In today’s manufacturing facilities when investment is being made we usually look for he ability to meet and exceed the immediate software requirements along with the magic Return on Investment (ROI). The sheet metal CAD CAM Arena has always had a large focus in this area, but what really generates the ROI? Is it all about having a good nest engine that will squeeze the extra part on the sheet? Or maybe software that can sequence and process the parts quicker?
- Is the software flexible enough to support multiple brands, models and styles of machines?
- How do you get CAD files ready for programming? Do you need to use multiple design packages some of which might need OLE (Plugins) to generate a format you can work with?
- Do you have the capability/requirement to import 2D and 3D files?
- Do you have to spend considerable time cleaning CAD Files prior to programming?
- Would the new CAD-CAM package support its own Offline Bending module or is it a re-branded product?
- Are my press brakes supported or even capable of having support due to their age?
- How automated and flexible is tooling? It’s great having automation but if you want/need to do something a little different (this is manufacturing after all) how easy is it to make a change to a part of a global change to all part settings?
- What types of nesting options are available (Part, Layout, Manual, Dynamic)? We all see the obligatory images of a sheet packed with a gazillion parts but does that suit what you are doing?
- How to schedule or process the work orders, do you spend more time typing in part numbers and quantities to make?
- What is the process to start and drive production, lots of verbal communication? Big paper trail?
- How do you know production is complete? How long did it take? Were there any delays? We’re extra costs involved?
All in all, it can be a lot to consider!
“So, having established some key question points, what should we look out for?”
- Integrated solutions will generally provide a much stronger design and import for your CAD requirements, make sure the software can support the formats you receive and that the CAD engines either 2D,3D or both are completely owned by the software provider, when modules look different and this is applicable to the typical range of software (like CAD, Punch, Laser, Bend, Nesting…) there is usually a 3rd party provider involved in the process behind the scenes which requires a higher level of integration and support and can cause long delays getting the newer CAD versions supported.
- Offline bending can bring a wealth of opportunities to your business and can usually be used in different ways. For example, Design to Manufacture where you can import a part and validate that it can be manufactured before instigating programming time, production time and material costs from here you can then produce a setting report for the brake operator and depending on the age and model of the press brake you can also generate NC code as well. Always evaluate claims of productivity improvements! I have worked in the industry for many years and depending on what you are doing and producing your efficiency can drastically vary from a lean small-batch low-frequency operation which can be around 30% Efficient to a high batch where the efficiency can be 70+%
- Checking the ease and ability for creating tooling both for standard and non-standard tools and the associated special tool information along with processing rules for these tools may seem like a mood point but the more the software supports the less you need to do on a day by day basis. Another key area to look at does the software have any special optimisations for Punch, like typical TATO (Turret and Tool Optimisation), which can bring further benefits later down the line.
- Nesting is another area where ROI could be misinterpreted detailed before and after nest, comparison using the same rules for sheet trim and gaps will show a projection of potential savings, there are many statements in the industry where you see numbers like 5% – 10+% utilisation savings being made but these are generic numbers and may not be applicable to you or in another context, for example, what parts are you running next month….? Not sure…? So how can you be given % number of which you will save?
- What is the flexibility of scheduling nests to the shop floor, does the software provide features or functionality? Can the software integrate with your business ERP/MRP/MES system if you have one?
One Final Thing…
- A few CAD CAM Software’s can provide similar features and functionality, but it’s always worth making a note on how long or in the old traditional “Click Count” it takes to use these features. You may find some software that is cheaper in the market, which has similar features but will take significantly longer to use.
- The Metamation Solution is simple, firstly our core modules are designed and developed by us which gives our customers several unique benefits with the biggest ones being connectivity where we can provide software solutions to suit your needs as all our software is completely modulated adding a different technology like 3D CAD or Bending would not require massive retraining as you are working in the same environment.
- Our CAD for Importing and Drawing is very powerful, we support multiple file types for importing and are Solidworks, SolidEDGE and Autodesk Partners.
- Our bending is fully integrated into our CAD engine, so you can quickly bring in parts and validate them before flattening them out ready for tooling and nesting.
- Our tooling modules for Punch and other Profile cutting machines are extensive, detailed and very easy to use.
- We provide a whole range of nesting options, from a single part, sheet layout, manual nest and automatic nesting options to help deliver a configurable solution.
- If you are looking for a bigger system with multiple machines then we also have that solution as well with our Enterprise module, which will drive the generation of automation and visualisation.
- Metamation is a world leader in innovative sheet metal CAD CAM software for most Profile Cutting and Bending Machines. The software is powered through the continued development of our own core software modules (Meta*, Enterprise and Flux) giving our customers a completely seamless, standard and easy to use the environment to work in that can grow and adapt as business needs change, whilst ensuring they have up to date innovative software solutions for sheet metal manufacturing.