It can be hard to put your arms arount this much front-to-back software integration. Metamation bills itself as a CAD/CAM software company that makes products for the fabrication industry, but it integrates data so thoroughly among the modules that you can progress from quoting and 3D product design to a range of ERP functions. Produce a part model in their MetaCAD module, or import one from other CAD software, and the system produces nesting programs; CNC programs to run your machines; simulation; estimating; inventory control; scheduling; and reports on how your operators are doing.
As they say on TV, “but wait, there’s more.” The entire package, an enterprise solution, is oriented towards figuring out what each machine will do and then figuring out the best workflow, from start to finish, with features along the way including 3D CAD, calculating things like bend allowances and collision problems, all the while being aware of the cutting rates of your lasers, your punch presses, your waterjets, or whatever, and then planning just how to schedule your mix of jobs while the whole integrated system is avoiding bottlenecks…and keeping you informed of all that’s going on through your smart phone. From a beach in the Bahamas, perhaps.
But back to controlling press brakes: “What we’re doing is adding a little more science (as opposed to art) to press brake operations,” says Andy Chakraborty, VP of Metamation, Inc. “Once you’ve done the nesting, you pull the part program back to a 3D representation in your computer, find the best bending sequence from the algorithm spread within the computer, select the tool and the die, and let the computer figure the bend reduction. We’re computing with a lot of information.
“With on-screen graphics, we can show the operator, ‘Okay, this is how to do the job, this is what the tool looks like, what the die looks like, this is how the datum should be,’ We give him a simulation on the screen. And managers can just follow the reports offline.”
Reports and analyses are produced in graphical formats for quick and accurate understanding.
We suggest a way to describe it: “So, you’re taking a lot of the subtle skills that have been accumulated over years of experience and systematizing them with a computer process that winds up with a simulation, and then controls the actual functions. Is that a fair way to put it?”
Andy approves this description, but it still isn’t adequate. As Andy describes the process, you can imagine he’s picturing in his head…not the press brake functions so much as the flow of data and the operator’s interaction with the screen graphics. Periodically, something physical happens: you mount a tool, position a workpiece against a backstop, make a bend, and so on. The data goes in, helps you plan and control the machine, and data comes out.
3D representation is central to a variety of the software’s functions.
This is where dealing with highly integrated solutions needs a demonstration. It is not a linear, step-by-step process. But it produces a set of step-by-step instructions for the operator. Video is good for this. Metamation has some on their website (they’re password-protected; get in touch with them first).
Reduced to functional descriptions, this is how the company describes the process:
“MetaBEND can start working from 3D models designed in our native 3D modeler or imported from other 3D software like Solidworks, Solidedge, Autodesk Inventor etc. MetaBend will automatically assign punch and dies, position back-gauges, and compute an optimal bend sequence based on the model.
“The interactive graphical tools allow you to customize bend setups, positionback-gauges and re-sequence bend operations.
“The Bend Overview window shows you a comprehensive status of the bend tooling assigned to the active model. The software allows centralized control over tooling, gauging and sequencing operations to completely program the part.
“MetaBEND can generate custom setup sheets showing step wise thumbnails ofbending processes, tool lists and mount diagrams that help bend the part on the machine.”
The program uses the 3D model to generate a bend sequence, based on tools assigned from your inventory. It maintains a database of practically all commercially available tools. Modifications to the graphic simulation can be made in a way similar to actually making changes on the machine. The simulation will generate bend reports in 3D for each bend.
The simulation is detailed and functions such as back gauge movement, ram stroke, part insertion and retraction are all animated.
Again, as comprehensive as these press brake functions may be, the Metamation system’s power, as an enterprise-wide solution, becomes apparent as you incorporate additional modules, for cutting, punching, report-generating, and so on. We’ll cover the other modules in upcoming issues.