Press-Brake Bending

Methods and Challenges
Press brakes can do a lot, though challenges abound in creating top-quality parts. Here we discuss the types of bending, and factors that affect machine performance.

reproducible and reliable pressbrake process relies on the combination of the press brake and its tools. A press brake consists of two robust C frames forming the sides of the machine, connected on the bottom by a massive table and on the top by a moveable upper beam, though the opposite configuration is possible. The bottom tool rests on the table while the top tool attaches to the upper beam. With hydraulic press brakes—the majority of machines produced these days—the upper beam moves via two synchronized hydraulic cylinders attached to the C frames. Characteristics that define pressbrake capabilities include pressure or tonnage, working length, distance to the backgauge, work height and stroke. The speed at which the upper beam operates usually ranges from 1 to 15 mm/sec. Increasingly, press brakes feature multi-axis computer-controlled backgauges, and, to make adjustments during the bending process, mechanical and optical sensors. These sensors measure bending angle during the bend cycle


and transmit data real-time to machine controls, which in turn adjust process parameters. Ultimately, press-brake bending is a combination involving the geometry of the top tool (with the punch angle and punch-tip radius the most important parameters), the geometry of the bottom tool (the width of the V opening, the V angle and the bending radii of the V opening in particular), and the pressing force and speed of the press brake.



Types of Bending
Folding—When folding, the longest leg of the sheet clamps between clamping beams, then the bend beam rises and folds the extending sheet part around a bend profile (Fig. 1). In today’s bending machines, the bend beam can form upward and downward, a significant advantage when creating complex parts with positive and negative bend angles. The resulting bend angle is determined by the folding angle of the bending beam, tool geometry and material properties. Bending via folding offers a significant advantage in that large sheets
Fig. 1

can be handled relatively easily, making this technique simple to automate. Also, with folding, the risk of damage to the sheetmetal surface is minimal. One limiting factor of folding: The movement of the bend beam requires the necessary space and throughput time. Wiping—When wiping, the sheet again clamps between the clamping beams, after which the tool bends the protruding part of the sheet around the bend profile by moving up and



This technique finds use for making panel-type products with small profiled edges. A rule of thumb: V=8S. In some cases. Based on its flexibility and relatively low tonnage requirements. Bottoming—Bottoming. a variation of air bending. a distinction can be made between four variations: air bending. increases the risk of scratches or other damage to the sheet as the tool moves over the sheet surface. sheetmetal on each side of the bend is lifted. Variations in material properties also affect the resulting bend angle due to springback. 3 www. with air between the Bottoming Top tool S Rmax V Bottom tool Fig. The stroke depth must maintain high accuracy. bottoming. multiple materials and thicknesses can be bent in a range of bend angles. the bend radius resides between 1S and 2S. Air Bending α Bending Variations In bending. Air Bending—With air bending. This is especially true if bending involves sharp angles. It also means that the number of tool changes can be limited considerably. 5). Air bending boasts angle accuracy of approximately ±0. This makes air bending a highly flexible technique. 4). In other words. and wear-resistant tools. although sheet-follow supports also can be used with the press brake to alleviate this. enhancing productivity. a value is applied to the width of the V opening. 3). with a single combination of tools. In that case. 2). Another advantage: Less bend force is required. The significant advantages offered by press brakes are increased speed and flexibility. 5 METALFORMING / AUGUST 2008 39 .5 deg. meaning less bulky tools and resulting in extra allowance in product design. bend radius is not determined by tool shape. As a result. The disadvantages of this technique related to quality are remedied by taking special measures— angle-measuring systems. The combination of top and bottom tools. This is a type of three-point bending. 2 sagging and folding with large sheets. clamps and crowning systems that are adjustable along the x and y axes. various products and profile shapes can be produced simply by adjusting the press-stroke depth. Characteristic of these: The sheet is pressed by a top tool into the opening of the bottom tool (Fig. meaning that with a single combination. folding or wiping is preferred. and variations in sheet thickness and local wear on the top and bottom tools can result in unacceptable deviations. fabricators are moving more toward air bending as the preferred forming technique. Where bending involves positive and negative angles. therefore.Wiping α Fig. To achieve maximum angle accuracy with air bending. One limitation of air bending: It is less precise than processes where sheet fully maintains contact with tooling. causing problems such as Fig. Wiping. Unlike with bottoming and coining. ranging from 6S (six times material thickness) for sheets to 3 mm thick to 12S for sheets more than 10 mm thick.metalformingmagazine. wiping can be readily accomplished on press brakes. can be applied universally. but without touching the bottom of the tool ( tools contact with the sheet. the top tool presses a sheet into the V opening in the bottom tool to a predetermined depth. The punch radius of the top tool and the V angle of the bottom tool need not be the same. though faster than folding. a square opening replaces the V opening in the bottom tool— especially given today’s adjustable bottom tools. folding offers more flexibility. 4 Characteristics of Bending S Top tool V Bottom tool Fig. Using special tools. coining and three-point bending. 4). Normally. presses the sheet against the slopes of the V opening in the bottom tool (Fig. where only the bending radii of the top and bottom down (Fig. but depends on material elasticity (Fig.

And with soft materials such as copper alloys. The resulting bend angle is wholly determined by the tool. with springback reduced to virtually zero. In this case. and variations in sheet thickness and material properties have little or no effect on coining results. But because control and adjustment possibilities on press brakes have increased considerably. angle accuracies with bottoming approach ±0. and the same often applies for different materials due to springback differences and compensation required in the tool. the optimum width of the V opening (U-shaped openings cannot be used) is 6S for sheets to thicknesses of about 3 mm. Smaller radii require force as much as five times greater when bottoming. . Theoretically.25S is possible. As the punch and V-die angle are identical. the top tool crushes sheet into the opening of the bottom tool. This brings the advantage of greater accuracy. Every bend angle and every sheet thickness requires a separate tool set.Press-Brake Bending sheet and the bottom of the V opening.25 deg. Coining requires many times the bend force of air bending and bottoming—normally. with the exception of springback. air bending increasingly is preferred to bottoming. For larger bend radii. 6). the desired bend angle can be easily selected. even on less-expensive machines. The minimum acceptable bending radius for sheet steel ranges from 0. five to 10 times higher tonnage. down to the bottom of the V opening (Fig. Again. bottoming requires tonnage roughly the same as for air bending for larger bend radii. permanent deformation occurs throughout the entire cross-section of the sheet. and in some instances.8S to 2S. For bottoming. the rule of thumb: V=8S. although material quality plays a role. 25 to 30 times higher. meaning that bottoming does not offer the same flexibility as air bending. Because of the Coining α Fig. for which a correction can be made. increasing to 12S for sheets more than 12 mm thick. Coining—With coining. Note that bottoming results in less springback than when employing air bending. the radius of the bend angle may be much smaller—a lower limit of 0. the punch radius and the Vopening angle are directly linked. But coining offers the advantage of a high level of precision. 6 extremely high pressure exerted on the punch tip into the material.

As a result. Three-Point Bending—A relatively new bending technique. causing material to acquire different mechanical properties across its length than across its width. but even within a single batch.01 mm). this technique. therefore. not only between different batches of sheet materials. Advantages of three-point bending include high flexibility combined with high bending precision. is limited to highly demanding niche markets where the additional costs are outweighed by the stated advantages. the material becomes anisotropic. ances and causes hardening of the surface layer.25 deg. In other words. as already indicated. Obstacles include high costs and a limited range of available tools. for the time being. Springback. this can lead to variations in the bend angle. the process can achieve bend angles with precision of less than 0. can be determined very precisely (±0. Apart from this anisotropic nature. During bending.4S—is less than with air and bottoming. it is sporadically applied. its properties and especially the variations in these properties. and this affects the subsequent processing. undergoes hot or cold rolling to reach final thickness: hot rolling typically for thicker sheet and cold rolling for thinner sheets due to the high loss of heat and difficulty in maintaining constant temperature in thin material. cold rolling better controls thickness tolerwww. coining costs more than air bending and bottoming. Also. produced on large rolling mills. The sheet bends over the bend radii of the die until it touches bottom. with the bend angle decreasing as the depth of the die bottom increases. with the width of the V opening required usually about 5S. Rolling stretches the crystal structure. and even then only for thin sheets. In AUGUST 2008 41 . This also results in variations in stress/ strain curves. can influence the press-brake-bending process.The high level of force and the permanent deformation mean that the minimum achievable inside radius—starting at 0. The bottom height of the die. unavoidable variations occur in material properties as a result of minute differences in material composition and rolling conditions. As a result. Springback is the phenomenon by which sheet rebounds on either side of the bend after the bending tool has been removed. Why? In the Difficulties in Press-Brake Bending Anisotropy. with corrections made between the ram and the upper tool using a hydraulic cushion to compensate for deviations in sheet thickness. This technique employs a special die where its bottom tool can be precisely adjusted in height via a servo motor. Sheetmetal. A wider V opening would mean that depth must be greater in order to achieve the same bend angle. Sheet material itself. three-point bending is considered by some to be a special variation of air bending.metalformingmagazine.

In practice.9 deg. Keep in mind that under certain airbending conditions.8 mm thick bent with a bend radius of 1S exhibits springback of 0.5 for copper. has a springback value of 11. Galling. only elastic deformation occurs. This problem can be minimized by selecting an optimum bend radius for the V-die (Fig. but close to it— resides a zone with low stress in which. The smaller the relative effect on the elastic area in the neutral zone. With a leg length of 100 mm. particularly when employing dull tools in combination with a large punch angle as deformations then can occur in the sheet between the punch and die surface. and steel to 1 deg.. it is relatively easy to correct for springback when bending a sheet. For example.7 mm..1 x S) where R is the radius of the angle in mm and S is the sheet thickness in mm. providing that influential parameters are known.metalformingmagazine.5 deg. When coining. 0. Bend angle also is a determining factor.. and given a bend radius of 20 mm and a bend angle of 90 42 METALFORMING .. the greater the springback. Soft materials exhibit springback limited to no more than 0.Press-Brake Bending center of the sheet—not exactly the geometrical center. even under large bend forces. the plastic phase is achieved everywhere and springback is reduced to virtually zero. Galling of the bend tool— particles of material or part flakes cling to spots on the tool during bending—is especially a concern with the bend radii in the bottom tool. In that case.8 mm thick. therefore. For calculating springback for cold-rolled steel. The extent to which springback occurs depends on the nature of the sheet material: The stiffer the material. given high pressing pressure and a sharp top tool.75 for hot-rolled steel and 2. This part of the sheet’s cross-section. 7) and by hardening the relevant bend radius. a steel sheet 0. this tool can press into the sheet past the neutral zone. a steel sheet 0. Benson uses a correction factor (0. Press Brake Technology: A Guide to Precision Sheet Metal (published by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers). negative springback can occur. Hardened surwww. each degree of deviation will mean that the end of the sheet will have a spatial deviation of 1. a deviation of this size will soon exceed acceptable tolerance limits. but springback in stainless steel can amount to as much as 3 deg. This is the case with small bend angles and small bend radii (meaning a sharp tool). For post-processing. such as robotic welding. Using this formula. a formula offered by Benson is D = R / (2. Galling can result in damage to tools and to the sheet surface. wants to return to its original shape after bend force is lifted. the smaller the springback. The same sheet bent with a bending radius of 77S results in springback of as much as 30 deg.5 to 1 deg. To calculate springback for other materials. according to Steve Benson in his book.0 for stainless steel).

In the past. 888/696-9452. MD. Hanover. MF Information for this article excerpted from the Press Brake Productivity Guide. deflection unavoidably occurs lengthwise in the top and bottom tools. 8). the top and bottom tools no longer remain parallel during the bend This adversely affects post-bend processes such as robotic welding. this problem often was remedied by shimming the bottom tool to acquire a crowning that compensated for the deflection. computer-controlled or centrally adjustable crowning systems quickly and accurately compensate for deflection over the entire machine length.metalformingmagazine.Optimum Bend Radius Minimizes Galling V Bottom tool R bending Fig. Today. When high tonnage is exerted. published by Wila USA. Tel. 8 of the product (Fig. Machine AUGUST 2008 43 . www. As a result. bringing variations in the bend angle over the length Machine Deflection Causes Bend-Angle Variation α2 α1 α3 Fig. 7 faces are much less sensitive to galling. www.

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