Monthly Archives: July 2013

Nesting Software and the Sheet Loader

Some brands of lasers have for a while now offered the option of automatic sheet loading.  This amazing labor-saving device relives the machine operator of one operation and enables him to tend to other, more nuanced activities.

Sheet loaders typically come in one of two forms.  A single-sheet loader will draw from a stack of homogenous material, one sheet after another continuously.  This is ideal for a manufacturer needing to produce a volume of parts from the same material (size and chemistry).  The other form is a multi-shelf unit, where a variety of material compositions and sizes can be inventoried.  Conversely, this is ideal for a manufacturer needing to draw on different materials for shorter runs.

Nesting Software and the Sheet Loader

At first glance it may not seem that nesting software would have any relationship with the sheet loaders.  A natural expectation would be for the nesting software to pick up the process with the material already selected and on the bed for cutting.

In reality, intelligent nesting software can control the sheet loader, generating a program to automatically engage the loader to bring down a sheet for cutting, or as in the case of a multi-shelf unit select the right material from the correct shelf based on the demands of the next nest program.

The brilliant advantage here is the seamless automation between machine controls and nesting software creating an environment with little or no downtime for sheet loading.  Further, the operator is freed from making decisions about loading and interacting with the loader.

Automation in Action

The automation built into this machine-software relationship affords the machine operator more time and less chaos.  Further, it drives machine uptime with less time needed for material uploading and changeovers.  Finally, the opportunity for error – using the wrong material or size – as a function of operator interaction is eliminated.

With a synergistic relationship there can as is a win-win situation for both the operation and the operation.

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Nesting Software and Offloading

It may seem like a simple operation – automatically taking cut parts off of a machine bed.  Surprisingly, it’s not so easy.

There are several mechanized enhancements to a laser or turret that automate the removal and sorting of completed parts.  Using these tools, which aid the operator, merit some forethought and proactive programming to maximize their effectiveness.  And that’s where intelligent nesting software comes in.

Suction Cups

Suction cups can be used to lift and remove completed parts from the bed.  Further, nesting software can be used to program the suction cups to intelligently select the parts and remove them.  That sounds easy enough until you realize all of the variables the software needs to take into account to make smooth work and not a disaster out of this task.  Here are a few points to consider.

 Selection and Lifting

  • Each part must be lifted by a sufficient number of suction cups to insure that the part is not dropped.   These cups must be distributed over a large percentage of the part or it will peel of and break the suction.   The first task of the nesting software is to determine the placement and number of suction cups needed to lift the part safely.  During nesting, parts are often rotated to different angles. Suction cup selection must accommodate the rotation of parts during nesting cup placement.
  • Another important consideration is controlling the point where the part is released from the raw material.   Once the part is released, it no longer can be positioned so that the unload device can reach it.   Because of this fact, the part must be released at a position that allows the unload device to position the suction cups over the part.   If the part is rotated, the release point must change to accommodate the new orientation.
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  • Once the software has accomplished a safe lift, it must have a location to place the part in the unload area.   There are a number of strategies for unloading the parts that must be accommodated by the software.   The unload area often is a limited space designed to hold only a limited number of parts.   During nesting, the limitation of the unload area must be considered in order to insure that there is a place to unload a part placed on the nest.   The nesting software must manage the unload area and limit the number of parts that can be nested in this unload strategy.   One way to increase the unload area is to stack identical parts.
  • Another unload strategy is to clear the unload area each machine cycle.   This strategy removes the unload location restriction of the number of parts that can be nested but typically does not work in a lights out operation where there is no operator to unload the parts as the machine is running.
  • Another strategy is to unload the parts onto a conveyor that removes the parts from the area and transports them to the next operation.   The advantage of this strategy is that it removes the limitation of a fixed unload area and is compatible with light out operation.

There’s a lot to consider and requires a dynamic nesting software to meet the challenge.  Intelligent nesting software can overcome these obstacles of logic and orchestrate the equipment to provide highly efficient autonomous operations.

Trap Doors

Trap doors can be used to let gravity do the downloading of completed parts.  It’s a great idea to make the table work for the operator.  However, this, too, needs some forethought and programming, which the nesting software can accomplish to make the tool work optimally.

Like suction cup offloading, there may be a limit to the number of parts that can be offloaded down the trap door.   The nesting software must accommodate these physical limits during nesting.

  • Trap door parts also have a final release location that is causes the part to be positioned over the trap door.   This release location must be managed with as parts are rotated to improve nest efficiency.

Again, the machine operation is only as good as the nesting software driving it.  With the right nesting software, the two together can be a time, energy, and error saving team.

There are other offloading mechanisms available for the different cutting processes, but as you see here with these two examples, the nesting software can and should play a critical role in optimizing their effectiveness.

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