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Bending Software Speeds Up The Production Process

Software Speed

Slow and steady is an excellent strategy when the tortoise is racing the hare. However, for metal fabricating businesses it is an ineffective plan.

The pace is continuing 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 really want delivery within two weeks. As solid-state laser cutting machines have emerged it has significantly altered blank preparation economics. The device is able to cut through thin-gauge metals at speeds that traditional CO2 laser technology cannot match, which for downstream process creates lots of work.

Metal fabricators in some cases must speed their own production processes up 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, a major impediment for manufacturing operations that trying to speed up their production is press brakes. There have been advances in robotic bending, but robots are not anywhere close to being able to replace human press brake operators on any sort of broad scale. Metal fabricators are also likely to buy or hold onto older press brake technology since old iron pieces can still do a majority of 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 does not immediately address the amount of time that it takes for a ram to raise up and come down and bend the sheet metal. However, this simple process isn't the largest opportunity for making improvement. It is all 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 don't have advanced CAM software still that can allow them to transition files from their design department smoothly over to the shop floor. They must take the time to prepare the file before they send it out.

A majority of bending software programs are able to 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. what that means is 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 - these are the most obvious benefits that bending software has to offer. Due to the offline programming used on the press brake and being able to see the part as it is being made, that allows the machine operator to focus on producing parts that the fabricator will be paid for. The operator's time is not spent on making tryout pieces that nobody is interested in purchasing.

Simulations are becoming so sophisticated that they are accounting for the fact that machine accessories like sheet followers and lift aids and part features like embosses. Metal fabricators with press brake software that has a CAM system that programs punching and laser cutting machines as well 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.

There are a number of bending software programs that keep pace with the press brake tooling that major manufacturers are offering. If a parts programmer is working on getting a job created and discovers the shop does not have the right tool for making all of the bends, then the software will access the tooling library of the supplier, locate the right tool and get it incorporated 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 just as important there as everywhere else within a fabrication operation.

In the modern metal fabricating business, there is absolutely no time to waste, and the bending operations of a shop can potentially eat up a lot of time. Bending software can greatly help with this. For shops that have been hesitant to make changes, it is just a matter of time before they have no choice.

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