Introduction: 3D Printed Press Brake Forming Tools

About: Electromechanical Engineer, Product Designer, Maker. I love to make prototypes and teach others in the process. I graduated from UCF and spent two years working at NASA.

We made 50 customer parts last week with a 3D printed tool that allowed us to get them custom parts in a rush without having to order tooling and wait. All the parts met the specifications on the print and the customer was happy to get his parts so quickly. The customer part was thin aluminum so I wanted to see how thick these tools could form so I decided to design more tools and test them by bending different thicknesses of steel.

Step 1: Printing Parameters

The strongest tools from this video were printed with a Prusa i3 MK3s using standard PLA. I printed 12 perimeters with 20% gyroid infill at 0.2mm layer height.

The tools in my video bent up to 0.134"/3.4mm thick steel without significant wear after over 150 consecutive bends. The force required to bend 10 gauge(0.134"/3.4mm) mild steel at a bend length of 1 inch across a 1 inch V die is about 0.79 ton or 1580lbs.

An expert in the field of metal forming, Cincinnati Inc., has tested their 3D Printed tools up to 14ga steel and had success with 1000 bends. Cincinnati also use PLA for their forming tools because it is much more rigid than many of the other common materials used with standard FDM printers that we know and love.

Step 2: Choose Your Tool

Download anyone of these 3D models to get started. I have added each of the tools tested in the video.

Step 3: Make It Your Own!

Here are a few ideas for other people that do not have access to a press brake so they can benefit from these forming tools:

  • Bench Vise - You could easily adapt my designs or create your own to attach to a regular bench vise for bending custom sheet metal parts at home.
  • Arbor Press - You could design a forming tool that attached to an arbor press.
  • Attachments - I am designing different radius attachments that can attach to existing tooling. This will allow for much faster printing times.

Step 4: Learn From the Experts

If you're interested in reading more about what experts in the field have to say about this, check out these two articles:

The Jaw-Dropping Perks Of 3D Printed Press Brake Tooling: Need a custom press brake tool? Try printing it:

These articles are really what sparked my interest in giving these tools a shot and I'm glad I did. This process will save my shop a lot of money going forward and more importantly will reduce the lead times for our customers.

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