Better part nests

By Russ Olexa

February 2011 - With the flexibility to process precision sheet metal products using lasers or CNC turret punch presses, Overlanders Mfg. L.P., Abbotsford, British Columbia, has the equipment to give its customers fast turnaround and quality parts. But the company needed software to make its cutting equipment more productive.

Overlanders is a subsidiary of Exchange Industrial Income Fund, Winnipeg, Manitoba. The company has evolved from early operations involving fabrication, supply and installation of light-duty truck products to its current status as a high-tech fabricator of precision sheet metal and tubular products serving companies in the Pacific Northwest, United States and British Columbia.

Through the years, the company has grown and added equipment, allowing it to fill custom sheet metal requirements from cabinet manufacturing to small precision parts and tubular products. Overlanders can process parts from the most basic design to the most complex, including from the assembly of multiple components to surface finishing and silk screening.

Overlanders works with many different types of sheet metal and processes using one of its three CNC turret presses or one of two lasers. The products range from light-gauge steel to 3/4-in. mild steel plate, producing parts for a range of customers in many different industries.

New software
To make sure its equipment runs at peak efficiency, George Moore, engineering manager, says Overlanders always is looking for the latest equipment and software. Recently, the company added a Muratec 2548 turret punch press with a FG 1250 loader made by Murata Machinery USA Inc., Charlotte, N.C. This allows Overlanders to process materials lights out.

Included as part of the punch-press package was SigmaNest software from SigmaTek Systems LLC, Cincinnati. The software runs the entire machine, including the automatic material-handling system. SigmaTek provides software that enhances machine efficiency for sheet metal fabricators through its SigmaNest CAD/CAM nesting software.

Overlanders had been researching the purchase of a Muratec-brand turret punch press for almost three years. Murata was working with SigmaTek to use its SigmaNest software for the 2548 punch press and the loader system. Overlanders also was interested in SigmaNest software because the company felt it could be used on its other equipment.

"When we first looked at SigmaNest software, we just had our first laser, and the company came to us with this amazing nesting program. But we ended up using the software that came with the laser we bought," says Moore. "When we bought our new punch press this year, we purchased the SigmaNest software to improve our nesting capabilities with the lasers and our turret punch presses along with the part-handling capabilities of our new punch press. We now have the SigmaNest software on five different machines. These include both of our lasers and three punch presses."

SigmaNest is complete nesting and manufacturing software that also creates and optimizes the code that runs the machine, telling it exactly where to go on the material and what holes to punch, says Moore. It also provides the input information the operator needs to produce a job, such as the material type and thickness and tooling requirements. "It allows us to get excellent nesting capabilities, and it can schedule jobs using a work order that can be built using our MRP system," he says.

Brian Blair, regional sales manager for SigmaTek in the Northwest, sees the need for more streamlined manufacturing in today’s custom manufacturing environment, which demands a diversity of parts in small quantities.

"The days of the 1,000 count part runs are behind us now. It’s more likely that manufacturers get orders for 20 of these and 50 of those. So our SigmaNest software program brings a dynamic element for this type of programming to manufacturing. We have been partnered with Murata for several years and have been working on the automation for this 2548 turret punch press with a loader recently. The implementation at Overlanders gave us a prime opportunity to really see what the system can do." One of the company’s lasers uses a material-handling tower with 10 material shelves and can run untended 24 hours a day, he says.

Blair says the software is a separate purchase that isn’t offered as a standard software package for a machine. "Moore could have looked at other options for nesting software, but the reality of it is we are the only ones that are ready and capable to run this equipment today with all that’s required of the systems, such as part stacking and sorting. Plus, with our nesting abilities, we can easily handle diverse part mixes and multiple parts, which isn’t the norm for most punch press software. With SigmaNest, we’re able to bring in multiple parts at once, share tooling and make parts more efficient to run even with smaller part quantities."

Software benefits
Moore says the SigmaNest software simplifies equipment operation. "Its nesting capabilities and ease-of-use are just amazing," he says. Comparing it to the software once used on Moore’s other equipment, he says SigmaNest is already faster for punching and laser work. "I’m very impressed with how it works. It’s very intelligent software," he says.

It also allows Overlanders to have one main software system on its production-critical equipment that every operator knows and can be trained on easily. "If you have multiple software packages that are all different and you’re transferring CAD files between them, it can be a bit difficult," says Moore. "Having one software package definitely helps our operators."

SigmaNest has boosted the equipment’s productivity by minimizing scrap and reducing setup times at the machines. "The new punch press with its material-handling tower can run 24 hours a day untended, vastly improving our production throughput on a daily basis," Moore says. "It’s the software that makes this all work properly."

He adds SigmaNest did a great job in training and support of the software. "They had classroom training in their office and provided us with in-house training at our worksite. This personalized training worked very well," he says. FFJ

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  • Overlanders Mfg. L.P.
    Abbotsford, British Columbia
    phone: 604/856-6815
    fax: 604/856-5610

  • SigmaTek Systems LLC
    phone: 513/674-0005
    fax: 513/674-0009

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