Cutting a fine profile

4 min read

Andrew Allcock reviews recent CADCAM technology usage in companies that work in sheet metal. A golf course lawnmower maker and a manufacturer of stainless steel furniture are benefiting

Ipswich-based Ransomes Jacobsen, the maker of professional mowers for golf courses, is an established Radan (0844 800 1248) software user, having employed the software for over a quarter of a century. Today, around 20 different types of municipal and golfing mowers are produced by the company at its Suffolk location, retailing from £2,500 up to £60,000, mostly for golf courses around the world and for local councils. Image: Mowing the lawn - Ransomes Jacobsen style The company uses its Radan software to drive a variety of machines, including a Pullmax punch press, a Messer Griesheim plasma cutter, as well as Bystronic lasers, while it supports the processing of normal production runs, in HR4 and CR4 mild steel and in thicknesses from 1 to 60 mm, along with the smaller amounts of stainless steel and aluminium that is used. Image: Ransomes' Bystronic laser cutters are programmed using Radan "With everything coming off the same baseline and stored as a symbol in Radan, it's so easy to change from one type of cutting technology and machine manufacturer to another," explains manufacturing engineer Brian Richardson. "I can switch from the laser to the plasma in a matter of seconds." Having introduced Radan into Ransomes Jacobsen more than 25 years ago, he has used it constantly ever since, and says he would not be able to produce the 10,000 different components manufactured at the site without it. "I used to hand-program machine tools and Radan is the only software I know that will allow me to cater to our individual requirements that would otherwise need to be done by hand, because we can tailor it for our specific needs. Many of the components are particularly complex and Radan handles every degree of complexity in its stride." The company receives 3D models via an EDS Unigraphics design package, standard throughout the company's parent group, Textron. After the model is unfolded in Radan 3D, the other Radan modules – Radraft, Radnest, Radprofile and Radpunch – are used for geometry manipulation, enhanced nesting, and advanced CNC programming for the punching, laser and plasma machines. Unfolding in Radan 3D is automatic and flexible, while Radraft meets all engineering drawing needs. In addition, the full toolset performs other 2D geometry tasks in Radan, whether it be a drawing, a sheet metal profile in Radan 3D or a sheet metal part in Radpunch or Radprofile. Radnest incorporates fully generalised nesting that analyses the true shape of Ransomes Jacobsen's components. It increases sheet utilisation and delivers substantial material cost savings. Moreover this performance has improved, most recently with the new Radan nester, which was introduced in the Radan 2010 R2 release. SCRAP REDUCTION And Mr Richardson expects to cut scrappage even further, when he brings in RadbendCNC shortly. At the moment, press brakes have to be individually and manually programmed on the shopfloor. RadbendCNC will provide the same efficient machine programming for brake presses that Radprofile gives to their laser and plasma machines, and that Radpunch gives to the Pullmax. Currently, once Mr Richardson has produced a part on his PC and decided whether it is to be cut by punching, laser or plasma, it is saved in a symbol directory on a network drive. "My PC serves three other PCs in an office on the factory floor, giving them immediate access to the part. The machine operators get a list of the jobs they need to do and simply type in numbers to get the relevant information to enable them to carry out the nesting, generate the CNC codes and manufacture the parts." RALU, based in Carnago, Italy, manufactures stainless steel indoor and outdoor furniture, as well as providing sheet metal subcontract services. It has been using Jetcam (0870 760 6469) with a succession of power punch presses since 1997. This year, the company purchased a Trumpf TCL3030 laser and started to evaluate software to drive it. "We investigated three systems. Despite running an old release of Jetcam, we could see that it was still better than the newer systems. It also had the strongest laser support," explains managing director Angelo Rabuffetti. Image: Italy's RALU upgraded its Jetcam licence, rather than change to another CADCAM system, to drive it's new Trumpf Marco Quadrelli, programmer, added: "We explored the other systems deeply and found that it was still easier to create orders, split them by material and thickness, and to make nests." The decision was made in June this year to upgrade to the latest release of Jetcam, add High Performance Rectangular and Free Form nesting, convert the licences from standalone to floating, while adding a post-processor for the new Trumpf machine. An engineer spent two days on-site upgrading the system, configuring it for the Trumpf and providing training for the staff. The company also used SCAP (Single Component Automatic Processing) to automatically apply a layer of profiling information to all existing geometry files, making them immediately available for the new machine. Jetcam Orders Controller (JOC) was also installed to provide easy creation of order lists. SURPRISING BENEFITS Although RALU had used Jetcam for a number of years, it was surprised by the number of benefits that the new version delivered. Logic had been improved on the Right Angle Shear module, which halved the time required to program for it. Tool teach mode reduced programming time by 60 per cent for the punch, with the system learning preferred tooling for specific cutting routines. Material utilisation also saw considerable and immediate benefits. Remnant sheet management allows RALU to create a database of partially used sheets and intelligently recommend which sheets to use for each job, where previously these remnants would have been thrown away. The high performance nesting modules also reduce waste and material sheet changes, with Marco citing a 15-20 per cent improvement on the existing punch part nest efficiency. "Jetcam generates nests that I was not able to produce manually. On one particular order, I managed to get all parts on a single nest, which previously was impossible," Mr Quadrelli confirms. The inclusion of JOC provided an easy interface to build lists of orders for parts or complete assemblies for each machine, separated by material and thickness. New parts or complete kits can be ordered by right-clicking and specifying the required quantity. This information is then synced with Jetcam and ready for nesting. Order lists that would previously have taken 1½ hours now take around 10 minutes. RALU is working on expanding its sales network, both in and outside of Italy. The company plans to share capacity with other manufacturing partners that also use Jatcam to ensure that they all benefit from the material savings and a common geometry format. "Implementing CAM software is something a company has to do, but Jetcam adds a real net value to our production. In just one month, we have seen massive savings and we feel that this will only improve over time," concludes Mr Rabuffetti. First published in Machinery, December 2010