Nesting comfortably

Custom manufacturer sees new growth with efficient nesting software

To be a successful custom manufacturer in today's business climate, a laser shop must be reliable and must have the agility to process a large range of materials and deliver on time. Grain Belt Supply in Salina, Kansas (www.grainbeltsupply.com), has found a solution to this challenge. Serving industries such as agriculture, transportation, and its captive line of grain and material handling equipment, this company utilizes six TRUMPF lasers ranging from 3 to 5 kW. In addition to laser cutting, it has a diverse fabrication shop that includes four CNC press breaks and a seven-stage powder coat line with an 8-ft x 8-ft x 40-ft batch booth. It has an experienced engineering and sales staff to help customers with their projects. Whether you have parts that need to be fabricated, or simply a good idea, Grain Belt will prove to be a strong partner.


Typical true shape nest.
Click here to enlarge image

Grain Belt has a commitment to produce customers' parts faster, better, and cheaper. It wanted to be on the forefront of the latest manufacturing technology and strong in its just-in-time practices. Mixing short runs and long runs, various materials, design changes, and of course the infamous expedite job, it had to find a way to be able to adjust quickly. It was also being inundated with paperwork, while tracking its jobs and material. With its previous software, it often had to re-nest jobs due to inaccurate materials library and cumbersome spreadsheets. It also needed to find software that ran its TRUMPF lasers and easily integrated into its job tracking system. After evaluating several nesting CAD/CAM systems, Grain Belt chose SigmaNEST from SigmaTEK (Cincinnati, OH). The CNC Laser Division Manager at Grain Belt, Monty Brown, comments that, "SigmaNEST allows this very dynamic process to run efficiently by controlling the material library and allowing for a quick quote to shipment process."

He was also impressed by the fact this software supplier works directly with machine manufacturers to develop the machine post processor. Brown said they are also ahead of the competition because they can use programming functions generally only found in OEM software.

In terms of CAD/CAM nesting software, SigmaNEST is acclaimed as one of the most advanced profile cutting, optimization systems in the U.S. today. From work order management to tight nesting and NC code generation, it offers a complete cutting solution for laser job shops. Cumbersome work order procedures are eliminated by providing simple bill of material scheduling and batch part processing. Material and operational costs on nested parts may be estimated using Rectangular or TrueShape nesting algorithms. Importing from CAD drawings eliminates redrawing and part manipulation before nesting. SigmaNEST supports DWG, DXF, IGES, and many other file formats. Other features include batch importing where entire drawings may be imported, and seamless integration with many of the major solid modeling programs. The software comes with a Standard Shapes Library, which may be customized to suit cutting requirements. Other shapes may be added as needed. Remnants may be tracked as inventory and used for new nesting tasks. Small parts are nested inside cutouts, and interlocking parts are nested together getting the maximum yield from material.


View of lasers at Grain Belt.
Click here to enlarge image

When asked what were the major advantages of implementing this software Brown commented, "It is a toss-up between ease of programming, material library, and the job tracking interaction." With the SigmaNEST material library Grain Belt quickly and easily implemented a system to track and re-use "drop" with the remnant-tracking module. Utilizing odd-shaped remnants has saved a lot of material over the traditional true rectangular drop they previously worked with. The company has gone from a large uncontrollable inventory to a small and organized inventory that is easily utilized by the programming department. Its custom in-house software works directly with the software to export and import cut lists, due dates, and costing information. This integration alone saves each programmer at least 3 hours per day of paperwork and data entry. With this increased efficiency coupled with exploiting the combinations of manual and automatic nesting, plus SigmaNEST's technology tables, it was nesting parts faster and with better sheet utilization. With just a few clicks, it was up and running combinations of large and small jobs on its lasers in a fraction of the time it used to spend. In fact, it has been able to reduce programming staff by 50 percent and shift its focus from programming to CAD.

In conclusion, Brown states that, "Grain Belt has only been using SigmaNEST for a year now and has completely changed the way we process, organize, and nest jobs. We are just beginning to tap into the integration and automation capabilities within the software. We are very excited to see what further savings we will achieve through the integration of this program and our custom programming. They also have a very strong support team. No matter how much you think you know, a good support team is worth its weight in gold. SigmaTEK is always there to help with any questions or problems we may face."

Glenn Binder is director of marketing and sales for SigmaTEK. Visit the SigmaTEK web site at www.sigmanest.com.

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