Automatic Nesting and Automated Nesting – Smart Shoppers Know the Difference

Automated Nesting v. Automatic Nesting

Automated Nesting v. Automatic Nesting

To the uninitiated manufacturing professional the two terms “automatic” and “automated” as they apply to nesting and nesting software can whiz by undifferentiated in a conversation.  That’s perfectly understandable because our everyday experiences afford us no reason to assume there is much difference between the two terms.

Ah, but it is in that distinction where an important mistake is made when it comes to looking at nesting processes and nesting software.  There is a difference, indeed, a big difference between the two terms as they are applied to the nesting process.  The big difference boils down to the amount of human interaction, human time, human decision making, human-driven errors, and human effort you can expect from each process.

As we know there are many, many steps in the process of creating a nest and CNC code to drive a laser, punch press, router, etc.  Those steps include – but are not limited to – importing and cleaning the geometry, identifying the order quantity and material, laying out the parts based on some formula or set of priorities, and, finally, creating the machine-specific tool path.

Automatic and automated nesting approach these processes from two completely different perspectives.

Let me explain.

Automated Nesting

Automated nesting begins with the manual nesting process and looks to create short cuts to make the manual process easier, faster. Automated nesting looks at each of the discrete steps (listed above) and applies macro-like software tools to speed up the human interaction.  There are still copious amounts of human interaction, but it is – or should be – faster than doing the process manually.

Here’s an example.  Automated nesting will give you the tools to clean geometry (remove redundant lines, connect entities, eliminate irrelevant points) yourself.  You have the graphical tools on the screen to make part changes to enable manufacturing.   Along the same lines, automated nesting gives you the ability to interact with the part to set a grain constraint or identify bend lines post-design, pre-manufacture.

The nesting the parts is at the heart of the nesting process.  Automated nesting will create a nest with the philosophy and tools that the engineer or programmer will come in after the fact and edit the nest.   Automated nesting doesn’t seek to create the optimal nest independently, just a nest sufficient to act as a starting place for editing.  What do we mean by “editing?” You’ll hear of editing terms like “bump” and “drag.” This is the manual process of squeezing, rotating, deleting, adding, re-arranging parts to improve the nest that the automated nesting software created.

As may be coming evident, the automated software acts as a lever to amplify the human strength, which in this case is the time and mental energy spent to create the nest, part programs and tool path (cnc code).  It still takes human involvement, human interaction and opens the possibilities to human-generated errors, but it is faster than creating a nest manually.

Automatic Nesting

Automatic Nesting, in the truest sense of the term, stems from a different philosophy.  Its goal is not to amplify human daily interaction, but to minimize or eliminate it using intelligent, logic and rules-driven software settings pre-set and defined by the human engineers.  Automatic nesting creates an intelligent decision-making foundation based on human intelligence during a one-time set up. Then it acts as the human engineer or programmer would, making decisions as the human would, creating nests as the human would – all without the daily efforts and tedium of human interaction.  The human (engineer) retains total control of the nesting process by creating the automatic environment to his/her liking, then delegates to the software to act on his/her directions.

What does automatic nesting look like?

Imagine bringing in those same unedited, not-ready-for-manufacturing parts as mentioned above into the CAM software.  Automatic nesting software knows the tolerances you prefer for connected entities, redundant lines, etc., because you’ve told it them – once.  Automatic nesting software then looks at each part as it is libraried and cleans the part itself.  Only when and if a part comes through that exceeds your tolerances, does it raise a flag and the human engineer needs to review the part.  Indeed, automatic nesting can be about bringing in lots of unique parts at one time as in a batch.  Simply import the files as you would any other program where there is an import function, but the software – behind the scenes – clears the parts ready-for-manufacture.

Automatic nesting, when it comes to the actual nesting process, is so much more powerful than an automated process.  You’ve told the automatic nesting software your preferences for how you want your nest created. (It’s kind of like asking for “salad dressing on the side” at a restaurant.)  You’ve told it when, where and how you would like common cutting done.  If there are parts that fall between the slats, you’ve told it to look for them and orient them automatically based on your size preferences.  It knows how to create a tool path that avoids loose parts.  It knows how to create optimal nests using your part priorities (due dates or arbitrary settings), your needs for order cohesion, your material efficiency minimums, your trim allotments, your tooling, and on and on.  Then given your “rules” it performs the nest creation process quickly and efficiently.

Automatic nesting is a tool that you program – once – to act like you.  To nest like you would nest.  To create part programs like you would like to do. To meet manufacturing requirements (scrap rate, throughput, programming time) that you are required to meet.  Then you push the “start button.”  And walk away.  No editing, no cleaning, no massaging, no re-running, no rework.  It’s a process that you can trust because you set it up to think and act like you would do…if you wanted to manually do the nesting.

So, in sum, there is a notable difference between automated and automatic nesting.  It’s a little known difference, but one that without understanding can create unexpected results down the road.

To ask about automatic nesting and the difference it can make in your process, contact us.

Meanwhile, let us know what you think.  What nesting process – automated or automatic or something else – are you using ?  How’s it working for you?

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