Structural steel is the framework or “skeleton” of a multi-story structure that is constructed with various elements including beams, columns, channels, angles, and plates. They are either welded together or connected with bolts to provide the framework to attach and secure the walls and floors of the building. These various elements are produced by steel fabricators in conformance with the designs typically drafted today with 3D CAD modeling as supplied by the building erector.
Traditionally, fabrication of the structural steel elements includes cutting and drilling using “metal against metal” techniques to create the final specified shapes and lengths of the components. The metal against metal technique utilizes the metal-toothed bandsaw to cut through a steel cross section and beam drill to cut holes or slots. Computer numerical control (CNC) technology provides increased accuracy and automation to these processes.
The plasma cutting technique emerged from plasma welding technology, offering significant advantages over metal against metal cutting. It performs clean, accurate cuts without the by-product of metal chips. It also has the ability to cut through greater metal thicknesses than laser cutting technology. Today’s CNC technology allows for flexible, “on demand” cutting of diverse shapes using 3D systems with programmable industrial robots. Increased cutting accuracy and decreased cutting time is optimized by moving the robot plasma cutting head around the element being cut.
The advances in 3D plasma cutting technology replace the need for bandsaws, beam drill lines, and other older methods with a single unified, automated system for the fabrication of most structural steel components. The higher speeds, increased accuracy, and lower cost makes 3D plasma cutting today’s technology of choice.