Hydraulic vs Mechanical Press Brakes – Which One is the Best Option?

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Hydraulic vs Mechanical Press Brakes – Which One is the Best Option?

There are several types of press brakes on the market, but the two main types are hydraulic and mechanical press brakes. In the debate about hydraulic vs mechanical press brakes, which one is the best option? How do you know what type of press brake is best for your particular application? We’ll tell you how to determine which one is a good fit for your needs.

Mechanical Press Brakes

Mechanical press brakes are based on a century-old design. A flywheel provides the power. It isn’t capable of air bending. It is capable of stamping any material that has an inside radius less than the material thickness. That’s called coining. It may also be able to shape material that has a thickness 20 percent above the material thickness. This is called bottoming. This means mechanical presses can be used to make bumpers and fence posts. However, it takes a lot of time to make custom pieces if it can be done at all. Every bend angle requires setup time as you swap out tools. These machines are ideal for American planed tooling. Unfortunately, their dies are expensive.

Even if you can make the multi-bend item, the mechanical press isn’t as precise as hydraulic press brakes. Back Gauging systems are sometimes available with mechanical brake presses, but CNC isn’t an option. Another issue that comes up with the dumber control systems is the relative lack of safety measures. You often have to install separate guarding systems. Yet the design of the brake press can prevent adequate guarding. For example, light curtains often have to be lined up with the pinch point almost exactly where the operator is working. All too often, the operator disables the light curtain so they can keep working without repeated accidental shut-off.

Single Cylinder Hydraulic Brake Presses

The single-cylinder or bell crank hydraulic system relies on a single hydraulic cylinder. That runs parallel to the ram and bed. If your cylinder has been damaged, there are onsite cylinder repair services you can call to have them fixed.

These presses are capable of high tonnage loads. They’re often used in heavy bending applications. They also tend to have very basic numerical controls or NCs. They generally only use American planed tooling. You may get in touch with a hydraulic press manufacturer to order presses that can be used for punching, forming, and stamping operations. Even with an NC, you’re able to control the ram speed and position, something you can’t do with mechanical presses. This type of hydraulic system remains in use in some shops, but you get all of this and more with CNC hydraulic brake presses.

CNC Hydraulic Brake Presses

CNC hydraulic press brakes are driven by conventional hydraulic systems. They may use straightforward hydraulic hoses and pumps or servo-over-hydraulic that gives you the power of a hydraulic system and accuracy of an electric press brake. All of the hydraulic press brakes running CNC offer high repeatability and fixed reference points. You enjoy fast set-ups. They provide consistent bend angles. What about air bending? In this case, a hydraulic press brake might be a better choice. Another point in favor of hydraulic presses is that they can support all three major tooling styles: European, American, and New Standard.

Hydraulic presses offer speed, stroke, and force. This gives them incredible forming capacity. Coining shouldn’t be done with a hydraulic press brake because it could damage the press brake. Bottom bending can be done with hydraulic presses, but other types of brake presses are better for that operation. However, you can use hydraulic presses for stamping.

If you need precise, high-quality materials or want to run several operations through one machine, a CNC hydraulic press is the best choice.


Mechanical brake presses are suitable for a limited range of applications if you can invest in the right safety equipment. For everything else, CNC hydraulic brake presses are the best choice.

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  1. Air bending most certainly is possible with every mechanical press brake that I have ever operated, and production of one-off items (square-to-rounds, for instance) is far more efficient.This is due to the fact that a skilled operator can make numerous identical bends in quick succession without having to wait on the hydraulic cylinders to reverse direction. He could also more readily lose a digit due to momentary inattention, however. I also agree with your assessment of its inferiority in the mass production of multibend items.