Lantek Sheet Metal Solutions, S.L. (Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain) entered into a collaborative agreement with the Basque Center for Applied Mathematics (BCAM; Spain), an international research center specializing in the field of Applied Mathematics that was pioneered by the Basque Government, the University of the Basque Country and Ikerbasque in 2008 and is also supported by the Provincial Government of Bizkaia and Innobasque. BCAM currently has a workforce of over 90 high-level researchers who work in different areas; from data science to mathematical modeling.
The agreement reached by both organizations focuses on developing new models of applied mathematics and, algorithms that will enable metal forming industries to reach high levels of efficiency in their calculations. The cases that are now appearing in industry have increased in complexity which makes it necessary to resolve more situations where the calculation of the machining and the optimization of the consumption of material is exceedingly complicated when endeavoring to achieve maximum machine efficiency.
As a starting point, the collaboration framework aims to explore new avenues for approaching parts nesting. In the industrial world, the aim of the nesting process is to make maximum use of the material, configuring and arranging the pieces of sheet metal that are to be cut in an optimum way so as to avoid material wastage while optimizing the machine’s cutting time.
This collaboration will result in the development of an advanced algorithm that achieves the optimization of 2D nesting from the different possible approaches. The researchers from the Computational Mathematics group at BCAM, have extensive experience in geometric modeling and optimizing, and are pouring their knowledge into the collaboration from the outset, with the following objectives:
- To design an efficient algorithm for the problem of parts nesting in 2D.
- To design discreet pairing measures.
- To improve the current method, which uses the representation of areas (pixels), through the representation of boundaries.
- To develop software that both increases the speed of calculations and optimizes material management.
The methods that are currently in use focus on improving the geometrical representation of the objects and optimizing the search for local solutions between the vertexes of different parts. According to Michael Barton, the lead researcher of the project at BCAM, from the mathematical and computational point of view, the challenge involved in the collaboration is to obtain a very precise solution while keeping the rasterization size to a minimum in order to streamline the algorithm and avoid excessive computing times. The agreement therefore opens up the possibility of approaching the improvement of sheet metal parts nesting from new and innovative directions, which may bring about very significant advances, contributing to the efficiency of the sheet metal industry.
“Our company has always been at the forefront, with software solutions such as Lantek Expert, which provides a solution for the nesting and cutting of parts for companies in the sheet metal and fabrication sector. Thanks to this collaboration with BCAM, we are adding a powerful research and development resource to our organization for research into mathematical problems in general and, specifically, for the improvement of nesting.” explained Alberto López de Biñaspre, the company’s chief executive officer. “During the collaborative research with BCAM we will focus on designing an effective algorithm that optimizes the use of space and minimizes both the waste of sheet material and the time spent on calculations,”
For his part, the scientific director at BCAM, Jose A. Lozano, stated that the transfer of knowledge to the industry has always been one of the center’s priorities right from the outset and, that with this objective in mind, they have created the Knowledge Transfer Unit (KTU), a platform for developing mathematical solutions for scientific challenges based on real-life applications and collaboration with the industry. He explains that these collaborations present themselves in the form of strategic agreements, research and development projects, joint ventures, training courses, mentoring of Master and PHD students and the organization of outreach activities.
The framework of the agreement between BCAM and Lantek also envisages calling for an international placement for a PHD student who, in collaboration with research staff at Lantek, will research the different possibilities and evaluate the best algorithm options in terms of their applicability and, the results obtained from concept tests. The estimated duration of this project is four years and, when it is complete, a doctoral thesis will be published.
“Backing innovation is in our DNA and plays a pivotal role in our annual research and development investment, which is well above average for our sector. We are fully confident that this collaboration with BCAM will bring about significant nesting improvements for our clients that will allow them to reduce scrap metal in a reasonable timeframe,” added López de Biñaspre.
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