Photo by Lenny Kuhne on Unsplash
A team of experts led by Professor Glenn Daehn has recently conducted a study according to which an emerging process could revolutionize digital manufacturing: robotic blacksmithing (also referred to asmetamorphic manufacturing). This revolutionary production strategywill be capable of taking over processes such asCNC machiningor additive manufacturing.
Prof.Daehnpoints out that this process is more cost-effective and time-savingthan other manufacturing strategies previously employed.
In Elon Musk’s view,machines that can build machineswill eventually triumph over anything else we might be manufacturing. If we take a look at Elon Musk’s work, we can understand his claim better: Space X and Tesla buildcar and spacecraft parts usingproduction strategies that are more flexible and cost-effective.
For instance, the strange-looking Cybertruck does not usesteel or stamped aluminium. Instead, it uses 30X cold-rolled steel. As Elon Musk explains, stampingthis unique 30X steel could damage the press, thus explaining the Cybertruck’s boxy design instead of a curvy one.
Thanks to robotic blacksmithing, manufacturers could soonbuildCybertrucks of virtuallyany shape.
A Brief Definition of Metamorphic Manufacturing
When World War IIcame to an end, computersbegan to be used to manage manufacturing processes. As Daehn points out, these rudimentary computers were far from having the computing power our current iPads have. Nonetheless, they still allowed a much better managementof industrial machines, giving birth to a processknown as CNC machining.
FromDaehn’s perspective, digital manufacturing can be divided into 3 stages: CNC would be the first, followed by 3D printing. Metamorphic manufacturing could be the 3rd wave, borrowing elements from both blacksmithing and robotics. The new process employs sensors to assess each part’sstructure and shape, utilizes lasers to add heat, and shapes pieces using its arms’ force.
Due to its sustainability, this process might replace all the existing technologies, allowing us to build goods withimproved properties. And there is another huge advantage: machines work incessantly.
The study points out that open-die forging will become a key element, allowing for the creation of new objects employing incremental adjustments. The process could be summarized as such: rotate, shape, and repeat.
To understand better, you can imagine a material with a spherical shape that you want to transform into a square. A robotic arm endowed with two plates will press the sphere into a flat, side-protruding object. If the object is rotated and pressed again, a cubic piece will be eventually obtained. In this process, servomotors and robotic arms play a crucial role (check out Rozum’s website for additional information on servomotors).
Metamorphic manufacturing would allow us to shape materials the same way a blacksmith would. For example, if you need to produce steel parts that might damage the stamp or are likely to breakduring stamping, robotscan make those parts more malleable by reheating them.
This new study underlines the fact that a part’s features and shapecan be controlled. The authors of the study outline thatthe new process will allow us to obtain intricate shapes that would otherwise be expensive and complicated to achieve using other types of processes such as CNC machining. These shapes will be achieved by using one piece of material and deforming it incrementally instead of building it layer bylayer, as it happens with additive manufacturing.
In addition, massive structures can be produced immediately, without the necessity to join various pieces (e.g. through brazing or welding), thus eliminating weak spots.
Due to the advantages robotic blacksmithingoffers,the forthcoming warehouses will more than likely be equipped with robots that employ lasers to reheat steel segments.
However, the study provides a theoretical framework that challengesexperts to develop processes that might turn this revolutionary manufacturing strategy into reality.