What Is a Machine Press? And How Does It Work?

Antique machine press

Also known as a forming press, a machine press is a tool used in the manufacturing industry to deform a workpiece under high pressure. There are different types of machines presses, including press brakes, punch presses, shop presses and more. The defining characteristic of all machine presses, however, is that they press a workpiece using high pressure to change the shape of a workpiece.

Origins of the Machine Press

Prior to the invention of the machine press, workers were required to manually hammer metal by hand to change its shape. Not only was this physically taxing, but it was also ineffective when performed on hard and strong metals. Around the mid-1800s, however, the steam hammer hammer was developed. Also known as a drop hammer, the steam hammer was essentially an early version of the modern-day machine press. The only difference is that the steam hammer was powered by steam, whereas most modern-day machine presses are powered by hydraulics.

How Machine Presses Work

While the exact mechanics vary depending on the type of machine press, most machine presses work by pressing a plate or die onto or against a workpiece. They are controlled by one or more workers known as “tool setters” who position the workpiece and control the machine press. Once the workpiece is positioned underneath the machine press’s plate or die, the tool setter activates the machine press. Using hydraulic pressure, the machine press pushes the plate or die against the surface of the workpiece, which causes the workpiece’s shape to deform.

Pressure Generated By Machine Presses

Machine presses rely on high pressure to perform their intended applications. With the exception of lighter machine presses, such as arbor presses, most machine presses use around 1 to 30 tons of pressure. As a result, they are able to deform most materials, including bronze, copper, aluminum, iron, steel and composites. The high pressure of a machine presses squishes even the hardest metals, allowing manufacturing companies to deform metal workpieces into their desired shape.

What Is a Punch Press?

A punch press looks like an ordinary machine press, but it’s used to create holes in workpieces rather than to change the shape of workpieces. Typically controlled via CNC, a punch press holds a die that’s forced against a workpiece using the same high pressure as created by traditional machine presses. The presence of the die allows the punch press to create holes in workpieces.

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