What is Nesting Software?

What is Nesting Software?

What is Nesting Software?

That may be a self-evident question to some, but surprisingly, there are misperceptions about what really is “nesting software,” or, more to the point, what functionality actually defines nesting software.

In this discussion, I’ll outline what basic functions are most commonly found in nesting software, and I’ll parse out what functions you can additionally find in more advanced nesting software.

  1. The Nesting Algorithm (engine)– At the heart of every automated nesting software package is a nesting algorithm (formula) that looks at some quantity of parts then orients them to fit one or more sheets of material.  Interactive nesting seeks to achieve the same goal of putting parts on a sheet of material; however, the user is left to drag and drop or interactively do the thinking that automated software does.  With more automated nesting software, the user can use different nesting strategies such as just in time nesting, kit nesting or batch nesting to gain second and third level benefits (material efficiency, reduced programming time, etc.)

In some conversations, the concept of nesting software is defined very narrowly as this function.  Some manufacturers look to find this – and only this – as the solution they are looking for either out of need or unfamiliarity with nesting software in the broader scheme of things.

  1. Part Entry/Input – In order to create a nest you need parts.  In order to create a dynamic nest, which needs lots of parts from different orders with unique due dates, you need a mechanism to input parts into the nesting algorithm (#1 above).  This is the part input or part entry component of nesting software.  No, it doesn’t do the nesting, but it prepares all of the parts for nesting – or specifically automatic nesting.  It also automates the process of bringing parts in from the CAD software into the nesting software, making quick and error proof work of this step.  Further this component of nesting software can “link up” with the CAD software, which may be holding 3D models making a smooth transition from CAD to CAM.
  1. Order Entry – The other critical element for a nest is orders.  It’s impossible to create a nest even if you have the parts without knowing how many of each and on what material they are to be cut.  In a non-automated environment, the user keys this information into the nesting software (#1) manually.  In an advanced nesting software solution, the orders and any needed information associated with them can be automatically imported to the nesting software.

  1. Output – Once the nest is created in the nesting algorithm, some type of output (NC code) needs to be generated and sent to the CNC machine for cutting or punching.  That’s the output function, and it is usually considered essential to any nesting software no matter how automated.  What, however, does make a more sophisticated nesting software stand out from a conventional post-processor type system is the degree to which the nests can be made sensitive to the functionality of the machine, among other things.  In this case the machine interface can interact with the nesting algorithm (engine) telling it the reach of the head, the distance between clamps, the nature of loading and unloading, so the nest can be more intelligently created.  Naturally, a more intelligent nest can and does mean greater material efficiency, fewer tool changes, shorter tool path, etc.
  1. Knowledge Base – Finally, and ultimately central to an automatic nesting software – and not present in a more interactive software – is a Knowledge Base.  It is, as the name might imply, the knowledge encyclopedia or warehouse of everything that is needed to be known about the cutting conditions to enable an automated process.  Here is where you’ll find material definitions, tool definitions, special cut conditions and more.  Every part of the whole nesting software product relies on the knowledge base for information it needs to function “lights out.”

In Conclusion…

The term “nesting software” is often, and understandably, confused.  Almost like any two homonyms – words that sound alike but have different meanings – the term can have two equally true meanings, which can confuse even the most seasoned engineer and nesting software professional.

But know this – “nesting software” can mean just the nesting algorithm (engine).  In this case it may be in reference to interactive software without the benefit of automatic inputs and nesting strategies.  “Nesting software” also can mean a package that includes automation and integration into the full fabrication process.  (This is often more specifically referred to as “automatic nesting software.”  In this case the user can enjoy scaling their level of functionality to whatever levels of efficiency and productivity they desire.

To see if there is a fit for nesting software in your operation, contact Optimation.

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