laser cutting, TruLaser 3530
TRUMPF TruTops SOFTWARE MAXIMISES RETURN ON MACHINE INVESTMENT
News Release from:
A subcontract fabrication shop that initially operated third party CADCAM software on its recently installed TRUMPF TruLaser 3530 automated CNC laser profiling centre has since switched to TruTops Laser, TRUMPF's proprietary co-ordinated programming and control software. The extra capability provided by the move has allowed Halifax-based Ernest Gill to push the machine to its limits and gain vital competitive edge.
As a specialist designer and manufacturer of metal and wooden products, Ernest Gill has run a number of CNC punch presses for many years within its 85,000 sq ft West Yorkshire production facility. In 2007, the company acquired its first flat bed laser cutting machine, TRUMPF TruLaser 3530 with integrated LiftMaster sheet handling equipment.
Familiarity with third party CADCAM software deployed on its punch presses prompted the company to use the same vendor for its new laser cutter. However, after only a few weeks it became evident that the software had certain shortcomings which were preventing Ernest Gill from maximising the return on its investment.
“Around 90 per cent of the time it was fine, however, in such a competitive marketplace, extracting that final 10 per cent of performance can make all the difference,” says Production Manager Simon Gill, who joined the firm in 2000, some 100 years after Ernest, his great grandfather and the company’s founder, was born.
Mr Gill explains that performance was particularly curtailed when cutting on the fly (cutting without interruption at continuous speed) – and also that problems with GEO-files (used to create 2D blanks from customer 3D files) restricted flexibility. Furthermore, sometimes incorrect parts of the technical menu would be presented when processing thicker jobs, a factor that created confusion for operators.
“Eventually enough was enough and we made an enquiry about TRUMPF’s TruTops programming software,” says Mr Gill. “TRUMPF gave us a demonstration at Luton and we were sold. The learning curve was very short and in hindsight we should have opted for TruTops from the beginning as it is dedicated to TRUMPF machines, unlike the third party package we were using.”
TRUMPF developed TruTops Laser co-ordinated programming and control software especially for 2D laser processing, uniting all of its laser expertise into technology tables that make programming possible in just three simple steps.
In step one, production drawings are either accessed from a CAD system or drawn in TruTops Laser. Macros for frequently occurring or unusual geometries allow users to generate drawings quickly. TruTops Laser closes open contours, deletes duplicate drawing elements and rectifies unclean contour transitions.
In step two, TruTops Laser combines all individual parts into a single nested order, maximising material usage at all times. The software defines the fastest processing sequence for the machine, generating loops, rounded corners, pierce points and approach/return paths. The software ‘knows’ which cutting parameters are appropriate for each material and how to achieve the optimum cutting results.
In step three, the TruTops Laser generates the finished NC program automatically and transfers it to the machine. Screen forms guide the operator – on a sheet-by-sheet basis if required – through the entire production schedule, providing detailed information on processing times.
Mr Gill says that not only is cutting-on-the fly much enhanced using TruTops, but the GEO-files are more effective – in fact the same files can be used for bending – a factor that interests the 50-employee privately-owned company.
While Ernest Gill serves a wide range of industries, such as heating, lighting and point-of-display, around 65 per cent of its revenue is today commanded by the office furniture sector, hence its commitment to processing both metal and wooden components (from two different sites in Halifax) using the latest CNC punching, laser cutting, bending, tube manipulation, welding and powder coating equipment. Ernest Gill is also an OEM, manufacturing its own range of office furniture for sister company Emergent Crown, which supplies both private and public sector customers
“Overall we have found TruTops far more capable than our third party CADCAM software,” he says. “Being dedicated provides it with a real advantage as it’s not trying to be a ‘jack of all trades’. It’s certainly more user-friendly and it’s quicker to make programming changes.”
Mr Gill states that ‘laser tags’ can now be changed at the machine if required, a task that was not possible previously. And that process continuity has been enhanced thanks to TruTops Message – in the event of a dysfunction during unmanned production a nominated person will be informed of the reason immediately, by SMS, fax or email. Solutions can then be initiated to promptly correct the problem.
“While we have a solid foundation at Ernest Gill with regard to skill levels, manufacturing technologies and supplier competency, achieving a competitive price is vital to our success,” says Mr Gill. “TruTops, and functions such as TruTops Message, have contributed significantly to our ability to push competitive advantage to new levels.”
As a company Ernest Gill handles material from 0.7 up to 20mm thick, although the majority of jobs are typically under 8mm. Mild steel, stainless steel, zintec and aluminium components are manufactured in batch sizes ranging from 10-off up to 10,000.