Tube vision

Software for tube cutting adds visibility to the bulk of the manufacturing process


Visibility is crucial in manufacturing, but without the right software, a lack of visibility can lead to more scrap, wasted time and, ultimately, added cost. For example, a job shop using a tube laser cutting machine needs to be precise in cutting parts with the correct positioning of holes and slots. Just one non-precise cut can lead to quality issues in downstream processes and to scrap or rework.

To counter this issue, job shops tend to over produce on just about everything they cut, which leads to a waste of time and material. Lantek software, however, has made this process more efficient by providing real-time insights and precision engineering that leads to time and material savings.

Design options with Lantek’s Flex3D tube cutting software include complete or partial chamfers on either end of the tube. Users can create any type of contour and there are options for copying elements and operations.

Lantek’s Flex3D CAD/CAM software provides an innovative and flexible approach to cutting tubes, making the process intuitive and simple, which is important for manufacturers struggling in their efforts to fill the skills gap. And while ease of use is important, users get much more with the tube cutting software, which is completely integrated with Lantek’s manufacturing execution system (MES) software, referred to as “Lantek Manager.”

Lantek Manager, along with Wos, the operator console, give users and other stakeholders real-time production updates as the cutting process happens. With a feature called Capture, Lantek Manager can also give insight into the downstream processes.

“You don’t have to over produce to account for rejects anymore,” says Anupam Chakraborty, director of sales and business development at Lantek, “because as you go, the production detects what’s happening in real time. Everything can be managed through the Lantek Manager window.”

A preview

Using Flex3D software, users can modify a cutting order on the fly, putting power in the hands of the programmer as to the desired cutting sequence or direction.

Before the tube cutting begins, Flex3D allows the user to see how the tube will look in 3-D as well as how it will nest. The software allows for easy manipulation and editing, letting the user zoom in on specific areas of a part and rotate the 3-D image on the screen. It also gives the user the ability to design tube types adapted to their needs from 2-D outlines.

“The whole interface is very intuitive,” Chakraborty says. “You can start the process of visualization from the get-go. A lot of times there are thick pipes that need a bevel – those bevels can also be programmed in. You can run a simulation and see what sequencing looks like and you can change the sequencing to how you want it.”

New revenue

A way in which Lantek’s tube cutting software differentiates from competitors is by providing an easy-to-use interface, which facilitates the nesting and cutting programming capabilities. Flex3D is not limited to closed cross sections, but also to open cross sections, such as C channels and I beams. This further expands the software’s capabilities to support the construction sector where a variety of materials, including I-beams, need to be cut.

“Lantek is one of the very few software providers who can cater to both these spectrums,” Chakraborty says of different industries.

Traditionally, Chakraborty says, tube cutting was something most OEMs embraced, but there has been a sea change thanks in part to Lantek’s approach to software.

“Even in the laser cutting sector, OEMs are outsourcing these cuts,” he says.

They are contracting with manufacturers that are involved in tube cutting-related jobs where the list of cuts is being programmed on a wider range of materials and parts. And they’re also nesting parts for optimization of material consumption.

Lantek’s tube cutting software, as well as software like Lantek Manager, can bring visibility to the manufacturing process, saving time and money.

“The ease at which the tube cutting can be done because of the software has enabled a thriving outsourcing market,” he says, “Manufacturers are taking up a lot of jobs in this area.”

Controlling workflow

The tube cutting software, combined with Lantek Manager, provides more than just nesting and programming cuts. Lantek Manager accounts for downstream processes, too. For example, Chakraborty says some tubes will need to be bent and then will move on to being painted or galvanized and assembled.

“In Lantek Manager,” he says, “you can assign routing to every part. You assign the routing and create a production schedule in your ERP and that can be brought in seamlessly to Lantek Manager.”

But what about parts that do not have a 3-D file? Chakraborty says with Flex3D, users can still design their part and use the monitor to visualize it.

“They can actually output the DSTV files,” he says, “and Lantek’s software can bring it in and do the programming off of it. A lot of the construction software is able to output in an actual file and the software is able to import these files and work on them.”

In a nutshell, Flex3D obtains the best optimization of the tube while also generating a numerical control file for the laser. Other features include:

  • remnant management, warehousing and re-utilization
  • 3-D nesting that is automatic, semi-automatic or manual
  • lead-in and lead-out generation that can be automated or manual
  • support for machines with a various number of axes
  • a versatile environment for the machining process in 2-D or 3-D

Training time

Bigger shops have a programmer taking care of the part files and uploading cuts to the laser while the laser operator runs the machine and picks parts. Smaller shops usually have one person wearing all the hats. Regardless, Lantek’s two-day training program is usually all the education required to get a laser running at full speed.

“For a person who understands the basics of tube cutting and has decent computer skills,” Chakraborty says, “we offer a two-day training program, which is sufficient for them to get started and produce parts. We follow that up with a support team, so we can answer questions they have later.”

For OEMs that continue cutting their own tubes and want to use Lantek’s tube cutting software, Chakraborty says there have been some cases where they only required a few hours of software training and that was plenty for them to “get up and running.”

“It’s very easy to use right out of the box,” he says.


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