New to the press brake? Establish best practices in the fab shop from the start (2023)

If you're new to operating a press brake, ask yourself these questions from the start to establish best practices: Do you know the safe working limits of your machine and its tooling? Do you have the right tools to make repeatable bends? Getty Images

When buying their first press brake, shop managers ideally should establish best practices right from the start. What are the safe working limits of the machine and its tooling? What should the maintenance procedures be, and whom can you call should a crisis arise? What tooling do you need to make quality, repeatable bends?

Not every question that follows comes from a shop new to the press brake. Regardless, they all address problems many in this industry face, newbies and veterans alike.

Determining Safe Working Parameters

Question: I just purchased my first press brake. It’s a used machine, and I am trying to establish its safe working parameters. I’ve read your past articles, but I’m still a little confused when it comes to ram upset and maximum material thickness.

We have an up-acting press brake with a rated forming capacity of 66 U.S. tons. The bed is 98 in. long, and the distance between the uprights is 80.75 in. According to your past articles, the rule of thumb is to not exceed a full tonnage load applied over 60% of the distance between uprights (see Figure 1). For my press brake, I get the following:

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80.75 × 60% = 48.45 in.; 66 tons/48.45 = 1.36 tons/in.

I used an online tonnage calculator to determine 0.25-in. mild steel requires roughly 1.28 tons/in. to form using a 2-in. die width, which is the recommended 8X the material thickness.

Does that mean that the maximum material thickness my brake can form without damage, assuming I stick with a die that’s 8x the material thickness, is 0.25 in.? Can you help clear this up for me? I want to get as much versatility out of my brake as possible without damaging it.

Answer: What you have calculated is correct for that specific example; however, there is more to it than that.

You first need to contact the manufacturer; cite your machine’s make, model, and vintage; and then ask them for its centerline load limit. The centerline load limit is the tonnage value that you do not want to exceed as doing so will lead to ram upset.

Also, don’t forget the load limits for your tooling. Considering the tonnage rating of your brake, tool load limits might not be an issue. Regardless, if this is your first press brake and you’re looking to add more in the future, identifying your tooling load limits is a good practice to establish.

Precision-ground tools come with a tonnage rating from the factory. You will find the rated tonnage for that specific tool printed in the catalog or (ideally) on the tool itself. This can change depending on the tooling type and geometry. For instance, a deep gooseneck punch will likely have a lower tonnage limit than a typical straight punch—though, again, the exact limit will depend on the tool’s geometry and overall design.

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If you can’t find a specified load limit, contact your tooling supplier. If you’re using older planed tools without specified tonnage ratings, you might need to run some calculations. You can find one that I’ve used in “The 4 pillars of press brake tonnage limits.

FIGURE 1. The press brake deflects during forming (left). Forming beyond a machine’s centerline load limit can cause ram upset, when the ram and bed deflects permanently. A rule of thumb is not to exceed a full tonnage load applied to 60% of the distance between the uprights. However, be sure to contact your machine supplier to determine its centerline load limit.

From here, you’ll want to calculate a job’s required tonnage based on the material tensile strength and the die opening. The formula I use is as follows and will give you the tonnage per inch that you’ll then multiply by the length of the bend in inches:

Required forming tonnage per inch = [{(575) × (Material thickness2)/Die opening}/12] × Material multiplier × Forming method multiplier

For the forming method multiplier, insert 1 for air forming (the baseline method), 5 for bottom bending, and 10 for coining. For the material multiplier, insert 0.50 if you’re forming 5052 H32 aluminum, 1.4 if you’re forming 304 stainless steel, and 1.0 if you’re forming 60,000-PSI tensile-strength mild steel (the baseline material).

For other materials, simply divide the tensile strength for the material you’re forming by the baseline material’s tensile strength (60,000 PSI). So, if your material has a tensile strength of 120,000 PSI, you’d have a material multiplier of 2.0 (120,000/60,000 = 2.0).

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In certain circumstances, you might need to incorporate another factor into the equation. This factor accounts for tools that make multiple bends simultaneously, such as offset and hat tools. I cover this topic in “The 4 pillars of press brake tonnage limits,” but your tooling supplier should be able to offer guidance here as well. Again, if you’re just starting out, you’re probably not using special tools like offset tools. But if you’re establishing best practices for future growth, then noting the tonnage requirements for these tools isn’t a bad idea.

When it comes to tonnage limits and preventing ram upset, the material thickness matters, but it’s just one part of the overall equation. Remember, you can change the tonnage value by changing the die opening, die radius, material properties, and other variables.

Losing Bending Pressure

Question: I am from Namibia, and our shop uses a press brake to bend 0.078-in.-thick sheet. Recently, however, the brake hasn’t been applying sufficient pressure to bend the material. How do I rectify this problem?

Answer: If there is no apparent problem with the press brake, I would first start with the most obvious and straightforward issue and work my way to the most difficult.

First, is the material the same? That is, are you bending not only the same thickness but also the same material type? You may have ordered the wrong type of material, or your supplier may have substituted a different material. If the tensile strength has increased, bending the workpiece may require more force than your machine can produce.

If the material is correct, look at the hydraulic system next. Have the oil filters been changed recently? Are the oil filters partially plugged, reducing the flow to the cylinders, thus reducing the power? Is the oil old or dirty? Hydraulic oil needs to be replaced at intervals set by the press brake manufacturer.

FIGURE 2. In air bending, the die width determines the inside bend radius. To avoid bending sharp, choose a die width that produces a floated inside bend radius equal or close to the material thickness.

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Is the press brake running hot? If the press brake oil is too hot, it can become thin and reduce the power at the cylinders. If that’s the case, try adding an oil-cooling radiator to the system to make it run cooler.

Assuming that the oil is new, the filters are clean, and the brake isn’t running hot, check the pressure at the oil pump. Is it producing enough pressure to allow the press brake to function? If it is producing enough pressure at the pump, move on to the proportional valving system. Are you getting equal pressure out both sides of the valving unit? If so, move on to the cylinders. Are they leaking badly and losing pressure? Has it leaked to the point that the machine does not have enough hydraulic oil to function and is perhaps overheating as a result?

If you answer all these questions and still don’t know what’s causing your problem, call the manufacturer’s technician to check the controller and sensors. They will also be able to help you with any repairs and suggest parts to fix any of the aforementioned problems. Alternatively, you could call the service tech and let them track down the issue; that’s likely the fastest way to get the problem solved. I wish you the best of luck in whichever method you choose to pursue.

Where Does a Bend Turn Sharp?

Question: I know that sharp bending is inherently inaccurate, but I was hoping there was a way to calculate, at least to some degree, when a bend turns sharp. The reason I ask is because we have a limited tool selection, and we run into instances where we have no choice but to use tooling that produces a sharp bend.

Answer: There is, but that will take an entire column to explain the math. Nonetheless, there is a sharp-bend calculator on my website,, under the Tools tab on the menu bar. All you need to do is place your information into the yellow cells and it will tell you whether your bend is sharp based on the bend, die opening, material thickness, tensile strength, and yield strength. The program does assume that you are air forming. And, if I do say so myself, it does work rather well. (Author’s Note: A Chrome browser may yield a security warning due to an expired certificate. It’s a problem I am working on at this time. Nonetheless, the site is safe to visit.)

Also, just to review, a bend turns sharp when the punch tip pierces the material surface and creases the bend. This can make a bending operation very inconsistent. In air bending, the radius forms as a percentage of the die width. For instance, 60,000-PSI tensile-strength mild steel typically forms an inside bend radius that’s about 16% of the die width (though that percentage will vary depending on the material).

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To avoid air-bending sharp, use a die opening that’s appropriate for the job, such as one that air-forms an inside radius equal or close to the material thickness. Also, choose a punch-tip radius that’s close to, but does not exceed, the floated inside radius produced by your chosen die opening (see Figure 2).

Learn Through Trying

Until next time, I hope that the answers to these questions helped you solve a problem or inspired you to try something new at the press brake. Even if it doesn’t work out, you will still learn from the experience of trying.


What is the purpose of a press brake? ›

A press brake is a piece of manufacturing equipment that is used to bend sheet metal. A press brake is typically narrow and long so that large pieces of sheet metal can be bent by it. A press brake bends sheet metal by lowering a punch onto sheet metal that has been positioned on top of a die.

Is a press brake hard to operate? ›

In reality, of course, the press brake is arguably the trade's most difficult machine to master. Bending is at the heart of any sheet metal operation.

What are the two main types of press brakes? ›

There are two primary types of press brakes: hydraulic and electronic. Hydraulic press brakes are the oldest press brakes and as such are more common than their electronic counterparts. Hydraulic press brakes can handle the heaviest workloads.

What is press brake experience? ›

As a press brake operator, your job is to operate press brake machines to shape various types of metal. In this role, you may inspect blueprints for a project, set up your machine, perform regular maintenance, inspect metal while shaping it, and make adjustments as needed.

Why is the press so important? ›

Freedom of the press is an essential right in the United States and a core principle of democracy. Protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a free press helps maintain the balance of power in government.

What material is used for press brake tooling? ›

Press brake tools are usually steel, but other materials such as urethane do exist.

What are the advantages of press? ›

It is the most popular way of setting off your product & services to its target audience. It is the most proper exposure to the audience you are looking out for. It helps to promote your business & brand to help reach its audience.

What is the most common press working operation? ›

Squeezing: It is the most popular and widely used process of forming ductile metals. Squeezing has several operations, including coining, sizing, and riveting.

What is a manual press brake? ›

A press brake is a machine designed to form folds and bends in sheet metal. The bends are formed to a predetermined angle and are created by clamping the sheet between a combination punch and die. The punch is then forced down into the die, and the sheet of metal bends accordingly.

What is a 5 axis press brake? ›

Description. This 5 axis CNC press brake is our most sophisticated hydraulic press brake machine. You can program the depth, pressure, piece count, back gauge distance, and vertical position through the Delem touchscreen. Delivers up to 250 tons of pressure across its 13-foot length.

What are 3 axis in press brake? ›

At top level there are three main groups of CNC controlled axes on a modern CNC press brake; the control of the bending ram, the control of the back gauge and the control of various productivity options and accessories.

When should you press the brake? ›

You only need to use the brake if you want to slow down or if there is an obstacle in your way and you want to turn slightly away from it. As you are above the lowest speed of the gear, you can just decrease your speed slightly and the continue.

What is the best press brake to buy? ›

This article introduces the top 10 press brake manufacturers in the world in 2022.
  • Accurpress. Country: Canada. ...
  • Bystronic. Country: Switzerland. ...
  • Durma. Country: Turkey. ...
  • Salvagnini. Country: Italy. ...
  • LVD. Country: Belgium. ...
  • Cincinnati. Country: United States. ...
  • Prima Power. Country: Finland. ...
  • ADH. Country: China.

What is press and its types? ›

The types of manual press machines are hand press, ball press, and fly press. The main parts of the hand press machines are the frame, ram, nut and screw, iron ball, handle, guideway, punch, and die. The cast iron balls are mounted at two ends which are bolted to screw.

What are the 3 brake systems? ›

Air brakes are really three different braking systems: service brake, parking brake, and emergency brake. The service brake system applies and releases the brakes when you use the brake pedal during normal driving.

What are two types of pressing? ›

Some of the types are: 1. Manually Operated (Fly) Press 2. Electric Motor Operated Press 3. Hydraulic Press 4.

How much does a press brake operator? ›

How much does a Press Brake Operator make in the United States? The average Press Brake Operator salary in the United States is $63,071 as of October 27, 2022, but the salary range typically falls between $53,149 and $75,875.

How are press brakes sized? ›

Press brakes are “sized” by tonnage and bed length (overall bending length) and the correct nomenclature for a press brake is: Tonnage X Bed Length (ex. 175 Ton X 10') or similar. The Tonnage dictates the operating capability of the press brake NOT the material being formed.

How long does a press brake last? ›

Press brakes last much longer than cellphones, of course. That's why in many job shops today you might find both mechanical and hydraulic press brakes with old controls (see Figure 1). They can last 30 years or longer and still bend parts.

Why is it called the press? ›

The term press comes from the printing press of Johannes Gutenberg in the sixteenth century and which, from the eighteenth century, was used to print newspapers, then the only existing journalistic vehicles.

What are the benefits of press freedom? ›

A free press: Disseminates information and ideas among citizens, contributing to a people's common storehouse of knowledge. Improves the workings of representative government by helping citizens communicate with their governments. Affords citizens a means of calling attention to violations of their rights.

What is the impact of a free and responsible press? ›

A free press backed by responsible journalism also provides a necessary balance – a “vaccine” – against disinformation and fake news. Hence, more censorship is not necessary, unless one prefers a dictatorship over democracy.

How many types of press tools are there? ›

Generally press tools are categorized by the types of operation performed using the tool, such as blanking, piercing, bending, forming, forging, trimming etc. The press tool will also be specified as a blanking tool, piercing tool, bending tool etc.

What are the characteristics of press? ›

8 Characteristics of a Successful Press Release
  • Write Your Press Release in the Right Press Release Format and Structure. ...
  • Write About a Newsworthy Topic. ...
  • Craft a Good Headline. ...
  • Keep Your Press Release Short and Sweet. ...
  • Include a Strong Call to Action (CTA) ...
  • Substantiate Your Press Release With Quotes.

What is the process of press? ›

In other words, press forming is a forming technology where a pressing force is applied to a material to deform it (by bending, stretching, etc.) to match the size and shape of the die, and the material then maintains that shape forever.

What is the importance of press machine in industry? ›

A Power Press Machine is used for cutting metal in a particular shape. It is a machine with a controlled system that is used for processing various types of sheet metal. A multipurpose machine, it is used for shaping and cutting at the same time. This machine is mainly used in metal manufacturing and shops.

What are good practices when operating a hydraulic press? ›

Use the press handle, in a pumping action, to slowly lower the press hammer. Use your shoulder muscles when operating – NOT your lower back. Keep hands and fingers away from all clamping and moving parts. Carefully and accurate alignment the press hammer face with the work piece for even force to be applied.

How a manual press works? ›

The Specac Manual Hydraulic Press is a classic example of the Bramah Press. The user applies pressure by hand, using a handle to pump pressure into the hydraulic fluid system. This pressure is transferred to a secondary area and the resulting force can be as great as 25 tons.

How do I choose a press brake tool? ›

The „by 8“ rule

Usually you can select a V-die with the right opening using the rule „by 8“; this means that the die opening should be 8 times the thickness of the material which you are bending. To determine it, you multiply the thickness by 8 and select the die with the closest value.

What is air bending on a press brake? ›

CNC Press Brake Air Bending is a method used to bend sheet metal and plate. This process requires use of a V-shaped or U-shaped bottom die (Bottom Tool) in conjunction with a radius punch (Top Tool) in order to bend the sheet or plate material to a specific angle.

How many axis press brakes? ›

The minimum number of axis's needed on a press brake is one. Simply the Y-Axis to control the UP/DOWN of the Ram (or bed on some designs). This axis is the most critical as it controls the angle of the part being formed.

What is press brake welding? ›

It is a tool used for bending, cutting and shaping metal and other materials. It forms predetermined bends by clamping a piece of sheet metal between a matching punch and die. Press brakes can be used for simple bends to fabricating complex parts and structures.

Do you have to press brake to start car? ›

Dear Kat: The brake pedal must be depressed to complete the starting circuit. It is a built-in safety feature. There is an adjustment on the brake pedal position switch that can be adjusted so you do not have to press the pedal down so far and hard.

What is the first thing you should do if your brake fails? ›

What to do if your brakes go out
  • Don't panic.
  • Try the brakes again.
  • Carefully engage emergency brake.
  • Downshift into a lower gear.
  • Safely get off the road.
  • Don't turn the car off until you've stopped.
  • Signal for help.
  • Get your brakes inspected by a professional.

Which brake should apply first? ›

To start off, use the front brakes, and modulate if you think you'll lose traction. Use the rear brakes along with the front, though you should be able to modulate or release if the rear locks up and skids you off the straight braking line, or induces a slide.

What is a hydraulic brake press? ›

Hydraulic press brakes are used to bend and fold metal by pressing it into a die. These presses are designed for both specialized sheet metal work and continuous production applications. They can handle tough industrial production jobs from single-cycle operations to automated cell components.

What is a brake piston press? ›

The PP-1.2 slides between disc brake pads inside the caliper, allowing the user to spread the pads and compress the hydraulic pistons when replacing pads, aligning pads, or performing other service procedures.

How do electric press brakes work? ›

The pressing force of servo electric press brakes comes through two synchronized server motors that transfer the power with a special belt and pulley's help. During the upper beam's downward movement, servo motors coil the belt to the main pulley and apply the bending force.

How hard should you press the brake pedal? ›

On the last push of the brake pedal, hold moderate pressure on the brake pedal. Don't push like you are panic stopping, but simply hold pressure like you are sitting at a red light.

How do you choose press brake punch and dies? ›

④ When using the press brake toolings, choose the right upper die and lower die according to the sheet metal hardness, thickness, and length. Generally, the slot width of the lower die should be 5-6 times the thickness of the metal plate, while the length should be longer than the sheet.

How does a manual press brake work? ›

A press brake is a machine designed to form folds and bends in sheet metal. The bends are formed to a predetermined angle and are created by clamping the sheet between a combination punch and die. The punch is then forced down into the die, and the sheet of metal bends accordingly.

What is the Y axis on a press brake? ›

Y axis – Position of the bending ram (upper beam on a down-stroking press brake) Unlike older mechanical press brakes operating with a flywheel, modern hydraulic machines allow precise control of the bending rams, each ram cylinder often being controlled individually as Y1 + Y2 axes.

How do you properly use brakes? ›

You need to quickly and firmly squeeze on the brakes, but don't stab as that might lock the wheels. Increase brake pressure rapidly, but if the wheels lock then you must instantly relax the brake pressure a fraction, then reapply. Do not jump off the brakes, it's just a fractional easing, and then instantly reapply.

How do you measure press brake death? ›

To determine this, multiply the material thickness by 8 and choose the closest available die. So if you have 0.060-in. -thick material, you need a die that's 0.5 in. (0.060 × 8 = 0.48; 0.50 in. is the closest die width); for 0.125-in.

What material are press brake dies made of? ›

Brake die steel is typically 4150 steel. It comes in bar stock lengths. It's Rockwell hardness is 27- 30c. It can be flame hardened to 50-55 Rockwell-C for approximately 3/32 inch depth.

How does a hydraulic press work step by step? ›

The hydraulic press works by pressing a small amount of force onto the Plunger which presses the fluid below. This pressure is then distributed evenly which in turn raises the Ram. The pressure between the Plunger and the Ram then works to crush the item placed between them.

What are the 4 axis in the press brake? ›

Axis Explanation
X2right stop finger back and forth moving axis
R1left stop finger up and down moving axis
R2right stop finger up and down moving axis
Z1left stop finger left and right moving axis
5 more rows
5 Jun 2022


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