Laser Technology
Wednesday | 14 September, 2016 | 11:39 am

Puzzle pieces

By Gretchen Salois

Above: SigmaNest allows users to work within its parameters and to customize when cutting, says United Performance Metals’ Ryan Getz.

Laying out parts isn’t always cut and dried

September 2016 - Measure twice and cut once is a wise proverb. Having software to do the measuring and layout for you eliminates the errors that come when second guessing yourself.

The purchase of a Mazak 4000 Watt Mark II laser fit with United Performance Metals’ need to meet tight tolerances and quality requirements of aerospace clients. In order to use the laser machinery to its fullest potential, United Performance Metals invested in SigmaNest software.

“We were looking for software that was easy to use, equipped with hot key navigation and had the ability to work into our existing workspace,” says Ryan Getz, laser cell leader at United Performance Metals. “We decided SigmaNest had both the reputation as well as the easy of accessibility we wanted.”

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Operators decide which machines can be used, what parts are ready for manu-facturing and which jobs await shipment.

The SigmaNest package allows United Performance Metals to track parts running through the shop as well as maintain a real-time record on revisions and certifications. “Our customers want precise accuracy and we’re able to provide that by pulling up progress reports in SigmaNest to answer any questions,” Getz says.

United Performance Metals, Hamilton, Ohio, processes and distributes nickel, cobalt and stainless steel parts. Two shifts man the laser cutter 24/7 for customers worldwide. Its laser cell earned approval from Pratt & Whitney as a qualified source to perform laser beam metal removal in accordance with PWA 110-1 & 2 as well as other certifications. 

Necessary nesting

Nesting parts reduces scrap rates in premium-priced high-performance alloys. “SigmaNest [selects] the optimal sheet starting size, the sequencing of parts and the most parts possible from a single sheet with minimal scrap,” Getz says. “Nesting is a little like putting together a puzzle where you arrange different parts of common thickness on the same sheet.”

SigmaNest’s TruNest feature allows laser machine operators to find specific ways to rotate parts onto a sheet of material. Inputting part designs is easy as the software takes basic .DSX and .DWG files that Getz either imports from customers directly or draws from scratch. “I can draw in SigmaNest and cut that way as well. SigmaNest does the job of verifying that tolerances and dimensions are correct.”

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SigmaNest helps operators keep current production jobs on schedule and to plan ahead for unforeseen delays.

Parts cut on the laser come out clean, thereby requiring minimal, if any, secondary processing. United Performance Metals does offer finishing options to laser part customers by incorporating its Timesaver high-production deburring machine. “We have machines for deburring and cleanup, but using SigmaNest has minimized back spatter and burred edges because the software cuts each part precisely,” Getz adds. 

SigmaNest’s cost estimator enables users to provide quotes to customers while factoring in volume requested and complexity/time to determine cost per part. “There are modifiers,” says SigmaTek CEO Ben TerreBlanche. How does the price change if the order is for 1,000 or 50? SigmaNest helps simplify in a manufacturing environment where numerous jobs run simultaneously. 

“You may have orders from the day before in the process of being scheduled but the plans haven’t arrived yet,” TerreBlanche says. “Meanwhile you have completed parts just waiting to be loaded up and shipped out. SigmaNest helps the user determine what machines can be used [and helps to adjust to] other unforeseen factors—do I have a sick welder out for a few days? How will that affect the date I can promise a customer today?”

Experience speaks

Getz finds using SigmaNest is even more effective in experienced hands. With so many features capable of automated processes, Getz likes that setups can be altered per user preference. “Our operators are experienced,” he says. “They know that cutting at a specific angle will reduce back spatter and burr. SigmaNest allows us to work within its parameters or to customize our own. That makes all the difference.”

SigmaNest sets up part configurations on sheet in a number of ways, allowing users to adjust which parts are cut first or later. “Our operators can automate or handpick parts to cut individually—one at a time if preferred, which provides great flexibility,” Getz says. “If there are 100 parts on a sheet but our customer needs one part cut sooner than the others, we can go in and post that one piece and cut it out.” 

Handpicking parts is a useful training tool, says Getz. “We can train by teaching our operators how to use the software to their advantage while tapping into their years of experience,” he adds. “There are videos of each nest run and users can go back and see why one sheet was approached one way versus another.”

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Users can check order status and pinpoint areas where bottlenecks may develop, narrowing down the source of a potential problem.

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The process

SigmaNest identifies problems and helps pinpoint the underlying reason for each difficulty. “If one machine is very busy, it may be the weight or number of parts is low—what is the issue? Feed rate? Other errors?” asks SigmaTek’s Terreblanche. “You might find your machine is only in first gear and is undergoing unnecessary downtime—here you can find the root cause of the issue, whether a worn bearing or a loose gear.”

United Performance Metals-produced parts are consumed in everything from aircraft, machine tools and stampings. “SigmaNest has allowed us to get every part of our growing business on the same page,” Getz says. “As our material offerings expand and we move into products like bar, we want to ensure our changing environment is easy.

“Our fleet keeps growing and that means moving from paper to paperless streamlining of processes and records,” he continues. “SigmaNest is working with us directly through each step of the process.”

United Performance Metals’ FirstCut processing services include shearing, plasma cutting, cut-to-length, leveling, slitting, edging, water jet cutting and sawing in addition to its laser-cutting capabilities. Moving from manual processing to a digital process isn’t especially complicated using SigmaNest.

“It involves three steps,” says TerreBlanche. “The first step is installing SigmaNest and making sure it and the post processor are configured. Then you can bring in a drawing from Solidworks, a .DSX file or a 3-D model and input them into SigmaNest. With the cutter path plan and tool process input, you’re able to get started on manufacturing parts.”

SigmaNest makes integrating machinery approachable as it contains 300 brands of machines in its registry. “We have multiple models of machines and if for some reason we don’t have it on file, our machine technology group connects with you and makes sure the machine is added and parts come out at the correct quality,” Terreblanche says. 

SigmaTek’s latest offering, SigmaMRP, was developed to pick up where SigmaNest leaves off. SigmaMRP covers all operations within a fabrication environment from profile cutting to secondary operations such as forming, machining, welding and finishing.

“Our post processor is an open architecture. Once our tech team obtains the needed information, they are able to dial it in,” Terreblanche says. “We’re able to not only link up our laser, but also our [other machines] without issue,” Getz says. MM

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