The Different Types of Machine Presses

Machine presses, also known as forming presses and press brakes, play a pivotal role in mass producing metal parts thanks to their power, precision and efficiency in high-volume production. Since the first industrial presses appeared in the mid 18th century, many methods for generating the force required for a press to operate have been developed.

In this article, we explore how these different types of presses affect overall manufacturing efficacy and which press might be the most suitable for particular industry sectors.

What is an Industrial Machine Press?

A machine press is a device used to bend, form or shape metal sheets through the application of forces often exceeding 100 tons. Machine presses can handle a number of different metals, ranging from thin aluminium sheets to thick steel plates. This equipment is essential in various manufacturing industries, including automotive, aerospace and construction, where precision and repeatability in metal shaping are crucial.

The working principle involves exerting pressure on a workpiece placed between a punch and a die, typically configured to match the desired form. When the press is activated, the punch forces the material into the die, causing it to deform plastically without breaking. This deformation process is carefully controlled to achieve high precision and repeatability in mass production settings.

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Hydraulic Presses

Hydraulic presses operate on the principle of Pascal's law, where a small force applied to a piston results in a much larger force produced by a larger piston. Hydraulics remain one of the most popular ways to power a machine press and offer distinct features including high power efficiency, precise control and versatility in various applications.

How Does a Hydraulic Press Work?

Utilising the principles of fluid mechanics, a hydraulic press generates compressive force by applying pressure to a liquid in a confined space. This system typically involves two cylinders of different sizes connected by a pipe and filled with an incompressible fluid—commonly oil.

When force is applied to the smaller cylinder, known as the plunger or piston, it creates pressure that is transmitted through the fluid, effectively multiplying the force as it moves to the larger cylinder, or ram. This process allows the hydraulic press to generate tremendous forces with relatively minimal input. The ram, which exerts the resultant larger force, then accomplishes metal-forming tasks such as moulding or punching.

Key Features, Benefits and Drawbacks of Hydraulic Presses

A standout feature of hydraulic presses is their ability to deliver consistent pressure throughout the stroke, making them ideal for applications requiring precision and control. They also benefit from adjustable pressure settings, which enhance versatility in operation. Additionally, hydraulic presses generally operate more quietly compared to mechanical presses, contributing to a better work environment.

However, their operation speed is typically slower, which can reduce overall productivity on particularly large or long production runs. Additionally, maintenance can be more complex due to the hydraulic systems involved, potentially leading to higher operating costs if not managed properly.

Suitable Applications and Industries

Automotive

In the automotive sector, these presses are essential for stamping and forming car bodies and other components, ensuring high precision and quality.

Aerospace

The aerospace industry benefits from hydraulic presses in the manufacturing of large, intricate parts made from advanced composite materials, which require controlled pressure and temperatures.

Metal Working

Additionally, in metal fabrication, these presses are indispensable for bending, forming, and drawing operations, handling both simple and complex metal shapes.

Plastics

Plastics manufacturing also relies on hydraulic presses for their ability to generate significant force in a controlled manner, enabling efficient production of a wide range of products.

Mechanical Presses

One of the oldest types of industrial press, mechanical presses operate by converting the rotational motion of a motor into a linear motion at the press ram, utilising mechanical linkages, flywheels and clutches. Their application is prevalent in industries requiring high-volume production.

How Does a Mechanical Press Work?

A mechanical press operates by converting the rotational force of a motor into a linear force to shape or cut materials. This transformation is achieved through a system comprising a flywheel, clutch, and crankshaft. The motor powers the flywheel, which stores rotational energy. When activated, the clutch connects the flywheel to the crankshaft, translating the rotational motion into a linear motion that drives the press ram.

This mechanism allows the press to exert significant force in a controlled downward movement Mechanical presses operate through a motor-driven mechanical flywheel, offering precise control over the ram speed and position, which leads to consistent force application and repeatability. The cycle rate and force applied can be adjusted by modifying the motor speed and the mechanics of the drive system.

Key Features, Benefits and Drawbacks of Mechanical Presses

Their robust construction of mechanical presses generally guarantees a long operational life with minimal maintenance. Additionally, mechanical presses are capable of achieving high production speeds, making them highly efficient for large-volume tasks.

However, the initial cost of a mechanical press can be high, and their rigid operation makes them less adaptable to different tasks without retooling.

Suitable Applications and Industries

Appliances and Consumer Goods

Particularly, the manufacturing of large appliances, such as refrigerators and washing machines, relies on mechanical presses for shaping and cutting metal sheets.

Automotive

As with most press types, mechanical presses are commonly found in the automotive sector, these presses are integral in shaping and forming metal parts such as panels, frames and various structural components.

Currency

The coin minting industry also utilises mechanical presses to produce detailed, high-quality coins efficiently.

Servo Electrical Presses

Servo electrical presses represent a significant advancement in press technology, utilising electric servo motors to deliver precise and controlled force. These presses stand out by specific features that enhance functionality.

How Does a Servo Electrical Press Work?

A servo electric press operates using a servo motor that directly drives the ram or slide, rather than mechanical or hydraulic systems which traditionally power other types of presses. The servo motor provides precise control over the ram position, speed, and direction.

When activated, the motor spins and, typically through use of a ball screw, this rotational motion is converted into the linear motion that drives the ram.The servo electrical press completes the operation in a controlled and precise manner, enabling high-quality, repeatable results.

Key Features, Benefits and Drawbacks of Servo Electrical Presses

The key advantage of a servo electric press is its ability to control every aspect of the ram motion throughout the press cycle. This is possible because the servo motor can start, stop and change direction at any point. This precise control allows for a variety of press operations that are difficult or impossible to achieve with a traditional mechanical press.

In terms of performance, servo electrical presses can also be faster than comparable mechanical presses while being more energy-efficient, converting most electrical energy directly into mechanical force with little waste. This efficiency also enables quieter operation compared to hydraulic or mechanical presses, contributing to better workplace conditions. Lastly, due being driven by electrical servos, there is no requirement for hazardous oils to operate hydraulics.

However, the initial cost of electrical presses can be higher due to the advanced technology and components used. Additionally, though they are generally reliable and require less maintenance than hydraulic presses, they require skilled personnel and occasional costly repairs. This can also lead to longer downtimes if technical issues arise, impacting production schedules.

Suitable Applications and Industries

Automotive

Servo electric presses are used in the automotive industry for processes like stamping, forming, and assembling more complex parts of vehicles.

Electronics

In the electronics industry, these presses are used for assembling small parts in devices like computers, phones and other electronic gadgets. The adjustable press cycle is also particularly helpful in stamping more complex pieces.

Aerospace

Servo electric presses are used in the aerospace industry for manufacturing and assembling various parts of aircraft. They offer the high precision and control needed for these complex assembly processes.

Hybrid Presses

Hybrid presses represent an innovative fusion of mechanical and hydraulic press technologies, offering distinct advantages in versatility and energy efficiency. These presses combine the precision of servo electrical systems with the power and flexibility of hydraulic mechanisms, making them suitable for a wide range of applications.

Note: Some press manufacturers refer to hybrid press brakes as servo press brakes.

How Does a Hybrid Press Work?

A hybrid press, often known as a 'hybrid servo press brake,' uniquely combines hydraulic pressure to drive the ram, while servo motor controls to modulate the ram's movement direction, making it an excellent choice for precision in forming operations.

This innovative design allows for the powerful force application typical of hydraulic systems, while the servomotors provide fine control over the ram's speed and position. This dual approach not only enhances the accuracy and flexibility of the press but also improves energy efficiency compared to traditional hydraulic presses.

Key Features, Benefits and Drawbacks of Hybrid Presses

Several key features of hybrid presses contribute to their growing popularity among manufacturers, including reduced hydraulic fluid usage and quieter operation.

Unlike traditional hydraulic presses that continuously flow hydraulic fluid, hybrid presses use fluid only when required . This not only enhances efficiency but also greatly reduces operational noise — a major advantage in loud industrial environments.

Additionally, the elimination of hydraulic directional valves in hybrid presses means that no time is lost waiting for valve shifts, which improves overall speed and productivity. However, the complexity of hybrid systems can increase initial setup and maintenance costs, posing a potential downside for some users considering the shift from more conventional systems.

Suitable Applications and Industries

Automotive

Due to their enhanced efficiency and reduced operational noise, hybrid presses are particularly well-suited for use in the automotive industry. Their ability to deliver controlled force and speed makes them ideal for forming complex metal components like car bodies.

Aerospace

The aerospace sector requires high precision and reliability for parts production, and this is met by the combination of electric and hydraulic press technologies of hybrid presses. The controlled force and speed they offer are ideal for forming precise metal components such as aircraft panels.

Electronics

Electronics manufacturers also benefit from hybrid presses, utilising them to assemble delicate components with precision. The versatility of hybrid presses extends their utility across various manufacturing domains requiring high-quality output and operational efficiency.

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Different Types of Presses in Modern Manufacturing

Machine presses play a vital role in modern industrial settings. Each variant offers distinct advantages tailored to specific requirements regarding speed, force, precision, and energy efficiency.

The appropriate selection and application of these presses are essential for optimising manufacturing processes, enhancing productivity, and achieving desired outcomes in metal forming and assembly operations across various sectors such as automotive, aerospace, and broader manufacturing industries.

For more information on machine pressing or for advice on your next manufacturing project, get in touch with us at Kiyokuni. With decades of experience using various types of machine press in industries from automotive to electrical goods, we are in a unique place to provide metal pressing services to a range of sectors.






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