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PLASMA CUTTING Fast tracking infrastructure projects through digital manufacturing with plasma cutting robots

Apr 20, 2020

Introduction of AI & robotics is said to have brought in ease of working in every section of the manufacturing industry. Plasma cutting, integrated with AI & robotics, is said to bring in similar ease of functioning in the industry. Plazma Technologies, the author company, goes beyond metal cutting and finds its applications in metal welding, medical sciences, material waste disposal and so on. In the present article, Plazma Technologies details on the intricacies of a RoboPlazma system, various pros of it for the industry and how it can upscale the industry efficiency - Hughen Thomas, Chairman, Plazma Technologies

No longer are traditional methods, machineries and manual operations able to execute large structural steel infrastructure projects efficiently with cost and time saving. Multiple projects across India, such as metros, airports, bridges, steel buildings, defence, etc need to be completed much faster. The way forward is an integrated digital manufacturing from design to erection. This involves an AI-based intelligent robotic solution to be deployed at an affordable cost. Design drawings are directly fed into robotic plasma system for 2D & 3D job processing. From estimated 5000 drawings loaded on the machine daily, the systems’ AI software smartly segregates all these files for easy nesting and processing. The robotic plasma cutting system has multiple processing capabilities in one set-up. This eliminates large space requirements and bottlenecks due to repeated material handling. This solution can make mid-sized companies equal players with an unequalled edge. This robotic plasma cutting universal system has set a path for smart, intelligent digital manufacturing with the following features:

High speed processing with minimal material handling

RoboPlazma’s unique moving cantilever design combines with multiple work zones allowing multiple job cutting and welding without moving the job/material which eliminates material handling and results in saving time and cost by boosting productivity.

Various jobs processed on one machine

Multiple jobs, such as I-beam, channel, angle, tube, pipes and plates profiling; single, double bevelling with root marking; beam splitting; etc processing is now possible on a single machine. This provides flexibility to execute different projects ensuring minimum capital investment with higher utilisation and efficiency.

Large plate bevelling, i.e. 12.0x3.0 metre with single bevel or double bevel, with root preparation, is also possible to ensure a heavy bridge’s structural fabrication. Multiple beam splitting and profiling in one set-up is resulting in negligible material handling to boost production.

Robot moves across complete stationary jobs

Due to the moving robot and stationary job design, higher precision and accuracy is achieved. Multiple or double work zone eliminates material handling time and boosts productivity. Cut jobs are unloaded and raw material is loaded on one side, while the robot is working on the other side, eliminating the material handling time completely.

Accurate fit-up onsite

Hole processing on pre-welded stiffeners and connection plates provide better alignment and accurate fit-up onsite. This avoids rework for the mismatched, alignment cost on site and aids faster project execution efficiently.

Complex geometry & curved beam processing

Complex geometries, like mouse hole cutting, is achieved by robotic plasma cutting with plasma carving techniques, which results in negligible post cut grinding. Curved beam structure processing is also possible because of the unique moving cantilever design combined with invert mounting of the robot. Because the job is fixed and the robot is moving along the job length, accuracy is achieved within +/-1 mm.

Simple three click programming

In the past, robots have always been difficult to program. Labour intensive manual teaching or complicated off-line programming with numerous steps was required to create a robot program. In addition, robots are not very accurate over their entire working envelope. This means, the resulting motion from a robot is error prone. RoboSwift™ is a revolutionary software that works inside the controller to correct the errors of the robot. An in-depth understanding of the robot and the plasma cutting process has resulted in RoboSwift™. Multiple inputs, like DSTV, X-Steel from BoCAD, AutoCAD, input files from Tribon are imported into the software. These files are then combined with the internal plasma cutting process, job sensing & calibration and robot motion knowledge, to output a ready-to-execute program.

Welding capability

MIG/MAG welding capability is an additional benefit for welding of accessories such as base plate, stiffeners, connection plate, etc. This results in higher utilisation with minimised labour dependency and project cost.

Modular configuration

Modular configuration with a modular hardware and software design allows one to add the plasma cutting capability to enhance utilisation of the system besides cutting. From a fixed base mounted robot to the RoboPlazma universal system solution, this up scalable modular hardware and software configuration provides flexibility and fulfils the need of the user, allowing double side work zone capability to adopt multiple job processing and greater flexibility of operation with robotic plasma system.

Higher utilisation & high throughput

Because of multiple capabilities such as cutting, marking, bevelling, hole cutting and welding combined with multiple work zones, a robotic plasma system’s utilisation is much higher than the conventional and traditional plate cutting, drilling, sawing and beam coping lines.

Saving shop floor space

Saving of shop space is an important factor for large structural projects. Robotic plasma layout with double work zone requires just 20.0 x 7.0 metre shop space, which is almost half the size of conventional plate, drill, saw and beam coping line.

IoT & Industry 4.0 compatible

Robotic plasma universal system is IoT and Industry 4.0 compatible. It generates shift wise daily, weekly and monthly production report and transfers the data to the main server. Compiling similar files, nesting, material utilisation, scrap generation, maintenance & breakdown reports and utilisation reports are generated on the robotic plasma machine. It also has the capability to generate invoice as per production.

Online remote support

An online 24x7 remote support facility for programming and error logs monitoring from service centre facility is provided. Trained engineers communicate directly to the robotic plasma machine online and through onsite operators/programmers, whenever remote support is needed. This support is provided to minimise the machine’s downtime in critical production requirement and to saves costs.

The most important feature of this system is its mass customisation ability. This is unlike the automobile robots where there are repetitive jobs in a clean environment with fixture clamps. In the fabrication sector, every piece is unique and is rarely repeated. This is catered to by the AI-powered software.

All the above features are powered by AI software that compensates for rusting, bent raw materials and drawing errors. The software continuously measures the raw material in real-time for 3D compensation. All parameters are in the floating database, available on the fly for smart processing.

Adopting the smarter robotic solution

Dilip Buildcon is fabricating their entire structural steel Zuari bridge using intelligent and smarter robotics solution. The system processes 100 tonnes of steel per day resulting in high-speed project executions with efficiency and economy. This exciting digital RoboPlazma manufacturing technology is adopted by Larsen & Toubro Hazira, Jindal, Adyard (Abu Dhabi), Petronash (Dubai), Make & Buy, Toshiba and many more companies in India and abroad.

The future is clear as a culture of efficient robotic automation has now come to the Indian fabrication shop floor. Adopting advanced, smart and digital manufacturing technologies is inevitable. The challenge is how quickly the Indian industry will learn from the global challenges and adapt with efficiency.

The manufacturing sector is a key growth driver for the Indian economy, and it is essential that every shop floor or corporate manager and decision maker nurtures a ‘culture of automation’. Because eventually, the only fixed feature of the shop floor will be the ceiling and the floor, as entire manufacturing processes will be a flexible, configurable, wireless network of machines. On the shop floor, the machine and line manufacturing data will be, thus, assimilated, collated and analysed. Information, such as production schedule, machine availability, predictive maintenance with suggestions for efficiency improvement and awareness of potential failures, will then be intimated to the shop supervisor. These, in line with the manufacturing/process activities, will be exchanged in real-time between shop floor supervisors, production managers and decision-makers through a smart tablet or phone. This will improve the process manufacturing efficiency.

The Indian manufacturing sector needs to upgrade or change its current traditional technology and skill status. The ‘Make in India’ initiative has identified its focus on key areas for the industry to compete at the global level, through adoption of digital manufacturing with robotics.

Image Gallery

  • Plate profile

  • RoboPlazma universal system - double work zone

  • Hughen Thomas

    Chairman

    Plazma Technologies

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