Trends We See in Structural Steel

Jul 14 2016


Structural steel and metal fabrication in general have changed significantly in recent years, with further shifts close on the horizon. The difference between a shop that watches trends and acts proactively and one caught in a perpetual state of catch-up is quite significant, in terms of what they can offer you. At Swanton Welding, we stay at the forefront of the evolution of fabrication—here are the trends we see coming in structural steel.


Automation grows increasingly important in every area of fabrication, with computer-managed automated production matching or surpassing the quality of manual welding and improving speed and general efficiency. Equipment like the Ficep beam line allows Swanton Welding to deliver incredible results in less time, greatly improving our capacity. With the multiplicative effect such technology offers a savvy team, a few beam lines can completely transform a shop’s ability to handle structural steel.

A modern beam line can:

  • Transfer materials - pull beams and conveying
  • Load more than one beam at a time
  • Free up experienced employees to tackle other aspects of production, as it can operate without being babysat.

beamline.jpgOf course, beam lines only represent a single dimension of the automation we see coming to the industry. Like many fields, we see potential in so-called prescriptive analytics, which would allow data-driven systems to propose mathematically sound improvements in logistics, scheduling, upgrade selection, and other areas of our business—which would in turn improve our productivity and reduce costs to the customer for structural steel.

Automation also ties in closely to some of the other big changes coming to the industry, such as…

Collaborative Technologies

Whether it’s the interaction between different shops, between shops and their vendors, between third party engineers and shops, or between customers and shops, collaborative technology offers a wealth of benefits to the future of structural steel. No more mistakes born of confusion and miscommunication; instead, we’ll see real-time access on both ends of every chain, allowing everyone involved in your project to stay on the same page.

We may also see leaps forward in structural metals and other aspects of fabrication as a result of improved sharing of data. The same automated systems which ease production also offer an avenue to collect crucial data; a database born of the experience of countless machine shops around the world could help improve production across the entire industry.

Virtual Design

virtual.jpgWhile computer-assisted design has already become a central force in structural steel, we feel confident in saying that trend will accelerate rather than stagnate. Expect increasing complexity and versatility from the modeling software used to design and tweak structural steel and other metal fabrication projects.

Combined with more exhaustive databases and automation, we may see an evolution of extremely user-friendly, easily-used virtual design solutions.

Sustainability/Green Production

Structural steel remains a powerful tool for any green-minded development, but there’s still room for improvement at the production stage. Expect further strides towards low-emission, energy-friendly production; not only will such make for easier development in areas with stronger green regulation, it will produce cost-efficiency gains which will pass on to the customer.

3D Printing and Other Disruptive Technologies

3D printing promises to open exciting opportunities for fabrication teams savvy enough to make use of it, rather than fearing or dismissing it. While we’re still far from the level of 3D printing everything, it does offer opportunities for savvy fabricators in prototyping and other areas. Other similarly disruptive technologies may arise in the near future as well; good teams will see those disruptions as opportunities to evolve their production, business models, and other areas.   

Contact Swanton Welding today for all of your steel and metal fabrication needs.

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