Nesting capability keeps laser subcontractor dynamic

Altex Engineering in the UK has created a new role on its shop floor specifically to deal with nesting, using Radan CAD/CAM software and a Salvagnini fiber laser system.

Apr 10th, 2012
Altex Loading The Salvagnini Laser 450width

Carne, Wiltshire, UK - Nesting capabilities of the powerful sheet metal CAD/CAM software, Radan proved so vital for Altex Engineering Ltd. that the firm created a new role for a shop floor worker dealing almost exclusively with nests. Martin Brewer controls all nesting for the sheet metal subcontractor on its Salvagnini fiber laser. Because the subcontract company's priorities change on a daily basis it's his job to produce the best Radan nests for that particular moment and use as little material as possible. He takes Radan symbols, created by others in the office, then Martin takes the job on the shop floor producing the nests for that day with whatever other parts are going through in the same material.

The twin pallet Salvagnini L1Xe was the first in the UK when it was installed at Altex's 10,000 square foot Wiltshire manufacturing plant. The company says this unit cuts five times faster than the eight-year-old 3kw CO2 machine it replaced. Altex manufactures from different grades of steel along with titanium, tungsten, inconel, and aluminum including 1050A which the more conventional CO2 lasers find difficult. The wavelength of the fiber laser means it can easily cut highly reflective materials, such as brass and annealed copper.

Previously, nesting was handled in the company's engineering office and often meant producing nests well ahead of delivery dates. Standard nests were created, leading to a number of pre-lasered parts held in stock and build-up of remnants.

Now, according to Martin, it has become a very dynamic operation, achieving around 85% material usage, which is excellent for some of the unusual shapes being cut. Radan helps him use every piece of material he possibly can -- if there's space on a sheet, he'll fill it. This strategy has also helped reduce raw material stocks; Martin is also responsible for buying in the sheet material, which he orders against the nests he has created, buying only the material needed.

Loading the Salvagnini fiber laser.

Flexibility with Radan allows Martin to control which nest he needs to run first, particularly valuable if parts are needed for a specific job. In some cases he removes these parts from the main scheduled nests and put them onto a separate offcut or sheet. The remaining scheduled nests can be re-nested very quickly without disrupting the running of the machine or reducing the sheet utilization."

Altex Engineering, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in April 2012, manufactures sheet metal products for a variety of industry sectors, including office furniture such as desks, screens, modesty panels, toolbars, paper trays and cabinets; components for commercial heating boiler systems; along with rollers and automated stackers used within the laundry industry. The Salvagnini system also gives them the capability to produce the definition required for intricate titanium jewelry, which they profile for a local Wiltshire-based company.

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