James Lindsey is product manager for SigmaTEK Systems LLC (Cincinnati), developer of the SigmaNEST (www.sigmanest.com) CAD/CAM nesting software and related nesting and manufacturing automation software and services.
Manufacturing Engineering: How can nesting software improve productivity and cut costs for fabricators?
James Lindsey: Nesting is the process of arranging parts to be cut from sheets of metal or wood in the most efficient manner possible in order to maximize yield and speed the cutting process. By reducing scrap and accelerating the cutting process, fabricators are saving on material cost while running more jobs. But not all nesting software is created equal. While any system will arrange parts, there are varying methods and results for doing so. For example, a simple nesting system might place parts in a rectangular field and arrange the rectangles on a sheet of material—quick, but a lot of material is wasted.
A more sophisticated nesting software considers the actual shapes of all pieces and performs calculations to arrange as tightly as possible. Advanced nesting software can arrange parts to maximize lead-ins/lead-outs or identify opportunities for common-line cutting. Common-line cutting involves identifying parts that share a common edge and arranging them so they can be cut with a single pass of the torch. Aside from the obvious speed benefit, this process extends tool life by reducing pierce points and consumables (gas, abrasives, etc.). Each time a torch fires up to pierce material it extracts a toll on the overall life of the torch.
It is also important to note that a robust nesting program will take into consideration the type and thickness of material being cut. The program automatically mixes parts from different jobs requiring the same material.
ME: What new technical advances can fabricators take advantage of with the updated SigmaNEST software?
Lindsey: SigmaNEST Version 10 is powered by the industry’s newest and most advanced nesting engine. This enables SigmaNEST to quickly generate the greatest number of nests and determine a best solution. Documented efficiency gains are in some cases 5% and more. Productivity is enhanced as nesting time is slashed to a matter of seconds.
Version 10 further solidifies our ability to import popular CAD files directly, the quoting and inventory management functionality has likewise been enhanced. These features and other productivity improvements are supported by leaps that Version 10 provides in terms of the user experience. With a customized toolbar and new welcome screen, tutorial videos, documentation, connection to support, news, and updates are just a click away.
ME: What are manufacturers looking for in nesting software?
Lindsey: Often a nesting package will come bundled with a machine. These are typically lightweight in terms of functionality and are limited to that particular machine. For some that is good enough.
Whether cutting, punching, or bending; fabrication machinery is expensive. Manufacturers are recognizing the importance of equipping this machinery with robust software in order to maximize cutting features, extend productivity, boost material yield and accelerate ROI. Sophisticated nesting software is much more robust and offers the added flexibility to drive multiple cutting machines regardless of type or brand. Direct CAD model import and an ability to nest for tube/pipe are also important to most fabricators. Finally, nesting software extends beyond the cutting machine itself to catalog and recall material remnants for future use and integrate with MRP/ERP.
ME: Your company also recently introduced the new SigmaMRP solution. Describe this software.
Lindsey: Development centered around creating a manufacturing resource planning technology especially for the manufacturing and fabrication industry. Traditional MRP systems follow dated business models of expensive and time-consuming implementations, inflexible software and a rigid data structure. With SigmaMRP, this has all changed.
Unlike traditional systems which have a fixed bill of materials, SigmaMRP utilizes live BOMs to adjust to any situation, or change in an assembly. This means no more creating dozens of revisions of a bill of materials as build parts that are essentially the same. Even the most complex parts can be set up quickly and easily with full manufacturing process information.
Finally, we recognized that many manufacturers do not require, at least right away, all of the bells and whistles that come with many commercial MRP systems. With this in mind, we made SigmaMRP scalable to meet the users’ current and future requirements.
ME: How does the current business climate look for manufacturers on the fabrication side of the business?
Lindsey: With uncertainty surrounding fiscal cliffs and sequestering, the industry began 2013 on a somewhat cautious note. However, things are picking up and all indications are that we are on pace for another great year. Today manufacturers large and small are scrutinizing all aspects of the business in order to cut costs and become more profitable—and the shop floor is the best place to begin. Sophisticated nesting and MRP systems are allowing fabricators to reduce scrap waste, catalog and reuse material remnants, and quickly recoup a return on investment for costly cutting machines by maximizing their use and capabilities. ME
PLM Market Slows
After starting out strong last year, the PLM market growth slowed in the second half of 2012, falling short of CIMdata Inc.’s (Ann Arbor, MI) expectations.
“The year started out looking to be just as strong in 2012 as it was in 2011, but slowed in the second half, resulting in total revenues below our forecast,” said CIMdata’s Vice President of Research Stan Przybylinski in a statement.
According to CIMdata’s research, the comprehensive PLM market experienced 11.3% growth in 2012 to $33.3 billion. Growth moderated in some segments, like mechanical computer-aided design (MCAD), while simulation and analysis (S&A) continued its rapid expansion. In 2011, the PLM market exceeded CIMdata’s expectations, growing nearly 15% to $29.9 billion.
A wide range of companies in many industries continued investing in PLM to achieve short-term benefits as well as long-term strategic value throughout the product lifecycle and across their extended enterprises, according to Przybylinski. “CIMdata has long defined PLM as a strategic imperative to achieving long-term strategic value,” Przybylinski said, “and this year’s market statistics and our other market research with end-user companies still support that view.”
Dassault Buys Two Developers
Dassault Systèmes (Vélizy-Villacoublay, France) has acquired FE-Design Group (Karlsruhe, Germany), a developer of design optimization software, and Simpoe (Torcy, France), a developer of plastic-injection molding simulation software. Financial details of both transactions were not disclosed.
The acquisition of FE-Design expands Dassault’s Simulia simulation software with solutions that optimize designs in early-stage product development. FE-Design’s customers include General Motors, BMW, Siemens and Suzlon. This transaction was completed on April 23.
With the acquisition of Simpoe, Dassault is expanding its 3DExperience platform and the company’s Simulia, CATIA, and SolidWorks applications. Simpoe’s customers include more than 3000 users working as part designers and mold makers including manufacturers Canon and Panasonic. Dassault completed the transaction on April 18.
Additive manufacturer 3D Systems Corp. (Rock Hill, SC) on May 1 announced it has acquired Rapid Product Development Group Inc. (RPDG; San Diego, CA), a provider of on-demand additive and traditional manufacturing services. 3D Systems plans to integrate RPDG’s state-of-the-art capabilities into its growing Quickparts services immediately.
With the RPDG acquisition, 3D Systems raised its 2013 annual revenue and non-GAAP earnings per share guidance to revenue in the range of $460 million to $510 million and non-GAAP EPS in the range of $1.05 to $1.20 per share.
Simulation developer Spring Technologies (Cambridge, MA) on May 7 announced its new mobile version of its latest NCSimul Machine 9 simulation package. The NCSimul software now will run on tablet computers running Windows 8 Pro and Spring’s NC Player, an NC simulation viewer. It allows access to all of the program’s features including cutting tool libraries, current cutting conditions, simulation, other part programs, and all the relevant published documentation. The software allows operators to view a realistic graphical representation of the machining process and other relevant data in real time right next to the machine.
Manufacturing software developer Apriso Corp. (Long Beach, CA) and T-Systems (Munich) have teamed up in a partnership to offer a turnkey solution for global implementation, rollout and application management of manufacturing operations. Apriso is the developer of FlexNet, a flexible manufacturing execution software (MES) solution. The partnership leverages T-Systems’ experience with automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers to provide a one-stop solution for implementation, rollout and application management.
Software Update is edited by Senior Editor Patrick Waurzyniak.
This article was first published in the June 2013 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.