Metal Shear

What is Metal Shear?

Metal shear refers to the action, or process that cuts metal materials (sheet metal and bar stocks). It also refers to the automated equipment or manual tools (shear machines, metal shears) that perform such processes. Metal shears are an important part of the modern heavy-duty sheet metalworking, manufacturing, and engineering sectors. The machine is also called sheet metal shears as a result. The materials the shear machine processes include stainless steel, mild steel, aluminum alloys, etc. In this article, we will place the focus on the machine types and the machine tools that perform the operations.


Metal shear is broadly divided into manual and powered processes. It depends majorly on the shear machines or tools the process uses. Powered sheet metal shearing is further categorized into hydraulic, electrical, to name a few. The manual ones use portable or small handheld tools to cut metal pieces. They are suitable for rough works, such as cutting large metal pieces into smaller ones or shaping sheet metals. On the other hand, the powered shears come in console styles and are designed for large quantity and precision cutting works. Below are the common shear types.

Alligator Shear

The alligator shear (also lever shear or crocodile shear) uses a hinged jaw to cut sheet metal into pieces. Its jaw looks like an alligator with its opened mouth, hence the name. It is a powered machine, with a hydraulic cylinder set, or a flywheel, that serves as the power source. That said, the modern alligator shears typically apply hydraulic cylinders for security reasons though.

During operation, the technicians place the workpiece in the 'mouth' and the upper jaw presses down with the blade to cut the workpiece. The jaw is extremely powerful and large; therefore capable of processing strong ferrous materials. It is usually set up on-site as a stand-alone machine. Generally speaking, the alligator shear is used to cut rebars, pipes, angle iron, I-beams, etc.

Guillotine Shear

The guillotine shear has several names, including guillotine shearing machine, squaring shear, power shear, hydraulic guillotine shear machine, or hydraulic shear. This type of shear is usually hydraulically powered. Before the process, the technician places the sheet metal on the conveyor and delivers it to the shear. During operation, the ram inside the guillotine presses down to stabilize the metal sheet, and the blade cuts the sheet metal into strips or small pieces. The goal of guillotine shear is not to perform detail forming works, but to cut or to de-bur the sheet metal.

Bench Shear

Bench shear is a manual metal shearing tool. It cuts rough shapes out of medium-sized sheet metal pieces. Bench shears cannot handle delicate works. The small shears on this tool can cut the metal sheets quickly and smoothly.  It provides high-quality cuts without burrs. With a bench shear, artisans can get metal sheets in pieces with a fine edge. However, this tool only allows for straight cuts. It is not able to cut curves.

Throatless Shear

The throatless shear looks similar to the bench shear. The key difference is that the throatless type can cut metal sheets in both straight lines and curves. The blade on a throatless shear is designed at a 90-degree angle (or higher). Such a design gives this type of metal shear machine large freedom to form shapes on sheet metals.

Power Shear

Power shears are powered hand tools. Although they do not look like scissors, you can take them as scissors with powerful cutting capabilities. Because they are hand tools, they have the highest level of freedom to cut shapes among all metal shear types. with their mobility and freedom, power shears can process both large and small metal workpieces, large pieces more often. Some models of this type are pneumatically powered.

Tin Snips

Tin snips (or simply snips) are a plier-like hand tool. Though manually operated, they are actually powerful enough to cut metals and versatile for multiple applications. Also having a high degree of freedom, snips are able to handle delicate works, just like the scissors we use. In fact, they are used to cut materials other than metals, such as papers and plastics. The way of using is just like general scissors. Using this type of shear requires the least techniques and skills.

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