How to Bend Sheet Metal with a Press Brake

Working in a metal fabricating shop or industrial production floor, chances are you’ve heard, seen, or worked with a Press Brake. A Press Brake is used to make accurate bends in metal and other materials. Press Brakes have been around a long time. In ancient times, metal was folded using a sledgehammer and chisel; not exactly precise but it got the job done. A few thousand years later, we are still applying metal to metal to bend it, but we do it with much better technology.

Press Brake 101

When you look around you see all manner of devices that have been made with a Press Brake. Think of folding a piece of paper to make a paper airplane – it takes precise, accurate, and sharp folds to make the airplane and get it to fly. When sheet metal needs to be folded, bent, or curved in a precise manner, a Press Brake is used to make the bend. Using hydraulic pressure, a press point is pushed against metal forming a bend or “Brake” in the metal surface. The brake can be formed at a single point or as a complete fold in the sheet metal piece.

Brake Time

No, we’re not talking about grabbing a cup of coffee and sitting down for a little interpersonal communication. We’re talking about how long it takes to put a bend into a piece of metal. Some Sheet Metal Brakes work with a screw assembly that forces the metal against the braking surface by turning an armature. Other Press Brakes work with hydraulic cylinders that apply the pressure needed to correctly form the bend. By adding electrical controls to operate the Press Brake, the process of bending metal is faster. In high-production environments, Computer Numeric Control (CNC) is applied to the machinery to increase the speed of production as well as precision.

The Ultimate

A CNC Press Brake is the highest level of automated production for bending sheet metal. CNC Brakes can apply from 40 lbs to 3,000 tons of pressure to metal making it versatile and valuable for all kinds of metals and other materials. Machine shops employ Press Brakes in one form or another depending upon the type of materials they encounter, New CNC Press Brakes can cost from $10k to $200k and more. Specialized training and experience make machine operators valuable for high-output production environments. Intricate, complicated bends and turns can be accomplished using one CNC Press Brake rather than employing a series of press brakes to accomplish the same results.

Big or Small – Press Brakes Do it All

From home shops to giant industrial production plants, there’s not a machinist or metal worker who isn’t familiar with a Press Brake. The adaptability, variety, and quality of results make Press Brakes a must-have for anyone serious about metalworking. Brass, steel, iron, aluminum, alloys, and even Molybdenum can be bent using a Press Brake. The versatility and utility of Press Brakes make them a must-have machine for any industrial setting that handles sheet metal.

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