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Cut Material Waste with Nesting Software

One of the primary uses of dynamic, automatic nesting software is to improve material usage and reduce waste.  Effective nesting software does far more than create nests and generate g-code.  Effective nesting software cuts material costs, improves programming efficiency, improves productivity, and enables an all around better production control.

This blog has periodically focused on material efficiency, since it is one of the most tangible, first line benefits of nesting software.  Today’s post will serve as a launching point to access prior posts on this subject.

From sheet sizes to remnants to case studies, here you have some of the best ideas on material efficiency and scrap reduction with nesting software.
Know that while material efficiency is a great first level benefit – and often the one most manufacturers use to justify nesting software purchases – that truly automatic nesting software can deliver many more second-  and third-level benefits.
For more information about Optimation, visit our website – www.optinest.com. To learn more about how automatic nesting software can transform your operation, contact us at http://www.optinest.com/contact_us.asp

The Difference Between Optimation’s Machine Interface and a Post Processor

Optimation supplies a “machine interface” with the nesting software to drive the individual machines.  Some may think it is a standard “post processor,” which generates the “g-code” for the machine.  In truth, it is much more.


The Machine Interface is a component of the overall knowledge base.   The Machine Interface is used in every step of the process from part programming to final output of the nest.   This technology obsoletes the prior concept of a post processer that is run after all other functions are complete.

The Machine Interface is a model of the machine that provides detailed information needed to perform part programming and nesting functions.   It also has a programming interface to allow for special functions and conditions during the creation of the machine code.   This programming interface is unique to Optimation’s Machine Interface technology and allows detailed intelligent code to be created for each machine as conditions require.

The following sections will provide more detail regarding the functions of the Machine Interface.

CAD Interface and Part Programming

The Machine Interface is first employed to convert CAD data into part programs usable for nesting and single part programs.   This function takes into account all machine capability and limitations.   Special programming is employed to handle complex issues for each part.   Examples for contour cutting are custom lead-ins, intelligent common cutting, cut path optimization, feed rate based upon geometry, part tabbing, marking and etching and many more programming practices.   Examples for tooling based machines like turret punch presses include tool management, optimal preferred tool selection, tabbing tool selection, common punching, repositioning, trap door and material handling, special tools and extrusions, high speed marking and punch marking and many more.

The Machine Interface is programmable.   This allows our application engineers to be creative in solving special needs during the programming process.   This power allows for automatic programming even when special circumstances are present.

The Machine Interface is a critical part of the Optimation’s technology which allows for automatic programming.   Automatic programming eliminates untold hours of mindless button pushing by highly skilled and highly paid people.   With automated programming, some of your most knowledgeable and talented people are set free to perform more important tasks.


The Machine Interface is heavily used during the nesting process.   Without knowledge of details of the machine during nesting, the nest will not be optimal.   Common cutting, tool path optimization, tool setup optimization, material efficiency and many more functions are decided during the nesting operation.   There are too many machine specific details that are considered during nesting to cover them all in this description.   A few examples include clamp placement, tool hit sequence, extrusion tool interference, number of torches, trap doors, tabbing and repositioning; there are many many more.

By using the Machine Interface during nesting, the nest results match the machine function and the nest is optimized for the machine.

Generation of Machine Code

The final step is to create machine code.   The Machine Interface obsoletes the concept of a post processor.   At output the Machine Interface accounts for every function of the machine.   The programmable interface allows Optimation’s application engineers to accommodate both standard and special circumstances.   This ability optimized machine performance and makes possible functions that post processors are incapable of performing.

The result is a system that creates optimal machine performance without compromise.   The intelligence of the Machine Interface eliminates the need to constantly interact with the nest.   This allows for advanced nesting strategies like batch and JIT Nesting without the need for human interaction.   These strategies create far more material efficient nests while responding in real time to hot parts and schedule changes.   Benchmarks have shown incremental savings from 5% to 16% in material efficiency.


The Machine Interface provides more automatic and better optimized programs for your machines.   It also makes possible advanced nesting technology that improves material efficiency.   This power is only offered by Optimation.   More integration, faster operation, optimal machine performance and greater material efficiency are the results of the Machine Interface.


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.

Tabbing for Punch Nesting

Tabbing – the processing of creating a material “bridge” between a part and its parent sheet of material – is important in both contour and punch nesting processes.  However, it takes on a special dimension in the punch process because of the means by which the tabs are created.

Punch tabs are often created as the result of space left between two punch hits.  Imagine two rectangular tool hits adjoining each other would create a continuous punched entity on the side of a fabricated part.  If two tool hits were spaced 0.012” to 0.030” apart, they would create a metal tab holding the part to the sheet.

Because tabs hold the parts in place while the remainder of the sheet is being punched, the turret can proceed without interruption from tip ups or loose parts.     By tabbing parts, the entire sheet can be removed at the end of the nest which avoids stopping the machine as each part is separated.

In some nesting software packages, the programmer needs to manually insert the tabs.  With hundreds of parts and possibly thousands of tabs, this can become a very time-consuming and error prone process.  One missed tab and you have the possibility of a loose part and a tip up (floating scrap).

By automating the tabbing process each part can be automatically tabbed and placed in a part library.   Complex tabbing rules make sure that there are not too many or too few tabs on each part.   These rules can also identify small parts that are dropped down a trap door and avoid all tabs on those parts   This process saves valuable programming time and effort and ensures that the quality of each part is consistent each time it is produced.

Special Circumstances

Sometimes parts require tabs in very specific locations.  There are often parts which have an edge that cannot have any burrs or indications of a remaining tab edge. A common reason not to tab on a particular side of a part is so residual burrs do not end up against a brake press backstop.  This could cock the part at a slight angle, putting the bend in the wrong place.  In these special circumstances, tabs can be assigned in a specific area on the part and locked in during programming.  In this case, a dynamically assigned tab would not be placed based on the shape of the part and its location on the nest.  The pre-assigned tab would override the automatic tabbing logic.

Tabbing of all parts also allow the sheet to be automatically unloaded using an edge grabber of suction cups to remove the sheet as a single piece from the machine.

For more information, contact Optimation.

Contact Optimation

Contact Optimation

Automatic Tool Management for Turret or Punch Fabrication

Nesting for the punch processes takes on a whole new level of sophistication above and beyond the contour processes because of tool management.  Either the human or the software needs to nest with so many more variables in mind.

Here are just a few tool management variables.

  1. Available tools in inventory
  2. Tools in the turret
  3. Tool classification in the turret
  4. Auto-Index stations available in the turret
  5. The tools location in the turret.
  6. The distance the turret must travel to reach the hit destination
  7. Tool wear.
  8. Hit sequence of the tools.
  9. Tabbing and tabbing tools
  10. Tool station reach
  11. Sheet Rigidity
  12. Forming Tools
  13. Special Tool Shapes
  14. Tonnage and Die Clearances
  15. Extrusion Interference with other tool hits

So, given the number of variables to consider, it may be surprising to realize that the process can be automated by intelligent nesting software using advanced strategies.  A time-consuming process typically fraught with stress and the potential for error can be done to your specifications automatically and in seconds.

Letting the Software Manage Tools

Consider the complex issue of making dynamic nests and sending them to the shop floor.   A static nest that is run over and over is common in the industry.   This is because of the difficulty to create a punch nest and account for all of the dynamics.   The problem with these static nests is that they have no knowledge of what we ran before and therefore no knowledge of the state of the current turret setup.    Because the nest is static, each time it is run the tools must be set up to match the static nest requirements; this causes a setup every time the nest is run.

Software that creates dynamic nests not only creates nests that match the quantity requirements from moment to moment, but also allow for tool setup to be shared from nest to nest.   Because each nest is dynamically produced as it is needed, the current setup on the machine is known.   Knowing the current setup allows the nesting software to automatically map the tool stations requirement to the current location of the previous setup.   This means that if a ¼ inch punch is in station 103, the new nest will use the ¼ punch in that station and not require the operator to move the tool.   Most manufactures try to keep there tools in a standard location.   This works well for very common tools or when there are so few tools use that they all fit in the turret.   However, most manufactures have hundreds of tools and tens of tool stations.   When this condition occurs the sequence of how parts are nested, (common tooled parts together), and the sequence of how new tool requirements are entered into the turret can greatly reduce the setup on the shop floor.



Automatic Part Programming

When parts are programmed, the programmer has no knowledge as to when the part will be run relative to all other parts that may be ordered.   This lack of knowledge has led to the concept of a standard turret.   Using a standard turret, new parts are programmed with the same tools and station setup.   This works well in simple environments where only a few tools are needed.   Unfortunately, this simple environment is not common.   In more complex environments, it is important to use a many common tools as possible so that parts can be nested together on the same sheet and setup is minimized.   The method of a standard turret can be expanded to a preferred tool set.   This is a set of tools that are most frequently needed to produce the part mix.   Often these are not the most optimal tool for any one part.   This is because it takes much more time to change a tool that to make additional hits with a more commonly used tool.   A high speed machine can make many hits per minute so a ten minute setup represents a lot of hits.   The optimal tool is often not the optimal production solution.

What does a preferred tool set do?

Using a preferred tool set allows the manufacture to optimize tool inventory, tool changes, turret tool arrangement, tool selection, and setup, by analyzing the current and upcoming nests to determine the optimal tools.    By mapping the tool requirements to best use the tools in the turret.   Dynamic nesting with dynamic tool management can automatically provide optimal solutions that are impossibly hard for an individual programmer.   The machine operator is freed from excessive setup and the duty cycle and throughput of the turret improves.

By leveraging automation using nesting software with a dynamic tool management, the nesting, tooling, and machine time are cut dramatically.

For more information, contact Optimation.

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


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.
Contact Optimation


  • 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.

For more information -


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.

Just in Time Nesting | Concurrent Engineering – in the news!

The process of nesting parts – taking parts from a CAD environment to a CAM environment,  managing orders, optimizing material use, creating nests and part programs and generating machine code – has evolved dramatically in the last 10 years.

The manufacturer interested in the optimal time and material savings now has opportunities he never had before because the technology is so rich in capabilities and manageable in implementation.

Mike Lundy, Optimation President, breaks open the mystery that has clouded the new technology and makes it accessible to operations of all sizes.  These revolutionary tools can take any shop to the level of productivity necessary to compete in this global environment.

Check out the narrative here - JIT Nesting & Concurrent Engineering Article.

To discuss how this can make a difference in your shop, 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 …

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 …

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.


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 …

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 …

How well is your part ordering system working? | Part 3 of 4

How to Evaluate the Nesting Process

Steps to Evaluate the Nesting Process

In the last two blog posts we’ve first laid a foundation for evaluating a process, then applied that foundation to the CAD to CAM process or geometry acquisition and data cleaning and storage steps.  As you know the nesting process takes input from two areas – design and scheduling.  Now we’ll turn to the other side of the equation (parts + orders = nests), and evaluate the order entry and order communication process as it relates to nesting.

Every manufacturer has a capturing and communicating order information approach.  It can be a paper-based system with travelers and making use of the “sneaker-net” to transfer the information.  It can be an Excel spreadsheet with a list of customer orders and associated parts, or it can be a sophisticated MRP/ERP system which is updated in real time.  Regardless of the tools in place, there are fundamental process requirements that can be described, evaluated, and compared to alternatives.

Here we go. Read more …

Best Sheet Metal Nesting Process Questions | CAD to CAM | Part 2 of 4

How to Evaluate the Nesting Process

Steps to Evaluate the Nesting Process

In the last blog post we laid out an architecture by which we can critically evaluate a nesting process.  To review, our evaluation process starts with a clear and detailed description of the nesting process, they we ask “why” about each of those defined steps, finally we look for constructive alternatives. Our goals in sum are identifying challenges, means to improve the process, and overall opportunities for efficiencies.

Today we’ll apply our evaluation architecture or system to the processes we’re most familiar with in nesting – collection of part geometry and creation of the part program.

We start at the beginning of the nesting process for most manufacturers, which is creating, identifying, moving, cleaning, and all around getting the geometry from where it is to a place – literally and figuratively – where it can be manufactured.  Read more …

How to Evaluate Your Sheet Metal Nesting Process | Part 1 of 4

How to Evaluate the Nesting Process

Steps to Evaluate the Nesting Process

Most would agree that sheet metal nesting is process.  There are steps; some sequential, some parallel. The activities flow; sometimes well, sometimes not so well. Decisions are made, information is shared, and actions are taken.  The sum of which is a process.

Even though there is significant value to looking critically at the process, most manufacturers rarely review the it unless there is a mandate to begin a Lean Initiative, a major problem, or an alternative sheet metal software solution is under consideration, which is sometimes indicative of a major problem.   Why? Because the day to day management of the process is all consuming. Read more …