How is 'Robotic Blacksmithing' Technology Revolutionizing the Manufacturing Industry?

Robotic blacksmithing has made building products faster and efficient and has the potential to revolutionize the supreme-quality structural parts are made, leading a class of new customized and optimized products.

Fremont, CA: Metal parts are needed in all types of high-performance, and safety-critical applications in mining, transportation, construction, and power-generation tools like turbine engines. Most of the types of equipment are made using one of a small number of classical production processes, which have not been changed in decades. Machining has the ability to cut raw materials to get the desired shape. Casting includes pouring molten metal into a mold, and then forming or forging deforms and squeezing metal into new shapes. Casting and forging to shape generally require custom molds or dies, which take time and is expensive to design and manufacture, but when used are very productive, the parts are budget-friendly and highly reproducible. This is the reason why nuts and bolts are cheaper and reliable.

Shortly post World War 2, digital manufacturing was introduced in more agile production, starting with computer numeric control machining, which cut components of various kinds of shapes from metal blocks. Creating a different component was as smooth as developing a new computer program. Currently, the manufacturers are inclined to making such parts with the help of 3D printing, also referred to as additive manufacturing. This process makes parts from a computer file on-demand building a single layer at a time. The shapes that could not be created by machining can be possible, enabling new forms which, for instance, have internal passages for cooling or communication.

Robots and Blacksmithing

Blacksmiths metal implements generally have immense strength because they work with metals that require kneading of dough. Gradually when it is shaped, it develops directional strength; similar to wood is stronger along the direction of its grain.  

The concept of robotic blacksmithing is to widen the blacksmith’s art along with new digital capabilities. By repeatedly and incrementally forming a piece of metal which accurately kept into a press, the parts are shaped. This hammer system, also known as powered press, will interchange tools based on the shape needed. A machine can treat more significant parts and increase its efficiency and reproducibility compared to humans by automating the process of shaping a portion with the help of a basic approach of a blacksmith. This new approach inculcates the potential to consistently and adequately create structural ‘bones’ inside aircraft, ships, locomotives, and submarines.

Where Will Technology Take Hold?

Metamorphic manufacturing, the basic concept for robotic blacksmithing was demonstrated in 2017 when the students from The Ohio State University included software and hardware to a conventional computer numeric control milling machine to accommodate controlled deformation. But it was just the beginning today, detailed research and developments are conducted before having autonomous machines shaping metal into unique safety-critical items.

To fully develop the robot blacksmith, a synthesis of technologies is required. The system must be updated with the shape, condition, and temperature of the material as every location of the part being developed. Post to that, it must be able to control the temperature for producing apt structure and properties. The component must be squeezed needed with the help of robotic control, deforming the part bit by bit, and the computer must decide on how to move and strike the part next in order to optimize properties and shape by learning how the elements were created previously.

These underlying technologies are progressing rapidly, and there is no denial in the fact that they can be used together as a useful and practical manufacturing technology.