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Static Nesting Provides Consistent Cutting Parameters for Multi-Site Laser Cutting Operations

Anupam Chakraborty
By Anupam Chakraborty Commercial Director, Lantek Systems Inc.

For multi-site manufacturing companies, consistency among plants is everything. It’s even more crucial when the same parts are made across multiple continents and time zones. 

Think farming equipment or appliances. Parts and finishes are specific to each assembly and are repeatedly manufactured in batches with little change in design or manufacturing processes. Laser cutting is the preferred method of cutting sheet metal to produce these parts because it creates less splatter, which will spoil part surface. Automating the process using a manufacturing execution system (MES) with nesting capability helps move things along consistently, especially as these processes often require manual tooling.

In these applications, nesting is done manually, allowing an operator to save the nests and perform other tasks. In the age of automation, it’s easy to forget that some processes still need to be completed by hand. For our customers, such “multi-programs” are individual, standardized nests stored in the Lantek MES Manager database and can be referenced for future jobs. For example, when a new order is tagged to a multi-program or a set of multi-programs, a job ticket can be created and sent to the shop floor without requiring additional programming. If an operator needs to run five multi-programs, it’s documented in the system. Instructions and documentation can be accessed through the Lantek WOS workshop station.

A manufacturer can begin a job in India, perform any changes, and, by the time the morning shift begins in the United States, the entire job is ready to run through several shifts. By feeding the static nest at predetermined times, a plant can run continuously throughout the week. Such flexibility goes beyond production cycles. The ability to create static nests, apply manual tooling and reuse the program allows teams from other plants to handle revisions for consistent production across facilities that use similar machines. It’s ideal for high-volume runs of similar parts.

If no revisions are needed, the initial report generated by an enterprise resource planning system reflects that the proper material is on-hand and all operations have been verified, allowing a CNC file to be run and cut the parts. This report also indicates any necessary secondary operations. Once everything is complete, parts are shipped to the original site and overall efficiency is enhanced, as the workload can be transferred between sites. Additionally, the quality of the cut is consistent across machines because it has been tooled manually. If locations have their own nesting method, a person inputs the necessary tooling into the program providing the nest to another site with cut quality requirements in the NC file. Cut quality is assured, as long as the other site doesn’t tweak the parameters.

Multi-site static nesting isn’t possible with all software. But Lantek MES offers a complete database and an MES manager that can be used to maintain a static nest library. The entire manufacturing process can be tracked from planning through execution, allowing operators to group parts according to various criteria, such as machines, materials, thicknesses, customer and delivery date.

Work volume also can be monitored to optimize resources. Armed with an MES to handle most of the other tasks and to monitor material usage and time, operators can focus on tooling consistency and cutting specifications. Greater collaboration and communication between sites is also enabled, unifying multi-national operations that can otherwise be disjointed and working independent of each other. Without a unified MES capable of taking CAD programs to create nests and allowing the editing of 3D models, multi-site static nesting would not be possible.

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