Press-Brake Bending--Methods and Challenges
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Characteristics that define press-brake capabilities include pressure or tonnage, working length, distance to the backgauge, work height and stroke. The speed at which the upper beam operates usually ranges from 1 to 15 mm/sec.
Increasingly, press brakes feature multi-axis computer-controlled backgauges, and, to make adjustments during the bending process, mechanical and optical sensors. These sensors measure bending angle during the bend cycle and transmit data real-time to machine controls, which in turn adjust process parameters.
Ultimately, press-brake bending is a combination involving the geometry of the top tool (with the punch angle and punch-tip radius the most important parameters), the geometry of the bottom tool (the width of the V opening, the V angle and the bending radii of the V opening in particular), and the pressing force and speed of the press brake.
Types of Bending
Wiping—When wiping, the sheet again clamps between
In bending, a distinction can be made between four variations: air bending, bottoming, coining and three-point bending. Characteristic of these: The sheet is pressed by a top tool into the opening of the bottom tool (Fig. 3). As a result, sheetmetal on each side of the bend is lifted, causing
Air Bending—With air bending, the top tool presses a sheet into the V opening in the bottom tool to a predetermined depth, but without touching the bottom of the tool (Fig. 4). This is a type of three-point bending, where only the bending radii of the top and bottom tools contact with the sheet. The punch radius of the top tool and the V angle of the bottom tool need not be the same. In some cases, a square opening replaces the V opening in the bottom tool—especially given today’s adjustable bottom tools. The combination of top and bottom tools, therefore, can be applied universally, meaning that with a single combination, various products and profile shapes can be produced simply by adjusting the press-stroke depth. In other words, with a single combination of tools, multiple materials and thicknesses can be bent in a range of bend angles. This makes air bending a highly flexible technique.
One limitation of air bending: It is less precise than processes where sheet fully maintains contact with tooling. The stroke depth must maintain high accuracy, and variations in sheet thickness and local wear on the top and bottom tools can result in unacceptable deviations. Variations in material properties also affect the resulting bend angle due to springback. To achieve maximum angle accuracy with air bending, a value is applied to the width of the V opening, ranging from 6S (six times material thickness) for sheets to 3 mm thick to 12S for sheets more than 10 mm thick. A rule of thumb: V=8S.
Air bending boasts angle accuracy of approximately ±0.5 deg. Unlike with bottoming and coining, bend radius is not determined by tool shape, but depends on material elasticity (Fig. 4). Normally, the bend radius resides between 1S and 2S. Based on its flexibility and relatively low tonnage requirements, fabricators are moving more toward air bending as the preferred forming technique. The disadvantages of this technique related to quality are remedied by taking special measures—angle-measuring systems, clamps and crowning systems that are adjustable along the x and y axes, and wear-resistant tools.
Bottoming—Bottoming, a variation of air bending, presses the sheet against the slopes of the V opening in the bottom tool (Fig. 5), with air between the sheet and the bottom of the V opening. In this case, the punch radius and the V-opening angle are
For larger bend radii, bottoming requires tonnage roughly the same as for air bending for larger bend radii. Smaller radii require force as much as five times greater when bottoming. This brings the advantage of greater accuracy. The resulting bend angle is wholly determined by the tool, with the exception of springback, for which a correction can be made. Note that bottoming results in less springback than when employing air bending. Theoretically, angle accuracies with bottoming approach ±0.25 deg. But because control and adjustment possibilities on press brakes have increased considerably, even on less-expensive machines, air bending increasingly is preferred to bottoming.
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Coining—With coining, the top tool crushes sheet into the opening of the bottom tool, down to the bottom of the V opening (Fig. 6). Coining requires many times the bend force of air bending and bottoming—normally, five to 10 times higher tonnage, and
Three-Point Bending—A relatively new bending technique, three-point bending is considered by some to be a special variation of air bending. This technique employs a special die where its bottom tool can be precisely adjusted in height via a servo motor. The sheet bends over the bend radii of the die until it touches bottom, with the bend angle decreasing as the depth of the die bottom increases. The bottom height of the die, as already indicated, can be determined very precisely (±0.01 mm), with corrections made between the ram and the upper tool using a hydraulic cushion to compensate for deviations in sheet thickness. As a result, the process can achieve bend angles with precision of less than 0.25 deg. Advantages of three-point bending include high flexibility combined with high bending precision. Obstacles include high costs and a limited range of available tools. As a result, this technique, for the time being, is limited to highly demanding niche markets where the additional costs are outweighed by the stated advantages.
Difficulties in Press-Brake Bending
Anisotropy. Sheet material itself, its properties and especially the variations in these properties, can influence the press-brake-bending process. Sheetmetal, produced on large rolling mills, undergoes hot or cold rolling to reach final thickness: hot rolling typically for thicker sheet and cold rolling for thinner sheets due to the high loss of heat and difficulty in maintaining constant temperature in thin material. Also, cold rolling better controls thickness tolerances and causes hardening of the surface layer.
Rolling stretches the crystal structure, causing material to acquire different mechanical properties across its length than across its width. In other words, the material becomes anisotropic, and this affects the subsequent processing. During bending, this can lead to variations in the bend angle. Apart from this anisotropic nature, unavoidable variations occur in material properties as a result of minute differences in material composition and rolling conditions. This also results in variations in stress/ strain curves, not only between different batches of sheet materials, but even within a single batch.
Springback. Springback is the phenomenon by which sheet rebounds on either side of the bend after the bending tool has been removed. Why? In the center of the sheet—not exactly the geometrical center, but close to it—resides a zone with low stress in which, even under large bend forces, only elastic deformation occurs. This part of the sheet’s cross-section, therefore, wants to return to its original shape after bend force is lifted. The extent to which springback occurs depends on the nature of the sheet material: The stiffer the material, the greater the springback. Soft materials exhibit springback limited to no more than 0.5 deg., and steel to 1 deg., but springback in stainless steel can amount to as much as 3 deg.
Bend angle also is a determining factor. The smaller the relative effect on the elastic area in the neutral zone, the smaller the springback. This is the case with small bend angles and small bend radii (meaning a sharp tool). For example, a steel sheet 0.8 mm thick bent with a bend radius of 1S exhibits springback of 0.5 to 1 deg. The same sheet bent with a bending radius of 77S results in springback of as much as 30 deg., according to Steve Benson in his book, Press Brake Technology: A Guide to Precision Sheet Metal (published by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers). With a leg length of 100 mm, each degree of deviation will mean that the end of the sheet will have a spatial deviation of 1.7 mm. For post-processing, such as robotic welding, a deviation of this size will soon exceed acceptable tolerance limits. In practice, it is relatively easy to correct for springback when bending a sheet, providing that influential parameters are known. For calculating springback for cold-rolled steel, a formula offered by Benson is D = R / (2.1 x S) where R is the radius of the angle in mm and S is the sheet thickness in mm. Using this formula, a steel sheet 0.8 mm thick, and given a bend radius of 20 mm and a bend angle of 90 deg., has a springback value of 11.9 deg. To calculate springback for other materials, Benson uses a correction factor (0.5 for copper, 0.75 for hot-rolled steel and 2.0 for stainless steel).
Keep in mind that under certain air-bending conditions, negative springback can occur, particularly when employing dull tools in combination with a large punch angle as deformations then can occur in the sheet between the punch and die surface. When coining, given high pressing pressure and a sharp top tool, this tool can press into the sheet past the neutral zone. In that case, the plastic phase is achieved everywhere and springback is reduced to virtually zero.
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See also: Wila USA
Related Enterprise Zones: Fabrication
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