A sheet metal subcontractor has recently switched over to RADAN to drive its fleet of four laser cutters and two water jets, after an intensive three months of development, trials, tests and training.
Jason George, I.T. and Facilities Manager at Nottinghamshire-based Lasershape Ltd., says their ROI in RADAN looks likely to be achieved within two and half months of starting to use it.
Manufacturing components primarily for the general engineering, aerospace, rail and automotive industries, their core products are laser cut, folded and powder coated, with some assembly where required, and include parts for almost every sector of industry.
He has been implementing a series of measures over the last two years aimed at driving down costs, and felt their CAD/CAM package was falling behind in terms of efficiency.
“The system was very manual, and although we had a project with our supplier who was trying to automate it, we simply couldn’t rely on the results it was producing, and had to have an operative watching over it, which defeated the object.”
They opted to replace it with RADAN, and found in numerous trials that it led to considerable savings. “We use around £400,000 worth of material a month, and with the previous CAD/CAM package our scrap rate was around 20-30 per cent. We compared a trial we ran through RADAN with what our production team had actually sent to the shop floor after making manual changes to improve the nest from the previous system…and it still reduced wastage by approximately 15 per cent.”
They also log the reason for every scrapped part, and he says poor sequencing was the biggest single cause under the old system, which wasn’t producing the high standard they require. “With the large number of parts we produce, it’s impossible to go through each nest and manually select the cutting sequence…we have to rely on automation. We ran the same job through RADAN – and I even tried to trick it, but it was much better at getting out of areas without crashing the head.
“RADAN’s not just about speeding our processes up, it’s all about accuracy, both in terms of the cutting sequence, and the finished component.”
Another test involved a production job of 400+ runs of 3mm aluminium parts in RADAN. “This particular job had ‘head collision’ written all over it. But RADAN cut each sheet 52 minutes quicker than the old system, and with no collisions. When I looked at the code I saw this was because RADAN was able to cut at full speed, while the other software applied slower cutting conditions for small features. This could save us considerable time.”
And an optimised RADAN nest in one of their early trials saved over five hours compared with their previous nests, which he says represents shaving a full minute off each part.
Having built a number of apps around RADAN to meet their own specific requirements, they benefit from two-way communication between CAD/CAM and their Epicor production control software.
“We’ve customised the main menus inside RADAN and linked them to our own Lasershape menus. This is helpful right from when we receive an initial inquiry, in that we can see at a glance how many sheets we’ll need for the job.
“And significant benefits stem from our new Workflow system. It controls stock, live updates of programs, and remnant creation inside RADAN. All this gives us an up-to-the-minute overview of what’s happening on the shopfloor.” He explains that Workflow means the tasks of marking programs as complete, and releasing remnants in RADAN, can be performed by Android PDAs on the shopfloor.
Jason George has also created a Part Editor application to mass edit components. “It automates RADAN’s powerful functionality to work on multiple parts at the same time, and means we can mass import DXF files and edit the data quickly. This is particularly important as we work on around 20,000 live items every month, and have nearly 200,000 repeat parts in the system.”
Their first task when an inquiry comes in, is to add a quote in Epicor. “We’ve got a button in Epicor that says ‘Prepare RADAN.’ This generates a quotation folder for us, a standard project template ready for the nester to nest in, and sub directories for the parts. Then we’re ready to start drawing the part in RADAN 2D. The parts are imported and saved in the Quote Directory, which means quoted parts don’t touch our Master Part Library. With the previous CAD/CAM system we had a bulging part library containing parts for jobs we didn’t win, and never cut. So this is a huge improvement.”
After that, they use the Part Editor app to set customers, materials and machining operations including any required countersinking and folding. This is followed by another customised operation, running what they call The Migrator, which scans the entire project, calculates how long each part is going to take, and the exact per centage of a sheet it will use. “Migrator then populates all relevant fields within Epicor. When we win the job, it’s converted to an order, and Epicor tells RADAN which customer the parts are for, creating directories for the project.”
The nesting team use Workflow to specify the parts for nesting, and send them to RADAN. “It’s so simple to pull in the raw material sheets, nest them, post them, and send them out for cutting on our Trumpf and Bystronic lasers, or Flow and Techni waterjets.” He says it’s vital that RADAN drives both cutting technologies, and can work with a variety of CNC machine tool brands. “With RADAN we just have the one Part Library which services all our machines…we couldn’t have multiple part libraries for the same components.”
Concluding, Jason George says the RADAN trials and tests gave consistent results and has reduced the task of producing nests to what he calls ‘a simple admin role’ as the system automatically creates efficient, cost-saving nests. “As everything we do now is about efficiency and data capture, RADAN is a key, integral part of the business.”