Automation is the word in manufacturing these days. And shop floor equipment manufacturers are providing the industry with some exciting new capabilities. So, what does machine tool manufacturer Cincinnati Inc. (CI) have to offer along these lines? To get the answer to that question and others, I caught up with Mark Watson, CI’s software product manager.
Farrell: Mark, can you share your experience within the industry and your responsibilities at CI?
Watson: I’ve been with the company for 38 years. Much of that time was spent on the road visiting customers throughout the United States and Canada. During that time, I was exposed to many fabrication challenges and many unique solutions to problems related to metal fabrication. Moving into the software side of our business provided me the opportunity to offer products that simulate and automate many of those unique solutions.
Let’s get right to it. What is new from CI in terms of automation?
CI is delivering an ever-widening variety of automation offerings across nearly all areas of the shop floor. This includes recent equipment innovations such as the Roboform bending cell and a cobot welding workstation. Focusing back on software, our Pro Suite line offers software automation.
OK, what can you tell us about Pro Suite?
Pro Suite includes BendSim Pro for press brake operations and Nesting Pro for laser processing. The software allows you to make highly accurate simulations offline, cut and bend more precisely, and manage workflows more efficiently. In addition, you can “walk away” during software automation routines. This includes batch processing solid models automatically into viable press brake programs or triggering automatic nesting activity with text output from an ERP system.
What are the types of files Pro Suite can accept?
In addition to native SolidWorks files, Pro Suite supports flat 2-D file formats such as DXF and DWG and 3-D neutral file formats such as SLDPRT, STEP, SAT, IGS and X_T.
What can you tell us about BendSim Pro?
BendSim Pro follows a multi-step process that is performed manually or automatically. The first step is tooling. Here, the program automatically selects a punch and die pair. Next, the software automatically identifies the optimal bend sequence for the punch and die geometry. Finally, stations are established with your available tool segments. While some parts need only one station, other parts requiring two or more stations are automatically configured.
Automatic finger placement occurs here, as well.
Naturally, as a last step, press brake programs are generated and setup sheets are created. If you are interested in batch processing, this four-step process can be repeated automatically beginning with a folder of solid models and finishing with a folder of completed press brake programs.
Nesting Pro is obviously a nesting solution. What are its advantages over commercial nesting software or legacy laser programming?
Nesting Pro has many advantages. For starters, parts are sorted automatically and nested on the appropriate available sheets. This means that parts can be nested without regard for material type, thickness and cutting process. A built-in unfolder logic allows flats to be nested simultaneously with solid models. The models are unfolded in the background according to your preferred method of compensation.
The process can run automatically, triggered by ERP output of text file instructions, or by beginning with solid model assemblies. You can choose how many complete assemblies to create with our CADLink option.
Material waste and processing time are important to any fabricator. Does Nesting Pro support common line cutting?
You’re right about that. With today’s material costs, scrap rates are a big concern. And while common line cutting allows you to use less material, your laser throughput really increases because you are doing much less cutting per sheet. With Nesting Pro, common line cutting can be applied on a per part basis, on an individual sheet basis or on an entire order. Naturally, the common cutting path logic can be chosen to match your preferences.
You mentioned CADLink. What is this?
CADLink is an option that inserts a toolbar directly in most solid model design platforms. With just a single click, you can export a native part or assembly directly into press brake programming, laser nesting or both. What’s more, CADLink eliminates all non-sheet metal parts to simplify the process. CADLink interfaces with a variety of design platforms including SolidWorks, Inventor, Creo and Solid Edge, among others.
So CADLink removes non-sheet metal parts?
Yes, solid assemblies that are created with an assortment of parts including sheet metal are split according to their type. The sheet metal parts remain for the programming operations. Additionally, the material type can be mapped directly from the solid model, causing the programming operation, either manual or automatic, to use the same material as that of the model.
How does this affect productivity?
Nesting Pro maximizes productivity by applying unique features including true shape nesting for multiple materials and thicknesses, advanced common line cutting, rules-based tabbing, and slug destruct or slicing. And there are many more. Whether you are using a CI laser or another brand, Nesting Pro can provide optimized code for your laser. Nesting Pro provides the ability to convert flat files and 3-D models individually or with batch automation.
You can also make a library of converted files for efficient nested programs created via manual entry or automatically from prepared text file instructions. In this way, full-time laser programming can be accomplished in part time.
Does the software offer any solutions for estimating and quoting?
Yes, included in our standard software package is a module for estimating and quoting. If the parts have bend lines, the bending process costs are also factored in based on your preset values in the bending table.
Is the software exclusive to CI machines?
While Pro Suite is available only from CI, the software can create viable programs for other machine brands as well. Anyone interested in this should check with their local CI sales engineer for more information or help with other makes or models.