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Flawless Press Brake Setup Techniques: 10 Steps to Follow

Flawless Press Brake Setup Techniques: 10 Steps to Follow

Metal fabrication companies nowadays aim to maximize productivity by making the most of all resources. And press brakes are remarkable resources. However, working with a press-bending brake is not cheap. Among all, full setup is the most expensive factor of any press brake operation, even in press bending brake shops.

There is a lot of risk and time involved in the press brake setup, too. Thus, the installation requires an appropriate approach. In this article, we will discuss all the important steps involved. By the end of it, you will be able to set up any press brake like a pro.

Press Brake Setup in 10 Important Steps

Setup time is important, and so is precision. Hence, you should aim to increase accuracy while decreasing setup time. Your press brake’s efficiency will be greatly improved if you consistently follow a standard setup procedure. With the following ten steps, your press brake will be completely prepared and good to go:

Step 1: Review the Sketch

All of the machine’s components must be familiar to the operator. It may not be essential to review the drawing if the parts have already been made. Yet, eventually, the operator needs to be aware of the following:

  • Specifications and tolerances for flanges
  • Angular distances within
  • Tolerances for necessary angles
  • Thickness and type of material
  • Size of the blank

In the absence of any of these details, the operator will be left to speculate. As a result, the component could be inaccurate. That’s why it is essential to start with thorough and precise sketches.

Step 2: Select the Tooling

The sketch helps pick the correct press brake tooling. You have several options with this: air bending, bottom bending, coinage, or customization. Here are a few possible scenarios that might come up:

  • If the drawing’s inside radius equals metal thickness, use bottoming tooling.
  • If the radius is 1.25 times the metal thickness, air bend tooling is suitable.
  • A radius smaller than metal thickness might need coining.

Always use tooling as precise as recommended for your machinery. Worn equipment won’t produce accurate products, regardless of the press brake’s precision.

Step 3: Calculate the Tonnage

A machine’s tonnage is its intended bending force. Simply put, it alludes to the press brake’s bending capability. Operators must easily estimate tonnage needs. Different bending methods will require different tonnages.

There are tonnage charts that document air bending. As for bottom bending, usually four times the air bend tonnage is required. Coining needs about eight times the air bend tonnage.

On the other hand, manufacturers can provide quotes for customized tools. Always confirm tonnage requirements before bending.

Step 4: Measuring Central Tonnage

Avoid this step if you are short on press brakes. However, if you have more than one, choose the best brake for the job.

Each press brake has a ton-per-inch limit at its center. To find your brake’s ton-per-inch, multiply the distance between side frames by 0.6 and divide the machine tonnage by the result. For instance, with a 180-ton brake and 20 feet between side frames, multiply 240 inches by 0.6 and divide 180 by the answer (144 inches) for a total of 1.25 tons per inch.

For a 12-inch-wide part, the maximum tonnage at the machine’s center shouldn’t exceed 25 tons. Exceeding 25 tons over 12 inches causes a concentrated overload that could damage the ram permanently. Keep in mind that press brake overloading is only allowed during bottoming, coining, or the use of special-application tooling. It is not allowed during air bending.

If you have tonnage control (CNC or manual), adjust it to provide the necessary bending force without exceeding the center tonnage limit.

Step 5: Determine Accurate Tooling Position

If the tonnage requirement is too much for the center, try off-center. Check if the press brake maker permits off-center loading. Remember to always stick to the machine builder’s guidelines and don’t go beyond them.

Step 6: Install the Tooling

Tooling installation is time-consuming and costly. Nevertheless, you will have to install and align the upper and lower tooling for bending.

For manual clamp bars, loosen them to slide tools. Install the lower tool (die) first and leave it loose. Lower the ram slightly above the die height. Then, slide the punch over the die with a tang behind the clamp bars. Remember that the die supports the punch weight. Follow the same procedure with or without a safety tag on the punch.

Afterward, tighten the clamp bars snugly against the tang. Lower the ram to seat the punch and align the die. And then, tighten the die, set screws, and clamp bars.

If all these seem painful, the hydraulic clamp can be a good option. It makes the procedure easier and faster. Snap tooling is also a more efficient option.

Step 7: Program the Press Brake

Most operators lack the necessary programming skills. This makes the programming of the brake machine the second most time-consuming step in the setup process. It is hard, boring, and scary to have to program the press brakes by hand. Indeed, perfecting the programming of a manual press brake is an exercise in trial and error. But if you own a CNC machine, the programming is easy.

Avoid squandering time during setup by studying programming as a press brake operator. To get a better grasp of programming quickly and easily, you could also consult an expert.

Step 8: Make a Test Run

To avoid ruining a good blank, test the bend on a scrap piece. You should only use a production blank after you have successfully bent a test piece. After all, there are some costs associated with each blank.

Step 9: Correct the Program

A misstep in programming the brake press machine is possible from time to time. Verify the component is satisfactory after the test run is completed. Concurrently making a test bend and fixing the program is the way to go. But if your test bend is good, there is no need to fix the program.

Step 10: Run The Parts

Once you have everything set up correctly, you are ready to operate high-quality parts. However, you should not expect perfection. Your supervisor will set up a system for evaluating and testing the components you are making.

Always refer back to your setup method when making new elements. There will be a dramatic improvement in both your setup time and accuracy.


Finding the sweet spot between speed and accuracy in press brake setup is critical. Standardizing the setup process makes things run more smoothly. A few steps are needed to make sure that everything is set up correctly.

It begins with reviewing the sketch thoroughly. Then comes selecting appropriate tooling and calculating the required tonnage accurately. The next step is to carefully install and line up the upper and lower tooling. Then, after necessary tweaks with the programs, running a test bend on scrap material is required before production.

However, no matter how hard you try to set up a poor press brake, the product won’t be good. That’s why you will need a top-quality press brake in the first place. And this is what Fab-Line Machinery is proud to offer. Contact us today if you need a hydraulic or electric press brake.

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