Wooden Sheet Metal Press Tools Make Steel Toecaps

If you have ever looked closely at a typical mass-produced automobile, you will be familiar with pressed-steel panels. Complex curves can be repeated thousands of times over, by putting a sheet of steel between shaped tooling in a press and applying huge force. The same work that would take a skilled panel beater weeks to do by hand, in a second. It’s something [Stuff Made Here] tackled when he wanted to wear a set of Crocs in the workshop, and needed to make the tooling to produce them in his hydraulic press. The resulting video which we’ve posted below the break shows his learning curve, and along the way is a handy primer in sheet metal pressing.

We watch as he discovers the properties of sheet metal under the stress of pressing, how it wrinkles and folds, and how the tool needs careful design and the sheet needs to be securely clamped in place to prevent this. The big surprise is that his tooling is made from CNC-machined wood, while we’re sure that it would wear given repeated use it seems that the forces on the tool are not such as to destroy this material. In the end he’s produced a multi-part tool including both halves of the press tool, a machined guide for the moving part, and a set of substantial sheet metal plates to constrain the material. The steel toecap application may not be everyone’s first idea when it comes to sheet metal forming, but we’re sure this technique could find application in many other projects. It’s a territory into which we’ve edged in the past, but never with pressings this complex.

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3D Printed Tools For Quick Press Brake Jobs

Press brakes are a workshop staple when working with sheet metal. They’re ideal for executing accurate and repeatable bends over and over again. Typically, they’re fitted with steel tooling that can hold up to thousands of press cycles. However, such tooling is expensive, and time consuming to produce. [Anthony] recently had a job come through the shop that required a unique internal radius. Rather than rush out and buy tooling, he decided to 3D print his own instead!

The press brake tools were printed on a standard Prusa i3, using regular PLA filament. There’s nothing particularly special in the process, with the prints using 12 perimeters and 20% infill. Despite being made of plastic, the tools held up surprisingly well. In testing, the parts were able to bend up to 3.4 mm steel, undergoing several cycles without major visible wear. [Anthony] also experimented with gooseneck parts, which, while less robust, make it easy to accommodate more complex sheet metal parts.

3D printing is a great way to produce custom press tooling, and can be done far more cheaply and quickly than producing traditional steel tooling. While it’s unlikely to be useful for long production runs, for short runs that need custom geometry, it’s a handy technique. We’ve even seen 3D printed punch-and-die sets, too. Video after the break.

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