Eliminating Double Duty
When a sum total of two manufacturing pros make up your entire programming team, producing as many as 2,000 parts a day seems impossible.
But for Mike Pankow, a CNC programmer with Innovent Air Handling Equipment, and Brandon Warnecke, an engineering specialist with Valent Air Management Systems, turning out parts in the thousands is just another day on the job.
Founded in 1981, Innovent and Valent are OEM sister companies owned by Unison Comfort Technologies. Valent offers configurable packaged ventilators for various applications, and Innovent delivers a range of custom air-handling solutions.
While the companies produce similar products within the same manufacturing facility in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the two differ in levels of automation for CNC programming and manufacturing.
Innovent, which offers design services and manufactures custom products in 35 different materials, punches 300-500 sheets of material per day. Because it produces many one-of-a-kind units, it hasn’t implemented automation that typically handles somewhat simple, repeated tasks. In many cases, its units are used within buildings being retrofitted, as the products often have to be installed in sections.
Valent produces units in 10 material types, including plenty of 22-gauge galvanized steel, and punches about 100 sheets per day. It, too, offers design services for its configurable products.
To manufacture their range of solutions, Pankow and Warnecke operate a small arsenal of machinery, including three Pullmax 720 turret punches, one Prima Power SG6, and four press brakes.
To program their machinery, the productive pair uses the RADAN sheet-metal solution by Vero Software. Designed to provide operators with the tools to reduce lead times and optimize machinery, RADAN includes nesting capabilities that take all the guesswork out of maximizing materials while ensuring optimal part quality.
A typical day on the job on the Valent side of the business begins with logging into a material requirements planning (MRP) system that operates in conjunction with RADAN to automate the production process. On the Valent side, the MRP system is used to pull RADAN Symbol (.sym) files from a pool of files. Once the programs are created, they can be used again and again for similar units.
“With the help of RADAN, nesting has become more efficient and cost effective for Unison Comfort Technologies.”Brandon Warnecke, Engineering Specialist
Innovent, on the other hand, creates separate .sym files for each job.
“What happens on the Valent side is that we have business processing software that gives us a list of parts that we run through RADAN,” Warnecke says. “RADAN pulls the part number, part quantity and material from the pool of .sym files, and it creates the nest and the punch schedule.”
Similarly, Innovent employs a system that creates text files that can also easily be imported into RADAN. “I can just grab that file and load it without having to type anything,” Pankow says. “It’s a big time saver.”
To create ideal nests, RADAN analyzes the required material, thickness and true shape of all parts in a batch, and automatically sorts and separates components. To best utilize materials and machinery, the software generates nests for full sheets, as well as for remnants and off-cuts.
“The automation we have in the software allows us to increase the productivity of those doing nesting,” Warnecke says.
Both Pankow and Warnecke use tooling templates within RADAN to save time, as well as to create and maintain shop standards. The templates deliver a means by which to save preferences for specific parts and features, so that the same quality of product can be reproduced by the same methods, again and again.
“With the templates, you create the file one time, and use it over and over,” Pankow says.
Because a unit may include thousands of parts, saving and reusing templates increases overall efficiency on repeated tasks. It also maintains tooling preferences, ensures part quality, and reduces incidents of human error.
“We can make templates for parts so that, when RADAN sees a feature, it will use a certain tool,” Pankow says. “If I didn’t have templates set up on features and characteristics, it wouldn’t know how to tool those.”
Moreover, Pankow says, RADAN offers flexibility in programming and enables programmers to quickly and easily alter existing templates.
Taking their automation even further, Pankow and Warnecke take advantage of the auto-polling capabilities of RADAN to poll the parts necessary for each unit and apply the appropriate tooling.
Auto-polling gives them the ability to unfold and tool parts, taking full advantage of RADAN’s DTM (Design-to-Manufacture) module. DTM, combined with custom automation built by RADAN’s Professional Services Group, allows them to batch unfold and tool 3D parts for punching and bending operations.
The companies use the Autodesk® Inventor® computer-aided-design solution to design their units. Those files can be imported into RADAN to begin the auto-tooling process. If RADAN detects an error in a part, it will automatically send Pankow an e-mail to alert him of the anomaly.
“Since we’re configurable, once we poll the parts for a unit, we always have the parts, so I don’t have to recreate them every time,” Warnecke says. “I can poll from the pool of parts, so it decreases the time I need to make a nest.”
The flexibility of RADAN extends to the polling process, during which adjustments can be made to batches of parts.
“Since we nest from a common pool of parts on the Valent side, it’s easy to make them all pre-paint material really quickly, if that’s what’s required,” Warnecke says. “That creates a lot of flexibility.”
The pair also takes advantage of the punching capabilities of RADAN to eliminate labeling errors. A part number is punched into each finished part.
“We used labels in the past, but punching part numbers reduces the chance for error or confusion,” Pankow says.
Warnecke and Pankow agree that juggling two sides of a business with differing needs is a feat made easier with their CAM solution.
“With the help of RADAN, nesting has become more efficient and cost effective for Unison Comfort Technologies,” Warnecke said.
About the Company
Name: Unison Comfort Technologies
Business: Innovative HVAC solutions for today’s engineering challenges
- Saves time with RADAN’s advanced automation features, such as auto-polling.
- Ability to integrate RADAN with MRP system increases overall efficiency.
- RADAN’s nesting capabilities maximize materials and ensure optimal part quality.
“With the help of RADAN, nesting has become more efficient and cost effective for Unison Comfort Technologies.”
Brandon Warnecke, Engineering Specialist