Today is my birthday. So what better way to celebrate than to talk about press brakes!
Types of Press Brake
A press brake is an important piece of equipment in any metal fabrication shop. It allows you to bend t metal in a multitude of ways. At the Kloeckner Metals Indianapolis branch, there are three press brakes. One is a large 400 ton machine with a 144” max length, one is 150 ton C.N.C. with a 96”max length and the other is 135 ton C.N.C. with a 120” max length. All are hydraulic.
“It’s a very important part of our business in Indianapolis,” says David Mueller, Processing Sales Manager of Kloeckner Metals Indianapolis. “We do it every day.”
There are several benefits to having hydraulic press brakes over mechanical or pneumatic ones. A mechanical press brake has a spring loaded trigger, and a pneumatic press brake has an air trigger. With those, once you hit the trigger, it cycles. With the hydraulic press brake, on the other hand, it can be stopped anywhere along the stroke. This gives complete control of form. Everything is at a slower pace to the point you can visually get down right beside it and inch it down to where you want.
“I just believe that with everything from safety to quality of product, the hydraulic press brake is the way to go,” says Chuck Florence, press brake operator at Kloeckner Metals Indianapolis.
Different Bends and Different Dies
The dies used at Kloeckner Indianapolis are V-groove forming dies. They are interchangeable tooling that can be exchanged and used to make many different parts. For example, a ribbed die is used to make a formed stair pan with a sanitary cove (see image). Because the part demands three main bends in one hit, the die was set up on the 400 ton machine.
“We can make these today, and make something completely different tomorrow on the same machine,” says Mueller.
After the initial bends, the part is taken to a smaller C.N.C. machine to make the balance of the bends. The sanitary cove is a protruded valley designed as a transition between the tread surface and the riser face used to facilitate cleaning. The C.N.C. machine has the benefit of being able to do multiple bends all with one setup. Once the machine is set, it makes all the necessary bends in one sequence with great repeatability.
Kloeckner Indianapolis has a multitude of dies that can create a wide variety of bends. This includes ¾-inch through four-inch dies, six 85 degree dies, and a two inch and four-inch die for angles over 90 degrees. The 4” overbreak is nicknamed “big bertha.” On 14-gauge steel or thinner, this can make just about any bend. It also allows for a wide variety of bends on steel thicker than 14-gauge.
“We’re adding dies now as we need them. As we get more diverse we add more dies,” says Mueller
Just as important as the machine is the skilled operator manning it. Having a skilled operator provides the primary point of quality control. The operator monitors the entire process.
“When I’m making a part that has multiple bends in it, I physically am there for all the bends,” says Florence.
“Basically, the final quality control is at the point of production,” says Mueller.
The operator keeps the machine clean and running properly. Wiping the scale out of the die every few parts is also crucial. Regular cleaning makes sure that the parts are bending at the right angles, and the dies are kept in top operating condition.
“It’s a high wear part, because it is steel against steel all day long,” Florence says.
A quality press brake with a quality operator is going to produce quality parts. Whatever the scale of operation, this is a crucial element in any metal fabrication shop. When combined with other processes, such as beam splitting, blasting, drilling, sawing, shearing, punch press, plasma and oxy fuel cutting, and more, this creates extensive in-house capabilities to make finished parts.
Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this article, you can read more like it on the Kloeckner Metals Blog.