Software Speed

Slow and steady is an excellent strategy for the tortoise racing the hare. However, it could be a more effective plan for metal fabricating businesses.

The pace continues to pick up everywhere a metal fabricator looks. A seven-week lead time is something that customers just laugh at. They may tolerate a three-to-four-week turnaround, but in many cases, they really want delivery within two weeks. As solid-state laser cutting machines have emerged, it has significantly altered blank preparation economics. The device can cut through thin-gauge metals at speeds that traditional CO2 laser technology cannot match, which creates lots of work for the downstream process.

In some cases, metal fabricators must speed up their production processes to get parts out as fast as they can and receive payment sooner. Those trends have resulted in fabricators try in to increase their shops' product velocity.

Unfortunately, press brakes significantly impede manufacturing operations trying to speed up their production. There have been advances in robotic bending, but robots are far from being able to replace human press brake operators on any broad scale. Metal fabricators are also likely to buy or hold onto older press brake technology since old iron pieces can still do most bending jobs - although at a much slower pace.

This is where bending software is really making a big difference. What computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software is doing is helping to eliminate much of the waste out of part tryout, bending program creation, and part design. It needs to address how long it takes for a ram to rise up and come down and turn the sheet metal. However, there are more opportunities for making improvements than this simple process. It is about making those front-end activities as efficient as possible for the bending process.

The 3-D World

In today's World, the 3-D model is more prevalent than ever. However, many metal fabrication shops still need d to get advanced CAM software that can allow them to smoothly transition files from their design department to the shop floor. They must take the time to prepare the file before they send it out.

A majority of bending software programs can receive native files from most of the current 3-D modeling CAD packages that are available. Some are even able to actually work with native formats directly since of their own software. That means a fabricator can receive a 3-D model, plug it into their bending software, and then have the bending process ready for the press brake operator and create a flat pattern in just a few minutes.

Virtually Trying It Out

Virtual simulation and offline programming - are the most apparent benefits that bending software has to offer. With the offline programming used on the press brake and the ability to see the part as it is being made, the machine operator can focus on producing amounts that the fabricator will be paid for. The operator's time is not spent making tryout pieces that nobody is interested in purchasing.

Simulations are becoming so sophisticated that they are accounting for machine accessories like sheet followers and lifting aids and part features like embosses. Metal fabricators with press brake software with a CAM system that programs punching and laser cutting machines also get an added sophisticated operation layer.

Tooling Up

Another thing that bending simulation software accounts for is tooling. The tooling libraries of a company are reflected within the software. Therefore, the virtual World matches the shop floor's real World.

Major manufacturers offer several bending software programs that keep pace with the press brake tooling. Suppose a parts programmer is working on creating a job and discovers the shop does not have the right tool for making all of the bends. In that case, the software will access the tooling library of the supplier, locate the right tool and incorporate it into its simulation.

Spreading the Word

With efficiency on the shop floor being so heavily focused on these days, sometimes a metal fabricator might overlook its front-office activities. However, efficiency is as important there as everywhere else within a fabrication operation.

In the modern metal fabricating business, there is no time to waste, and a shop's bending operations can save much time. Bending software can significantly help with this. For shops that have hesitated to make changes, it is just a matter of time before they have no choice.