individual particles of metal to create a seamless and finely detailed finished product.
Metal printing first emerged a few years ago with the powder-base breakthrough. Yet it has taken until 2018 for most of the biggest names in metal 3D printing to overcome some of the challenges of working with powdered products. Improvements in monitoring and controls allow for better results, increasing the usefulness of the resulting printed parts and models. Today’s metal processing services are increasingly turning to 3D printing for prototyping and modeling, and the parts themselves can also be treated to increase their durability to a limited extent.
Continuous Casting Looks Promising
On a bigger scale, there’s a new improvement in sheet metal processing that is based on a technique theorized over a century ago. An inventor known as Henry Bessemer first proposed a metal processing technique known as the continuous steel casting system. Its aim was to produce rolls of sheet steel by spinning it out between two rollers rather than using cast slabs and rolling them flat while hot or after cooling. He came up with the concept in the 1860s, but only in 2018 do we have the metal processing equipment and technology to finally make it happen.
Bessemer’s original system designs relied on two spinning rollers, cooled with water, to create a smooth and continuous sheet as molten steel was poured between them. A similar effect is used with heated rollers in commercial bakeries to create thin and flexible layers of cake. Aside from that form of innovative metal processing, some manufacturers are also testing conveyor belt inspired systems that have molten steel poured over them as they turn.
Why does continuous casting matter to the metal processing world? Rolling already cast metal, either hot or cold, creates a lot of stress in the steel sheet. Metal processing is then necessary to relax and release the stresses, especially if the steel needs to stay flat or hold a shape readily. Continuous casting creates less stressed, higher quality sheet metal that is lighter and more flexible than conventionally rolled counterparts with and without metal processing.
Machine Tools are Driving the Metal Processing Market
If so many new techniques are reducing or changing the types of metal processing needed today, what parts of the market are still driving the growth seen among metal processing services? The demand for higher quality and longer lasting machine tools parts remains steady regardless of what changes in metal processing. The bits, blades, burrs, and millions of other parts that eventually wear out in industrial manufacturing and machining equipment are all replaced regularly.
Metal processing remains necessary to heat treat, temper, and de-stress these parts so they can provide long service life and reliable production standards throughout that lifespan.
Sustainable Metal Processing Remains a Focus
The global metals industry is among the most environmentally minded in the world because there are limited ore supplies and everyone from raw suppliers to metal processing experts understands the fact. Over 60 percent of steel alone is already recycled within the industry, but metal processing in particular is growing by leaps in bounds by finding new ways to become greener.
From reusable molten salt quenching beds to slag recycling programs, metal processing companies are adapting faster than the rest of the industry to demands that they become sustainable. Not only do these improvements help the environment, they also tend to make the individual metal processing businesses more profitable by cutting costs and improving the bottom line.
Automation Improves Many Metal Processing Services
Finally, increasing automation is making metal processing services even more reliable and affordable in 2018. Fuzzy logic controllers and machine learning systems are taking over for technicians to monitor and adjust pressure, temperature, and other factors during crucial metal processing tasks. The results are more reliable and less prone to the occasional error, resulting in savings across the board for both the customers and the metal processing company itself.
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