Owners and managers of sheet metal fabrication companies are painfully aware that it is hard to find good operators in the current economic climate – and it’s even harder to find operators who can reliably program production software at the control panel. This dynamic creates a production bottleneck that could easily be avoided.
Offline production software automates fabrication programming and enables your operation to increase efficiency and production while decreasing waste and downtime – on a dramatic scale. We have seen operating costs decrease by 30% in some cases.
What Exactly Is Offline Production Software?
Offline production software allows fabrication shops to program their press brakes offline, at a computer away from the floor. This allows shops to cut setup times in half, reduce operator-induced errors, and practically eliminate the time operators spend in front of the controller. Most importantly, it maximizes the productive, revenue-generating time of operators and machines.
How Does It Work?
The bottom line is that separating programming from operating makes both processes much more efficient. Rather than having an operator program in a job at the control panel attached to the machine just before fabrication starts, all of the programming can be done “offline” at a computer, in advance.
The programming aspect of the work is greatly simplified. To program a job, the programmer or operator only has to upload a 3D CAD model of the part and select the machine that will be bending the metal. From this point, the software will “unfold” the 3D model, create a fabrication program including all machine movements and even tooling to refold it, and then provide a simulation of the fabrication process for the programmer to view.
The production software creates the perfect bend sequence based on an internal algorithm that factors in at the part, current shop tooling, press brake, and material type, as well as any auxiliary equipment on the press brake. All of these variables are accounted for in the automation.
Here’s a quick demonstration of programming a bending project by AutoPOL.
How Will It Make Your Operation More Profitable?
Press brakes only make money when they’re bending metal, and offline production software gives you the ability to increase productive equipment hours dramatically. It can have an immediate positive impact on several fronts:
Efficient workflow: Rather than having operators program in each job on the production floor, the jobs for every machine can be programmed offline on a computer — in advance. Then it’s just a matter of uploading the program. This improves efficiency and reduces downtime on the shop floor.
Faster setup: The software will produce perfect cut blanks (DXF files) on the first try and deploy them to your laser or nesting software. AutoPOL creates the DXF blanks taking into account the tools you actually have in your inventory and uses the correct K-factors and bend allowances for that tooling. No more wasted time and materials using trial and error to develop the correct flat pattern and searching for the right tools for the job.
Reduced waste: The software generates a 3D simulation of the job that programmers can review prior to starting fabrication. This allows for a last look to catch any errors and increases the first-pass yield of your operation.
Maximized output: Offline software production can have a systemic effect on your company’s labor output by empowering your most skilled operators to excel at programming (and be able to program and support multiple projects) while enabling less-skilled operators to be more productive and generate more value.
What’s Unique About AutoPOL?
The most unique thing about AutoPOL is that it’s both platform- and OEM-independent – so it doesn’t matter which OEM made the equipment you have now, and you can add in equipment from new manufacturers later without having to switch software. AutoPOL works with all of the most common CAD file formats, including CREO, Catia, SolidWorks, and Inventor – so it doesn’t matter which format you’ve been using.
Most production software is OEM-specific and only allows fabricators to use its native OEM machines and tools. AutoPOL supports more than 20 different brands of press brakes and a variety of press controllers. The system is also more user-friendly compared to many of the offline software products on the market.
How much time are your operators spending programming jobs on the shop floor, revising cut blanks, and searching for tools and dies? AutoPOL can give you all of that time back while maximizing the output from your talent. I can’t think of any other capital investment you could make in your operation that would offer more immediate positive impacts to your production and profitability.
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