Sheet metal bending is just one of the processes involved in the production of thinner materials. Previously, most sheet metal bending and folding were performed with simple tools that only required manual support. Thanks to modern technology and thicker and harder metals, today you can find a lot of the most modern tools for sheet metal processing, one of the most popular of which is the CNC folding machine.
CNC Folding Machines have pre-set top and bottom beam tools, minimizing tool set-up time and allowing the manufacturer to change part to part very quickly. In this day and age pressures of small batches and large volumes, this is one of the greatest advantages of folding. In fact, a metal folding machine is very similar to a press brake. However, when the sheet brake measures the flange and rotates the part up, the folding machine measures the part that is supported on the machine's sheet support system and rotates the flange up.
A folding machine is a niche machine and the application must fit well. What a folding machine in a press brake shop should do is increase the productivity of these press brakes at what they do best. Many set-up tasks or large panel work, which usually requires two or sometimes three operators on a press brake, can be easily performed on a folding machine with one operator and one setup. When it comes to accuracy, there is not much difference with advances in CNC systems. Overall, folding machines are better for the more "delicate" work of large but thin pieces of metal that require multiple tool changes and operations. In the meantime, hydraulic presses are better for heavy folding jobs that require more force to be done consistently.
Automated folding machines have several key advantages over operator operated press brakes:
As the folding machines clamp and bend the part and the part lies flat on the gage table and the flange is bent, a significant increase in accuracy is achieved compared to an operator who has to manage the part during the forming process.
The integrated rear bumper of the CNC folding machine bracket holds the weight of the part to the operator. In addition, the way the folding machines bend the metal facilitates bending parts with many configurations that would normally require more manual intervention. For this reason, metal bending machines are often able to bend larger pieces of metal than press brakes.
Larger parts that would require two operators can usually be handled by one operator on the folding machine as most of the parts rest on the table and the operator can rotate it himself. The CNC control will guide the operator to position the part.
Press brakes can require a long set up time and additional knowledge of the process. The folding technology of a folding machine is relatively easy thanks to precision tools and CNC control technology that checks for collisions when bending and selects the bend sequences, reducing the actual setup time and ensuring longer uptime. Metal bending machines usually have one set of universal tools that they use for all applications. This minimizes the setup time needed to change tools and also minimizes the storage space needed for spare tools.
With limited movement between the folding machine tooling and the workpiece surface, there is typically less damage to the workpiece surface. The clamping and bending process in conjunction with the positioning of the axis servo allows you to eliminate or at least minimize the visible bend lines that occur when using a conventional press brake and tooling. However, press brakes and similar devices still have several advantages. They are quite versatile, can do many different jobs, and have enough power to bend very thick sheets of metal. The combination of a folding machine and a press brake will provide the best solution for metal bending. They actually complement each other.
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