By Doug Wood
Time is money in manufacturing, and it’s all about time when you’re trying to get a new design to market or get a revision released
to fix a critical problem. To meet the time crunch,
designers use the latest generation of solid-model-ing tools and push limits with their latest creations.
As a result, fabricators must figure out how to turn
art into parts, including how best to cut and bend
complex designs, if bending is even an option.
Historically, prototype fabrication involved an
operator cutting a few parts, then taking them to
the press brake operator or setup person to see if
they could be bent. The press brake operator then
went through a few di;erent options for tooling
and maybe a few di;erent options for the bend se-
quence. Fast-forward to a few scrapped parts later,
This is costly, especially considering that you’re
taking your press brake o;line from production and
turning it into your prototype machine. This also
ties up one of your skilled press brake operators as
he evaluates the bend sequence to determine if a
part can be bent the way it was designed.
Cutting test pieces wastes material and detracts
from valuable punching or laser cutting time. Depending on the material being scrapped, this frustrating game of trial and error creates costs that really add up.
In some cases, it’s not just the physical costs,
but about the process of getting information to the
press brake operator. Developing flat patterns from
parts in assemblies, creating a series of DXF files to
be imported into your CAM system for cutting, pre-
paring the nests and programs, and creating dimen-
sioned prints to take out to the shop floor are costs
paid in valuable labor-hours.
What if the part is o; by a few thousandths? Per-
haps you do not have the right tools, but you do
have something close. A part revision ensues, possi-
bly followed by more test pieces that need to be cut
and bent. The entire process can take hours.
Technology now exists that moves the entire
process upstream. Prototyping, press brake tool
selection, and bending tryouts have largely become
To begin, the customer or your engineering department releases the assembly for prototyping
and selects a part from an assembly in your o;line
press brake programming so;ware. From there
the press brake on which you intend to bend the
part is selected, and the system instantly evaluates
whether the part can be made, delivering live feedback to designers.
This can be accomplished without creating multiple files and transferring them to your CAM system for cutting, creating programs for your laser or
punch press, or walking the parts out to press brake
operators in the shop.