You don’t want to get your finger stuck in one, but press brakes are awesome machine tools. A close cousin to inventor George Keene’s cornice brake (which he patented in 1887), today’s press brakes use a hydraulic or electric servo-powered ram together with a set of male and female dies to hem, form, punch, coin, or bend sheet metal into some pretty amazing shapes. As with laser cutters, punch presses, and shears, press brakes are a common sight in any sheet metal fabrication shop.
There’s just one problem. Like most capital equipment, press brakes are expensive, and unless you have one at their disposal (used equipment graveyards are full of them, many resembling the cornice brakes of yesteryear) you’ll need to pay one of these metal fabricators to make your parts. There’s nothing wrong with this, but considering the long lead-times and relatively high setup fees typically charged by these do-it-all shops, doing so might be cost-prohibitive. Now what?
There is an alternative to all this headache. With a little ingenuity and some clever CAD work, a laser can be used to cut bend lines in practically any sheet metal part, making it easier to fold than a paper airplane (well, almost). I know, I know, you don’t have a laser cutter either, but SendCutSend does—three of them, actually—and we’re happy to share a little known method of leaping over the press brake hurdle and getting your project back on track. What’s more, because we specialize in quick-turn laser cutting, your parts will cost less and be in your hands more quickly than you might otherwise have imagined.
So how does it work? Here are some step-by-step instructions to help you visualize this magical process:
Granted, this little exercise wasn’t done with metal, although it could have been. SendCutSend routinely makes these “wave cuts” in aluminum, steel, titanium, brass, and more, allowing our customers to bend their parts by hand and avoid a visit to your local sheet metal house. That said, there are some guidelines you should know about before starting:
Confused? It’s actually easier than it sounds. If you’re a CAD guy or gal, we have some .dxf templates you can use, otherwise give us a call and we’ll walk you through it. You should also be aware of something that press brake operators know intimately: when you bend metal, you lose a little bit of material to the radiused section (something called OSSB, or outside setback), so you’ll need to add that amount to your part length to achieve the correct dimensions. Google it if you need the formula. And again, we’re here to help if you run into trouble. Happy bending!