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Guest Editorial

Real freedom to choose software

By Ben Terreblanche

FFJ-0708-guest-lead

October 2013 - CNC machine manufacturers face a dilemma when it comes to opening up CNC control architecture. It is required for flexibility to integrate with other company systems, versus compromising cutting technology innovation and intellectual property.

For example, what is the best approach for cutting ¾-in. stainless steel on a 5,000 W CO2 laser with nitrogen when the geometry is intricate? Laser cutting machine manufacturers do not have consensus on this. Each laser OEM has details of how to balance the trade-offs of quality, cycle time and process reliability to best position its solution in the marketplace. Whether it is special treatment of the pierce point and lead-in, exact stops in corners, feed rate ramping, laser power ramping or all of the above, each manufacturer’s solution amounts to intellectual property worthy of protection.

Another example is the detail of the process of a press brake operation. Dealing with cycle time, handling work load for the operator, part quality, tooling optimization and compensation, again, are functions uniquely solved by press brake manufacturers.

Even with tube laser cutting machines, the same challenges exist. Cutting the knuckle on square tubing, or the multiple cuts required to process an open channel section, is approached in unique ways by machine builders.

This dilemma is not limited to laser cutting machines. Similar issues exist in plasma cutting. Cutting a “bolt hole quality” opening relies on detailed manipulation of torch height, cutting feed rate, power supply shut-off procedure and timing, combined with the shape of the cutting contour lead-in, among other variables. By balancing these variables, normally using empirical techniques, the resulting “recipes” from different plasma machine and plasma power supply manufacturers are unique.

Plasma machine bevel cutting adds yet another set of variables to the equation, which is the five-axis motion required to cut weld preps and chamfers during the cutting of the nesting layout. Some of the challenges facing machine builders are height sensing; how to handle corners, with or without corner loops; blind bevels with rapid head tilt transition or the more conservative new pierce point method; and plasma flame torch taper compensation.

There are three ways machine builders can overcome this dilemma. First is to open up the system completely, leaving it to the end user and/or the CAD/CAM software system to provide the detailed process variables to make the cutting machine perform. Whereas this allows the potential to integrate, the disadvantage is the machine might end up under-performing if the CAD/CAM software is weak on process detail. Also, calibrating cut quality will be time consuming for the equipment’s end user.

The second approach is to completely shut down the system with programming language encryption and/or binary technology information. This allows some part of the unique and sensitive technology to be protected but causes severe frustration for experienced customers with system integration requirements. Machine OEMs often take advantage of this opportunity to supply bundled proprietary CAD/CAM software. This practice amounts to forcing the customer’s hand instead of allowing the proprietary CAD/CAM software to be selected from the market. Whereas this approach may be acceptable to first-time machine buyers, customers eventually will want to “jail break” and that could put the reputation of machine suppliers following this approach in jeopardy.

The third approach, and in my opinion the best, is to provide an open and fully functional NC programming language (ISO or G-code) with macro functions, technology database tables and subroutines accessible through the programming language. That will make the machine perform optimally and predictably as far as process detail is concerned. This not only protects key intellectual property but allows scalability and potential for integration. This approach affords the marketplace freedom to select the most suitable CAD/CAM system for a particular application.

Companies purchasing cutting machines should not allow the CAD/CAM software part of the conversation to be trivialized. Software is the brain that drives the machine, directly impacting performance, productivity, material savings and ROI.  Such a purchase should be given every bit as much consideration, analysis and scrutiny as any capital investment. FFJ

Ben TerreBlanche is the president and CEO of Sigmatek Systems LLC.

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Company Profiles

AIR FILTRATION

IRONWORKERS

NESTING SOFTWARE

SERVICE CENTERS

Camfil APC - Equipment Trilogy Machinery Inc. Metamation Inc. Admiral Steel
Camfil APC - Replacement Filters

LASER TECHNOLOGY

PLASMA TECHNOLOGY

Alliance Steel
Donaldson Company Inc. AMADA AMERICA, INC. Messer Cutting Systems Inc.

SOFTWARE

BENDING/FOLDING

Mazak Optonics Corp.

PLATE

Enmark Systems Inc.
MetalForming Inc. MC Machinery Systems Inc. Peddinghaus Lantek Systems Inc.
RAS Systems LLC Murata Machinery, USA, Inc.

PLATE & ANGLE ROLLS

SecturaSOFT

BEVELING

TRUMPF Inc. Davi Inc. SigmaTEK Systems LLC
Steelmax Tools LLC

LINEAR POSITION SENSORS

Trilogy Machinery Inc. Striker Systems

COIL PROCESSING

MTS Sensors

PRESS BRAKE TOOLING

STAMPING/PRESSES

Bradbury Group

MATERIAL HANDLING

Mate Precision Tooling AIDA-America Corp.
Burghardt + Schmidt Group Fehr Warehouse Solutions Inc. Rolleri USA

STEEL

Butech Bliss UFP Industrial

PRESS BRAKES

Alliance Steel
Red Bud Industries

MEASUREMENT & QUALITY CONTROL

AMADA AMERICA, INC.

TUBE & PIPE

Tishken Advanced Gauging Technologies Automec Inc. BLM Group

CONVEYOR SYSTEMS

METAL FABRICATION MACHINERY

MC Machinery Systems Inc. Prudential Stainless & Alloys
Mayfran International Cincinnati Inc. SafanDarley

WATERJET

DEBURRING/FINISHING

LVD Strippit

PUNCHING

Barton International
ATI Industrial Automation Scotchman Industries Inc. Hougen Manufacturing Flow International Corporation
Lissmac Corp. Trilogy Machinery Inc.

SAWING

Jet Edge Waterjet Systems
Osborn

METAL FORMING

Behringer Saws Inc. Omax Corp.
SuperMax Tools FAGOR Arrasate USA Inc. Cosen Saws

WELDING

Timesavers MetalForming Inc. DoALL Sawing American Weldquip

HYDRAULIC PRESSES

MICROFINISHING TOOLS

HE&M Saw Strong Hand Tools
Beckwood Press Co. Titan Tool Supply Inc. Savage Saws T. J. Snow Company
Triform

 

 

 


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