Press Brake Forming vs. Roll Forming

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If you request a piece of metal to be bent, rolled, or otherwise formed by a metal fabricator, it likely will go through a Press Brake, or a roll forming machine at some point. Each of these machines is capable of bending metal into a desired shape, and at first glance, the two might seem to be more similar than they are different. However, when you explore the two techniques and machines further, you’ll come to realize that the two have different properties, characteristics, benefits, and applications.

How, then, do you decide which technique is best equipped to handle your next metal forming project? In this blog post, we’ll dive into the similarities and differences between roll forming and press brake forming.
Press Brake Forming

Press brake forming is a process by which a thin blade (the punch) forces a piece of metal down into a V-shaped frame (the die), bending the metal into the desired shape. Different punches and dies can be used to achieve an array of bends.

Properties and Characteristics
From small and intricate to large and powerful, press brakes come in a variety of sizes. Most commonly, press brakes perform a method called air bending, which is where the metal being formed is punched down into the frame without making contact with it. This method produces a rounded cross-section on both sides of the bend. For crisp, sharper edges the metal can be forced into contact with the crease of the frame (called coining or bottom bending, depending on how exact you want the bend to be), often resulting in a tighter radius bend.

Press brake forming is ideal for low- to medium-volume orders, especially orders requesting smaller and shorter components. When performed in the right conditions, press brake forming is one of the most, cost-effective metal forming techniques. It is capable of bending metal at almost any orientation or position; its limitation being that there must be ample room for the metal being bent to fit inside and around the press brake. There’s also a limit to the sheet size and length of the bend.

Press brake tooling can be simple to set up, depending on the configuration, which can help save both time and money. Additionally, after the components are formed using the press brake, they can easily be moved to other departments to undergo additional operations or steps in the fabrication process.

Press brakes can be used to create a wide variety of components. Common applications include component parts for industries such as: agriculture, construction, mining, defense, energy, and others.
Roll Forming
As its name implies, roll forming is a continuous metal forming technique that uses pairs of rollers to shape a piece of metal as it passes through the machine.

Properties and Characteristics
Roll forming can be a complex and time-consuming technique, in that it requires significant setup time and tooling. It is well suited to handle long production runs, specifically when identical components are being fabricated. If a different component needs to be fabricated, a new roller layout is required, and each of the rollers (of which there could be as many as ten or more) will have to be calibrated and retested to ensure that the machine will produce the desired result.

Since the machine and its rollers can be uniquely configured, roll forming is a versatile technique that allows for additional metal forming processes, such as punching and notching, to be performed on the component as it works its way through the machine.

Roll forming can be used to produce a variety of cross-section profiles, the most common of which is an open profile, although tube-like shapes can be fabricated as well. Roll-formed metal components are typically found in long, thin forms, such as support rails, guard rails, gutters, and more.

Press Brake Forming services from G.E. Mathis Company
At G.E. Mathis Company, we have eight (8) hydraulic press brakes capable of handling almost any project, regardless of size, volume, or complexity. Our press brakes include both manually operated and CNC-controlled, which can handle up to a 1,000 ton capacity, and can produce parts up to 48 FT in length. Located in Chicago, our modern facility and qualified staff are more than capable of delivering on founder George E. Mathis’s core values of quality, integrity, and craftsmanship.

To get specifics for a project estimate, request a quote today. For all other information, including more information on our available press brakes and press brake forming services, please contact us today.

Laser Cutting Stainless Steel vs. Plasma Cutting

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Should I use Laser cutting or should I use Plasma cutting? 

This is a common question that customers ask us. They want to know the difference between the two, and which cutting process is better suited for their application or end-use. While the answer is not always cut and dry, there are some general rules that separate the two processes. 

Laser cutting and Plasma cutting are both thermal cutting processes widely used in steel fabrication. Each is used to cut metals across a wide range of industries and applications. Several factors must be considered when deciding between laser cutting vs. plasma cutting for stainless steel. These can include material thickness, material type, the complexity of cuts, and tolerances required. 

Each cutting solution has its advantages. Your manufacturer can help determine the best cutting solution for your application, but it is still important to understand the laser cutting and plasma cutting processes and understand the advantages each can provide to help inform your discussion. 

Laser Cutting

Laser CuttingLaser cutting is a precise thermal cutting process achieved by utilizing a focused beam of light. We often recommend this manufacturing process for applications where parts require tighter tolerances. When it comes to a specific material choice, we work with customers and in some cases make recommendations based on their specific application. When a part has tight tolerance specifications, needs precise cutouts, or requires holes that are small relative to the material thickness, we turn to laser cutting. 

Stainless steel laser cutting is a popular choice for the many benefits it provides. Some of the most noted advantages of laser cutting include:

  • Flexibility. Once a laser is set up and configured for a specific material type and thickness, cuts can be easily repeated on multiple parts, sheets, and plates without the need to change out tools. 
  • Precision. With general cutting tolerances starting at +/- 0.015”, laser cutting is well suited for precise cuts. 
  • Quality. Laser cutting produces component parts with greater accuracy than other thermal cutting methods. 
  • Repeatability. The consistent tight tolerances achieved with laser cutting ensure high repeatability between parts.
  • Speed. Laser cutting can be faster than other traditional mechanical cutting processes, especially when making complex or extremely precise cuts.
  • Contactless. With laser cutting, there is no mechanical friction to cause wear on tools. Only the laser comes in contact with the material being cut. 

Plasma Cutting

img-cnc-plasma-cutting-largePlasma cutting uses a mixture of gases in combination with an electric arc to cut. With our high-definition plasma cutting equipment, we can perform bevel cuts on parts as required. Beveling is an important step in weld preparation and much larger or thicker component parts require beveled edges in order to facilitate a weld joint with the correct amount of weld penetration. Because of this, plasma cutting is often a better choice for parts that require weld-prep bevels, or for simple parts without complex geometry where exact tolerance is not as critical. 

Plasma cutting stainless steel offers many possibilities. It offers an effective way to cut a variety of thicknesses and can cut sheets into curved or angled shapes. Some of the advantages of plasma cutting stainless steel include: 

  • Automation. As a CNC (computer numerical control) cutting process, plasma cutting mitigates the risk of human error over hand-held cutting methods. 
  • Speed. Plasma cutting cuts as much as five times faster than many comparable cutting methods. The process makes cuts rapidly while simultaneously vaporizing the cut material.
  • Processing. Plasma cutting is an ideal method for quickly producing high-quality blanks for medium-to-high thickness Stainless Steel. This cutting method is also good for mild steels of low-to-medium thickness.
  • Lower heat input. Plasma cutting can cut extremely hard metals, such as high-strength steel or abrasion-resistant steel, with a lower heat input than other cutting methods.

G.E. Mathis Company Metal Cutting Solutions

The advice listed here should be considered as general rules. At G.E. Mathis Company, we consider which process is best suited to cut each part on a case-by-case basis. We offer both Precision Laser cutting as well as Hi-Definition Plasma cutting options, and also have the experience to help advise you on which is better for your project or application. 

At G.E. Mathis Company, our Precision Laser cutting and Hi-Def Plasma cutting services can be performed on an array of materials and thicknesses, and we can handle a wide range of production volumes. Whether you’re prototyping a new part or ramping up for a high-volume run, we can provide end-to-end production services for your laser cutting or plasma cutting project.

In addition, G.E. Mathis Company can provide the following services:

  • PPAP (Production Part Approval Process) – All Levels
  • FAIR (First Article Inspection Report)
  • Capability Studies (Statistical Process Control)
  • CMRT (Conflict Minerals Reporting Template)

Contact us or request a quote to see how our laser cutting or plasma cutting services can help your project.