How To Increase Productivity For Metal Bending

How To Increase Pressbrakes Productivity For Sheet Metal Bending

To gain efficiencies for bending complicated metal jobs, fabricators turn to staged bending. Multiple bending  tool sets are arranged next to each other across the press brake bench, allowing an operator to run a complicated part, or a series of different parts, all in one setup.

Years ago an sheet metal bending operator might install a single pressbrake punch and die set on a press brake and keep that tooling setup for days, even weeks. It exemplified the traditional view of production efficiency at its finest.

But shrinking order sizes and lead times changed everything. A custom fabricator now might need to run 20 or more different jobs on the press brake over one shift, with many if not all calling for different tools—and all the changeover time that comes with them. Fabricators rarely can afford such inefficiency in time or labor.

Bending complex sheet metal parts creates just as many challenges. With multiple sheet metal bends requiring different tool sets, complex parts require that much more labor, setup, and teardown time.

How do fabricators gain efficiencies when forming complex parts or a series of different parts, all of which require multiple tooling setups? In these cases, fabricators turn to stage bending, in which multiple tool sets (punch and die combinations) are staged next to each other across the press brake bench.


Sheet metal bending Operators can complete bending complex part on one bending machine in one setup. They can also use one setup to bending a variety of sheet—five parts here, three parts there, a dozen parts after that—each using some combination of the tooling across a single press brake machine.

The practice has become common at many sheet metal bendingshops, where skilled press brake operators regularly work through various staged bending tooling situations. But the task isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. It doesn’t just happen by arranging sectionalized pressbrakes tools across the press brake. A staged setup must allow an operator to remove a part after each bend, without damaging the part. Then comes the most critical factor: shut height, or the space between the brake bed and ram at the bottom of a bending stroke for a particular job.

For staged bending to work, all tool sets must perform their intended task at the same shut height.

Considering all this, how do press brake setup technicians and operators create these setups so they can perform staged bending efficiently and effectively? They have several options to perform the bending.


Shimming on pressbrakes: A Good Option

Say an operator has one 90-degree tool set and then another 90-degree tool set with a different V opening, side by side. This assumes the bend line is short enough to load both tool sets in the brake at the same time. To form the second 90-degree angle in the larger and deeper V opening, the punch tip descends slightly fartherThis creates a deeper stroke that, if not accounted for, would cause the first tool set to collide, damaging both the tools and the press brake and creating a serious safety hazard for anyone nearby.

While seemingly simple, using shims and risers can be quite complex, requiring time and significant operator skill. What’s more, each setup might require different-sized shims or risers because of different pressbrake bending tooling required to reach the common shut height. This means that each bending tools setup could require individual shimming for each part. This is more common on some tooling types than others.


Off-center Metal Bending

A press brake usually performs sheet bends with a single tool set in the center of the brake machine, where forces are equal and bends are true. Creating bends at the center of the brake gives operators the benefit of balanced forces.

Stage bending often applies bending forces not just to the center, but also on the left and right sides of the press brake bed as the operator moves from one tool set to the other. This brings up another consideration: To perform staged bending, a press brake should allow for off-center bending.

In general, downacting press brakes can accommodate unbalanced forces better than upacting brakes, as the downacting systems are equipped for compensating tonnage on the left or right side of the machine. Specifically, a downacting press brake has hydraulic cylinders to the left and right of the beam. Via the machine control, these commonly compensate for tonnage on the left or right side of the machine and allow off-center bending without causing the machine to shut down.


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