Back to blog

Sheet Metal Press Brake Forming: An Inside Look

Are you looking for an efficient way to bend sheet metal? 

If so, it's time to learn about press brake forming. 

Press brake forming is known to be one of the oldest metal deformation practices. The point of press brake forming is to manipulate a metal piece's shape. After a piece of sheet metal is placed on a press brake machine's straight axis, punches occur to the metal through a V-shape, U-shape, or channel-shaped punch and die system. 

There are various reasons why metal manufacturers choose to include press brake forming in their practices. Ductile metal materials are often in high demand. Luckily, sheet metal press brake forming can provide ductile materials for customers without maximum tooling. 

Long workpieces are a noteworthy example of materials in demand by industries, including construction. Metal manufacturers can use sheet metal press brake forming to create long workpieces through "U" and "V" channels and additional punch and die options.  

Whether you're looking to produce small parts, long workpieces, or ductile materials, evaluating the history of press brake forming will help you better understand how modern press brake forming technology makes its impact today. 

What Is the History of Press Brake Forming?

The second industrial revolution in the United States (1870-1914) helped pave the way for the brake press's advent. 


During the second industrial revolution, the United States was experiencing a boom in fabricated steel products for various applications, including: 

  • Building construction
  • Bridge construction
  • Automobile manufacturing

When you hear the term "hydraulic," you might have images in your head of futuristic or modern technology. Hydraulic press brakes were introduced not long after the second industrial revolution peaked during the mid-1940s. Hydraulic brakes made a name for themselves right out of the gate as they were viewed as a safer alternative to original mechanical brakes. While hydraulic brakes didn't operate off of a mechanical clutch, metal manufacturers were stubborn to change and chose not to adopt hydraulic brakes in a large capacity. 

Bottom Bending and Air Bending 

Bottom bending led the way in the first press brake forming years. What bottom bending offered manufacturers was the ability to nail down accurate angles. The bottom bending process consists of metal being forced to die until the air is no longer present. Due to the vast amounts of tons per foot required to perform bottom bending, manufacturers can only operate from a select number of angles.

The solution to bottom bending's requirement for high amounts of tonnage per foot came in the air bending method. Lower tonnage per foot is required through air bending, which creates the ability to achieve different types of angles. Unlike bottom bending, air bending does not take away space between the metal, die, or punch components. 

One common link that both bottom bending and air bending share is that they're both produced via a pump down system. Pump systems work through hydraulic pumps that are connected to motors. The pumps move oil down the valve system, which results in the piece's ram's functioning. Beds provide the straight axis for the metal to be formed, while rams perform the metal deformation. 

Pump down systems led the way until the 1980s when servo and directional proportional valves came into play. The main perk of implementing servo and directional proportional valves is greater ram accuracy than pump down systems. 

Press brake tooling, machine control, and auxiliary control were three vital advancements that mitigated the press brake process. Press brake tooling gives manufacturers the ability to be more accurate during extreme bending while machine and auxiliary control reduce the level of work operators have to perform prepping the machinery. 

Post-1980's: Press Braking Becomes Easier to Use

Machine and auxiliary control features made a significant impact since parts are usually coming off the press around 20% of the time. 

The rest of that period (especially in prior years) was spent on:

  • Programming 
  • Shimming dies
  • Switching tools 
  • Manipulating materials

Part programming is an advancement that helps save press brake time by creating more accurate bends right off the bat. As operators work with part programming technology, they can be prompted by screen assistance and training buttons that streamline the overall process. 

We mentioned that manufacturers often spent a lot of time manipulating materials. Gauging systems helped reduce the amount of time spent manipulating materials by removing the need for plate positioning estimation through preprogramming.

Setup time cut heavily into the number of parts that came off the press in prior days. Modern times feature press brake technology that contains hydraulic clamping systems that reduce setup time and complement "self-seating" tools. The reason why setup time took so long in prior years is that workers would have to manually unclamp punches and pull them out of the brake's end.

There's no doubt that the continual advancement of press brake forming techniques has played a significant role in growing the sheet metal industry.

Dane Manufacturing is an example of a company that has adopted technological advancements of press brake forming to widen production rates and experience supreme part manufacturing accuracy. 

Dane Manufacturing: Press Brake Forming at Its Best

So, what makes Dane Manufacturing an excellent choice for sheet metal press brake forming?

At Dane Manufacturing, we utilize the most successful bending machine worldwide:

The TruBend Series 5000 from TrumpF

TruBend 5000's from TrumpF allow Dane Manufacturing to maximize productivity by limiting time spent on essential press brake forming processes, including: 

  • Programming
  • Setup
  • Bending

When it comes to press brake forming, accuracy is king. By using the Trubend Series 5000, we can bend complex, thin sheet metal parts to angles that feature high accuracy levels. What's equally significant is we can achieve the same angular goals with thick metal parts. 

Bending long profiles in a straight line with maximum angle accuracy is a service we're proud to offer through the TruBend Series 5000's supreme production capabilities. 

Thanks to the help of TrumpF technology, Dane Manufacturing can make press brake forming safer, more productive, and more enjoyable.