If you are planning on installing an automatic cutting system to meet your cutting requirements, an important factor to consider is the kind of CAD/CAM software that you will be installing to run the system. Today, there are several types of CAD/CAM nesting software available in the market that range from entry-level programs for small hobby shops or small businesses to advanced high-level enterprise software packages.
It becomes quite a daunting task to make an appropriate choice. In this two-part series, we will be looking at a few criteria that will help you evaluate and choose the right CAD/CAM solution for your business.
Will All the Machines and Applications Be Supported by the Software?
Advanced CAD/CAM software will allow you to combine all your programming into a single solution such as supporting several cutting processes like laser, plasma, waterjet and oxyfuel cutting. It may also allow you to control several other processes such as bevel cutting, drilling etc. Almost all machine brands and models are supported by the CAM software. However, the entry-level software may allow you to control only a single system.
Is the CAD/CAM Software Easy to Use?
There are many factors that dictate the ease of use of the software. Some questions that you must ask are: Is the software easy to understand and is the interface intuitive? How many screens are required? In order to complete the job, is there a necessity to switch between many programs?
What Material Savings Are Possible by Using the Software?
When you make a switch to an automated process using more advanced software, you can see an instant and significant improvement in utilisation of materials. This is because of the use of optimised techniques and sophisticated algorithms along with the automatic nesting. A small percentage increase in material use can result in large savings for the business.
Can the Operating Expenses Be Reduced?
If your objective is to reduce the piece-count and hence the consumable cost, then you must evaluate if the software offers possibilities like common line, bridge or chain cutting. In-built process expertise can lead to better quality of the parts and lesser cleaning up of secondary parts. It is a good idea to use collision avoidance in the case of laser and plasma cutting. This helps to reduce impact and thereby reducing the damage to the cutting head.
What Part Quality Can Be Achieved?
Using advanced software can help to ensure that the job is done correctly the first time and there is no requirement for secondary processes. A good NC code automatically improves the quality of the edge, reduces the taper of the edge, reduces dross, provides sharper corners and adds lead with optimal style, angle and length, etc.
In Part 1 of the article, some of your questions on how to evaluate the various criteria before selecting the appropriate nesting software solution for your cutting system would have been answered. In the second part, we will be evaluating more factors that will help you make your final decision.