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Press brakes vs manual sheet metal brakes

By Edited Jun 8, 2016 0 0

Have your needs changed?

If you work with sheet metal, you undoubtedly know what a sheet metal brake is. You very likely have one yourself, and perform various bending tasks on it, on any given day. You may even be perfectly happy with it, the amount of work you can do with it, the quality of that work, the work process itself, and so on.
On the other hand, you may at times feel like you're hitting the limits of what you can do with your manual sheet metal brake or box and pan brake.

  • Does the work feel inefficient?
  • Does it exhaust you physically, lifting that bending leaf so many times in one day?
  • Are the results too inconsistent, to variable?
  • Do you struggle to meet deadlines on large orders?
  • Do you sometimes feel the work could - and should - be automated to a degree?
Maybe it is time to think beyond your otherwise useful manual brake. If you feel it is necessary to elevate your business to a new level, perhaps you should be looking into buying a hydraulic press brake.

Quantity + quality = Press Brake!
Anyone who works with handtools knows, that to do high quality work, you need to take your time. Measure twice, cut once, as they say. Expert metalworkers can do amazing things by hand, but it takes time. Given enough time when you're bending sheet metal, every workpiece will turn out perfect. Sheet metal will be sheared to exact dimensions, bends will be correctly situated, and executed with maximum feel for springback, etc. The specified angle will be reached every time. In theory. In real life there are deadlines, slip-ups, inexperienced operators, etc. If you mess up; no problem - just do it again. If you have the time.
Once your orders reach a certain size, and your deadlines start containing the word "tomorrow", fully manual sheet metal bending could be turning into a liability. But fear not - press brakes are made to remedy that sort of situation.
At their simplest, press brakes are hydraulic rams with tooling attached to bend sheet metal. But those rams are often higly controllable, and can be programmed to perform the bend better than any human hand - and do it consistently over thousands of bends. The tooling, known as punches and dies, can be replaced, combined and custom made, to perform types of bends - and series of bends - which manual sheet metal brakes and box and pan brakes could only dream of. Press brakes will also bend materials much thicker than any hand brake could manage. Then of course - let's not forget the much higher speed of manufacture achieveable with a press brake. In many cases it will bend as fast as it's human operator can feed it.

Decisions, decisions...
As with anything, there are pros and cons. Press brakes cost more initially. Operators need training, which also costs money. They take up more space than most manual brakes. But if you are at that point with your business, where you can't keep up with your clients and their needs, if you occasionally have to turn down orders you could have handled, had you only had a bit more capacity, then the extra costs and the adaption process involved in upgrading your abilities are more than worth it.

Now take a step back and take a long, hard look at your business and its needs.


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