Programming Optimisation Slashes Cutting Times by Ten Per Cent

A contract to supply metal bread baskets for the Eiffel Tower’s restaurant was the catalyst for a laser cutting company to invest in RADAN sheetmetal CAD/CAM software.

Vincent Glatre, Site Manager at Métal Industrie, says: “The proprietary software with our laser cutter couldn’t solve the complex programming required for these components, and generated more knockouts than parts on the sheet.” They urgently looked at several software systems, and the first tests with RADAN’s powerful nesting module enabled them to meet the order’s deadline.

“For most parts, it’s an automated process. The operator simply pulls up the program and follows the various steps of the 3D image.”

Vincent Glatre, Site Manager

“Beyond the immediate resolution of our nesting issue, we immediately saw a ten per cent reduction in cutting times, thanks to program optimisation.”

He says that since then they have strengthened their software step-by-step to make it a productivity tool every bit as valuable as a new machine. “In the early days we used the software that came with our machines, which was fine for simple cutting and common issues, but as we took on increasingly complex work we needed RADAN’s automation features that were capable of optimising nesting to save costs on raw material and increasing productivity.”

Métal Industrie was formed following the merging of three companies in 1993 which specialised in sheet metal and decorative layout, and needed a dedicated laser cutting service to service that particular requirement.

Moving from their 300 square metre workshop to 2,000 square metre premises in 2011 they invested in semi-automated cutting machines and high-end press brakes. Now operating 24 hours a day with 17 employees and new machines, they offer technical folding services as well as flatbed laser cutting. “We also undertake tungsten inert gas or metal inert gas welding, with integrated trimming for quality finishes.”

Processing around 2,800 tons of raw materials…mainly steel, stainless steel and aluminium in thicknesses ranging from 0.5 mm 6o 25 mm, they readily manage jobs ranging from single pieces up to 10,000

Like many companies, they originally prepared their quotes on internally-developed spreadsheets, but simplified procedures by integrating RADAN’s Radquote software, which mastered all their required technologies while also supporting other data necessary for accurate and functional costing, such as analysis and transport. “Its full flexibility means we can adapt it to the specific needs of each company.”

After investing in a new 170-ton Trumpf press brake in 2017 they completed their RADAN suite by installing the Radbend module, continuing their strategy of off-line programming, to detect any possible issues before starting to work on the metal.

Radbend contains all machine and environment data, such as the number of axes, type of stops, and tools, and the folding is simulated to verify the code, ensuring there is no collision with the machine or tools. If there is an issue, the software assists with its resolution.

“For most parts, it’s an automated process,” says Vincent Glatre. “The operator simply pulls up the program and follows the various steps of the 3D image, starting with the correct positioning of tools to achieve the folding sequence safely.

“Radnest saves a lot of time, allowing us to fold a lot more parts than if the operators had to manage their own programming directly on the machine. Once the customer’s file is transferred to Radbend we get the developed file for cutting.”

Another step in their software journey was to find a backbone for data centralisation and workshop monitoring. “We were using several programs for purchasing, scheduling, quotations with Radquote, and accounting, and communication between departments wasn’t easy.”

After looking at several ERP systems, they chose WORKPLAN, which, like RADAN, comes from Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence’s Production Software business. “This exploits a database common to all services, centralising information without having to re-enter it. It fully interfaces with RADAN, from quotation through to workshop program management.

“It saves considerable time, while giving real-time access to every stage of our business. For example, we can give customers an up-to-the-minute status of their order…and touch pads in the workshop let all operators show their activity, from the cutting stage through to packaging the finished products.”

He says this gives them total control over the company’s schedule, and means they can produce a balance sheet at any time, to ensure the smooth running of the company.

Both Radquote’s quotation software and RADAN’s nesting engine are automatically called up by WORKPLAN, meaning users can see everything without leaving the software. And Vincent Glatre cites an example of how the two software packages work together seamlessly and efficiently. “It enables us to anticipate stock purchases based on previously signed orders and stock material. Two months later, WORKPLAN automatically interrogates the RADAN nesting engine, taking into account the geometric complexity of parts produced by laser cutting, and uses the data to make a quotation based on real and accurate information.” He says the software’s strength is to make their entire business processes completely accessible and transparent.

“Overall at Métal Industrie, we’re writing the future with RADAN and WORKPLAN.”

Finally, they have also integrated a sister product, WORKXPLORE, a powerful 3D file viewer and analyser, which imports and analyses all file types and sizes at high speed. It often takes less than half the time to open a file compared to the original CAD application.