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How Do I Achieve Better Sheet Utilization?

How Do I Achieve Better Sheet Utilization?

With sources from Merry Mechanization Blog

When a fabrication facility optimizes its use of sheet metal, costs go down because there is less waste and productivity goes up because jobs take less time. Sheet metal fabrication software lets shops plan their production more efficiently and fulfill urgent orders more quickly. In addition to lower costs, benefits can include increased job satisfaction among employees and more satisfied customers. The use of a sheet metal program to store part designs, operate the CNC machines and plan production can increase the profitability of sheet metal fabrication shops and deliver additional benefits throughout the facility's operations.


How Sheet Metal Programs Work

Sheet metal fabrication software lets designers import complex parts from CAD programs or design parts within the application itself. Once a part is programmed, it is stored and can be called up, modified and re-used. When parts go into production, the sheet metal software places parts optimally on available sheets, nests them to maximize sheet utilization, keeps track of remnants and allows cross posting from one machine to another to optimize machine loading.

In production, the software lets the operators reduce cutting and punching times by minimizing tool paths. Additional features such as cutting path optimization to avoid crossing holes and the programming of grids for easy production of multiple sets of parts help save time and avoid mistakes. In every case, the software lets an operator review the planned operations and make adjustments if required. The final result is faster and more accurate cutting and punching while saving material.

Typical Sheet Metal Cost Savings

A facility that uses sheet metal programs for efficient sheet metal utilization can achieve substantial savings with comparatively small reductions in waste. A sheet metal fabrication facility that uses 50 sheets a week at about $100.00 per sheet has sheet metal costs of $260,000.00 per year. The facility might have a scrap rate of ten percent costing $26,000.00 per year or almost $80,000.00 over a three-year planning period. If the software allows the facility to reduce the scrap rate to eight percent, the losses due to scrap over three years decrease to about $64,000.00 for savings of around $16,000.00.


Actual savings in real live shops can be even higher, depending on how skilled the operators are in keeping waste to a minimum. Shops that don't use sheet metal CAD/CAM software rely on operator skill and on manual reports detailing how much scrap they have produced. The use of sheet metal fabrication software on the other hand delivers reliable savings continuously together with automatic reports on sheet metal utilization.

Specialized CAD/CAM software for sheet metal fabrication is crucial with bending! Please read another publication on our website about "Correct calculation of an unfolded part for a press brake"

Time Savings From Automatic Optimization

In addition to direct savings from a reduction in scrap, sheet metal programs let facilities work more efficiently by streamlining operations. Once preferences, machine parameters and sheet metal characteristics are programmed, the software can automatically find the best way to produce the required parts.


A sheet metal program starts to save time right at the beginning when the programmer selects parts from the parts library. As the facility continues to use the software, the library grows as parts already produced are added. The programmer can execute searches to find particular parts or parts that are similar to what is needed. Relying on previously saved work reduces programming time and speeds up production. The use of sheet metal programs can reduce time spent programming and machining time by anywhere from 20 to 40 percent.

Once the required parts are programmed, the software can check for suitable sheet metal and place the parts optimally on available sheets. The software can respect minimum sheet utilization limits and place parts in order of required delivery. The parts can be placed according to the required sheet metal characteristics and situated according to metal grain orientation if specified.


Tool optimization features in the program let operators reduce required machine time to a minimum. In addition to optimizing tool paths by calculating the best start position and shortening path length, the software can prevent head crashes, shift, rotate or flip sheets and avoid clamps while repositioning to satisfy hits within clamp range.

If a part similar to the one required is already in the library, the time savings can be substantial. Placing the parts to reduce sheet metal waste increases part density and reduces the tool path length. When combined with the tool optimization features of the software, final tool paths can be much shorter than without the software's calculations. The software allows better sheet metal utilization while saving considerable time.

Benefits From Improved Planning

Sheet metal programs can help improve sheet metal utilization and production efficiency through improved planning. Keeping track of sheet metal, remnants and scrap helps make production planning easier and more reliable. Managing the machines and their tools becomes more transparent and the scheduling of parts, jobs and machine time takes place in a centralized fashion from one software application.


When an order comes in, it's easy to create parts lists and check to what extent existing parts from the parts library can be used. Created and re-used parts can then join a parts queue while the software calculates ideal placing, nesting and scheduling to maximize sheet metal utilization. Non-urgent parts can be used as fillers. The operators can set minimum sheet utilization levels and maximum remnant sizes so that parts are only produced when enough parts are in the queue to satisfy the utilization settings. Priorities can also be set to help achieve planning goals. The software is designed to deliver the required parts when needed at the set sheet metal utilization levels.

Overall Production Benefits

Software can help sheet metal fabrication facilities reduce metal costs and reduce overall costs through savings in set up and machine times. Better sheet metal utilization means reduced scrap, and better machine utilization means increased productivity and improved facility performance. Sheet metal software delivers these benefits in a cost effective, reliable and easy-to-implement way while producing increasing benefits as programmers and operators become familiar with the program and the parts library grows.

Commentary from Dreambird

One of the most typical examples of the specialized CA/CAM software for sheet metal fabrication described in the article is RADAN software solution suite, developed by British Vero Software group, part of Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence. It is designated for fabricating parts from sheet metal and combines all the operation a manufacturer might face: from part preparation to punching, bending and various kinds of cutting, up to planning, commercial offer preparation and nesting. New efficient nesting technologies, algorithms and functions remain a top priority for Radan developers. New nesting functions and capabilities come up in each new product version.

We would also like to mention a Radmanager intralogistic module - an effective technology for transforming customer orders into nests. Radmanager is a simple way of entering your customer order data and turning it into nest projects within Radan. This enables parts from different customer orders to be combined into one nest project in order to maximize efficiency and material usage. Looking through the manufacturing plan, user sees the machines with their loading and the production queue of parts.

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