3D-Printed Tools Turn Bench Vise Into Expedient Press Brake

Chances are pretty good that most of us have used a bench vise to do things far beyond its intended use. That’s understandable, as the vise may be the most powerful hand tool in many shops, capable of exerting tons of pressure with the twist of your wrist. Not taking advantage of that power wouldn’t make any sense, would it?

Still, the clamping power of the vise could sometimes use a little finesse, which is the thinking behind these 3D-printed press brake tools.  [Brauns CNC] came up with these tools, which consist of a punch and a die with mating profiles. Mounted to the jaws of the vise with magnetic flanges, the punch is driven into the die using the vise, forming neat bends in the metal. [Braun] goes into useful detail on punch geometry and managing springback of the workpiece, and handling workpieces wider than the vise jaws. The tools are printed in standard PLA or PETG and are plenty strong, although he does mention using his steel-reinforced 3D-printing method for gooseneck punches and other tools that might need reinforcement. We’d imagine carbon-fiber reinforced filament would add to the strength as well.

To be sure, no matter what tooling you throw at it, a bench vise is a poor substitute for a real press brake. Such machine tools are capable of working sheet metal and other stock into intricate shapes with as few setups as possible, and bring a level of power and precision that can’t be matched by an improvised setup. But the ability to make small bends in lighter materials with homemade tooling and elbow grease is a powerful tool in itself.

Thanks to [Keith Fulkerson] for the tip.

33 thoughts on “3D-Printed Tools Turn Bench Vise Into Expedient Press Brake

        1. I need to bend welded wire mesh for my work and the G-D manual press brake at my work had a major piece of its structural steel snap. I found this article because I need to make clean bends in about 50 squares of wire this week and no, doing it by hand with a hammer or a piece of wood doesn’t work.

  1. I’ve done the same thing in the past and it works great. I used a very thin punch and was expecting it to shatter (used it on 2mm aluminium) but it held up just fine and produced nice sharp bends. I didn’t consider the spring back though so there was some manual adjustment necessary afterwards.

  2. A carbon fiber filled 3D printed part is actually weaker in terms of strength than normal plastic parts! The carbon fiber fill in 3D printed filament only improves the rigidity (modulus of elasticity), but lowers the yield strength of the part. For standard injection molded parts that use longer fibers, this isn’t comparable though.

    But, if the failure mode of the printed parts is the plastic bending out of the way (and not breaking), then a carbon fiber filled print would definitely help thanks to its extra rigidity.

      1. I can only speculate as I have no connection to the company or the advertising copy writer, but I think that they are perhaps referring to the fact that the bend width can be altered.

  3. I have some work done on a set of adjustable finger brakes with inserts in OpenSCAD:
    https://gitlab.com/mcdanlj/brakes

    When I intentionally tested them to destruction in a hydraulic press, they came apart with a lot of energy, and I set aside the experiment for a while due to other more pressing projects. What I designed has sets of removable fingers, more like the typical metal vice brakes.

    If you want to play around with an OpenSCAD model, feel free to start with what I have.

  4. I wouldn’t mess around with this. Instead, get a small combination press brake, shear and slip roll former for about $350 plus freight from Eastwood.com. 12″ wide x 16 ga aluminum capacity or 26 ga sheet metal. I have a 30″ version and it works fine for my light duty work.

        1. Though these are very lightweight in bending (and especially shearing) capacity compared to the vice-mounted metal devices. I have bent 3mm x 30mm strip with my vice-mounted thing. No chance of doing that with the combination machine.

  5. Excellent idea I have been bending sheet metal in a vice with a hammer or angle iron and they looked like junk. The bends you made are much better. I will definitely print a set like yours.

  6. It’s amazing how many people would opt for the brutalist, hammer method over this .. I’ve been doing this for a while now .. but mostly creating add-on custom jaws for my vices, i have quite a collection now! .. Now i have the jaw dimentions in a file.. it takes only a few minutes to adjust the design for a specific task.. well apart from the time it takes to fff print stuff!

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