What Problems Does Nesting Software Address?

Solving Process Issues with Nesting Software

Solving Process Issues with Nesting Software

Many times manufacturers are using an unsatisfactory nesting solution, and they think, “I know there must be a better way.”  And they are off to search for something better – sometimes not certain what that “something better” will do for them.

If you’ve had a similar discussion with yourself or associates, here are a few points to help frame your discussion internally and/or with potential suppliers.

Nesting Software Problems Solved

Nesting software tends to solve a multitude of problems, but they often fall into one or more of a few categories.

  1.  Creation of CNC Code – At the simplest level, nesting software generates NC code to drive a CNC machine – punch, laser, Waterjet, router, plasma.  The NC code communicates the X/Y coordinates for the cutting device to follow and in which order they should be cut.  Almost by definition, nesting software must do this to qualify as nesting software.
  2. Creation of a Nest – Again, almost by definition, nesting software should create a nest or a layout of parts on one or more sheets of material for a CNC machine to cut or punch out.  Where nesting software varies dramatically, however, is the means, method, and degree of sophistication involved in creating that nest.  From static nests to dynamic nests from batch to JIT there is a world of difference among the ways to create that nest.  What you need hinges completely on what you want your nesting software to do. (See the following points.)

Read more …

How Big Shop Nesting Software Can Benefit Small Shops

Big Shop Nesting Software for Small Shops

Big Shop Nesting Software for Small Shops

There was a time – 10, 20 years ago – when only very large manufacturers like Caterpillar or Siemens could afford advanced nesting technology.

Conventional wisdom had it that because these manufacturers were large and had deep pockets only they could benefit from the advantages of automatic part programming and automatic nesting.  Further, the thinking has been that the “big guys” could use this technology to support lean manufacturing, demand-pull, and other revolutionary, cost-cutting initiatives.  Therefore, only they could benefit from tools that afforded less programming time, less material waste, better order cohesion, improved throughput and all of the gains gotten from advanced nesting. Read more …

How to Financially Justify a Nesting Software Purchase

Cost Justifying a Nesting Software Purchase

Cost Justifying a Nesting Software Purchase

Most project managers we meet, who are tasked with investigating a nesting software purchase, inevitably come to the fork in the research road where they need to make a case for the software to the boss.  Those who come equipped to management with an argument for why and how the nesting software will pay for itself in a short period of time, come out ahead for their efforts.

The question then becomes, how does the nesting software pay for itself?  Or you may be asking, really, can the nesting software pay for itself?  The answer to both questions unfolds several ways.

We’ll break the ways to make that case for cost-justification down here. Read more …

CNC Punch Turret Software | Making Formed Features

Punch Nesting Formed Parts

Punch Nesting Formed Parts

If you are running CNC punch presses or turret punch, you may already be intimately aware of the challenges faced when programming formed features.  If not, you may be wondering if creating formed features is a viable option or how it’s done with a CNC punch press.

Either way, today’s discussion is all about cracking open the mystery behind forming features from sheet metal that can only be achieved with CNC punching.  Our discussion will roll out along these lines. We’ll first define what formed features are, then look at the issues encountered in programming them, the problems created when the program isn’t done right, and finally, we’ll wrap this up with the solution you may be looking for to this sticky challenge. 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.

New Nesting Process Cut Delivery from 8 Days to 8 Hours

Cutting Delivery Time with Nesting Process

Cutting Delivery Time with Nesting Process

We recently met a manufacturer, who struggled to get product out in a timely fashion.  If that sounds familiar, read on.  Here is his story.

Before: Order to Delivery in About A Week

This manufacturer of large industrial equipment had an established shear-to-blank, then punch process that went something like this.

An order would come in for 50 of the same part.  The part blanks would be sheared from 10 very large sheets.  This means the shear operator would 1) make two trim cuts per large sheet to square the raw material, 2) measure and cut the first blank, 3) make sure it is square and accurate, 4) repeat four more times per large sheet.  Then he would move and stack the 50 small sheets beside the punch ready for punching the internal holes.  Are you seeing how this could be time consuming and slow delivery times? Read more …

4 Levels of Order Entry & Nesting Software Integration

Increasing Nesting Software Integration Over Time

Increasing Nesting Software Integration Over Time

One of the advantages of automatic nesting software is the ability to integrate with the existing order management or scheduling system (MRP/ERP) creating a seamless upstream and downstream information flow.

One of the concerns some manufacturing engineers have is what does this functionality mean to me if I’m not using an MRP/ERP system.  Is it more than I need? Or can I start with a simpler method and work up to something more sophisticated with full integration and/or JIT?

The Four Automation Levels of MRP/ERP and Automatic Nesting Integration

The good news for all manufacturing engineers is that order entry integration with automatic nesting isn’t an on/off switch.  There are levels of integration that you can dial up or down to suit your needs.  Further, as your operation gains sophistication, you can keep up with it without making software changes.  Automatic nesting software with MRP integration is a scalable tool that can grow with you and your needs.

Read more …

Answers to Your Common Edge Punching Questions

Common Edge Punching

Common Edge Punching for Turret Punches

Automatic nesting with common edge punching is a fairly recent development on the market.  You may already be familiar with automatic common edge cutting for lasers.  This is a similar concept; however, it is applied to CNC punch nesting.

What is Common Edge Punching?

Common edge punching is the punching of two adjacent parts with one tool hit within a nest.  The idea is to save machine time by eliminating the second tool hit and to reduce material scrap by eliminating the skeleton otherwise between the two adjacent parts.

Read more …

How to Compare Nesting Software with a Benchmark

Using a Benchmark to Assess Nesting Software

Comparing Nesting Software with Benchmarks

When researching nesting software, most manufacturers turn to a benchmark as an objective, analytical tool to compare products.  This article is a primer on benchmarks – what are they, how are they best used, and what every manufacturer should know going into a benchmark.

What is a Benchmark?

A benchmark is a “test run” of sheet metal software using your parts, quantities, materials, guidelines.  It is a perfect opportunity to try out nesting software before you buy.

How is a Benchmark Done?

The manufacturer collects a real world, production-ready set of parts, order quantities, due dates, materials, and cutting or punching requirements.  That is, he is assembles everything necessary to simulate the cutting of these parts.  The manufacturer sends this data to the nesting software company  to do a trial run or simulated run of these parts through their software.  The results are returned to the manufacturer for comparison with their software and other nesting software products.

Read more …

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 …

An Easier Way to Get 95% Nesting Material Efficiency

Material Waste - Programming Time - Inventory Expenses

Material Waste - Programming Time - Inventory Expenses

I recently heard about a manufacturer, who had an extraordinary material efficiency.  They consistently got 90-95% material efficiency on every sheet they ran.  Further, this was achieved with exceptionally complicated patterned/grained material.  It was an amazing feat!

First I’ll tell you how they did this and the problems they encountered.  Then I’ll walk through an easier solution.

How did they get the material efficiency?

The first question is, naturally, how did they do it?  They could be doing manual nesting and spending a great deal of time on each nest, but that’s only half the equation, they still need the right part selection to make a highly efficient nest.  They could be running lots and lots of the same or rectangular parts which lend themselves to static nests with high efficiency.  Or they could be making very large sheet-sized parts that have very little waste. 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 …

10 Ways to Cut Sheet Metal Waste

10 Ways to Cut Material Waste with Nesting Software

10 Ways to Cut Material Waste with Nesting Software

Nothing cuts into cash flow or is a profit drain like wasted raw material.  And nothing is more frustrating than seeing huge piles of scrap go out the door.  It is these real, tangible costs that, with some foresight and creative thinking, can be turned into rewards.

Here are a few tips to start you down the road toward material savings.

1. KNOW YOUR MATERIAL USE RATE

It is surprising in this age of technology how many manufacturers don’t know their material use rate. They cannot easily answer the question, “How much of each sheet of material is used for parts?” or “What percentage of your raw material is scrap?” In some cases they need to grab a pencil and paper and do some quick estimates.  And that’s fine if that’s where you are.  At least it is a start. The best place to start when reigning in your material waste is getting a handle on what kind of scrap rate you currently have. When calculating, be sure to look at a large enough production sample to extrapolate use over six months or a year to get a truer picture of reality.  Remember you can’t change what you can’t measure…at least when it comes to material waste. Read more …

How to Avoid a Mistake Choosing a Nesting Software Provider

Choosing the Right Nesting Software Vendor

Choosing the Right Nesting Software Vendor

So, you’re thinking about nesting software – either using it for the first time or possibly changing providers.  Great.  You’ve come to the right place for help.  You may have searched the Internet and found lots of companies that sell nesting software.  But how do you choose?  Who does what?  What’s the difference among these companies?

There is a lot to digest when you explore nesting software.  However, the first thing you need to know is that not all nesting software vendors are alike.  Yes, they all sell nesting software, but they come at it from very different approaches. 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 …

Happy Holidays from Optimation

Happy Holidays from Optimation

Happy Holidays from Optimation

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.  Read more …