The importance of BIM for sheet metal fabrication

4 mins read

BIM is an acronym for Building Information Modeling and is now an essential tool in sheet metal fabrication. Simply put, BIM is making a digital copy of something, in this case - sheet metal - real using a 3D picture. The model helps fabricators keep an eye on the sheet metal from when it's first planned, built, used, and even taken care of.

The model, however, doesn't stay the same as when it was created. It gets updated as the material gets built and used over time.

The BIM process is based on a 3D model, but it's not just about the shapes and patterns we see. The model can also include some money details, how to care for the staff, who fabricates the sheets, and what materials they use, among other things. It can also include where things go, how they fit together, the changes made, and much more.

In this post, we delve more into the benefits of BIM when it comes to sheet model fabrication.

The effects of BIM on sheet metal fabrication

The metal sheet fabrication industry market size was valued at $262.2 billion in 2019. Amazingly, the market size is expected to expand at a rate of 5.0% in the coming years up to 2025. During this time, BIM has been making significant changes in the industry.

Metal sheet fabrication includes many professionals like architects, engineers, and designers. BIM has affected their collaboration, so these professionals can collaborate easily. They work on the same digital platform, thus enabling them to collaborate easily.

The process has also affected the final product of metal sheets in that the product is near perfect. This is because the BIM 3D model accurately presents the design intent of the metal sheet. Therefore, professionals can visualize the end product and prevent many misunderstandings that would ruin it.

BIM has also affected the amount of waste materials after the product is finalized. The process enables precise material estimation, allowing fabricators to only use what is needed to fabricate sheet metal.

Regarding scheduling, the BIM process has enabled fabricators to properly schedule different fabrication tasks. It enables them to develop a proper timeline for metal sheet fabrication.

The importance of BIM in sheet metal fabrication

Working with BIM in the sheet metal fabrication industry has great advantages, which is why BIM is widely used. BIM offers numerous benefits in sheet metal fabrication.

  • Improved communication - a lack of efficient communication can result in subpar products or services in any product. This is the same for sheet metal fabrication. BIM enables contractors, engineers, and subcontractors to have streamlined communication. In the end, it saves time and reduces misunderstandings.
  • Early detection of errors - as we mentioned earlier, BIM allows the fabricators to visualize the sheet metal end product. BIM allows personnel to detect errors as they continue working on the product.
  • Saves time and money - without BIM, there would be back-and-forth data sharing that would add to the time spent in communication. This eventually wastes a lot of time. On the other hand, without accurate modeling of the end product, there would be a lot of wasted materials at the end, which would, in turn, affect how much money is spent on the materials.
  • Fewer surprises - with BIM, fabricators know exactly what and how much is needed. They make an accurate estimation of materials. This, in turn, minimizes the surprises they may get during the fabrication process.

Challenges and limitations in BIM adoption

The Building Information Modeling (BIM) process offers so many benefits. However, its adoption also comes with many challenges and limitations:

High initial investment

Implementing BIM for sheet metal fabrication requires investing in software, proper training, and enough hardware. It can be very costly, especially for start-up organizations.

Learning curve

BIM tools have a steep learning curve. They require more time and effort for the fabrication teams to become proficient. Without a doubt, the learning process potentially affects productivity, especially during the transition phase.

Resistance to change

Many employees in the metal sheet fabrication process are accustomed to the usual traditional methods. For this reason, they may find it difficult to adopt BIM due to its unfamiliarity or concerns about the security of their jobs.

Compatibility issues

BIM software compatibility mishaps may arise when different personnel use different software platforms. These compatibility issues eventually lead to difficulties in sharing and collaborating on sheet metal models.

Difficulty in data management

BIM generates significant amounts of data. Therefore, effectively managing and organizing the data becomes complex and overwhelming for many employees.

Privacy and security  

Storing anything in digital formats could expose them to cyber threats, which is the same as BIM. To ensure the privacy and security of the models, high-security measures need to be implemented.

Limited expertise

Finding experienced BIM professionals to handle the whole process can be difficult. This is due to a high shortage of skilled personnel in the BIM field.

The Future of BIM in sheet metal fabrication

So what should we expect from BIM in the near and distant future? First, Building Information Modeling will become the dominant force in the sheet metal fabrication process from the start to the finish. Expect the process to take over the normal role of contract documents in projects. For this reason, it will streamline the workflow and reduce mistakes and end-product waste, which will benefit everyone involved in fabrication.

Still, in the future, instead of each fabricator making their own sheet metal model, different trades will eventually contribute to a central and connected BIM that will be stored in the cloud. This will, in turn, offer a detailed information hub and a well-coordinated workspace for the entire sheet metal fabrication project.

In addition to all these, fabricators will also transition to a better model-focused, efficient production environment. In such an environment, the data derived directly from the BIM process will guide fabrication machines, including robots. This will also eliminate the need for paper drawings and manual adjustments in sheet metal fabrication. Future fabrication sites will use BIM to address the issue of lost building parts and costly adjustments. This will help to ensure more accurate and efficient sheet metal fabrication.

Save more in your sheet metal fabrication process

BIM has proven to be so beneficial when it comes to construction processes. It saves the whole process time and money and eventually offers a better end product. However, with all these benefits, BIM's adoption in the sheet fabrication industry has its limitations, including a steep learning curve and a shortage of BIM experts.

However, BIM has a bright future, and as mentioned, it will be a dominant force in the fabrication process. So, it's a good time to incorporate it into your construction and sheet metal processing industry needs.