ASK THE EXPERT: We talk laser cutting optimization with Amada’s blanking product manager, Jean-Philippe Nadeau

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SHOP: What are the biggest challenges your sheet metal fabricating customers face when it comes to optimization, either in terms of the production process or the parts being manufactured,  and how does your software help them better address those challenges?

NADEAU: Optimization is a word that can be interpreted many ways.  But in terms of manufacturing, it really comes down to getting the parts out of the door as quickly and efficiently as possible without adding unnecessary costs.  In Canada and many other regions, the way to stay competitive is to be flexible, allowing for customizations and varying lot sizes, while maintaining a quick delivery.  Our programming software VPSS3i absolutely can assist with that.  VPSS3I Blank streamlines the process of taking in drawings in both 2D and 3D, identifying bends, and accurately applying bend allowances to ensure accuracy while producing a flat. It can also make corrections to make it manufacturing friendly, such as manually or automatically adding or editing bend reliefs to your specification.  Customers can receive very generic 3D models or assemblies and in a few clicks have a usable accurate flat ready for programming. After that, nesting and production schedules can be generated. Quantities and other details can be specified manually or by using a scheduled spread sheet generated by an ERP system. When nesting, all available sheets can be selected for the best material utilization. Program reports are generated with barcodes on them for calling up programs or an entire schedule at the machine with one scan.

All this programming process is pretty simple and automated. Large production schedules can be programmed in just a few clicks. 

SHOP: Can you cite a specific example where your company’s optimization software helped drive significant ROI?

NADEAU: Using ERP generated schedules, companies can quickly generate large nesting schedules for their blanking machine and therefore further improve material utilization and reduce setup time. By removing manual programming operation, lots of errors are avoided (Wrong material, wrong quantity, wrong drawing, etc.).

Also, a customer who uses the bending portion combined with blanking will have further significant ROI. They can program and simulate parts for press-brake right in the engineering department. That removes the need to make prototypes and reduces human error and setup time. All these factors increase the machine’s uptime.

SHOP: Nesting programs are an obvious help when it comes to scrap reduction and accelerated cutting cycles. In what other areas does the nesting program make a difference for fabricators? 

NADEAU: Most companies now are producing a high mix of parts at lower volume in a just-in-time production. Our software can program thousands of different parts with ease. Automating the part programming and nesting is the key. With custom settings according to products, materials, thicknesses, or other preferences make it possible. It is now much easier to consistently get the results customers are looking for with the least possible manual intervention. 

SHOP: In general, would you say job shops which have invested in laser cutting and the optimization software that goes with it are making the most of the software’s potential? Or is there room for growth?

NADEAU: I believe there is always some room for growth and this is where maintenance programs are important. Our maintenance program includes technical support and advance training both onsite and online. Every year our software and machines evolve and we take responsibility for getting our customers to the highest level possible.

SHOP: What are the most important things a job shop should look for in a sophisticated yet operator-friendly laser cutting optimization software?

NADEAU: The first thing would be the technical support and training that comes with the software. Knowing the software is important but the expertise between programming and machine operation is even more so. Amada has multiple application technicians in Canada that take care of that. Another thing that is important is the origin of the software. VPSS3i is our own software, so the code will have all the latest technology and capabilities to run everything on the machine at 100%. Sometimes third-party software will only have basic code that would not necessarily support everything that the machine can do. SMT 

Jean-Philippe Nadeau is Amada’s blanking product manager.

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