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Optimizing Bends

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Saving steps, saving time adds up to a profitable press brake operation

      Above: SigmaBEND allows operators to to use a single-station setup for multiple parts runs

August, 2023- Saving steps, saving time adds up to a profitable press brake operation

SigmaNEST creates a suite of software programs that help manufacturers and metal fabrication shops with a range of complex tasks from quoting and nesting to total shop floor automation. One of its products is SigmaBEND, which uses full 3D simulation to maximize the speed, accuracy and efficiency of press brake operations. Dakota Baird, product manager for tube, bend and import/export at SigmaNEST, recently hosted a webinar to help press brake operators fully understand the benefits of SigmaBEND software. Baird tells Modern Metals that this software is targeted toward all types of customers. “We work with smaller job shops and large OEMs. Anyone who needs to increase production capabilities by moving the bend programming offline instead of having the operator perform the programming at the machine benefits from our software,” he says. “We support a wide span of machines and controllers from smaller manufacturers using Cybelec, Delem or ESA Controls to well-known machinery builders such as Trumpf, Bystronic and Safan.” Baird notes that a shop that buys SigmaBEND does not require any additional SigmaNEST software. However, “we do have complementary workflows if the rest of our product suite is used as well. A customer could be importing flat patterns into SigmaNEST for the profile cutting and then scheduling and tracking the process with our Shop Floor Data Capture products. We want customers to get the full end-to-end benefit.”


One common problem SigmaBEND can solve is factoring the cost of tool changes into a shop’s quoting process. “A lot of shops are able to estimate how much time a part will take to bend, or estimate the number of bends per part, but they are not accurately or consistently accounting for how long it takes to set up the machine or change the settings between parts. We want to help alleviate some of that by reducing the time spent doing those steps,” according to Baird. When operators are working on more complex bend setups that require adding and removing tools from the rail during the bending cycle, that can lead to misplaced tools or stress on the operator, and human error. “If you have more complex parts, it means more setup configurations between programs because you are continually adding and removing tools to the brake. There is more wear and tear on the operator due to handling heavy tooling,” he says. “Fatigue can lead to accidents and injuries.” SigmaBEND allows operators to use a single-station setup for multiple programs. This is key to reducing manual labor associated with removing tools from the press brake. The software will also optimize the sequence between part programs to reduce tool changing. “The software will save and reuse station setups so that multiple parts can utilize the exact same setup on the machine,” Baird explains. The operator can open the machine library, find the correct machine settings and set up preferred tooling for a particular material or thickness.


Typically, when using the 3D simulation component of the software, operators program one part at a time. In this workflow, they may end up with multiple station setups for each part. In this case, SigmaBEND can help optimize station usage by saving the tool setup for one part and using it for another. “A shop should start programming with their most complex part for the job. The software will generate a flat pattern, which includes the correct amount of material needed for the bend with the required tooling, and solving for the best bending sequence that will minimize steps within the program itself, such as: station changing, changing back-gauge spacing and distance, and reducing the number of part flips and turns It is common on more complex parts which have multiple bends for the software to suggest using multiple stations to complete the part. The software simulates the bends virtually, enabling the operator to quickly see and understand the outcome. This saves time, improves accuracy and boosts confidence for the programmer and the press brake operator. After confirming the setup virtually, the operator can save the setup as a managed station in the software.

     The software shows a simulation of the bends and the operator can then see that it works. After testing the setup, the operator can save the setup as a managed station in the software.

“The software can save and reuse those managed station setups so that multiple parts can utilize the exact same setup on the machine in the future,” Baird explains. Many shops already have “standard” setups on their machines. SigmaBEND allows access to these in the programming environment, and apply them more consistently, by material and thickness as needed, and see the benefit of standardization, he says. This combination of saved, standardized station setups coupled with 3-D simulation of the entire process virtually is a major productivity enabler. This benefits customers with many similar parts, those with similar bend radii or similar features, says Baird. It is also helpful for operations with preferred tooling preferences because they tend to use the same tools over and over again. “Traditionally, press brake operators have programmed parts individually,” says Baird, “This often leads to using the exact same tooling with minimally different station setups because it’s going to try to find the segments in your library that match the bend lengths as close as possible for each individual part. That adds redundant, wasteful activity at the machine, swapping out tooling for no tangible benefit.”

     SigmaBEND users can optimize the sequence of bending parts by using the automated programming.

SigmaBEND, because it can look at the parts in groups, similar to an experienced operator who looks at the bigger picture, “can recognize that all those parts could be performed on just one station setup.” This can boost machine throughput, machine profitability and shop capacity.


During the second half of the webinar, Baird showed how SigmaBEND users can optimize and simplify the sequencing of bending jobs on the press brake to save shop time by automatically programming a group of parts, while finding the most efficient order. For example, a shop may have to finish four bending jobs during a shift , but one of those jobs is urgent and must take priority. The parts that need to be rushed are assigned to the queue first, and the remaining parts are assigned after. “The software will analyze the tooling required for each of these parts, then prioritize the rush job and determine the most efficient order to perform the remaining programs in,” Baird explains. SigmaBEND looks for the fewest number of tool changes required to transition from one part to the next among a group of parts. “In addition, the software will also calculate the setup time for all parts so that the cost reduction is accurately recorded,” he says.

In this way, the total setup time across the group of parts is reduced. Every 10 minutes of time saved could produce 30 extra bends, assuming a modest three bends per minute. “If we can eliminate an hour of setups per shift , that is 180 extra bends in the same time period. That can quickly lead to a lot more throughput,” Baird says. Additionally, it increases operating margins by spreading the cost of the setup across different parts, orders or customers. For a shop that wants to be more productive, or has new, perhaps inexperienced employees who need to get up to speed quickly, SigmaBEND is a good fit. “From the improved productivity, backed up with the 3-D visualization for complete confidence, making the switch is very straightforward,” according to Baird. When a company purchases SigmaBEND, an SigmaNEST engineer commissions the software and provides initial training, and coaching to the operators. This is often accomplished in a couple of days. After that, press brake operations should quickly realize the benefits in productivity and cost savings.

SigmaNEST, 513/674-0005,

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