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Sheet Metal Punching History and Techniques

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. 

Increasing the efficiency of a metal manufacturer is primarily linked to how the facility’s equipment functions. Dane’s use of MultiTool machines fosters the integration of up to ten different punches and dies in one tool. The result is faster set up and adjustment times. 

You might be wondering what dies to have to do with metal punching. 

During the process of sheet metal punching

  1. The sheet being punched is inserted in between the punch and the die 
  2. The punch moves downward into the die, causing the desired shape to form while the rest of the metal is separated from the new pattern. 

Sizes and shapes of dies directly affect the quality of a sheet metal punch. 

Common MultiTool applications include: 

  • Circles 
  • Squares
  • Rectangles 
  • Embossed figures
  • Standard and special geometries 

How Dane’s MultiTool Machines Function 

Technology such as the MultiTool from Trumpf goes above and beyond in processing a diverse range of parts. When you can trust automated machinery to help your manufacturing facility, you can spend less time managing it as an operator. 

The MultiTool contains up to ten different inserts for accelerated setup and tool change times. When Dane Manufacturing processes large lot sizes with a high number of small punching operations, the MultiTool becomes an invaluable asset. 

Trumpf Automated Punching Machines

Automated punching machines by Trumpf play a significant role in Dane Manufacturing’s capabilities as their design allows for the processing of a broad range of parts. 

Trumpf automated punching machines feature a punching head that can turn to any angular position. The lower setup times of the automated machine’s flexible head complement an active and descending die feature. 

Sheet metal punching has played a crucial role in developing human civilization by supporting the advancement of external conditions. As reflected in historical patterns of growth, sheet metal punching techniques will continue to improve through studies of past and current methods. 

As sheet metal punching improves, Dane Manufacturing is proud to be at the forefront of progress through the use of Trumpf technology.