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Computer Integrated Steel Bridge Design and Construction
Pre-workshop Fabricator Questionnaire
Summary of Responses
Summary of Responses Based on 6 responses
What, in your opinion, are the major obstacles to aggressively automate steel bridge fabrication in the US?
Equipment Limitations - I would need equipment to do the following:
- Automated equipment would require flexibility. There are so many variables in the size, weights, and geometry in bridges.
- I visited a Herman bridge fabrication shop over ten years ago and watched Robotic Assembly and Welding. This equipment at the time wasn't available in the US. Our industry needs this level of technology immediately for assembly and welding.
- Adequate equipment currently exists to automate steel bridge fabrication if design and codes are standardized.
- Girder to girder referencing (NDEVC laser system) and CNC drilling equipment could lead to elimination of the lay down and reaming operations.
- CNC flame cutting of webs and flanges would improve accuracy and efficiency.
- Acceptance of CNC controlled flame cutting of splice plates and stiffeners to include holes for bolts would improve accuracy and efficiency.
- Utilization of girder assembly machines, similar to those used in the metal building industry would improve efficiency by eliminating the fit up and tacking process as well as combining welding into one operation.
- Universally accepted welding processes and procedures could lead to more development of more efficient equipment.
- Too Expensive - I would need additional $$$ to acquire/implement the following:
- The $$$ available depends on the cash flow of the business. Larger companies will have more cash flow for larger investments, but any project with a satisfactory return on investment (ROI) will be done.
- Obviously the type of equipment is very expensive and most small to mid-size fabricators couldn't afford the price.
- Not an issue if standardization allows sufficient ROI.
- Although a lot of expense can be realized when exercising new equipment options, most expense can be justified if its use is universally accepted enough to generate a market to keep it busy.
Software-would need to do the following that it doesn't do now:
- Software needs more consistency and "diagnostic tests" to prevent errors and ease of use.
- The software to operate the German System was in a continuous state of improvement, as robot technology welding technology changed.
- Ideal would be an industry/DOT standard design package to allow electronic interchange of data and download to CNC equipment without any hard copy drawings.
- The most ideal situation would be original design software that is capable of downloading into a fabricators detailing system for preparation of shop drawings and ultimately downloading into CNC equipment on the shop floor.
Business Processes - I would need to "re-invent" how my company does things:
- Business will readily adapt if and when State DOTs standardize.
- Utilizing the technology and equipment we described would take time to integrate to our technologically unsophisticated workforce.
Contractual Mechanisms and Liability Exposure - would need to change:
- In the short term contracts would need to allow for this level of technology, but once started it would become commonplace. Liability exposure should be minimal.
- With a continuous flow of data from the original design through fabrication on the shop floor, liability issues with regards to the correctness and final fit-up of the final product would have to be resolved.
- Protective Coating Systems
- Consistency, accuracy, & completeness in contract drawings & specifications
- Availability & consistent pricing of raw steel materials
- State D.O.T. Specifications; there would need to be acceptance by more than one or require code of specification changes.
One objective of the workshop is to identify high-payoff pilot projects to explore implementation of available and emerging technologies for increasing automation and productivity in steel bridge manufacturing. Would you be willing to participate as a member of a team pursuing such a project?
YES 1 NO May-Tell Me More 2 No Response 3
Other Comments, Suggestions, and Questions:
- If there are large developmental costs there are always financial obstacles
- The mental images of the German System for manufacturing girders remains clear in my memory. My hope is to have that type of system some day. But it doesn't appear it will happen during my generation. By then where will the Germans be?
- Your list of "obstacles" above implies that equipment financing is retarding automation, In reality, the provincial codes and specifications of DOTs are the constraint. Living proof is AISC building fabrication - one code, one spec, and even the smallest fabricator is highly automated.
- We work outdoors and the subarc is as automated as we go at this time. Most often we work with rolled beams, so we don't see a lot of room for automation.
- There are a number of automated fabricating opportunities available to the bridge fabricator. However, before any fabricator can justify the expense, much work has to be done to minimize the many standards, policies and procedures that result from each state going their separate way. A single governing factor would encourage the duplication and consistency necessary to develop a market that would support the various automated processes.
Appendix A | Table of Contents | Appendix C