What is Nesting Software?

In the industrial and manufacturing markets, nesting refers to the process of creating a digital layout of parts to be produced out of metal by a profile cutting machine. Manufacturers around the world use automatic nesting software to mathematically optimize their sheet metal cutting operations and reduce the amount of scrap material produced in the manufacturing process.

The nesting process is made up of five steps: First, an engineer or industrial designer creates a design file in a 3D CAD system. These files have designated material properties which are translated into a 2D file when imported into a nesting software system. The transition from 3D CAD files to part files can be time consuming, but automatic nesting software will reduce the time spent changing files. The nesting software is then used to convert the files into geometrically accurate part files that contain information about the true contours of a part, including material type, thickness, holes, and markings. More advanced nesting software will even allow users to process parts in bulk, rather than one at a time. This is a tremendous time saver and helps ensure the workflow does not bottleneck at the nesting stage. These part files can then be nested onto a sheet layout using automatic nesting features. Once a nest is created, a numerical control (NC) toolpath can be applied to the nest, generating coordinates for the machine to follow as it cuts.

One of the major advantages to using automatic nesting software is its ability to try different layouts until it finds the optimal way to place parts on a sheet. Sheet metal nesting software is specially designed to reduce the amount of raw materials that might be wasted by poor part placement. The better the algorithms that power the nesting engine, the better the nests that are achieved. Nesting software algorithms can be geared to work with nearly any application. Automatic rectangular nesting is ideal for companies that produce mainly square and rectangular profile parts. The benefit is derived from NC toolpath optimization, which ensures that the cutting machine is running at its highest possible potential for the entire job.

Many industries benefit from nesting software, including: industrial and agricultural machinery; construction and architecture; job shop and steel service centers; transportation; aerospace; furnishings and cabinetry; ship and boat building; and even the military.

Ultimately, manufacturers benefit from better machine optimization, higher efficiency and greater profitability. These sophisticated nesting software systems can be integrated into a company’s existing business operations to create an automated, streamlined, lean process.

When selecting nesting software, there are a few key points to keep in mind:

a.Look for Software that will Optimize Operations on Any Brand of Machine. Many machine manufacturers include their own software when selling machinery to manufacturers. However, most of these programs are proprietary and can only run their respective brand of machine. It can be very time-consuming for a programmer to switch between nesting systems for each new work order. It can also be difficult for a programmer to learn multiple systems, rather than one central nesting system. When shopping for nesting software, make sure to choose one system to run all the cutting machines. It IS available, and it will eliminate the bottleneck that occurs when a programmer is using an inefficient nesting system.

b.Look for Software that will Ensure Optimal Cutting and Coding Conditions are Automatically Achieved. Optimal cutting is made possible by taking into consideration material type and thickness, grain constraints or other material-specific characteristics. This advanced NC feature calculates in specific detail the most favorable layout of the parts. An advanced automatic nesting software that determines the most efficient arrangement of parts can save a company extraordinary amounts of money by eliminating or reducing scrapped material. This feature alone can greatly increase profitability of a company. The advanced NC feature also calculates the most favorable path for the cutting device to take. Most machines run on G-code or a similar industry standard which read coordinate lines that direct the machine’s movement. While the machines are cutting, the code controls the power level of the cutting head. For the laser, plasma and oxyfuel cutters, this means controlling the mixture of gases and chemicals; for the router, it includes controlling settings on the drill bit options; and for the waterjet it controls a recipe for the mixture of corrosive particles in the jet stream. Good nesting software takes all these mixtures into consideration to ensure expensive gases and other materials are not wasted. The software will make sure settings keep each machine running at maximum capacity, with maximum product yield.

c.Find Software that will Streamline Planning and Provide Accurate Time and Cost Estimates Before the First Job is Processed. Operational efficiencies, like job tracking and inventory control solutions, will simplify work order tracking from beginning to end, while effectively managing raw and processed material inventory for maximum efficiency. Job tracking and inventory control solutions must integrate directly with MRP and ERP systems to perform effectively. These systems are crucial when companies are performing just-in-time nesting and cutting or lights-out operations.

d.Determine what Level of Automation is Necessary to Improve the Processes. This step will be helpful when deciding what nesting software is right. Many companies, like SigmaTEK Systems, creators of SigmaNEST software, provide custom programming to clients that require higher levels of automation. They will work with clients to automate everything from interfacing the nesting software with the MRP to setting up fully automated, programmer-less operations.

e.Establish how to Integrate the Software into Existing Business Operations. Today’s sophisticated nesting software is extremely versatile and can be incorporated into most company’s processes with some effort. Make sure the nesting software system corresponds well with your CAD system and your MRP system. A consultant can help evaluate your system to guarantee that the best software is purchased depending on the situation and level of performance needed.