Sheet metal is one of the fundamental forms used in metalworking and can be cut and bent into a variety of shapes.
Many different metals can be made into sheet metal for different purposes such as aluminium and steel, mainly used for building or Titanium, silver and gold, mainly used for decorative purposes.
Sheet metal has many other applications such as building materials, car bodies, Airplane parts and medical tables. There is also currently, a trend of making fantastic and awe-inspiring architecture to add to a country’s tourism market such as the efforts made in Prague with ‘The Dancing Building’, ‘The Sydney opera house’ and ‘The Belfast Titanic Quarter’.
Despite the need for this material which is essential to all architecture and other areas of metalwork. Many sheet metal forming industries operate with relatively low production rates, producing small quantities of components or often producing single prototype parts due to the inefficient and high cost production methods which must change with each new design being made as many are made to order.
These processes include Press Brake Forming, Punching and Stamping.
The high non-recurrent cost associated with traditional hard tools significantly reduces the margin available to sheet metal forming companies, lowering competitiveness or eliminating the opportunity to bid for
specific contracts. While reconfigurable tooling options currently exist, their industrial use is limited due to inadequate surface finish, inconsistent process performance, high cost and high levels of complexity.
The ‘Integrated Reconfigurable Sheet Forming Machine’ is a different process, using individually programmed hands which shape and stretch each metal sheet to order.
This machine allows to user to produce high quality, user specific sheet metal at a low and recurrent cost. This would allow a business to become more competitive and makes the prospect of production of larger projects possible for even small businesses.
Head of Technology Transfer
Research and Innovation
University of Ulster