Crafting the Story of Strength: The Evolution of Press Brakes

Delve into the riveting tale of press brakes, a saga not just of metal and might but of precision and innovation. From ancient tools to the apex of engineering, press brakes have shaped industries and the very world around us. Today, we embark on a journey to uncover the origins, transformations, and modern-day significance of press brakes, exploring how they evolved into the sophisticated machines we rely on today.

What Do We Mean by a Press Brake in the 21st Century?

A press brake today stands as a cornerstone of modern manufacturing, a sophisticated tool designed for bending sheet metal with precision. This machine utilizes a combination of hydraulic, mechanical, or electric power to achieve the desired shape, demonstrating its critical role in the metal fabrication industry.

What are the Origins of the Word “Press” and “Brake”?

The Etymology of “Press”

The word “press” derives from the Latin ‘pressare’, indicating the action of pressing or exerting pressure. Historically, as early as the 15th century, this term was used to describe the pressing of grapes in winemaking. Over time, its application broadened to include various forms of compression and manipulation in both culinary and industrial contexts. By the late 19th century, the term was adopted in the metalworking industry to describe machines designed to shape or mold metal sheets through pressing actions.

The Evolution of “Brake”

On the other hand, “brake” has its origins in the Old English ‘brecan’, meaning to break or fracture. Initially associated with devices used to crush or grind, the term evolved to encompass tools capable of exerting force to bend or shape materials. In the context of press brakes, “brake” refers to the braking action of the machine, which manipulates metal sheets into new forms without severing them.

What Is The Cornice Brake And Is It The Precursor Of Modern Press Brake Technology?

What Is The Cornice Brake And Is It The Precursor Of Modern Press Brake Technology

The cornice brake, patented in 1882, represents a fundamental step in the evolution of metal fabrication tools. This early invention was a manually operated device that could clamp sheet metal and bend it in a straight line. Its introduction was pivotal in shaping subsequent designs such as pan brakes, leaf brakes, and various folding machines, each improving in efficiency and speed. However, the design and function of these derivatives varied significantly from the original cornice brake.

Evolution from Cornice to Modern Press Brakes

While the cornice brake laid down the basic principles of metal bending, its mechanism—a swivel lower beam—remains integral to modern sheet metal folding machines. The primary purpose of bending sheet metal has persisted through time, yet the technologies that enable this process have advanced dramatically. This evolution reflects a shift from manual to automated operations, incorporating hydraulic and electric systems that enhance precision and reduce labor.

The cornice brake, therefore, is not the direct ancestor of today’s press brakes but rather an early relative that contributed to the broader development of metalworking technologies. Modern press brakes, which include mechanical, hydraulic, and electric variants, have grown out of a combination of innovations that sprang from the basic concept introduced by the cornice brake.

When was the Press Brake Invented?

The genesis of the press brake traces back to the early 1920s, a period marked by rapid industrial innovation. The device initially emerged as a simple tool aimed at crushing and bending metal through manual force. This rudimentary version laid the foundational principles of what would evolve into more sophisticated machinery. By 1924, the term “press brake” officially entered the industrial lexicon, encapsulated in US patent US1618825A. This patent, linked to the Cincinnati company, outlined a mechanical press brake that utilized basic mechanical components to achieve the bending of metal.

What is the History of the Press Brake?

Initially, metal bending involved attaching a sheet of metal to a mold that corresponded to the desired final shape. This mold would then be filled with materials like sand or lead shots to weigh it down, and tools such as the T-stake were employed to manually hammer the metal into shape. This labor-intensive process was the precursor to the more automated methods that would follow.

Over the past 70 years, the technology behind press brakes has undergone significant transformation. Originally, these machines resembled simple presses that used sheer force applied from above and below to mold metals. The early designs were straightforward, often only capable of achieving basic bends using straight punch geometry. However, as technological advancements were made, the capabilities of press brakes expanded dramatically.

Today’s press brakes are a far cry from their predecessors. Modern machines integrate hydraulic, mechanical, and electric systems to enhance precision and efficiency. The integration of computer numerical control (CNC) technology has further revolutionized press brakes, allowing for intricate and precise bends that can be replicated consistently across large production volumes.

What is the Evolution of the Press Brake?

The evolution of the press brake is a story of continuous innovation and refinement in metalworking technology. This timeline provides a detailed look at the major milestones from the late 19th century to the present day, highlighting how each development has contributed to the capabilities of modern press brakes.


  • 1887: Patent of the Cornice Brake

The cornice brake, although not a direct ancestor of today’s press brakes, was a crucial early machine in the history of metal bending. Patented in 1887, it introduced the basic principles of bending metal using mechanical force. This device set the stage for more specialized machines that would later be categorized under the umbrella of press brakes.


  • 1924: First Press Brake Patent

The official journey of the press brake began in 1924 with the patenting of the first machine designated specifically as a “press brake.” This machine was designed to incorporate mechanical power for bending metal, representing a significant advancement from manual methods to a more controlled, mechanical process.


  • 1925: Advancements in Press Brake Design

Throughout the early 20th century, press brakes underwent various enhancements in construction, tooling methods, and functionality. Innovations included the development of systems to control deflection and the introduction of crowning functions, which allowed for more precise bending.

  • 1960-1970: Hydraulic and CNC Developments

A significant leap in press brake technology occurred in the 1960s and 1970s with the development of hydraulic press brakes and the integration of CNC (Computer Numerical Control) technology. The hydraulic press brake, patented in 1968, used hydraulic force to achieve more powerful and consistent bending. In 1974, a press brake capable of exerting 1500 tons of force was recorded, showcasing the dramatic increase in capacity and precision.

Safety in metalworking took a significant step forward in 1981 with the patent of the first safety device for press brakes. This innovation used photoelectric sensors to ensure the safety of operators, marking an important development in making press brake operations safer.


  • 1989: Introduction of Electromechanical Force Units

The late 1980s saw the introduction of electromechanical force units in press brakes. These units began replacing hydraulic systems in some new designs, driven by servo motors that offered cleaner, more energy-efficient, and maintenance-free operations compared to their hydraulic counterparts.


  • 21st Century Developments

Entering the 21st century, press brakes have continued to evolve with even greater precision and capabilities. The use of servo technology, enhanced CNC systems, and automated tooling changes are commonplace in modern designs. Manufacturers like Ursviken and Baykal have pushed the boundaries of press brake performance, developing machines with capacities up to 5500 and 6000 tons respectively, demonstrating the ongoing potential for innovation in this field.

ACCURL Contribution to Press Brake History and Development

ACCURL Contribution to Press Brake History and Development

ACCURL has been a pivotal figure in the evolution of press brake technology. Founded in 1988, ACCURL quickly established itself as a trailblazer in the steel metalworking machinery sector, especially in the realms of CNC press brakes and fiber laser cutting machines. This company’s journey has been characterized by relentless innovation and a commitment to excellence.

Over the past year alone, ACCURL has secured four new patents, demonstrating its ongoing leadership in the sheet metal machine production industry. These patents are a testament to the company’s innovative spirit and its ability to stay at the forefront of technological advancements.

A significant aspect of ACCURL’s success is its collaborative efforts with renowned design and engineering firms in Poland and the U.S. These partnerships have fueled a renewed focus on innovation, allowing ACCURL to integrate cutting-edge technologies and methodologies into its products. One of the landmark achievements in recent years has been ACCURL’s adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies, positioning it as a pioneer in the next generation of manufacturing processes.

ACCURL’s research and development team is unique in its approach, drawing insights and inputs from across all departments of the company. This collaborative approach ensures that innovations are not only technically feasible but also align closely with the practical needs and challenges observed on the production floor. It is through this rigorous process of innovation and practical application that ACCURL has been able to contribute significantly to the history of press brakes, driving the industry forward with each technological breakthrough.

These advancements by ACCURL not only enhance the functionality and efficiency of press brakes but also improve the safety standards, reflecting the company’s commitment to the well-being of machine operators. As ACCURL continues to lead and innovate, it sets new standards for what is possible in the metal fabrication industry, ensuring that its machines offer unmatched precision and reliability.


The ongoing evolution from mechanical to CNC and then to hybrid systems exemplifies a field where innovation is constant.The press brake’s journey from simple mechanical devices to complex, programmable systems illustrates not just technological progress but a deepening understanding of material science and engineering. As industry demands become more stringent, press brake technology will continue to rise to the challenge, offering solutions that enhance productivity and safety.

Frequently Asked Questions


1. When was the first hydraulic press brake developed?

The first hydraulic press brake was developed in the late 1950s, with significant advancements occurring in the 1960s. The official patent for a fully hydraulic press brake was issued in 1968, marking a significant improvement in the control and power of press brakes. This technology utilized hydraulic mechanisms to achieve more precise and consistent bending, which was a major leap forward from the mechanical press brakes that relied on manual adjustment and operation.

2. When was the first electric press brake developed?

The first electric press brake emerged in the early 1990s, marking a significant advancement in press brake technology. This development introduced electric motors to replace the traditional hydraulic systems, offering a cleaner, more energy-efficient, and precise bending process.

3. When was the first computer numerically controlled (CNC) press brake developed?

The development of the first CNC press brake dates back to the late 1970s. However, it was in 1977 that significant progress was made with the patent US3874205A filed by Hurco Manufacturing Co Inc., which detailed the integration of a digital input system to control the beam’s movement accurately. This innovation allowed for unprecedented precision in bending operations and laid the groundwork for the sophisticated CNC press brakes widely used in today’s manufacturing industry.

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