Heavy Fabrication: How to Design for Manufacturing
Design for Manufacturing, or Design for Manufacturability (DFM), is the process of designing parts for ease of manufacturing as well as creating a better, more cost-effective product. DFM is a vital product-development step that looks to simplify and optimize the design to ensure high quality and efficiency during fabrication. The goal of DFM is to reduce manufacturing costs and avoid costly disruptions without sacrificing quality or performance.
DFM saves OEMs significant time and money. Companies are often in a rush to get a new part fabricated so it is tempting to shorten – or even skip – the DFM process. However, it is important to keep in mind that changes to the design become exponentially more expensive and time-consuming to implement as the product advances through the life-cycle. A thorough DFM upfront will allow optimizations to be made or issues to be resolved before the changes significantly impact the project timeline or budget.
The design for manufacturing process is especially crucial for heavy fabrications as these projects are typically large or oversized structures that are very heavy. Successful heavy fabrication projects must be designed from the beginning to be manufacturable. The DFM process should occur early in the design phase and often involves engage key parties such as designers, fabricators, raw material suppliers, OEMs, and other stakeholders – with the goal being to tap into the experience of each of these experts.
Several aspects of the design will be considered during the DFM process: part geometry, location and shape of critical surfaces, size, and among others. Additionally, the DFM process should consider material selection, dimensions, thickness, radii, surface finishes, and the selection of critical dimensions as all of these factors impact manufacturability. Additionally, the DFM process often includes computer simulations so the team can fully visualize the final product. Oftentimes, this step yields additional insights and optimizations that would have been lost if the DFM process was not performed – resulting in a more functional and manufacturable product.
Best Practices to Design for Manufacturing
Below are several best practices that should be considered when designing a heavy fabrication for manufacturing.
- Choose the Right Materials: material selection is a key aspect of every product design. Due to the expected load and stress the structures may endure, nearly all heavy fabrications are made of metal, namely, steel, stainless steel, iron, or aluminum. A key best practice is to choose the raw material and coatings that meet the needs of the fabrication project while avoiding “over-engineering” the part. This practice will often save OEMs valuable time and money due to lower material costs and faster machining times. OEMs should work with a trusted partner, like ABS, to determine the right material based on the expected environment and critical properties such as hardness, thermal stability, and resistance to degradation due to corrosion, ozone, abrasion, moisture, and chemicals.
- Selective Tolerance Setting: during the design of complex heavy fabrications, it is imperative that OEMs define the “right” tolerances and work with a fabricator that has expertise in tolerance setting. For example, a recommended best practice for heavy fabrication projects is to only apply tolerances when necessary and to utilize tight tolerances on critical areas of the part. Following these measures helps ensure project success, especially for highly intricate parts. The team at ABS assists customers with tolerance setting and is known for their ability to produce high-quality and complex products including impellers for turbo machinery OEMs world-wide.
Have a heavy fabrication project with challenging tolerances or geometry?
Contact the ABS team to learn more about our proven fabrication experience and state-of-the-art facilities.
- Standardize When Possible: DFM is an element of lean manufacturing as it focuses on getting the design right in order to minimize rework and waste during the production and assembly steps. For example, OEMs and manufacturers should consider part sizes that permit standard sizes of raw material blocks versus custom block sizes. Additionally, when designing heavy fabrications with holes, opt for standard drill and screw sizes for ease of manufacturing and assembly. It is important that OEMs ensure every aspect of the design is absolutely necessary in order to achieve the requisite part functionality – and when possible, opt for designs that increase fabrication and assembly efficiency.
- Map Out Workflow: due to their size and weight, heavy fabrications are not easily transported and often require cranes or other equipment to move the structure throughout the shop. For this reason, processing steps, such as cutting, welding, and painting, often come to the heavy fabrication to minimize transport of the structure. For these reasons, heavy fabrication facilities must be large and spacious enough to accommodate the cranes and other necessary equipment. During the design and production planning phases, it is important to map out the workflow for each step in the fabrication process to ensure proper spacing and ease of transport. When it comes to DFM, the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is true and will save OEMs and manufacturers a lot of headaches.
- Choose the Right Fabricator: not just any manufacturer can create quality heavy fabrications. These projects require specific tools, equipment, and processes as well as personnel with the right skills and expertise to handle such large structures. It is important that OEMs partner with a manufacturer like ABS, that has the proven experience, facilities, and know-how to safely and successfully perform heavy fabrication projects.
ABS’ Heavy Fabrication Capabilities
Established in 1971, ABS Machining has grown to become the recognized global leader in large machining, fabrication, and assembly for OEMs, and is one of the largest and most advanced manufacturing companies in North America. Our fleet of CNC Boring Mills, Vertical Turning Lathes, and Table Type Boring Mills are supported across six state-of-the-art facilities located across North America. Our facilities house over 50 cranes ranging in lift capacity from 5,000 pounds to 160 tons and we are proud to have 80 of the largest machine tools ever manufactured.
ABS Heavy Fabrication is a full-service facility certified to CSA47.1 (AWSD1.1) and ASME Boiler Vessel B31.1 and 31.3 standards. Our welders are certified by CWB/AWS and ASME, and are fully trained on flux-core, gas metal, submerge arc, tig and stick electrode welding techniques. Individual customer requirements are followed and enforced in conjunction with our in-house certified weld inspectors. (CWI Level 2's). Below are some of our fabrication services:
- Robotic Welding
- Flux Core Welding
- Metal Fabrication
- Mig Welding
- Full Penetration Welding
- Sub Arc Welding
- Metal Core Welding
- Laser Cutting
We offer a unique combination of medium to high volume production machining and welding services. Our team is committed to producing an un-paralleled level of quality and throughput, while also focusing on cost. We also offer secondary services such as mechanical assembly, making ABS a true single source solution for the most challenging programs of today and for the future.
Contact us today to see how we can help with your next heavy fabrication project, or give us a call at 1-844-227-6224.
CNC MACHINING · FABRICATION · ASSEMBLY
Precision Machining ↓
ABS offers a unique combination of medium to high volume production machining and welding services.
80 Large Advanced CNC Machine Tools
ABS is one of the largest and most advanced manufacturing companies in North America.
6 Plants with lifting capacity up to 160 Tons
The ABS 5-Axis machining department has been built from the ground up with our customers’ needs in mind.
Centrifugal and Turbo Machined Impellers
Fabrication & Quality Assurance ↓
Heavy Fabrication Mig, Tig, Flux Core, Sub Arc
Mig, Tig, Flux Core, Sub Arc
Inconel 625 Hotwire Tig
Inconel 625 Hotwire Tig
Quality Assurance & Control
Quality Assurance & Control