Press Brake Tooling Manufacturers Respond To Changes In Bending

February 2012


The only certain thing in the world is change, and this holds true for the field of bending, too. Job shops have decreased or eliminated inventory while running smaller lot sizes, resulting in a need for products that decrease set-up time and increase productivity.

New developments and products from these companies, such as clamping systems, sensors and special tooling, cater to these job shop needs.

Amada America

Amada recognized that industry bending requirements were changing – lot sizes were becoming smaller and production runs were needed just-in-time – and to address this, they introduced their AFH (AMADA Fixed Height) Tooling.

“This is a tooling system that has common heights across the board, so no matter what punch profile you have … they’re all the same height,” says Scott Bowerman, tooling sales manager for Amada. “The benefit of AFH tooling is that it allows the fabricator to easily stage bend on our new brakes.

“It also eliminates the need for multiple brake setups. In the past, brake operators had to do multiple setups in order to complete one part. The multiple punch profiles, all set to “common” 120-mm height, allow for maximum brake setup flexibility.”

In addition to eliminating multiple setups, when the AFH tooling is combined with Amada’s CS Hydraulic Clamping System, overall setup times can be reduced by as much as 60 percent. The hydraulic system allows an operator to lock and seat punches on the entire bed with the turn of a switch, without any tools.

On Amada’s HD and HDS series of press brakes, the AFH tooling has punches that are 120 mm in height with several different lengths, including 835 mm solid, 415 mm solid and one sectionalized with ears. The punches also come in six different profiles: standard, burring, sash, straight, gooseneck and 30-degree acute.

The AFH tooling dies are 60 mm and have a single V-style pocket that helps to improve tool centering and bend accuracy. The dies also receive Amada’s Long-Life Die (ALD) treatment, providing up to three times higher wear resistance.

“The ALD treatment actually brings the Rockwell up to 65 (C scale), which helps it last a lot longer than conventional European-style tooling,” Bowerman notes.

R-K Press Brake Dies Inc.

R-K Press Brake Dies will be releasing a new line of precision ground tooling at the end of this year. The tooling will feature quicker setup times and will be interchangeable with other manufacturers’ precision-ground tooling as well.

“The tools are more consistent – you could buy one today and one three months from now and they will all line up within 0.0004 in.,” says Tom Rosinski, president.

“We’ll also be able to offer specialized ground tooling for customers who have a need, and they can’t get it from somewhere else. Lead times are shorter because the tooling is manufactured at one of our two facilities in the U.S.”

The tooling also features hardening to 0.100 in. deep and holds +/- 0.0004 in. on all critical dimensions. Rosinski also mentions that the new tooling will likely be displayed at FABTECH this year.


TRUMPF’s new ACB (Automatically Controlled Bending) Easy Angle Sensor, according to their website, increases productivity by ensuring an accurate first part, reducing “rejects and [shortening] the throughput time of the parts.”

This increased accuracy is accomplished through two sensor plates integrated into the tooling that measure “the actual angle and resilience of the bend part.” These sensor plates are actually located on the inside of the punch itself.

“TRUMPF ACB technology is a tried and tested, tactile measuring principle successful in the market since 1997,” comments Carl Peterhansel, TRUMPF’s tooling products sales and service manager. “The relative movement of two sensor disks enables the calculation of the actual bending angle to an accuracy of +/- 0.3 degrees.”


Wila is constantly working to stay at the forefront of press-brake bending technology, mentions Gunter Glocker, Wila’s president. “That’s really our only business, so we are always trying to put out new products and new patents,” he says. “The last major development was something we introduced at the EUROBLECH show last fall – TIPS, which stands for Tool Identification and Positioning System.”

Wila’s TIPS enhances productivity when it comes to press brake automation. Electronic intelligence is built into the hydraulic clamping system and the tooling, both the punches and
the dies. An electronic chip in the tooling contains all the critical information for that tool – working height, segment length, maximum load capacity, angle profile, etc.

With this system a tool can be readily identified on the tooling rack by a robot no matter where it’s stored. The robot can then more easily place the tool where it needs to be in the clamp, simplifying the process and allowing for totally unmanned bending cell operation. An electronic chip is built into both the front and back sides of the punch with TIPS, ensuring that no matter which way the tool is loaded, says Glocker, “the information is there. This prevents the robot or the manual operator from picking up the wrong tool or putting it in the wrong position. It’s kind of a failsafe system.”

The Safety Click System allows tools to be vertically loaded at any position on the machine. Once they’re all loaded, the operator simply pushes a button, and they’re all clamped and aligned in seconds, without operator intervention, resulting in significant time savings, says Glocker.

The tools can then be released vertically out of the clamp at the push of a button, instead of having to go through the more traditional process of sliding them in from the end of the press brake. Also, with this system, all tools are segmented in lengths of 20 in. or shorter for easy handling.

In addition to the tooling improvements found in TIPS and the Safety Click System, Wila also stands out by the hardening process they use in their tooling, as well as premium clamping and crowning systems.

“It’s CNC deep hardening, and it’s really a CNC controlled induction hardening process,” explains Glocker. ”This gives us a hardened layer at the critical point of the punch tip radius or the shoulders of the V die where the formed material is making contact with the tool.”

Under this process, the hardened layer goes to a minimum depth of 0.157 in. and is hardened to 56 to 60 Rockwell C. This is combined with a chrome-moly alloy steel as the base material, resulting in a durability that Glocker feels is the best in the industry.

“When you compare it to some of the other hardening processes – nitriding for example, which gives you a real thin layer of hardness about 0.020 in. thick – ours is eight times deeper,” he says.

“This CNC deep-hardening method has proved to be very, very good as far as keeping the tooling and holders accurate for basically the life of the tool and the machine.”

Wilson Tool

Wilson Tool’s focus is to help their customers become more efficient. Whether it’s through setting up jobs more quickly, increasing performance or sustaining a leaner operation, the company offers several products to help customers.

One such product is Wilson’s Power Express Hydraulic Clamping System. This system will self-seat almost all American-style tooling without a self-seating groove.

“This is really nice. Say that you’re a customer, and you’re buying a new press brake. You have about 40 years of tooling sitting on the shelf, and you really want to use that tooling in your new brake, but you also want the functionality of self-seating,” comments Mike Sosnoski, press brake manufacturing manager.

“Well, you can buy this clamping system,and it will allow you to use your existing tooling to automatically self-seat in this clamping system.”

Wilson Tool also offers Express Clamps, a manual clamping solution for European-style tooling. Though it’s been on the market for about 10 years, Sosnoski notes that it’s still a high-selling product.

“It gives customers a lot of flexibility and freedom, and it’s a relatively low-cost solution,” he says.

The Express Clamping System is designed to work with European-style tooling. According to Wilson Tool’s website, when using the system, operators simply push long or sectionalized punches upward into the clamp and then lock them into place by pushing upward on the clamp’s removable lever, instead of having to slide the tooling in from the end of the brake. The clamp can then be unlocked by pushing down on the lever.

Wilson Tool also offers European-style staged tooling that features a common shut height, allowing staged bending to be performed on European-style press brakes. This reduces set-up time and increases productivity, as well as enhancing lean operations, since a number of different bends can be completed in one setup.

According to Wilson Tool’s website, the European-style tooling is precision ground to a tolerance of +/- 0.0008 in. and features common centerlines on all punches. Wilson Tool’s Nitrex surface enhancement is also applied to the tooling, providing a surface hardness of HRC-70 that increases durability and tooling life by several times when compared to non-treated tooling.

Another product that will potentially increase performance for customers is Wilson Tool’s quick-change large-radius punch holder.

“Let’s say that you have a half-meter ong punch holder, about 20 in.,” explains Sosnoski. “It’ll have three screws across the front, and to unlock and switch radiuses, you just take an Allen wrench, do a half turn on each of those three screws, slide the radius out, slide your next one in, give a half turn on each of those screws, and it’s locked in. It’s a quick-change feature that we think customers will be really excited about.”

The punch holder is also laser heat-treated, and the punch tips are Nitrexed. Sosnoski points out that this is added value, as most of the competition offers a product that is pre-hardened or soft. The advantage of the heat treatment is that it protects against burrs that might be found on laser-cut steel and would be abusive to a pre-hardened or soft product.

Wilson Tool also stocks 0.375-into 2-in.-radius tips for their punch holder and can accommodate special radiuses as well. If a customer needs to bend very close to the end of the sheet and produce small flanges, Wilson Tool has a solution for that problem in their V-Series Press Brake Dies.

The V-Series die works through what Sosnoski calls pivoting shoulders. As the punch tip pushes down and comes into contact with the paddles, the paddles will pivot and assist the sheet in bending.

“You’re not really drawing material over the shoulders of the die – the paddles of the die are moving with the sheet metal,” he says.

“Typically, with the flange you need so much material to come into contact with both shoulders of the die that you’re limited on the length of your flange. With the design of this V-Series die and the paddles that move, it’s really one flat surface. You can have very small flanges and bend with this, which is very attractive, because that’s one of the nemesis in the press brake world, how to deal with the short flanges.

The V-Series dies also assist with avoiding distortion in the bend and reducing sheet marking, both through the support provided by the pivoting
shoulders. Wilson Tool’s acquisition of Exacta in November 2010 further added to their capabilities.

“In the press brake world, Wilson Tool has always offered precision ground tooling, but now with the acquisition of Exacta, we’re able to offer the conventional plain milled tooling, as well,” comments Sosnoski.

“We can give the customer either option, and we’ll help them decide which is best for their application.”

Exacta also specializes in large equipment – they’ve produced punch holders measuring 4 ft. tall and hydraulically controlled dies 2 ft. wide and 60 ft. long. With its acquisition of the company, Wilson Tool now has this capability, too.

R-K Press Brake Dies Inc.
Wilson Tool

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