Over the last several decades, HVAC duct and fittings fabrication has been revolutionized by many developments in manufacturing software. In this post, we'll discuss the different software and programs that have been used in sheet metal manufacturing for ductwork.
Duct and Fittings Fabrication Software Evolution
Like many industries, sheet metal fabrication industry began as a fully manual field. However, rudimentary software began to come into play with the advent of CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) software. CAM software is a rudimentary labeling software that allowed fabricators to take mechanical data and create early 'smart' labels loaded with information on the part, like the cut, size, and gauge of metal. However, from there, an operator had to manually scribe onto the sheet metal and then physically cut it with a shear or a snip.
The mid to late 80s brought the development of CAD (computer-aided design) software which expanded upon the features of CAM. With CAD software, fabricators can manually draft a floor of a building or an air handling unit system with production data attached to it. Ultimately, a CAD drawing could be downloaded to a machine to both cut the fittings and to drive the straight sheet metal on a coil line.
Next, the development of BIM (building information modeling) software took the drawing and data capabilities of fabricators even further. Inputting drawings into BIM software allows you to gather and link data relating to the design, construction, and operation of a building to produce a comprehensive 3D model. With the advanced data provided by a BIM-based system, contractors are able to cut, punch, and notch right into the duct as its being produced on the line.
Today's BIM-based designs allow for a more seamless fabrication and construction process. With all of the systems together in one drawing, mistakes and collisions between contractors and disciplines can be avoided through the exchange of data. BIM also allows for more automation in duct and fittings fabrication, leading to increased efficiency and profitability.