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Sheet Metal Panel Bending

You might not have heard of panel benders as devices such as press brakes are more prevalent within the sheet metal world. 

So, what do panel benders do? 

Panel benders produce bends within the metal. Manufacturers use panel benders over press brakes because press brakes require an experienced machine operator to guide the process and are less efficient with the bends they produce. 

The higher level of performance that panel benders produce lies in the programmed design. Instead of using a ram to push a sheet metal blank into a die opening, panel benders contain bending blades programmed to perform the needed alterations accurately. 

Modern metal panel bending machines allow operators to utilize automatic tooling changeovers to reduce setup times for higher productivity. 

Since panel benders were invented relatively recently in 1977 by Guido Salvagnini—these machines have more of a modern touch and can handle different types of parts. Before we get into the other parts of panel benders can alter, let's examine how these machines operate. 

Panel Bender Operation 

Using a panel bender doesn't require an operator to bend the part, as we mentioned earlier actively. The only task a panel bender operator has to complete is loading the blank. 

Below is a quick list of crucial panel bending components controlled by the machine's software:

  • Part manipulation
  • Referencing
  • Bending 

While the operator is loading the blank, the machine automatically adjusts to the tooling length needed in seconds. Once the blank is in place, the machine's bending blades make contact with the material to produce upward or downward bends. 

Not every metal part is going to apply to the type of machine you have. Accessing commonly used panel bender parts will help you narrow down specific products that streamline the overall process. 

Part #1: Electrical Box

Electrical boxes are examples of metal forms put through the panel bending process before they're sent off to welding. It's impressive to think that electrical boxes can be formed through 20 alterations in less than 2 minutes. 

Bending an electrical box is difficult to perform on a press brake machine due to the bend's tightness. If you were to attempt bends on an electrical box through a press brake machine, you would most likely need special tooling. 

Instead of manually controlling a press brake, try referencing control software on a panel bending machine for guidance on moving the blank. The preprogrammed guidance on moving the blank will help you from the job's start to the job's finish. 

Part #2: Small Metal Tray 

Small trays are commonly used in panel bending practices and help reflect that panel benders can handle smaller sized parts. Processing small parts of machines such as hydraulic press brakes can present challenges. You can even make alterations to remove a certain level of weight from small metal trays for a more ergonomically efficient product. 

Part #3: Large Panel

If you plan on running parts like large panels through a press brake, you will need two operators to complete the process. Using a panel bender will increase productivity as the operator won't be subject to fatigue that can quickly occur when multiple people are working a press brake.

We hope that the examples provided above highlight a panel bender's ability to offer perks that press brakes might not offer. If you're running a just-in-time manufacturing operation, the time-saving capabilities of panel bending technology are unprecedented. 

Dane Manufacturing is a real-world example of a company that benefits from panel bending technology. 

Let's take a closer look: 

Dane Manufacturing Panel Bending

All of the information we've provided on panel bending so far is great in theory, so we believe touching on Dane Manufacturing's bending practices will help fill in the blanks to understand the overall process better. 

Dane Manufacturing utilizes a P4 Automatic Panel Bender from Salvagnini. You probably remember the name Salvagnini from earlier on in the history portion of this article. 

The P4 Automatic Panel Bender provides

  • Automatic bending and handling cycles
  • Flexibility
  • Universal bending tools 

Instead of spending time retooling, Dane Manufacturing can benefit from the P4's ability to adapt in-cycle to the panel's geometry for batch production. Adaptive technology within the P4 Automatic Panel Bender helps the machine adapt to changes within the external environment, which cut down on waste and time-consuming corrections. 

Productivity and flexibility are essential philosophy points within the practices of Dane Manufacturing. 

The universal tools within the P4 can process the entire range of thicknesses and machinable materials. Complemented by an average of 17 bends per minute, panel bending workflow has received an upgrade thanks to the P4 from Salvagnini.

Since panel bending and press brake technology commonly get confused, we will end by summarizing the main differences between these two machines. 

The Differences Between Panel Bending and Press Brake Technology 

The two primary sheet metal bending machines are panel bender and press brake machines. While there are other types of metal bending machines, panel benders and press brakes contain similarities that make them worthy of comparison. 

The history of press brakes is more storied as they were invented before panel bending machines in the early 1920s

Press brakes cost more than panel benders, but if you want to adopt a broader view of costs, panel benders produce more parts per hour, therefore giving you an ability to maximize your workflow. Recent data reflects that press brakes can create 6-10 parts per hour, and panel benders can produce 6x that amount with rates up to 60 parts per hour.

Panel bender capabilities are measured by the thickness of the material they can bend, whereas press brakes are measured in the tonnage pressure they apply to the metal. 

Labor levels needed for operation is a crucial distinguishing point between panel benders and press brake technology. Press brakes need at least one operator, while panel benders require only some parts of a person's attention to operate thanks to preprogrammed software to assist users. 

If you're interested in utilizing a panel bender within your facility, do your best to prepare by speaking with machine manufacturers to ensure the technology will meet your specific needs.