Metal bending is a forming process generally used to shape a metal plate or sheet along a linear axis. It can be performed with a variety of specialized sheet metal bending equipment, depending on the material used, the part size, and the type of bend desired. Two of the most commonly utilized sheet metal benders are press brakes and panel benders. While press brakes have been the go-to option for many years, panel benders have been found to offer a number of advantages when used for certain parts and products. 

Differences Between Panel Benders and Press Brakes

Panel benders—also called folding machines—utilize part manipulators and bladed bending units to shape material. The manipulator moves the material to the front of the machine, which is where the blades apply force (upward or downward) to bend it. Depending on the model, these bending machines can bend materials up to 11 gauge (0.120 inches) in CRS. Additionally, they can achieve bend heights up to 10 inches and bend lengths up to 156 inches. 

Press brakes utilize a matching die and punch set to shape material. The workpiece is secured between them such that the punch presses the material into the die when force is applied to it. The bend formed in the material is determined by the angled formed by the punch and die. These bending machines are typically used for batch production.

Advantages of Panel Benders Over Press Brakes

Although press brakes are employed in many bending operations, panel benders offer a variety of advantages for specific projects, including with regard to the following: 

Machine Setup

Conventional hydraulic press brakes use clamps to fasten the hangers for the upper punch and lower riser holding the die. Bends are created when the upper punch presses the material down into the die. This process is often controlled by a human operator with a foot pedal. Different types of bends require different types of dies and punches, which can make bending operations expensive if numerous dies and punches are needed. 

Panel benders generally have automated operations, which increase production speeds and decrease the risk of error. Additionally, they have a different setup that eliminates the need for tooling changeout and minimizes downtime between jobs. In panel bending operations, the material is held by a counter blade and blank holder and bent by the upper blade and lower blades. These components are universal, meaning they can be used to bend materials of all sizes and thicknesses. 

Production Efficiency

While both press brakes and panel benders can utilize computer numerical control (CNC) technology to automate bending operations, press brakes require more manual handling of materials from bend to bend. As a result, larger materials can be challenging for them. In contrast, since panel benders use part manipulators to automatically move material, they can accommodate small or large pieces consistently and quickly. 

Quality

A common issue with press brakes is back bending. Back bending occurs when material lags behind the machine during the forming process, resulting in a whipping motion when the material attempts to keep up with the machine. It can cause a slight bend at the edge of the die. Panel benders do not experience this problem since the material sits flat on the work table and doesn’t have to follow the press action throughout the bending process.

Compared to press brakes, panel benders also offer superior accuracy and precision. Since they are automated machines, they have mechanisms that measure material and detect conditions to ensure correct placement and bending.

Speed

Panel benders can produce bent components much faster than press brakes. Some studies have shown that a panel bender can produce five pieces in the same time it would take a press brake to produce one. 

Learn More About Panel Benders and Press Brakes From Metal Works

Interested in learning more about metal bending technology? Ask the experts at Metal Works of High Point. Our team leverages extensive experience and state-of-the equipment to deliver high-quality metal parts and products to customers across a wide range of industries. We offer a broad selection of metalworking capabilities, including bending, so we have the knowledge to answer or address any questions or concerns you may have about bending machines. 

If you want to partner with us on your next metal bending project, request a quote.

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