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The Dane Manufacturing Blog is a series of articles selected by our leadership which best represent our perspective on the metal manufacturing and fabrication industry, environment and/or economic climate at time of publishing.

Posts by Cody Carlson:

Sheet Metal Punching History and Techniques

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Cody Carlson Sep 1, 2020 2:45:00 PM

Punching is one of the most developed yet misunderstood metal fabrication processes. 

By removing scrap metal from a unit of raw metal, punching:

  • Produces holes

  • Cuts large panels

  • Forms complex shapes 

—and more! 

Using modern metal punching technology, manufacturers can quickly create holes and shapes to meet the market’s demand for specific products. 

Metal manufacturers misunderstanding how metal punching technology works can lead to lower quality products and decreased throughput. Knowledge gaps related to metal punching are usually derived from the fact that there are numerous functions and variables within modern punching technology. 

This post will serve to shed light on sheet metal punching—one of the most common materials punched by manufacturers. 

We’re going to examine the history of metal punching to understand better how the industry’s technology has evolved. 

History of Sheet Metal Punching 

Metalwork is an ancient art form. As advancements in metal manufacturing occurred, metal workers quickly became valued members of society due to the durable materials they could produce. The first sheets of metal produced were very thin and came from materials that included gold and silver. 

Workers would hammer gold and silver materials with stones to produce thin metal sheets. Once the sheets were formed, it became easier to make jewelry, armor, and other useful items. The introduction of the rolling mill was vital for metal production as output increased drastically. 

The Rolling Mill Evolves 

While sketches of a rolling mill prototype date back to 1480 drawings from Leonardo Da Vinci—the first reports of rolling steel occurred during the 17th century. 

The first rolling mills formed thin sheets of metal, while the 18th century led the forming of more complicated metal shapes that included: 

  • Rounds

  • Squares

  • Rails 

Early 19th-century rolling mills consisted of a sturdy cast iron cage with two steel cylinders and a screw adjustment feature. Rolling mills in the early 1800s are reasonably comparable to the mill designs that exist today. 

The industrial revolution leaned heavily on the use of rolling mills as a means to meet enormous supply demand. Beginning with a hydraulic wheel, rolling mills soon became powered by steam engines, then finally an electric motor. Like cars, the electric motors on rolling mills evolved to utilize more cylinders for more efficient power. 

A high number of small adjustments since Leonardo Da Vinci’s 15th-century drawings have led to the rolling press processing a stunning 90% of industrial metals

Once metal manufacturers could roll a quality piece of metal, they could then start working, cutting, and forming the metal. 

Initial metal punching work dates back to 1847 when road bridge builders needed metal materials with strategically placed holes. 

The somewhat quick progress of sheet metal cutting from nibbling machines to oxy-hydrogen torches led to more modern cutting techniques such as: 

  • Laser cutting

  • Oxygen cutting

  • Plasma cutting 

Modern Sheet Metal Punching 

It’s an understatement to say that the history of metal punching is action-packed. Comparing modern sheet metal technology to this initial rolling press reflects the remarkable engineering work that humans are capable of. 

Let’s paint a picture of how sheet metal punching operates today. 

What Types of Metal Punching Are There?

Modern metal punching machinery can adapt to different metal forms. Brass, copper, aluminum, iron, stainless steel, and certain alloys are all examples of metals that are commonly punched today. 

Steel punching is in high demand, while aluminum is commonly punched due to its low resistance. Iron contains one of the highest resistances to punching and requires specific tools. Copper is often punched as the material possesses high levels of flexibility. 

Back in the day, metal punching was performed manually. The evolution of metal punching technology has paved the way for manufacturers to punch metal with automatic controls. 

Dane Manufacturing Automatic Punching  

Dane Manufacturing is an example of a sheet metal manufacturer that utilizes modern punching technology to increase throughput and meet market demand. 

MultiTool Punching Capabilities 

The MultiTool is a prime example of a technology that helps streamline Dane Manufacturing’s punching work. A vital strength of the MultiTool is the machine’s ability to process sheet metal parts with several small punching operations and large lot sizes.