Category Archives: Nesting Strategies

Nesting strategies for use with automatic, dynamic nesting software to achieve optimal material efficiency, throughput, and productivity.

What is JIT Nesting?

Optimation’s exclusive JIT (Just-in-Time) Nesting gives manufacturers the power to respond to change in one machine cycle.  Whether design revisions, reworked parts, order changes, or the inevitable rush order, change is constant.  Now with JIT Nesting, it doesn’t have to be disruptive.

The principle behind JIT Nesting is to make one nest at a time, just in time for the next machine cycle.  Because Optimation can produce a nest in far less time than it takes to produce the parts, the software can check the open order “bucket” within the MRP system, reconcile any new orders with libraried and programmed parts and the latest revisions; calculate the optimal nest and program the tool path before the operator is ready.

The “chaos” within new, hot parts and orders is absorbed back into the normal order flow and addressed with the next nesting process.

No Routine Programming

Because the nests are automatically created based on current order demand and part designs, there is simply no need for a dedicated programmer to handle routine nesting.  The machine operator can cue the system and generate a new nest when it is needed.

The programmer, otherwise dedicated to this operation, is freed to handle exceptions, manage the process, look for further improvements and coordinate activities among different upstream and downstream operations.

No Tail Off

With batch nesting, the batch inevitably runs out of parts as the orders are depleted and the final nests are naturally less efficient opening the opportunity for needless waste.  With JIT Nesting, the orders are always replenished based on current and updated demand and tail off is reduced or eliminated.

Want to learn more?  Contact Optimation for more information on this advanced nesting strategy.

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.

Contact Optimation


Managing Part Placement in Nesting Software | Video

In the previous post, we introduced our 3-part video series with a review of what is nesting and why nesting can be a significant mathematical challenge.  Here we also laid the foundation for an in depth discussion of how best to achieve material efficiency.

In this video, we go further into the problem of material efficiency by looking at current technologies behind placing parts on a nest and how the quality of a nest is effected by the quantity of the parts available to the nesting engine.

Play Video

Look for the third and final video in our Material Efficiency Series in the next post.

In the meantime, contact us, if Optimation can be of service, contact us.







































How Different Nesting Technologies Address Material Efficiency | Video

The art of arranging parts on a sheet of metal is known as “nesting.”

Many nesting software technologies focus exclusively on the best way to layout parts to minimize material waste.

The reality is that this is a far more complicated – dynamic – problem.  Most manufacturers contend with not only material usage, but machine efficiency, schedules demand, part and order flow, and unplanned demand.

This brief video breaks down the approaches of list-driven nesting and cost-driven nesting to illustrate the impact they have on the overall production and achieving material and machine efficiency and production demands.

View video here.

For the other videos in this series visit our Nesting Software University.

With the right strategies, integration techniques and technology, your nesting software can deliver results far beyond mere material efficiency.

For more information on this and advanced nesting software contact Optimation.


How Different Nesting Technologies Achieve Material Efficiency | Video

Programmers, fabricators are faced with many factors to consider when creating a nest.

  • Schedule Demand
  • Machine Efficiency
  • Unplanned Demand
  • Part & Order Flow
  • Material Efficiency
All of these have a cost impact and must be considered when trying to find the optimal solution.
This compounds an already complex nesting challenge in finding the optimal layout simply to conserve material with thousands upon thousands of part orientation and layout options.  Even in a small nest with only a few parts the problem gets very, very large.
Multiple strategies have attempted this problem over the years with varying success.
This short video (the first in a 3-part series) looks at how different nesting technologies tackle the problem.
Nesting Software to Achieve Material Efficiency

Nesting Software to Achieve Material Efficiency

For more information on advanced nesting strategies and the nesting software that supports them, contact Optimation at 877-228-2100.

Does Your Cut Path Look Like This?

Optimizing Tool Path for CNC Lasers

Optimizing Tool Path for CNC Lasers

Is your machine cycle time satisfactory?  Are you crashing – or risking crashes – from freed parts?  Does your cut path look like a swirling mess?

If any of these questions ring a bell, you may be experiencing loss of throughput or productivity.  It may be simply taking laser too long to cut a sheet and get the work done in the allotted time.

For some shops, their critical need is not to save material, or keep orders together, but to get the product out fast.  Turn around time can be hours for shops to take an order, process it, and have it at the customer’s door.  A crazy cut path can be a real show stoppers.  .

If machine throughput or productivity is important, there is a solution.  Crazy tool paths, head crashes, or loose parts don’t have to be the norm.

We’ll look at a couple tools available with laser nesting software.

Tool Path Optimization – The first place to start when looking for machine cycle time improvement is the tool path.  Does the head or turret proceed in a logical manner from one end of the sheet to the other minimizing travel time or does it look like the picture above?  Each few seconds of extraneous time spent adds up and over a sheet or a run the time can be prohibitive.

A nesting software with tool path optimization looks for the best tool path when cutting from one end to another.  It seeks to minimize rapids (non-cut travel) and find the shortest path from one completed path to the next pierce or edge-start.  It avoids crisscrossing already cut paths to inadvertently release parts causing tip-ups and head crashes.

Collision Avoidance – Does the path avoid crossing over previously cut paths, holes (where the head can drop in and crash), or the edge of the sheet? If so, that’s a problem.  Collision Avoidance logic directs the cut path away from precarious situations that could cause harm to the machine, the material or the operator.  And, not insignificantly, it cuts the tool path and cut time.

Common Edge CuttingCommon edge cutting with overcut is part of a tool path that cuts two part edges with like entities or arcs at the same time with on head pass.  The simultaneous cutting of part edges not only reduces waste, but it cuts down on the machine cycle time by eliminating unnecessary cut paths.

By the way, the overcut is significant because it directs the laser head to cut beyond the part edge on the first side of the part.  Why? Because when the part’s tool path is complete – the head finishes the enclosed path – the head doesn’t meet a previously cut part, risking a tip up or head crash.

For more information about optimizing a tool path contact Optimation.



How Good is Your Nest? | 8 Ways to Measure Quality

8 Ways to See Quality in a Nest

8 Ways to See Quality in a Nest

Manufacturers know there are countless production variables to be considered when fabricating parts on a punch, laser, plasma, waterjet or other fabrication machine.  How those variables factor into a nest is at the heart of an effective nesting strategy.

Consider these points when nesting:


If the programmer does not take into consideration the machine requirements (reach, repositions, tooling stations, kerf allowances, etc.), the production may be stalled or halted to address unforeseen problems. Part quality may suffer. The machine may be damaged.  And certainly production time will be lost. Creating a quality nest means taking into consideration the ability to produce it.  Optimally, this consideration should happen at the time of design in a process called concurrent engineering. Read more …

Nesting Algorithm Differences You Need to Know

5 Generations of Nesting Software

5 Generations of Nesting Software

When researching nesting software, it is very common for project managers to see all nesting software – even dynamic nesting – as the same.  However, the nesting software marketplace reality is very different.

As you might expect with all software, nesting software has evolved tremendously over the last thirty years.  What you need to know is that it has gone through five generations of evolution, and all five generations are still on the market today.  What you need to know is how to identify each generation, what each generation does and doesn’t do for you, and how each would solve your nesting needs.  It is the only way to make an informed, wise purchasing decision.

The generations are distinguished by the approach to nesting – how the algorithm addresses each part, optimizes for efficencies, and ultimately creates the nest.

First Generation - Rectangular Nesting

What is it? Rectangular Nesting “draws” a rectangle around the part at the largest height and width. It treats the part geometry as the rectangle, not the real shape of the part when placing the part on a nest.

Advantages. Rectangular Nesting is satisfactory if and when your parts are primarily rectangular in shape. Read more …

What Makes Dynamic Nesting “Dynamic?”

What Makes Dynamic Nesting "Dynamic?"

What Makes Dynamic Nesting "Dynamic?"

Dynamic Nesting is one of those ubiquitous terms that often has different meanings depending on who you are talking to and what their previous experiences have been. The term “dynamic” can point to three different attributes of the nesting process – 1) the shape and variety of parts, 2) the management of due dates and priorities, and/or 3) the mixing of  orders.

Mixed Part Shapes
Most commonly, dynamic nesting is distinguished from static nesting by the ability to nest many parts of different sizes and shapes.  There may be ten, twenty, or fifty parts on a sheet or nest, but there may be up to an equal number of different parts.  “Dynamic” in this case means the combining of large and small, round, rectangle, obround, and any other shaped part in one sheet of material to achieve an optimum fit.  The user in this scenario is focusing on optimizing material efficiency. For more on mixing parts and how it differs from static nesting, check out this blog post. Read more …

How to Optimize Sheet Metal Sizes and Quantities with Nesting Software

Optimizing Sheet Metal Sizes and Inventory

Optimizing Sheet Metal Sizes and Inventory

Managing sheet inventory is one of the many ongoing challenges for fabricators.  They don’t want to consume their cash flow and floor space with too much inventory.  Likewise, no one wants to impede production by not having what is needed readily available.

Specifically, the first challenge is to have sufficient sheet quantity on hand.  The second challenge is to have the right sizes available.  The right size is defined as sheets sufficient in area to meet the need, but not too large or ill shaped that there is excessive scrap.

Engineers and programmers have struggled with this problem since the dawn of fabrication.  And there isn’t an easy solution to it, unless or until you turn to nesting automation to provide the answers.

The Case of the Shipbuilders

The right-sized sheet problem plays out on a very large scale for builders of ocean-going vessels.  Here’s the challenge they face.  Read more …

Got Capacity? Nesting Software as Capacity Maker

We were talking to an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) recently and discovered they had a double-digit number of CNC punch presses.  Yet they couldn’t keep up with the amount of work that was coming their way.  Some would say, this is a good “problem” to have.  Nonetheless, there was a clear bottleneck in sheet metal.  And that problem needed to be resolved to keep the customers happy by meeting delivery times.

This manufacturer has several options to resolve his capacity issue.  Maybe you can think of a number of them.  We’ll review some options here, and you can decide for yourself, what would be the best solution.

Capacity Solutions for Sheet Metal Production

  1.  Outsourcing – The lifeblood of all job shops is their ability to extend capacity on demand for and manufacturer.  And it is certainly an option here.  The OEM would need to assess the costs, turn around time, and quality of any outside vendor before pursuing this choice.
  2. Adding Equipment – If sheet metal fabrication is the bottleneck, then possibly adding more equipment and more production lines would alleviate the problem.  That is assuming the machine cycle time and not the programming (order and geometry / code inputs and nesting) is the bottleneck, then more equipment would be a possible solution.  The OEM would need to look at floor space, the capital investment budget, and lead time for installation and training before moving on this.  Further, he would need to be certain that the demand is sustained so to justify the investment over time.
  3. Getting More Capacity from Existing Equipment – Another approach, and this may be the first one before any steps are taken, would be to determine if the existing equipment is at full or near capacity.  Is it running at 80-90% of its duty cycle – barring time for maintenance?  Most manufacturers we speak to find that this isn’t the case.  Even if they don’t keep meticulous records, they can tell if the CNC equipment is running 30, 50, or 70 percent of the time.  If this is the case – and most often it is – there is a golden opportunity to improve capacity by improving cycle time.  Look at the turret changes, the delay or wait time for programs, the load/unload time, and/or the downtime for machine breakage as areas for improvement.

  1. Using Automatic Nesting Software to Increase Capacity – One of the best tools to help increase the capacity in general and specifically of existing equipment is through efficient use of automatic nesting software.  It can improve the duty cycle up to 90%, thereby creating one of several outcomes depending on the manufacturer’s needs for improved throughput or cost reduction.  Automatic nesting software can help improve capacity many ways.


  • It can improve actual machine cutting time
    • Implementing Common Punching or Common Edge Cutting, which shortens the cut time – and the material use.
    • Efficient tool path management (a logical, linear path from one sheet edge to another), which again shortens the cut time.
  • It can reduce operator interaction with the setup
    • Intelligent Tool Management with the use of preferred tool sets, which minimizes tool changes and turret movement
  • It can improve load/unload time
    • With intelligent remnant management, minimizing the use of remnants
    • Smart skeleton cut up and disposal, making disposal of the skeleton quick and easy
    • Managed part unload with trap doors and automatic unloaders, also making removal and sorting of finished parts quick and simple.
  • It can eliminate wait time for nest program

What does more capacity mean?

Greater capacity can mean a lot of different things to different manufacturers.  What they do with the extra capability is all dependent upon the economics of their situation.  Here are a few examples.

  • More product can be produced with the existing equipment
  • More can be accomplished with fewer machines and a smaller fabrication footprint freeing floor space for other operations
  • New machine purchases can be put off until the demand is really warrants them
  • Superfluous existing machines can be decommissioned or reserved for capacity peaks only.
  • In the case of shearing before punching, the shearing operation can be minimized or eliminated, freeing up floor space, manpower, and speeding throughput.

In Conclusion …

The choice of how to increase capacity is a decision that will be unique for each manufacturer.  What we have discussed today is that there are a number of solutions – including automatic nesting software – as tools that can add more “floor space” and get more product out the door.  It is the savvy manufacturer that considers his options and chooses wisely.

How about you?

How are your capacity challenges handled?  What solutions have you implemented?  What advice would you give to someone in this situation?  Let us know.

If Optimation can help you explore nesting software as a potential solution, let us know.

4 Ways to Maximize Material Yield on Sheet Metal Remnants

Increasing Yield on Sheet Metal Remnants

Increasing Yield on Sheet Metal Remnants

Sheet metal remnants (a usable piece of material remaining after parts are cut from the sheet, often referred to as “drop”) are the bane of every programmer and shop’s existence.  They are a pain to inventory, difficult to handle because of their odd shape, and a constant reminder that they need to be used or wasted.

This article offers some hope to the beleaguered programmer and operator.  There are ways to avoid having remnants in the first place, and if all else fails there are tools to help quickly dispose of them with little effort.

Here we go.

Read more …

Dynamic Nesting v. Static Nesting | 6 Comparison Points

Static Nesting vs Dynamic Nesting

Static Nesting vs Dynamic Nesting

What’s the difference between dynamic nesting and static nesting?

They are two nesting strategies frequently used in 2D or sheet metal fabrication.  Both strategies speak to the means and method by which the parts are ordered, arranged or laid out and produced on the laser, punch, plasma, router or other fabrication equipment.

Although they serve the same need of nesting, the differences between the two approaches are striking.

Let’s Review.   Read more …

Evaluating the Sheet Metal Nesting Process | Part 4 of 4

How to Evaluate the Nesting Process

Steps to Evaluate the Nesting Process

This post concludes our series on evaluating the nesting process.  We’ve established a foundation for a process review, reviewed the CAD to CAM process, and looked at the order entry side of the equation.  Now we’ll turn to the heart of the nesting process, the actual creation of nests and output of tool paths to the equipment.  This is often the make-or-break element in the process that determines efficiency (material and time), throughput and the overall effectiveness of the sheet metal fabrication process.

Again, we’ll follow our method of first describing the status quo, evaluating it critically, then looking for alternatives.

Creation of the nest and tool path Read more …

Nesting Software | 8 Best Practices to Gain Productivity

Does the nest meet all production requirements?

Does the nest meet all production requirements?

When sheet metal nesting every parameter, machine setting, order sequence, or part layout choice impacts nesting productivity – time & material.

There are countless sheet metal fabrication requirements to be considered when placing parts on a CNC punch, laser, plasma, waterjet or router.  The design, the fabrication requirements, and the order sequence can have a significant impact on the quality of the nest.  How well those requirements are respected when compiling a  nest is at the heart of an effective sheet metal nesting strategy.

Let’s look some of the real world demands that these requirements place on a programmer when nesting, and more significantly, the tools and techiques available improve your numbers today. Read more …

JIT Nesting Software Helps You Respond to Changes in One Machine Cycle

JIT Nesting Software Helps Respond to Change

JIT Nesting Software Helps Respond to Change

We often hear from programmers and engineers  about the hours upon hours they spend librarying parts, creating programs, and optimizing tool paths.  Then they hope nothing changes in the schedule to disrupt their much-labored-over work.  And you know how the story ends.  Something happens – it always does – that throws the schedule into a tailspin, the nests are scrambled, the work starts over, and someone loses their lunch break just to keep the ball rolling.  Meanwhile that equipment is still waiting; waiting impatiently with its metaphorical metronome ticking – loudly.

The solution to this time-and-time-again proven problem is simple.  Just wait until the very last minute – seconds – before the laser, punch or other fabrication equipment has completed the current nest and the operator has unloaded it to create the next nest.  That very next nest would reflect precisely current demand – orders, order quantities, part revisions, and material inventory – and prevent the dreaded last minute scramble to accommodate any and all changes.

It’s possible to do this.  Really.   Allow me to introduce you to “Just-in-Time Nesting.” Read more …

Remnant Nesting

Irregular Sheet Metal Remnant Nesting

Irregular Sheet Metal Remnant Nesting

Nesting on irregular-shaped remnants can make a significant difference on material yield.  And if you are a manufacturer focused on reducing waste and improving yield, here’s a nesting strategy that could prove very helpful.

Manufacturers often have to create large, non-rectangular parts in small quantities.  These parts can and do fill the majority of the area on a metal sheet; however, they still leave a sizeable amount of usable space inside voids and around the exterior.  This usable space, or remnant, isn’t necessarily rectangular, as many remnants are.  The remnant naturally follows the negative contour of the single large part removed from the sheet.

Irregular-Shaped Remnant Nesting Challenges

When a programmer is faced with an odd-shaped, sheet metal remnant he is challenged with a couple problems Read more …

4 Nesting Strategies to Manage Cut Part Production

Optimation Nested Parts

Optimation Nested Parts

A nesting strategy – to be distinguished from nesting software – that is suitable for a job shop may not work for an OEM.  A made-to-order shop may need different nesting strategies than a shop that uses Kanban.  A nesting strategy perfect for a small shop, may be ill-suited for a multi-facility corporation.  Why?  Because each company has different resources and different production objectives, both factor into the choice of a nesting strategy.

Often, the manufacturing engineering team is challenged to determine which strategy – or strategies – is best suited to achieve their production goals.  When choosing a nesting strategy they must consider productivity, material efficiency, order cohesion, and most of all, the labor resources available.

Similarly, the team is challenged by resource constraints.  There are only so many programmers, a limited number of hours in the day, a material budget, storage space allocations, machine speed, etc.

Making the most of the resources to achieve the right goals through nesting with CNC nesting software is a nesting strategy.

What’s the best strategy to use?  Let’s look at several choices…

Read more …

Nesting Software | 4 Best Practices When Kit Nesting

Optimation Assembly Manager Nesting Software

Optimation Assembly Manager Nesting Software

Some manufacturers – maybe you – build products out of component parts.  Those completed products are kits or assemblies or units, depending on the term you use.  Some parts are sheet or plate metal; some are not.  Some parts involve extensive post-fabrication work (bending, forming, painting); some not.  But the one thing all kit parts have in common is that they belong together.  Kits are designed as a unit and need to be programmed together, nested together, cut or punched together, assembled together, and ultimately delivered together, which creates a rather difficult production challenge.

How do you keep the assembly parts together in a cohesive unit, while reducing the programming time, managing the material yield, and not slowing down machine productivity?  There are sheet metal software best practices to help.  Often times one or two of these goals are sacrificed to achieve another goal in what is seen as a zero-sum game.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  There are tools and practices that can help achieve all of these goals in concert and without sacrificing one good for another.  Let’s look at some of the day-to-day challenges kits present and some solutions to the problems. Read more …

Pros & Cons of Single Part CNC Programming

Single Part Programming | Time vs Material

Single Part Programming | Time vs Material

We often hear from manufacturers that they are doing single part programming.  Some do it by design.  Some do it by default.  Either way it is a process that dramatically impacts how your fabrication operation works.  Therefore, it merits a discussion to better understand what it is and how it strongly influences throughput and material efficiency outcomes. Read more …