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How to Bend Sheet Metal: Equipment and Techniques

Most manufacturing companies need to do sheet metal bending at some stage of their production process. Sheet metal bending refers to bending or cutting sheet metal into specific shapes or joining it to other metal sheets to create metal parts.

In this article, our machinery maintenance and repair experts present the most common techniques for bending sheet metal in an industrial setting. We’ll cover their advantages and disadvantages, and the tools required for each technique.

What equipment is needed to bend sheet metal?

Sheet metal bending requires the use of specialized tools if you want precise and high-quality end results. Shears, manual bending machines and hydraulic bending machines are the basic tools for bending sheet metal.

Shears

Shears cut sheet metal into pieces. They can be manual or electric and are often used to cut specific geometric shapes in a sheet of metal before bending it.

Manual folding machines

A manual bending (or folding) machine is the standard tool for bending sheet metal. It is often used for simple bends and is available in different sizes depending on the thickness of the sheet. It is also relatively easy to operate and transport, making it a popular choice for small machining companies or workshops.

Hydraulic folding or bending machines

A hydraulic bending machine is a more advanced sheet metal bending tool. This machine contains a hydraulic system that can bend thicker and larger sheets. It is also equipped with a digital control system that allows different types of bends to be programmed and performed automatically. It is ideal for large manufacturing companies that need to produce large quantities of sheet metal parts.

What are the different techniques for bending sheet metal?  

Multiple tools mean multiple metal bending techniques. To choose the method that best suits your business, it is necessary to understand the differences between the possible approaches.

Manual folding

If you do not have a bending machine, you might be able to bend metal sheets by hand. First, you need to calculate the bending tolerance of the sheet according to the type of metal you are using. Next, indicate the bend lines with a marker and cut your sheet to the appropriate dimensions. Place the plate firmly within a vise grip using a wooden block as a guide for the form or angle you will be bending the sheet into.

Next, use a wooden hammer to gently pound the sheet against the wooden block until the metal has changed shape. This method is only recommended for sheets up to 2 mm thick, as thicker sheets may break.

Although manual bending is a simple and quick method, it does not guarantee the level of quality and accuracy that a bending machine can offer. For thicker sheets or more complex bends, it is recommended to use a bending machine to avoid breaking the sheet.

Press brake

The press brake is essential for manufacturing structures that involve sheet metal work. It bends a sheet of metal by punching the sheet into the right shape against a die.

This machine can perform bending on sheets up to 20 mm thick. There are two types of press brakes: the mechanical press brake and the hydraulic press brake.

With a press brake, you can make V-bends or U-bends. The V-bend (a V-shaped bend) is formed when the metal is punched all the way into the shape of the die. This type of bending can only be done with sheets no more than 2 mm thick. It is also possible to perform an air bend using a press brake, in which the punch only presses the sheet to the desired angle, and not the whole way into the die.

The press brake is a versatile tool that can perform a wide variety of bends on sheets of different thicknesses. To learn more about what it can do, contact metal bending professionals now.

Laser bending

Laser bending is a relatively new technique that relies on the precision of a laser beam to produce high quality bends. A laser bending machine combines the advantages of laser cutting and press brakes.

First, use the laser to cut the metal sheet to the desired shape and size. Next, heat the area of the sheet that will be bent, still using the laser, to make the metal more malleable and therefore easier to bend. Once the sheet is heated, a traditional press brake does the bending.

This bending technique has several advantages including the ability to make precise bends quickly and to make bends on very thick sheets. It also makes it possible to create bends with very sharp angles without the risk of deforming or cracking the sheet.

How to choose the right sheet metal bending technique for your industry

Deciding which right sheet metal bending technique is best for your operation will depend on several factors, including production volume, part complexity, the type of metal used, and the degree of precision required.

If you need to produce parts in large quantities, it is probably best to work with a hydraulic or mechanical press brake. These machines allow for fast and efficient production and high precision, which can increase the efficiency and profitability of your project.

If your company needs to create more complex parts or prototypes, manual bending may be a better option, as it allows for more freedom in creating complex shapes and the flexibility to make quick adjustments.

Bending with a laser can also be a good choice for making parts with complex shapes, but this tool can be expensive, both in terms of purchasing the equipment and the time needed to program the machine.

Last, consider the type of metal being used. Some bending methods may not be suitable depending on a metal’s thickness or ductility.

Rely on HARtech for sheet metal bending services

Choosing a bending technique that’s right for your company will depend on several factors including the complexity of the parts to be produced, production quantity, budget, and the desired level of quality. Each technique has its advantages and limitations, and costs will vary. It is important to analyze the criteria listed above to make a sensible and lucrative choice for your company.

Whether you choose a press brake, a hydraulic bending machine, manual bending or a laser bending machine, operators need expertise and know-how to ensure optimal results. Ask the experts at HARtech to help you make a good choice and put it into action.

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