Press brakes are widely used in the world of metalworking, and like any kind of heavy duty machinery deployed in various manufacturing contexts, there are lots of interesting facts and figures relating to them which are worth knowing about.
So without further ado, here is a rundown of the most salient tidbits to take onboard regarding press brakes technology.
What are Press brakes ?
In simple words, press brakes are press type machines for bending sheet metal. It forms bends at the desired locations on the sheet by clamping the workpiece between a matching punch and die.
While there are different press brake technologies and machine designs, which we will get into a little later, the main purpose of these machines is fairly consistent across the board. They are used to bend sheet metal and a handful of other materials, with force exerted by a punch and the shape determined by a die that sits opposite to it.
Until around a century ago when the first press brakes were designed and put into use, working with sheet metal was something which craftspeople did almost entirely by hand. Skilled workers would have to spend a long time and a lot of effort hammering away at a workpiece, usually shaping it around a preformed mold that would make it simpler to stick to a consistent shape time after time.
By the late 19th century, the idea for a mechanical press brake had been patented, and powered examples entered the fray in the 1920s. Servo-electric examples would take another 80 years to arrive, being preceded by hydraulic models as manufacturers looked for faster and more efficient ways of metalworking.
Types of Press brakes
In terms of the different approaches to press brake design, there are 2 main types to consider, each of which has its positive aspects and pitfalls.
Mechanical press brakes –
Mechanical press brakes use energy from a flywheel powered by an electric motor. A clutch engaged to the flywheel to power a crank mechanism that moves the ram vertically. Accuracy and speed are two advantages of the mechanical type press brakes.
Electric press brakes –
Electronically operated press brakes are particularly popular, and rely on a motor to exert mechanical force on the workpiece. They can operate quickly and precisely, which makes them an efficient cost-effective option.
Hydraulic press brakes –
Hydraulic press brakes, as well as their pneumatic counterparts, are also widely used, and can be better suited to heavy duty workloads, while also offering greater levels of safety thanks to the fact that the ram’s movement may be halted without issue at any point.
In all of the types, the speed of upper ram usually operates between the speed range of 1-15 mm/s.
Thankfully with second hand offers on press brakes, it is possible for any business to secure an inexpensive yet well equipped machine from a reputable reseller, whether a servo-electric or hydraulically operated unit makes the most sense.
You might like – Types of brakes in automobiles!
Die design differences
The main component of a press brake which determines the kind of forming work it can complete is the die, and there are lots of different designs used by manufacturers because of this.
In terms of sheer popularity, a V-die is very much at the top of the tree. As the name suggests, this die has a v-shaped opening and allows for sheet metals to be bent to the intended angle, according to the specifications laid out by the engineer.
Specialist dies, such as those with a gooseneck shape which allows two bends to be made in the material with a single operation, are also available. There are even dies which create rounded corners rather than more angular examples, and many more options to consider besides.
Mind you, there are literally tons of types of dies. Click here to know more about the types of dies.
We have already hinted at the widespread use which press brakes enjoy, but it is worth looking a little closer at the kinds of industries where they are put to work.
Metalworking and fabrication in everything – from automotive, aerospace and marine engineering & manufacturing to more technologically simple yet no less essential areas like signage and construction are all encompassed by different types of press brakes!
This is in part possible because press brakes can come in all shapes and sizes, with large-scale units taking on the most intimidating industrial projects within major organizations, while more compact examples are harnessed in a workshop setting by smaller fabrication operations.
Sheet metals of many kinds are formed and shaped using press brakes, and this type of machinery is more often than not used in conjunction with the likes of steel and aluminum.
It can also be put to work on softer metals including copper and brass, and of course the tonnage that a press brake can exert will in part determine the materials it can work with as well as the thickness of the sheet metal that it can handle before it is overwhelmed.
Improved automation and enhanced safety features are becoming central to the appeal of modern press brake technology, and they are used in conjunction with other kinds of manufacturing equipment in carefully orchestrated production environments today. Even with processes like 3D printing stealing focus in recent years, press brakes look set to remain relevant going forward!