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 sheet-metal CAD/CAM software.
Vincent Glatre, site manager at Métal Industrie, said: “The proprietary software supplied with our laser cutter couldn not solve the complex programming required for these components, and generated more ‘knockouts’ than parts on the sheet.”
The company urgently looked at several software systems, and the first tests with the powerful nesting module offered by Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence’s Radan software (www.radan.com
) enabled the order deadline to be met.
Mr Glatre said: “Beyond the immediate resolution of our nesting issue, we immediately saw a 10% reduction in cutting times, thanks to program optimisation. Since then, we have strengthened our software step-by-step to make it a productivity tool that is 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 the type of automation features offered by Radan — features that can optimise nesting to save raw-material costs and increase productivity.”
Métal Industrie was formed in 1993 with the merging of three companies that specialised in sheet metal and decorative layout work.
It moved in 2011 from its 300m2
workshop to 2,000m2
premises and bought semi-automated cutting machines and ‘high end’ press brakes.
Now operating 24hr a day with 17 employees and new machines, it offers technical folding services as well as flat-bed laser cutting. “We also undertake tungsten inert gas and metal inert gas welding, with integrated trimming for quality finishes.”
Processing around 2,800 tonnes of raw material a year — mainly steel, stainless steel and aluminium in thicknesses ranging from 0.5 to 25mm — Métal Industrie undertakes jobs ranging from single pieces up to 10,000.
Like many companies, it originally prepared quotes on internally developed spreadsheets but later simplified procedures by integrating Radan’s Radquote software, which also supported other data necessary for accurate and functional costing, such as analysis and transport.
Mr Glatre said: “The high level of flexibility offered by Radan software means that we can adapt it to the specific needs of each customer.”
After investing in a new 170-tonne Trumpf press brake in 2017, Métal Industrie completed its ‘Radan suite’ by installing the Radbend module, continuing a strategy of off-line programming to detect any possible issues before starting to work on the metal.
Mr Glatre said: “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, thereby ensuring that 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. The operator simply pulls up the program and follows the various steps of the 3-D 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; and once a customer’s file is transferred to Radbend, we get the developed file for cutting.”
Another step in Métal Industrie’s software journey was to find a backbone for ‘data centralisation and workshop monitoring’.
“We were using several programs for purchasing and scheduling — and Radquote for quotations — which meant that accounting and communication between departments wasn’t easy.
"However, after looking at several ERP systems, we chose Workplan, which is also from Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence’s Production Software business.
This uses a database common to all services, centralising information without having to re-enter it. Moreover, this software fully interfaces with Radan — from quotation through to workshop program management.
“We are now saving considerable time, while having real-time access to every stage of our business.
For example, we can give customers an up-to-the-minute status of their order, while touch pads in the workshop let all operators show their activity, from the cutting stage through to packaging the finished products.
"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.
“Furthermore, both Radquote’s quotation software and Radan’s ‘nesting engine’ are automatically called up byWorkplan, which means that users can see everything without leaving the software.
“Indeed, we can anticipate stock purchases based on previously signed orders and stock material.
"Furthermore, two months later, Workplan automatically interrogates the Radan nesting engine, taking into account the geometric complexity of parts produced by laser cutting, then using the data to make a quotation based on real and accurate information.”
Métal Industrie has also integrated a sister product — WorkXplore, a 3-D file viewer and analyser that imports and analyses all file types and sizes at high speed.
Mr Glatre says: “It often takes less than half the time to open a file compared to the original CAD application.”