The use of sheet metal software in part fabrication offers advantages that allow steel fabrication shops to improve their operations. Sheet metal fabrication facilities that retain manual drafting and manual operation of punching and cutting machines will fall behind competitively and will eventually need to add sheet metal software to stay in business. Even then, they will be playing catch-up as shops that started using CAD/CAM applications earlier will already have optimized their use of the software and will be able to pick up the best orders.
CAD/CAM software such as Merry Mechanization's SMP/IS can improve the output of a sheet metal fabrication facility on several fronts. Fast set-up and short production times increase production line flexibility and lead to higher productivity. Once a part is programmed, the software delivers excellent consistency and high quality. For many parts, the work flow is simpler and more easily controlled.
Instead of manually starting drawings for new parts from scratch or looking for old drawings to make minor modifications, the CAD portion of the sheet metal software allows designers to work with finished simple and complex shapes. To create a new drawing, a designer can quickly assemble lines, circles, arcs and rectangles or similar geometric entities. He can then draw on previous work, searching a library for shapes he might need. Finally he can import drawings and shapes from other sources to finish the drawing that will act as an input for control of the CNC machines. The process is quick, reliable and accurate.
Once the drawing is in the CAM portion of the system, the machine operator can schedule the job depending on required delivery schedules, availability of material, optimal machine usage and number of parts required. Priority items can be produced in a very short time while less urgent work can be scheduled for the highest production line efficiency. Once a part is in the facility library, it can be called up again and again and the resulting parts will be identical. The simple process lends itself to excellent quality control and improved facility performance.
CAD/CAM software such as Merry Mechanization's SMP/IS can improve the output of a sheet metal fabrication facility on several fronts.
CAD/CAM software can reduce sheet metal fabrication costs by speeding up drafting and production and increasing machine utilization, but additional savings are possible. The use of shapes and drawings from previous work can reduce the amount of new design work that has to be carried out. Once the parts are finalized, the CAD/CAM system can arrange and schedule parts to maximize sheet metal use.
The longer the shop uses CAD/CAM software, the larger the library of existing shapes and drawings of past work. These drawings and drawing segments are stored in a database that can be searched for specific items on the basis of parameters such as customers or jobs. With time, less and less original drawing work has to be carried out, saving time and money.
When the parts are loaded into the CAM software, it can check to see how much of the sheet metal is in stock, whether there are other parts requiring the same material and how to make the best use of each sheet of metal. Nesting software can nest parts optimally to reduce waste and the CAM software can prioritize parts required urgently while scheduling other parts later to reduce off-cuts. As a result, the shop has lower raw material costs and the reliably scheduled deliveries lead to better customer service.
With time, less and less original drawing work has to be carried out, saving time and money.
Sheet metal software becomes even more important for shops that produce prototypes. A first model drawing can be prepared on 3D CAD software and examined from all angles on the screen within the program. Changes can be made quickly and easily at this stage, before a physical prototype has been produced.
If the part has to fit within or mate with another part, this can be explored in the CAD program. Other calculations based on material thickness, strength or hardness can also be carried out based on the digital software model. Any problems detected at this stage can save a lot of time and cut development costs.
Once the physical model is produced with CAM software, additional testing and observation often result in changes. In the CAD software, specific modifications can be implemented while leaving the rest of the model unchanged. For example, a radius could be increased to reduce material stress and the connecting edges can automatically be shifted without changing other dimensions. Prototyping with sheet metal software such as SMP/IS gets results quickly, reduces costs and gives designers additional tools to create the best prototype possible.
While the use of sheet metal software can result in immediate advantages for a sheet metal fabricator, long-term benefits are important and increase with time. As a shop starts using the software, drawings will start to take less time, the CNC machines will create less waste and the machine operators will become more productive. Production costs will start decreasing as these changes take effect. As a result the CAD/CAM sheet metal software benefits will quickly become apparent.
In addition to such concrete effects, shops using CAD/CAM software may experience more subtle changes as well. High quality software such as Merry Mech's SMP/IS is a powerful tool that allows employees to become more productive and turn out high-quality work quickly. Such employees have improved morale and become more satisfied with their jobs. Design work is at a higher level and machine operators have better control of their machines while not having to guide them through each operation manually.
Over time, sheet metal shops using CAD/CAM software gain an additional advantage from the storage of shapes and previous work. Designers can look for complicated shapes and CAD work will become even more efficient as the drawing library grows. Switching to sheet metal software can cut costs slowly at first as employees learn to use the applications, more rapidly as they master the program and then continuing as they build their library.
Merry Mech's SMP/IS is a powerful tool that allows employees to become more productive and turn out high-quality work quickly.