Improve the environmental credentials of your NC files.

4 May 2023advance steelAdvance Steel



Improve the environmental credentials of your NC files

In this day and age, everything is about minimising the impact of our actions on the environment along with efficiency and optimisation. Using the minimum amount of resources to manufacture our products in one area this can come into. For steel detailers and fabricators our product is the steel structure.

Frequently NC files are used to digitise the manufacturing process. This reduces human errors and improves speed. However, there are settings and options within that system that affect the output. At least one of them can improve the efficiency further.

When the NC machine is drilling the holes in a beam or plate it does them in the sequence defined in the NC file. There is an option in Advance Steel in Defaults to control this. It is Structures BOM/NC > DStV NC&DXF > Sort holes by origin in NC files.

If this default is not ticked, then the holes in the NC file are defined in a pretty random sequence. Much like the left side of the image above, the machine tool might start at the green hole and follow the path marked by the red arrows until it finishes on the blue hole.

If the default is ticked, then the holes in the NC files are sorted into a logical sequence in lines form the origin. So, the NC tool would follow a path more like the right side of the image above working from the green to blue hole.

It doesn’t take a genius to see the total path length on the right is a fair bit shorter than the left.

There are so many variables and unknowns that I cannot be completely accurate, but I tried to crunch some numbers. I generated NC files with and without the Default ticked, then I calculated the total path length and how much was saved by ticking the option. Based on our very simple training model that many of you are familiar with (a small portal frame shed) I reckon it saves about 4-5% of the total path length for all parts. At the other extreme I took 1 beam and four plates from some bridge models a customer has done. These have hundreds of holes between them. These save around 220m of travel or around 44% on just the four parts. Based on that you could make 3 plates in the time it previously took for 2.

We are still only talking tiny amounts per object but how many parts do you get manufactured every year. This travel time still costs time and energy to do, so any saving is a positive thing. Multiplied over a year this could build up to something noticeable. There is nothing to lose by having this option ticked. (It is not ticked in the standard UK Build upon installation). We all need to do what we can for the planet and as Britain’s leading supermarket says, “every little helps”.

Written by Aleck Giles – Software Technical Specialist

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