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Laser Technology

Creating communication

By Lynn Stanley

Above: Lantek’s Intelligent Collision Avoidance function prevents the fiber laser from colliding with tipped up parts like the one pictured here.

Software links machines, improves quoting accuracy, and automates programming and cutting operations, for starters

September 2020 - American novelist and short-story writer Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

In the 1980s, when computer numerical controls (CNC) and computer-aided design (CAD) software in manufacturing applications proliferated, Juan Luis Larrañaga thought, “Why not use a computer to automate programming to make the whole process faster and easier?”

The technology’s promise for the market space prompted Larrañaga in 1986 to establish Lantek Sheet Metal Solutions S.L. in the Basque Country of Spain. Lantek develops and distributes software packages for the sheet metal fabrication and structural steel industries. Jack London would have approved.

In 2009, Lantek opened a sales and support center in Mason, Ohio, under the name Lantek Systems Inc. It provides CAD, CAM, MES and ERP software solutions for U.S. manufacturers that use fiber lasers, plasma cutters, waterjets, shears and punches to process sheet metal, tubes and beams.

Kevin Must, Lantek’s U.S. marketing manager, observes that adoption of hardworking software among equipment builders and distributors is growing. “Machine builders are beginning to understand the importance of being able to digitally link equipment and the critical role software plays in customer support,” he says. “It’s also an essential building block to embracing Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) practices.”

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Digital foundation

The Lantek suite includes Lantek Expert, a 2D CAD/CAM nesting software for punching, fiber laser, waterjet, plasma, and oxy-fuel processing; Flex3d CAD/CAM nesting software for tubes, pipe and structural steel; Flex3d CAD plug-ins for unfolding 3D designs and importing them into Lantek with one click; Manager, a manufacturing execution system; WOS, a shop floor monitoring and validation application; and Lantek Integra, an enterprise resource planning and quoting system created specifically for metal fabricators.

The product line can integrate new machines like fiber lasers with legacy equipment. “We are a third-party vendor that can work with the majority of machines in the marketplace,” says Must. “Our library has more than 1,200 different post processors for cutting machines that we’ve completed successful installations with.” Post processors convert toolpaths into programs that can be read by a machine’s controller. 

Facilitating machine-to-machine communication is only the first step. The software products streamline complex tasks that trickle through the supply chain.

For example, equipment users can create online portals through which their customers will upload DXF part files and submit requests for quotes. Lantek helps customers digitize their industrial processes effectively and profitably, and can also integrate its products with a fabricator’s existing computerized network. The electronic exchange of data allows a fabricator to calculate machine time, material usage and other consumable costs as well as assign deadlines and optimize production schedules for accurate quotes.

“It’s a daunting process to quote jobs because a number of manufacturers still use Excel,” Must says. “Because our software stores information digitally, it can instantly access the data to reveal whether or not a company is realizing its profit potential. A company can email a quote to a customer the same day and improve its chance of winning a job. It’s a big advantage to be able to almost instantly generate a quote when you consider that conventional methods can take up to a week. Companies can’t afford that kind of time if they want to be competitive,” he adds.

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If an operator identifies a troublesome part, he or she can use a PC-based control and Lantek Expert to analyze and modify cut path and machining of parts in real time.

Integration

Lantek Expert Cut, an advanced CAD/CAM nesting system that automates CNC programming for sheet metal cutting machines, was introduced in 1986. The program has since been upgraded to integrate with Lantek’s MES and ERP software. It can also link up with a customer’s network. Lantek’s Flex3d programs also mesh easily with manufacturers’ programs to perform a wide range of tasks. Engineers can flatten 3D models and import sheet, tube and pipe parts to be nested. It eliminates the extra step of creating intermediary DXF files.

The program’s Do-All function allows programmers to automatically nest all pending jobs and make alterations to part flow, giving them control over orientation, positioning as well as  machine selection for parts and management of scrap to support safe operating practices. The Do-All feature can support multiple machines and material processing as well.

Autonest will automatically seek the best way to nest parts for each operation. Parts can be nested right before fabrication, versus taking days to program code.

This year, Lantek released a new feature called Intelligent Collision Avoidance (ICA). The proprietary algorithm combines different strategies designed to avoid collisions between a fiber laser’s cutting head and parts that have been processed.

Due to the power, speed and capacity required to cut thicker sheet metal, the high-pressure gases needed to process components can occasionally leave a part on top of a contour programmed to be cut at a later time. Colliding with these cut pieces can damage a fiber laser’s head and result in downtime. If a troublesome part is detected during programming, the system automatically assigns one or more micro-joints. It defines a safe cutting path that allows the machine to cut parts as soon as possible or at the end of a sheet metal machining operation, whichever is most efficient.

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A machine equipped with a camera allows an operator to use augmented reality  to nest with scrap material.

On the move

With Lantek Expert Cut Inside, operators can program on the fly. If a quality check reveals a bad part, it can be re-nested within the same job rather than being added to a future job. “An internal camera allows an operator to drag and drop parts and uses augmented reality to provide an outline of the geometry where the part will be nested,” says Must.

Lantek’s software solutions undergo stringent testing and must meet rigorous quality standards. Support services are geared to optimize customers’ production processes. “Our goal is to see that manufacturers save time and money in production and realize an ROI on their software purchase as quickly as possible,” he says.

While the industry continues to grapple with the effects of COVID-19, Lantek products have demonstrated an unexpected advantage. “The pandemic and its initial shelter-at-home order made the industry aware of different ways of working,” Must observes.

“Many employees continue to work remotely, and the circumstances have companies asking, ‘How do we do this?’ Engineers and technicians can program from home and send files to an operator who loads them on the machine, but if that machine is connected with software and internet access, we can send files straight to the machine control and have parts cut—that’s the ultimate goal,” says Must.  FFJ

Sources

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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 EMH Crane Rolleri USA Nidec Press & Automation
Butech Bliss Fehr Warehouse Solutions Inc.

PRESS BRAKES

STEEL

Red Bud Industries UFP Industrial AMADA AMERICA, INC. Alliance Steel
Tishken

MEASUREMENT & QUALITY CONTROL

Automec Inc.

TUBE & PIPE

CONVEYOR SYSTEMS

Advanced Gauging Technologies MC Machinery Systems Inc. BLM Group
Mayfran International

METAL FABRICATION MACHINERY

SafanDarley HGG Profiling Equipment Inc.

DEBURRING/FINISHING

Cincinnati Inc.

PUNCHING

Prudential Stainless & Alloys
ATI Industrial Automation LVD Strippit Hougen Manufacturing

WATERJET

Lissmac Corp. Scotchman Industries Inc.

SAWING

Barton International
Osborn Trilogy Machinery Inc. Behringer Saws Inc. Jet Edge Waterjet Systems
SuperMax Tools

METAL FORMING

Cosen Saws Omax Corp.
Timesavers FAGOR Arrasate USA Inc. DoALL Sawing

WELDING

HYDRAULIC PRESSES

MetalForming Inc. HE&M Saw American Weldquip
Beckwood Press Co.

MICROFINISHING TOOLS

Savage Saws Strong Hand Tools
Triform Titan Tool Supply Inc.

 

T. J. Snow Company

TPMG2022 Brands


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