How Does a Press Brake Machine Work?

Press Brake Machine

If you own a metal fabrication shop, press brakes are must-have machines. press brakes are durable and versatile in forming and bending sheet metals. Press brakes are rated according to their overall bending length and capacity to bend metal. There are different types of press brake machines to complete various tasks. For versatility, press brakes have other tools and can be customized.

What are the Main Components of a Press Brake?

Press brakes are comprised of different components. Each of these components serves a specific function to achieve the desired results. The press brakes consist of three parts, i.e., the ram (top tool), the bottom tool, and the mechanism that operates the ram. Press brakes operate similarly, with minor differences in how the ram exerts force to form the desired shapes and curvatures. While some press brakes are hydraulic, some are mechanical; others are electrical. Regardless of the type of press brake you are using, the main objective is to bend and shape materials, especially sheet metal.

Here are the main components of a press brake:


The machine frame is the basic structure that supports all the other parts. Typically, the frame is C-shaped on each side of the machine with connecting support and worktable (bed). It is essential to understand that large press brake machines require oversized frames. Therefore, large press brakes have a square frame to accommodate large metal sheets.


A press brake’s ram is the driving or resisting part. Rams are made from strong steel plates to resist the force of bending or forming sheets. Usually, press brake machines have upper and lower rams, although they can have just one ram. In mechanical press brakes, the ram is moved vertically and operated using a crank, then powered by a flywheel. Pneumatic press brakes rely on air pressure to move the ram, while hydraulic press brakes use two hydraulic cylinders.

Back Gauge

The back gauge interacts with the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) to position the metal pieces precisely before steel bending. Since different motors drive them, back gauges can move in 6 different axes of movement.

Punch and Die

The punch is the top tool, while the die is the bottom tool. The two work together to process the final product. There are numerous die types for different jobs, depending on the materials used, material thickness, bending method, etc.

Hydraulic System

The hydraulic system is comprised of the following five areas:

  • Power plant – hydraulic pump
  • Actuator – motor
  • Control device – hydraulic control valves.
  • Assisting equipment – cooler, fuel tank, pipe fittings, pressure gauge, etc.
  • Working  by hydraulic oil

How Does Press Brakes Work?

Mechanical Press Brakes

The mechanical brake press operates using a motor. The motor spins the flywheel while the operator uses the clutch to control the flywheel. Although they are easier to operate and maintain, the ram must complete the cycle once engaged. Therefore, if the operator is not keen and makes a mistake, the press brake machine could become locked!

Hydraulic Press Brakes

The press relies on hydraulics to force the ram down. If the machine has more than one cylinder, the operator gets greater and better control resulting in highly customizable and precise bends. However, unlike mechanical brake presses, hydraulic press brakes cannot exceed their rated tonnage.

CNC Press Brakes

These presses rely on modern technology to increase control and efficiency. Using the CNC control system, the operator can easily set required parameters, for example, stress, cycle time, bending angle, and plate thickness. There are three bending methods to choose from, i.e., bottom bending, electric bending, and embossing bending. The bending chosen is often determined by plate thickness.

It is evident that press brakes are one of the most valuable tools that industrial-grade metal workers should invest in to bend metal into different shapes and sizes. With a press brake machine, you can deliver custom-made parts to various industries, including aviation, transportation, military, auto, and agriculture. If you want to invest in a press brake, thorough research is required to help you make the right choice. For example, your production needs and materials determine the right press brake to purchase. Remember, buying the right press brake can determine your success as a metal fabricator.

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