Nesting Software Reduces Manufacturer’s Programming Time

HC Coils Ltd.’s CAM system did not have automatic nesting capability. Jetcam’s Expert Premium CAD/CAM software with free-form nesting reduced programming time by 85 percent. 

Shop employees’ time is valuable, so products that free them from unnecessary or time-consuming tasks would seem to be a good investment. At HC Coils Ltd. of Grosport, U.K., that investment was in the form of a new CAD/CAM system that reduced programming time by 85 percent, creating enough savings to pay for itself in just a few months.

HC Coils used to manufacture its heat-exchange products using two punch presses and a simple CAM system. However, it became apparent around 2010 that the software was too simple. According to Jon Yeomanson, drawing office manager, the interface was out of date. “It was very poor and still appeared to be DOS-based, even in 2010,” he says. Even more concerning was the software’s lack of automatic nesting capability. “I had to employ someone all day literally to play Tetris, to lay up nests, which is a mundane and boring job for a relatively highly paid member of staff,” he says.

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The company was also unsatisfied with the support it was receiving from the developer. Mr. Yeomason says that questions were often not answered, and the software was never updated, despite the fact that his company paid for maintenance.

At first, new software was not on the company’s radar. Only after it started looking at new punching machines did it make this consideration. One punching machine vendor provided a nesting software demo that impressed Mr. Yeomason, however, the company ultimately decided to delay purchasing the new equipment, and the software was not compatible with other machines.

While this solution reached a dead end, the experience exposed HC Coils to nesting software possibilities. The company decided to research alternative nesting systems, ultimately deciding on Expert Premium CAD/CAM software with free-form nesting from Jetcam International (Monaco). It also purchased Jetcam Orders Controller (JOC) Lite for easy, remote part ordering. Installation and training were arranged shortly afterward, taking just two days for both of the company’s punch presses. According to Mr. Yeomason, his staff learned quickly thanks to the training that Jetcam provided. “It was very easy to pick up how to use the system,” he says.

The next step for HC Coils was to import its components into the Jetcam software. Using Jetcam’s Single Component Automatic Processing (SCAP), the company placed original DXF files for several thousand components into a folder, which SCAP then processed, creating component files and placing tooling automatically so that all parts were ready for nesting on both machines. Mr. Yeomason says that SCAP does a better job at tooling parts than an operator. “We even accidentally discovered a better way of punching our fan plates,” he notes.

Jetcam’s Tool Teach mode was an added benefit, enabling the software to learn complex tool placements. HC Coils uses it on form tools and credits it with simplifying the process. Every job has at least two of the form-tool plates, which are automatically tooled with Tool Teach, Mr. Yeomason says.

Once parts have been created, the company uses JOC Lite to structure assemblies and create order lists. Assembly structures can be created by dragging and dropping components and specifying quantity and revision number where relevant. Worksheets can be created in the orders screen, and components or complete assemblies can be dragged onto the worksheet and sent to Jetcam for automatic nesting. CSV files of components can also be imported to populate order lists.

Since implementing Jetcam Expert Premium and JOC Lite, the company says that programming time has been reduced by 85 percent. “We can now get a full day of production programmed in under an hour,” Mr. Yeomason says. He adds that, with the savings in programming time, the system paid for itself in just a few months.

Remnant sheet management and common punching have provided more advantages. Remnant sheet management enables the company to create remnants during nesting, which can be re-selected for orders to reduce material waste. Common punching further decreases waste by using a single cut to separate parts rather than leaving a skeleton between them. It also reduces the time needed to run nests.

In 2012, the company continued its plan to replace its punch presses by purchasing an Amada EM 2510 with a sheet loader. Jetcam software could still be used on the new machine, the company only had to purchase a replacement postprocessor, which was installed in a day. It then used SCAP to retool its components, minimizing the downtime of the transition.

HC Coils also subscribed to an annual maintenance service, and Mr. Yeomason says the company has greatly benefitted from Jetcam’s technical support and new features gained through software updates, such as a new search facility, which he says “saved a fantastic amount of time for repeat orders.”

Mr. Yeomason notes that Jetcam CAD/CAM and JOC Lite have given HC Coils extra capacity, even as the company’s turnover and output rise. “We simply would not be able to manufacture the amount of products we’re making now with the previous system,” he says.

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