Unison to support VTube software in the UK
PUBLISHED: 11 Jul 11
Unison now supports VTube software in the UK. Image shows inspection screen from VTube-LASER package, with the measured tube (red) overlaid on the master tube to provide instant visual verification that it has been bent to specification.
The tube bending machinery specialist Unison has won UK distribution rights for the VTube-STEP and VTube-LASER software packages from Advanced Tubular Technologies.
Both packages accelerate the fabrication of shapes on tube bending machines by importing CAD files and calculating the data needed to put a tubular part into production. VTube-LASER extends this capability to include laser and ball-probe measurement of physical tube bends for verification, qualification and bender correction, as well as for reverse engineering purposes by translating data from coordinate measurement systems.
According to Alan Pickering, Managing Director of Unison, "VTube provides a rapid and reliable means of generating production-ready programs for tube benders, using data from design or measurement systems. It saves considerable time and cost, and can really give metalworking shops an edge. We can now provide the software as an add-on tool for users with existing bending machines, or as part of an integrated solution with new machinery."
Unison will be showing the software in September 2011 during one of its 'Technology Tour' events which give metalworking shop personnel access to experienced users of all-electric tube benders. At this event Advanced Tubular Technologies' Michael Cone will be demonstrating VTube's benefits and providing an insight into the latest developments.
"Unison is the best choice to become our VTube-STEP and VTube-LASER distributor for the UK and Europe", says Michael Cone, President of Advanced Tubular Technologies. "We have had a relationship of trust with the company for years, and its engineers actively collaborate with us on VTube developments. Unison's market share in all regions continues to grow, and we think it has become the only CNC bender manufacturer in the UK with considerable expertise in the science of tube and pipe fabrication. We expect our ongoing technical collaboration will expand VTube's capabilities beyond anything previously achieved in software for qualifying tube shapes and correcting bending machines."
VTube-STEP enables users to import any solid model CAD file that uses industry-standard STEP or IGES formats and extract the tube data in minutes. The software automatically collects all the surfaces, 3D line and arc geometry to calculate the XYZ coordinates of the bends and extract the centreline of the tube. The model and the tube shapes can be viewed direct on the PC monitor, so that users can choose the particular tube they wish to measure, and the thousands of lines and points that make up the display geometry can be examined in detail to verify that the calculated centreline will produce the desired bend. Tube shape data can also be entered manually, taking the necessary measurements from a CAD drawing.
Once the user is satisfied with the data, it can be exported direct to the bending machine - the software uses the Supravision network protocol, which is the bender data file format employed on all Unison tube bending machines. This ability to open a CAD file, look at the drawing and then export it in a suitable format provides users with a powerful, time-saving advantage; previously, they would typically have had to redraw the model using a 3D mechanical CAD package such as SolidWorks.
VTube-LASER software provides the same file handling capabilities as VTube-STEP, but further extends the functionality to include physical measurement of tubes that have been bent on a machine. Designed for use with the laser and tactile measurement systems produced by FARO Technologies, the software is compatible with a wide range of the company's ScanArm products. These enable users to scan tube shapes very quickly and accurately, using the measurements to verify that all bends have been formed as specified.
The retrieved measurement data can be used to build an image of the tube which can then be overlaid on the image created from the imported solid model CAD file, providing an instant visual comparison. The two images are colour-coded, clearly highlighting any deviations between the two and showing whether the tube bends are in or out of tolerance.
In addition to verifying that tubes have been bent to specification, VTube-LASER offers other powerful functions. A tubular part can be cloned - or reverse-engineered - in a matter of minutes, simply by replacing the master data from the CAD file with the measured data. Users can also employ the measured values to apply fixed or proportional 'spring-back' values to automatically adjust the bending machine's parameters to compensate for the tendency of tubing materials to spring back slightly after they have been bent. Although similar, but more automated, functionality is available on many of Unison's Breeze all-electric bending machines, it can now be applied to other manufacturers' machines.
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