Small to mid-sized metal fabrication businesses thrive when they become known for serving niche needs for metal components and pieces. Choosing between a folding machine and a press brake is a decision most shops will make. The machines do similar work, but one may be better for a small shop than another based on cost, return on investment, and the type of work that makes up the majority of their business. Some shops will benefit from having both machines on site.

When You Need a Press Brake

Press brakes, whether they’re mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, or servo-electric powered, are able to work on weightier, thicker metal than folding machines. If you consistently work with heavy gauge sheet metal, a press brake might be the appropriate tool.

However, when a press brake creates a bend in metal, the metal rises up toward the operator’s face. Even with CNC controls, only experienced operators attuned to appropriate safety measures should operate a press brake. Moreover, because press brakes work with thick metal, they tend to be big machines, and often need two or more operators.

When a CNC Folding Machine Is Better

A CNC sheet metal folding machine allows the workpiece to rest on a table, with only the portion to be folded (flange) protruding, and the flange tends to be short. The remainder of the metal stays flat. Folding machines work well on lighter metals to create pieces for roofs, pans, trays, covers, and similar pieces made from thinner metal.

Folding machines are more compact, and a single operator can usually use the machine to create the bends and folds required in thinner, smaller workpieces.

Reasons to Have Both Types of Machines

Many shops will elect to maintain both a press brake and a folding machine, because of the diversity of jobs they perform. Shops that provide roofing, doors, and thin fabricated metal parts with multiple, consistent folds with short flanges, but that also work on structural steel or other types of thicker sheet metal, will need both machines.

Choosing between a folding machine and a press brake comes down to the type of work a shop performs, weighted against cost and anticipated return on investment.

Mac-Tech supplies both press brake and CNC sheet metal folding machines, as well as angle rollers, beam coping machines, and a variety of cutting machines to handle most metal fabrication tasks. Call us today to discuss your shop’s needs!

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