Making ducts

A nesting software solution provides efficiencies for HVAC ductwork production


Ductwork has been around for centuries, much longer than the onset of modern HVAC technology used to heat and cool building interiors today. In fact, you have to go all the way back to 300 B.C. to find the introduction of ducts used for climate control, as that’s when the Romans ran tubes from the furnace and beneath the floor to heat rooms without filling them with smoke.

In more recent times, HVAC professionals used tin snips and shears to construct metal ductwork through buildings and homes that still stand today. Fast forward to the age of industrial laser and plasma cutting and we get to where we are now with HVAC professionals gaining access to precision-cut parts for ductwork.

Yet without the software to configure the nest of parts for efficient sheet metal cutting, precious time and money would be lost despite the use of high-tech lasers. Lantek has developed advanced nesting programs focusing on the highest standards in manufacturing management solutions, providing an effective way to save time and money while delivering on accuracy.

Software tools

Lantek provides CAD/CAM/MES/ERP solutions for a variety of processes with a focus on improved productivity, but for HVAC/ductwork, the company introduced Lantek Expert Duct (LED) software, which is designed so the user can just follow simple steps as prompted by the system.

LED software is built to adapt perfectly to the HVAC industry, providing a library of seams, flanges, connections and other components that are vital for properly cutting sheet metal for the industry. All the options are laid out graphically, providing a clear visual of what’s possible and reducing user error. As an added bonus, the software offers warehouse management tools, so all parts are stored in organized databases that can be accessed with ease.

With 191 different features, Lantek Expert Duct software provides every conceivable configuration for efficiently cutting ductwork.

LED wouldn’t be complete without a full library of parametric figures that follow Deutsches Institut für Normung (DIN) and Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) regulations, which govern geometries commonly used in ductwork, including tube intersections, boilermaking figures, cones, cylinders, rounds, squares, etc.

Mario Rodriguez, 2D CAD/CAM product manager at Lantek, says traditional HVAC parts, including elbows, Ts, round-to-square connectors and others, that have existed from the beginning of modern ductwork are still in use today as the market hasn’t demanded a big departure from them. Occasionally, customers do demand new options, and Lantek is able to add them to the library.

User feedback

User input is important. In fact, LED came about as a result of more than 25 years of experience and close collaboration with manufacturers and users of sheet metal and punching machines. In the typical sheet cutting process for ductwork, the duct figures are 3-D parametric shapes that are “drawn” in 3-D and automatically developed by Lantek in a 2-D shape. These shapes, typically cut by plasma or laser machines, then need to be folded by the user to obtain the 3-D designed figure, which is a crucial step in the process and something users demand.

“This folding process needs to be carefully done,” Rodriguez says. “Lantek helps the user to find exactly where the bending process must be done with different techniques.”

Despite the complexities in accurately designing ductwork, which comes in many shapes and forms, Lantek’s software is easy to use and helps to reduce errors and scrap waste.

These techniques include: 1. All developed figures are automatically transferred to LED for the user’s production. 2. All developed figures are stored in the database to keep track of the production process. Users can plan when their part needs to be produced (associating a deadline to it, sale order, etc.). LED users will know when the part has been produced and on which exact sheet and on which machine. 3. All developed figures can be reloaded in different jobs with the very same shape they were fabricated earlier or with slight changes to some dimensions.

“All this is possible thanks to the integration of this software in the Lantek database,” Rodriguez says, “which is included in the installation of any Lantek Expert, Lantek MES or Lantek Flex3d system.”

Easy approach

Ease of operation is about more than keeping it simple on account of the skills gap and labor shortage that is hitting the manufacturing industry so hard. With more efficient nesting capabilities, there are fewer errors which means less scrap and waste. These efficiencies also save on valuable production time that is otherwise wasted on fixing problems and redoing work.

“Software automation leads to less need of manual intervention on the 2-D and 3-D developments,” he says, “less production errors, less scrap and much faster drawing-to-production time.”

Twenty-five years of experience and listening to customer input culminated in the release of Lantek Expert Duct software, which provides ductwork manufacturers with more efficient production.

Given all the twists and turns, shapes and angles involved, designing ductwork would seem to be quite the complex endeavor, but Rodriguez says it takes a new customer only one day to install the software and become sufficiently trained. He adds that over the years, the majority of LED licenses have been used by customers with plasma machines. Lately, he says, fiber laser machines have entered the market, offering lower production cost and thus they have replaced some of the plasma market.

“The library provided by LED has 191 different figures,” Rodriguez says, “but most users need quite a small number of figures each. Ten to 15 is a typical number.”

The ease of use extends to users in configurations that make the most sense to them. For example, LED can be set in a way that the configuration does not need to be introduced each time by the user.

“It is preset according to the need of each customer,” he says, “so the user only needs to introduce the physical size of the 3-D shape, and LED will unfold the part to a 2-D pattern, ready to be nested and cut with a plasma or laser machine.”


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