Canadian Manufacturing

Top 3 automation technologies that can improve sheet metal processing

by Emily Newton, Editor-in-Chief, Revolutionized   

Manufacturing Operations Research & Development Sales & Marketing Technology / IIoT Electronics advanced manufacturing automation IIOT In Focus industry Manufacturing marketing sales Technology

Automation technologies such as fuel cell automation, automated storage and retrieval systems, and flexible mobile robots, can help manufacturers improve their operations.

How Canadian manufacturers can drive growth with spend management automation

People involved in sheet metal processing frequently look for new ways to improve their operations. Here are a few automated possibilities that could help, and are found in sheet metal processing.

1. Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems

Automated storage and retrieval systems reduce or eliminate the manual processes of handling large objects, including pieces of sheet metal. It also removes the need for using forklifts or other heavy equipment that poses operational hazards due to its size and weight.

Generally, someone uses a control interface on a computer to tell the system which items to store or retrieve and when. A company may also link an automated storage and retrieval system to other processing equipment, such as lasers or punching machines.

Workers do fewer manual tasks, making it less likely for errors to occur. People often find that bringing automation to sheet metal processing significantly affects quality control.


Installing an automated storage and retrieval system may require substantial factory or metal shop layout changes. However, most users find that this technology helps them use space better.

2. Full Cell Automation

Full cell automation involves several processes inside an enclosed space without human involvement. Experts believe the future of heat-treat and forge processes will occur through that method. If it does, productivity and safety will increase significantly.

Quenching is a treatment that warms the component to the desired temperature, then quickly cools it through immersion in a medium. The rapid cooling process can prevent or encourage microstructure formation within the metal. A full cell automation process could promote the exact times necessary for specific quenching outcomes.

Full cell automation in sheet metal processing has yet to be a widely used option. However, many efforts center on partial automation, particularly since it allows people to track the exact stages certain parts are in at a given time. It also enables workers to reduce some of the dangers associated with their tasks by keeping them away from the most hazardous processes.

In one example, a ventilation company that fabricates sheet metal for its business invested in several automated upgrades. The changes reportedly decreased production lead time by 40% while minimizing waste and led to energy-efficiency improvements.

3. Flexible Mobile Robots

Flexible mobile robots (FMR) are a new type of machine under development by a team at Sweden’s University of Skövde. Workers are careful to say these machines are not collaborative robots. Instead, they prefer to describe them as coexisting robots.

Software and scanners give the safeguarding traditionally provided by cages. The researchers also hope to reach a point where people can use gestures to communicate with and control the robots.

The researchers realized that automating sheet metal processing was much more difficult than using automation for other tasks. However, they decided to start with the most challenging option when developing their FMR. They aimed to create a robot that could work with a press brake bed at the same height as an operator.

It could be a while before flexible mobile robots are widely adopted within sheet metal processing. However, people already work around robots frequently. Plus, if these work as well as researchers hope, these machines will operate at full speeds and payloads while remaining safe around humans. Those advantages could substantially increase output.

Are You Ready to Automate Sheet Metal Processing?

Automation initiatives require significant time and effort. Technologies such as the ones listed above are excellent starting points to consider for a manufacturer’s automation journey.


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