For many ASCO customers, nesting is left to the machine operators nowadays. In these cases, an ASCO system is then available close to the machines.
For the near-machine area, ASCO has several modules on offer that do not require a full ASCO licence but can still communicate to the full extent with the normal work stations.
Through the production support, the operator can view the work documents and initiate the confirmation of produced sheets, if the machine itself does not do this.
The machine workload shows, during the various phases of process planning and production, the capacities required for all orders issued by the ERP on a timeline that is updated constantly.
The machine control system makes it possible to plan jobs in ASCO on machines that are then processed in the sequence defined in ASCO, without any further intervention needed from the machine operator.
By an order, ASCO understands the instruction to produce a certain part from a material in a certain quantity by a specified date using a machine (group). This corresponds to the term production order/work order in most ERP systems.
To fill the order, the part must be programmed and the part program must be released for production. It must be placed on a material (usually nested, also with other parts) and the NC data must have been generated. When the required quantity of the parts has been produced, ASCO views the order as completed. During this process, ASCO registers the current status of the order.
How does an order get into the ASCO system? An order can be created within ASCO itself, but in most applications nowadays the order is imported, i.e. obtained via an interface, be it from an ERP or MRPII system or from a simple order processing module.
In all cases, the order is stored within a database in ASCO.
For the manual entry of the orders, there is an convenient user interface.
For the import of orders, ASCO provides a very comprehensive standard interface, which nowadays is used by most users in the form as offered. Normally, there are a large number of orders that must be filled at the same time. The import process is carried out automatically after it is triggered by various events:
ASCO customers generally choose one of these methods.
Both the user and the import module can create, modify and delete an order, if the corresponding privileges have been granted. For the import, a freely configurable Excel-CSV format can also be used as the standard interface.
When the orders have been processed, a completion confirmation is issued. With this message, the orders can be deleted internally in ASCO; externally the systems expect an extensive amount of information, which is prepared by ASCO and made available for further processing.
As with the orders, the materials and sheets can also of course be entered manually or alternatively imported via an interface, with the inventory information coming from the ERP or possibly taken directly from a warehouse administration system. Especially in the case of large stores that do not exclusively supply the machines ASCO feeds with NC data, a more or less continuous reconciliation with the material management system is advisable. Then the stock sheets should be created in ASCO with quantity control . Otherwise it may happen that a nesting operation uses a material and it is only discovered at the time of production that there is no longer enough.
To exclude this, ASCO already issues an initial report to the ERP/storage system directly after nesting a job that, amongst other things, can be used to determine the exact material requirement.
The material can also be imported via the Excel interface.
The term “material” describes the stock materials and formats (sheet sizes ). Naturally, the materials in ASCO can be taken over directly from the ERP or from warehouse administration systems. Material properties are decisive for the fine-tuning of the machine technology and must be available down to the tool level throughout the system, not only when cutting but also when punching. To ensure that work of entering the technology parameters does not become excessive, it is advisable for the user to bundle materials into material groups, for which the same settings then apply. In addition, the user specifies what the material ident numbers should mean: only the material or material incl. thickness or a particular sheet format. In principle, sheets can be available in any quantity or with quantity control. Residual areas are always under quantity control. Residual areas ranging from a rectangle to a “left-over” perforated skeleton can all be processed. Materials can be reserved for batches or commissions. Through the assignment of materials to storage locations, ASCO can handle several stores. ASCO is also able to optimize on coils.
When the version of a part cannot be an element of the drawing and part name, there is the possibility of either importing a version number through a key from the drawing or entering the version number during the part programming. ASCO-VC ensures that the correct part is produced. ASCO-VC checks whether the version of a part ordered via ERP corresponds to the version of the currently programmed part. If this is not true, the order is locked. The user must then resolve this issue, at the latest during creation of a job.
In the technologies punching and milling especially, the programmers often have to perform precision work on complex parts before a part meets the requirements for quality. When new versions are then generated, the reference part programming of ASCO offers the possibility of re-using the previous programming work. ASCO detects which areas of the versions have remained unchanged (see Similar Parts) and allows, for these areas, the automatic transfer of the processing of previously completed part programs to the new part version, with all the features that were previously customized.
Contour sections in the part that are not identical are highlighted and can be edited interactively or adjusted automatically.
The calculation data supplied by ASCO are generally passed back to ERP systems (for cost accounting), to provide dependable figures on the required time (capacity ), the material consumption and, if applicable, for the payroll accounting. The calculation process is also used for generating quotations. The calculation is based on the technology data stored in ASCO as well as adjustable surcharges, and can also yield prices.
As with most ASCO functions, the calculation can also be
The calculation module is also available to prospective customers who do not (yet) use the entire ASCO system.
In order to reduce purchasing costs, a sheet-metal parts manufacturer can give his customers and potential buyers the opportunity of asking for offers on his website and/or placing orders through this channel. ASCO-IC (InternetCalculation) can also be set up when no complete ASCO solution has been installed.
For the supplier, ASCO ensures that competitors are not able to abuse this function under normal business conditions!
Prospective buyers can upload DXF files and have these calculated in the machine and material environment of the sheet-metal parts supplier (and, if applicable, also have them nested together with other parts). Depending on the potential order volume, the results can be sent directly to the enquiring party or submitted to the sheet-metal parts manufacturer for further processing of the offer.
During the job creation (selection), checks are made to ensure that the selected orders can also be produced without difficulty.
The functions described here are concerned with the normal job creation via the Selection, for which there are two possibilities in the standard solution:
All orders complying with the criteria are shown. However, only those that were tested as positive are released for nesting. Amongst other reasons, an order may be rejected, because
the part program is not available; the part cannot be produced on the chosen machine; the part was locked by the QA or CAD departments; the tool magazine is already in use; the part cannot be stacked as intended by the programmer; and so on.
The user can carry out corrections on the automatic proposal.
With Create Job, the job then appears in the ControlPanel and the rules are processed accordingly until the NC data and documents for production are obtained.
The modules and functions listed in connection with job creation describe further tests and possibilities for job creation (selection). Selection forms an important part of the ASCO system. Whatever was approved here must run aon the machines automatically and without further intervention.
During job creation, it is ensured that
For the depositing and storage of the parts, there are many different possibilities, ranging from chaotic depositing to orderly stacking on pallets with variable sorting criteria, with bulk goods in boxes or also depositing as nested on the sheet.
An especially effective way of depositing parts is to use the Transport Manager ASCO-TM. Here further criteria can be specified, e.g. the subsequent operation to determine the required transport means for ASCO with appropriate minimization of transport operations.
The Version Control ASCO-VC operates mainly in the background. During job creation at the latest, another check is made to see whether the programmed parts and the ordered part have the same version. The user creating the job is then shown both versions. Because version numbers are sometimes issued without any change to the relevant production characteristics, the user must decide whether the non-conformity is acceptable. If this is so, he must approve the deviation with an explicit confirmation.
[Another module Version Analysis and Reference Parts provides additional and excellent support, especially for complex parts, for the programming of a new version with due consideration for a predecessor programmed previously.]
If Version Control is active, the order list (standard output of ASCO) shows whether and by whom the produced version has already been checked or must still be checked, because this part version is being produced for the first time. For this, the quality assurance department has a “mini” ASCO, via which QA can also lock part programs or release them again.
During job creation, the module Fixed Programs detects automatically when a previously saved fixed program can be used. Here ASCO checks with lightning speed whether the parts requested by orders allow the use of a fixed program. If so, these can be released for production with just one click. No programming, no nesting - everything is ready to roll.
If the quantities requested for the parts are not a multiple of the fixed program, ASCO informs the user about the consequences (if applicable, overruns or shortfalls).
The function MultiNest makes it possible for the user to optimize a job in several versions in one go. This can involved several combinations of sheet formats (all formats, only medium or only large format, small and special format, include residual areas, separate free length from coil, …) or several nesting methods (QX, FG, SuperNest, …), and, if applicable, also various parameters. MultiNest calculates all the ordered versions of the job. The user is given a comparison of the results with regard to machining time, material consumption and other decision-making criteria. The user can look at the details before deciding on the best job and having the NC data created for it. MultiNest is also available in combination with the fully automatic module AutoJob; a set of rules defined by the user then makes the decision as to which results are passed into production.
A commission collects together several orders, which may also include parts made of various materials and for various technologies. A commission could be an assembly or a customer’s order or … When the selection chooses a commission from the order pool (job creation), all the jobs needed to carry out the commission are immediately created and checked with one click . Several commissions can be selected at the same time. As for each of these selections, it is possible to fetch parts from the order pool and add them.
With the job creation via parts lists, ASCO receives only one job data record from the ERP; this does not refer to a part but rather to the name of a parts list. ASCO checks each order to see whether it triggers a parts list and, if so, splits the parts list into single orders, which are then sent to be nested. With the confirmation from the ERP, ASCO waits until all parts belonging to a parts list have been reported as finished.
In the Material Management module, the materials are, for added efficiency, assigned to material groups. Each material group then contains the materials that exhibit the same technological behaviour. The material group is assigned all the technological cutting and punching parameters applying for all the materials in the group. (The fact that individual parameters can still be defined in ASCO for certain materials is due to the fundamental structure of the parametrization.)
In the Selection, a different material group can be chosen for the job that has just been selected. (For example, some of the parts should be cut with nitrogen and not with oxygen.) The user decides whether the technology is really suitable. Moreover, the user must ensure that the parts ordered for this job can indeed be processed with this technology. This prevents having to create several material groups for one material, which would be counter-productive from the viewpoint of clarity and data maintenance.
The function AutoJOB offers the possibility of having the complete process, up to the availability of the NC data for the machines, run through entirely without user intervention . For this, the user defines rules (or requirements) which the automatic process has to obey. When ERP/MRPII transfers the orders into ASCO, the Selection can examine the order pool according to the prescribed criteria at defined time intervals for orders that are due (i.e. possible jobs). The jobs created in this way are then immediately nested. If such a job satisfies the first rule (example: the scrap must not be larger than x%), AutoJOB is allowed to release it for production without further checking. If the nested does not satisfy the first requirement, the job can be repeated with the next saved rule (example: it is permissible to also use filler parts in the nesting). This is repeated as long as there are still rules to apply. Only when the job cannot be achieved after all rule-based attempts have been made will AutoJOB report back to the user and ask him to make a decision. Then a single click is needed for the current job and AutoJOB continues processing autonomously.
If the function MultiNest is enabled for AutoJob, the nesting variants that were determined with the aid of MultiNest are included in the decision on which variant will be produced in the end.
Upper shells …
… and the matching lower shells
In the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) industry especially, there are many components for which an insulating layer is bonded or placed between two shells of sheet metal.
ASCO ensures that, even for a batch size of 1, the matching shell sections can be manufactured with a steady flow of material without any re-sorting , even if different materials are used …
Here, “twin jobs” guarantee reliable assignment of the parts. These twin jobs on punching machines produce the same stacks for the upper and lower sections, irrespective of whether the removal is automated or manual. Automatic benders can then supply the parts in sequential pairs (expel the lower shell out, insert the insulation, expel the upper shell and fit it), or the parts of the upper and lower shell are placed in buffer carts with location in pairs after they have been bent.
ASCO-SF is also excellently suited for facade building contractors , i.e. wherever twinned parts are used.
“When two machine operators miss each other during the change of shift, the new operator must immediately know what to do” was the requirement of a works manager. And ASCO-FS answers the relevant questions at the terminal:
The production support module ASCO-FS is also called paperless production by some customers. The operator no longer receives the work documents in paper form, but has everything he needs at the screen. Only when the cutting/separating steps have been completed are, if necessary, the papers printed for the parts that are just being finished, without any need for sorting (task schedules, drawing for bending …). Labels and assistance with the sorting of parts may also been needed.
Even the completion confirmationis easy to send from here – separately for each sheet or for the entire job! If there were any rejects, this can also be reported here.
For many ASCO customers, nesting is left to the machine operator nowadays. In these cases, an ASCO system is then available close to the machines.
For the near-machine area, ASCO has several modules on offer that do not require a full ASCO licence but can still communicate completely with the normal work stations.
The machine workload module ASCO-MA shows users the required capacities of all known orders; a separate time model can be defined for each machine. Various urgencies and progress levels can be highlighted in colour by the user.
The sequence in which the operator is to process the jobs can be specified by production control at any ASCO work station.
In ASCO-MA, you can immediately spot the time-critical orders, overloaded machines, and any need to shift capacity.
This good overview gives you the confidence of producing the right parts at the right time.
In the case of machines that can be controlled by RemoteControl (e.g. Trumpf RCInterface), the production control can plan the sequence in ASCO-RC. ASCO then assumes control of the machines and executes the preplanned sequence including material and pallet changes fully automatically and with error tolerance , where annoying errors such as tool missing or material missing do not lead to a stoppage.
This mode is predestined for automatic night or weekend shifts.
Individual jobs can be combined to form job groups (JG) and these in turn to production units (PU). These groups can be assigned properties such as: The sequence of the jobs in this group may never be changed.
ASCO-RC also takes the completion reports from the machine and forwards them (bundled, where applicable) to the ERP, and can register machine malfunctions and process them.
During job creation, it is ensured that
For the depositing and storage of the parts, there are many different possibilities, ranging from chaotic depositing to orderly stacking on pallets and variable sorting criteria, with bulk goods in boxes or also depositing as nested on the sheet.
An especially effective way of depositing parts is to use the Transport Manager ASCO-TM. Here further criteria, e.g. the subsequent operation, can be used by ASCO to determine the required transport means with appropriate minimization of transport operations.
Within the ASCO system, there are certain functions that are independent of the technology but either exert a decisive influence on the working mode and the organization, or make some features possible in the first place, or possibly simplify them.
Today, the Part Information System is a powerful building block of ASCO. TIS collects all the data on all the parts. These data can be viewed and also used to control a number of components. The collection of data can already begin when the CAD department releases a drawing for production. Data capture continues when a part is programmed (possibly for different machines), and when it is ordered and nested. When it is produced, TIS records the production history (who, when, rejects …). The information is collected in an SQL database.
ASCO provides some predefined relevant queries, but custom queries can also be implemented by the user himself with the aid of the integrated query wizard. In this way, he can generate a query for “what the boss always wants to know on Monday mornings” to give him the answer with a quick click.
Apart from the queries, TIS has no user interface, i.e. nobody has to feed any information into TIS. With a minor exception, parts can be locked:
This lock has effects reaching into the jobs already nested, which can then no longer be released without further action. Of course, such a lock can be revoked.
ASCO-BC makes it possible at many points to have automatic processes that run unattended in the background. These batch routines are controlled by ASCO and documented for each batch run. Later, the user can see whether any problems have occurred and can use the documentation to take corrective steps. Typical batch applications include:
Whenever a nesting job is reported to be complete, the results can be appended to a continuously updated file. This file can be evaluated in Excel using a macro supplied by ASCO . The evaluations themselves can be stored in Excel files. Typical queries may request information on when (time period), on what (machine/ cost centre), from what (MaterialID/SheetID/Batch). Example: “What was the scrap for material XYZ from May to June last year?”
The ASCO Job Archive is used for the long-term storage and documentation of nesting jobs. Companies operating in critical market segments, e.g. suppliers to the aircraft industry, often have to provide proof of a complete trace-back system, i.e. to show how and where the parts have originated.
If Job Archive is active, the archiving process is performed automatically, as soon as a nesting job is booked as a complete result (following the last posting) or when a nesting job that has already been partly produced and booked is deleted by the operator.
Through a secured dialog function, Job Archive can provide an overview of these events. All the View functions are permitted; even NC data simulation is allowed. All the possibilities for modification are blocked, however. A connection to production is not possible (without a key). The NC data can be used, but without an organizational link to ASCO.
If existing NC programs are to be produced repeatedly, the function Fixed Programs is suitable.
With ASCO-TM, ASCO saves 25% of the transport operations and transport means necessary to get the parts from cutting to the next stations.
Everything is excellently nested, the material is utilized effectively, the machines have cut a large amount of sheets without error in unmanned operation - and now what? How are the parts moved along? Which part must go to which following station? Parts have to be taken from the sheets and be sorted into boxes or onto pallets. What happens when the machine does notsort while it stacks?
ASCO-TM tells the operator exactly which TRAMEs (transport means) he has to ensure are ready before the job starts, prints the waybill with destination and informs the operator when a transport unit is full (and can be taken away!). If the operator acknowledges, the ERP is immediately informed with a unique assignment number about which transport means carries which parts. In-process storage is also easier: Simply scan the Data Matrix code and off it goes.
ASCO-TM can also be used for automated machines.
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