Software for Nested Parts Production

Users discuss the virtues of ASpan, AlphaCam, and AlphaDoor. August 30, 2005

We're a medium sized cabinetmaker in Australia doing about 450 jobs a year. Every single job we do is a one off, and we do a lot of curves, angles, intricate detailing and the like. Custom design and build everything. We've recently ordered a new SCM Nester (6metre bed model) and can't wait for it to arrive. The problem, as I'm sure is common, is which way to head with software. We have our machinery guy basically telling us that our existing Cabware will be fine, exporting to Aspan and using Aspan for custom parts. This is costing us under 15k with the machinery.

On the other side of the coin, we have our software suppliers, telling us that Aspan is not the right solution for us, and their software (costing $50,000) is the only way a place like us should go. Now, obviously the leap from 10k to 50k is a big one, especially when we've just laid out upwards of $300k for our new machine.

Basically, I'm asking for opinions from people who use Aspan for custom cabinetmaker on the quality and flexibility of the software. I'd also like to hear from the AlphaCam/Alphadoor people. We've got no doubt the Alpha solution could do the job, but we're wondering whether we need to spend another 40k when Aspan could do the job. Any help is appreciated.

Forum Responses
(CNC Forum)
From contributor K:
Alpha cam is ok. I do believe you are paying way too much for it though AlphaCam is ok. An AlphaCam and Alpha door should not cost you more then 15K altogether, however if you are looking to use cabinet vision and AlphaCam and door that sounds just right.

AlphaCam is great for importing AutoCAD for doing arch work. Also, if you are not doing a lot of doors you might not need Alpha door at all. I can make raised panel doors with AlphaCam and a 1/4 ball end and a point tip profiling bit just as good or better then alpha door in minutes.

From contributor R:
I agree with Contributor K. I have been using AlphaCam for three years with a couple different machines. A SCM Routtec 220, and now a Homag BOF 311, with several aggregates and AlphaCam has no problem with even the most complicated jobs we come across. As far as ASpan, I have no idea. I do know that AlphaCam provides all the flexibility and utility that I have ever needed. It is very easy to learn and use. Plus with the addition of constraints and the ability to write your own macros with VBA (for those parts that aren’t one-off), it makes it very powerful.

From the original questioner:
I've got no doubt AlphaCam/AlphaDoor would do the job for us, basically we're trying to decide whether its worth the extra 30k they want for it. At this stage, we're thinking we'll go down the Aspan path, and re-evaluate in six months time.

From the original questioner:
The other thing - we're in Australia, where the people who sell Alphacam/door have a bit of a monopoly - add to this I'm talking $AU, not $U.S., if it seems a bit excessive.

From contributor C:
50k Australian is roughly $38,500 U.S.

From the original questioner:
I guess the only reason I can attribute to the seemingly excessive price it that it's basically a monopolized product here in Australia - I'd assume in America there are dozens of suppliers competing.

At this stage we've spoken to the machine/ASpan supplier and are thinking we'll use ASpan for three months and then re-evaluate. If ASpan isn't doing the job the purchase price of ASpan will be transferred over to the purchase of AlphaCam/Door. Out of interests sake, is there an American software supplier on the internet selling AlphaCam/Door that we could check out?

From contributor T:
We use ASpan, and don't have any trouble with it. It definitely isn't as powerful as some of the other software, but it’s a whole lot cheaper. We do all one-off jobs, lots of curved parts, and etc. Aspan works fine for this. Any complicated parts I draw in Autocad and then dxf it in.

From contributor G:
I've been using ASpan for about a month now. We are a medium to large size kitchen cabinet manufacturer. We don't do as much one-off stuff and anything that is custom is basically bigger in this direction or that direction. For us, ASpan has been great because we are doing very simple gables and small parts. Our size limits our custom work and we sell most kitchens to the home building sector.

In response to Contributor R, ASpan also has the ability to use macros. I am actually a co-op student who is pursuing a career in this industry, be it with CNC programming or cabinetmaking or project management, etc.

From contributor I:
Bear in mind that you are buying AlphaDoor as an add-on solution to AlphaCam. So you get the power of AlphaCam for generic work plus AlphaDoor to handle door orders, nesting and nc programs.