FICEP Innovation Series

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Intelligent Steel Fabrication

In 2002 FICEP worked with Mabey Johnson (now Mabey Bridge) in the United Kingdom to develop the first fully automated material handling system to process material through a FICEP CNC drilling line.  The only technology available with material handling systems up to this FICEP invention required the operator, by manual switch control, to position a section to be processed to and from the CNC line.  Generally, this was accomplished prior to or after the CNC drill line cycle.  This level of automation permitted the material handling functions to occur simultaneous to the operation of the CNC drilling line.

In recent years the automated material handling function became fully integrated with comprehensive software, for example, to schedule, track, select the required CNC program and desired material flow path.  This innovation has further enhanced the productivity of the FICEP system to the point that it has trademarked the term, "Intelligent Steel Fabrication".

Let's take a look at the specific process of Intelligent Steel Fabrication.

  1. The material handler loads a stock length section that has been automatically nested with different parts to minimize the drop.  Once it is placed on the infeed transfer system loading point, the bar code on the stock length section is scanned, and the required CNC programs and section is sequenced.

  2. Once the section's bar code is scanned, the software determines the required optimum path through the system and the work center(s) or centers that will be engaged in the fabrication process.

  3. The automated material handling system starts to routinely position the stock length as close to the loading position as possible.

  4. Once the required stock length section has been loaded onto the system's infeed conveyor, the remaining stock length sections are sequenced as close to the infeed loading position as possible all in masked time.

  5. The section that was loaded on the infeed is automatically measured to confirm the stock length, and the proper CNC program is initiated for the required operations at this work center.

  6. As the section is processed, it is automatically positioned to the next work center for processing.

  7. As the section enters into the next work center, the proper CNC program is initiated as before, and the next automated process is initiated.

  8. This process continues in an automated fashion without the system attendant making decisions as to where the section is to be processed next, operating the material handling system and selecting the proper CNC program as required.

Productivity explodes as now all these functions occur in masked time as an operator is not required to make decisions as what to do next.  With Intelligent Steel Fabrication, these processes are driven totally by the software in a multi-tasking mode.  The system attendant is monitoring the process where in a manually driven CNC system the operators are required to drive the processes one by one.

As the process proceeds, Intelligent Steel Fabrication has 4-D capability to upload the production process back to the 3-D model to graphically show the real time status of the individual sections in the model. 

Production data can also be viewed on a Smart Phone in real time.

Intelligent Steel Fabrication is just one example of how FICEP continues to be the first to the market with new innovative designs.  It is our mission to drive innovation so our business partners can enhance their competitive edge against non-steel designs.