Nesting Software Add-Ons Gain Fabricator 'Power User' Status

By: Joe Jancsurak

Friday, February 1, 2019

Kent Nolt, SteinerZ programmer, works on two projects: a nest (left screen) made up of large and small parts for a laser setup, and a CAD drawing of a thermal exhauster unit.
Titus Steiner, owner of SteinerZ, a Russellville, MO-based custom fabrication shop, is a quick study when it comes to nesting software.

From the 2010 launch of his firm (spelled as an alternative to Steiners) in a 2800-sq.-ft. shop, to its present-day 14,000-sq.-ft. facility, SteinerZ’s use of ProNest CAD/CAM nesting software by Hanover, NH-based Hypertherm, has grown along with its output. SteinerZ started cutting parts with a single machine, a Trumpf 2600-W laser, which it sold in 2016. Today, using a Durma 6-kW fiber laser, an ACL Group 175-ton, 10-ft. CNC press brake and an Accurl 13-ft. by 1⁄4-in. CNC sheer, its work ranges from one-offs to 10,000-part orders for such applications as automotive, agricultural, thermal oxidizers, generators and commercial trailers.

“When we started with Hypertherm in 2010, we only purchased the base nesting package with these modules: Automatic Nesting and Common Line Cutting,” says Steiner. “Since then our custom-parts work has expanded, and we’ve added several advanced-productivity nesting modules, including Chain-and-Bridge Cutting, Collision Avoidance and Skeleton Cutup, as well as enterprise modules for Plate Inventory with remnant control, Work-Order Processing and Data Sync for ERP/MRP integration.” (See Nesting Modules box for explanations of these modules.)

Custom-fabricated parts produced by SteinerZ include these jet exhausters for use on a charcoal kiln.
The software enables SteinerZ to create large nests—as many as 45 sheets—in 2 to 3 min. “These nests represent about 20 hr. of laser time,” says Steiner, “and typically range from 11 to 110 parts/sheet, though we often have nests with more than 500 parts/sheet.”

“SteinerZ’s expanding use of nesting modules puts it squarely in the power-user category,” says Jason Michahlski, regional sales manager for Hypertherm, who sold Steiner the ProNest software in 2010, and has been working with him since.

Nesting Modules Used by SteinerZ

Automatic Nesting allows for efficient nesting at the click of a button.

Chain and Bridge Cutting uses chaining to link parts in a continuous cut for fewer pierces, while bridging puts a thin web of material between parts for fewer pierces and decreased movement.

Collision Avoidance reduces or eliminates the need for head raises by automatically adjusting the leads, traverse path and cut sequence for faster overall head-down motion.

Common Line Cutting allows parts to share common edges.

Data Sync adds and updates plates from an MRP/ERP system into its plate inventory.

Nesting System Optimization, a more powerful type of automatic nesting, accounts for available plate sizes, remnants, etc., for efficient combination of parts and plates.

Plate Inventory provides a database to store, track and utilize all available plates; data also can be imported from ERP/MRP.

Production Manager connects nesting software to the shop floor, providing a window into machine status and job progress.

Remnant Control defines irregular shapes for nesting.

Skeleton Cutup enables simple removal of skeleton material from the table for recycling.

Work Order Processing digitizes work-order travelers, used to track the status of operations, and which can be imported from ERP/MRP and combined for more dynamic nesting.

“Many of our customers use the software for its core nesting functionality,” says Michalski, “but a growing percentage, of which Titus Steiner is a part, look for and effectively use features to expand their businesses as they save time, materials and money, and transition to Industry 4.0. The integration and data transfer associated with Industry 4.0 is a big trend as companies realize that with these powerful software packages comes the ability to have them communicate with one another throughout the factory environment.”

Stepping Toward the Future

SteinerZ recently took a step toward Industry 4.0 with its purchase of the Production Manager module, says Tom Stillwell, marketing program manager for Hypertherm. “This tool digitizes the work-order process,” he says, “allowing for the importing of electronic work orders from MRP or ERP into ProNest, and enabling work orders to be combined together for more efficient nesting and longer continuous runs of cutting jobs.”

Steiner says other Industry 4.0-related nesting steps soon will follow as SteinerZ and Hypertherm collaborate. “As our business grows,” he says, “we are faced with the challenge of serving an ever increasing number of customers and their multitude of material types and delivery dates. Since implementing the work-order module, we have seen a dramatic increase in material efficiency and have found it easier to maintain on-time delivery as we no longer nest according to customer-specific jobs, but rather by material and due dates. We achieve additional material time and materials savings using the remnant-control module, which allows us to save and nest remnants. And, we can practice numbered (from 1 to 99) parts-priority nesting, with the highest-priority parts assigned the lowest numbers.”

Since launching SteinerZ in 2010, Titus Steiner has added significantly to his nesting capabilities via software modules that enable control of plate inventory and remnants, and provide for work-order processing and data synching for ERP/MRP integration.
As for Industry 4.0, Steiner looks forward to greater connectivity. “Right now I’m working with Hypertherm to synch our E2 Shop System ERP software (from Shop Tech) so that when an order is entered using E2 Shop System, that part gets pushed to ProNest, and the material’s pulled and scheduling data entered, all without human intervention.”

Such efforts represent the future of nesting, says Stillwell. “We’re going to see greater communication between machines, tying back to nesting software in powerful ways,” he says.

Seamless Training

While nesting optimization, remnant control, synching and other related efforts may seem technical and complex, Steiner offers that the software is intuitive and easy to learn. “If I need someone on the shop floor to cover for a programmer, he or she can learn to nest quickly, just after a few nest samples,” he says.

“And, webinars and videos offer unlimited training opportunities,” says Stillwell.

Adds Michalski: “Because we offer a no-obligation software ‘test drive,’ our customers receive much of their training before they even place the order.” MF


See also: Hypertherm, Inc.

Related Enterprise Zones: Software

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