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[4]

Pan break, shear, and roller.

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#1
Got a few projects around the house that require sheetmetal work in copper (art, and yes, wife is involved.) I sort of cut my teeth in my dad's A/C sheetmetal shop back in the day building metal air duct so I'm not unfamiliar with the process. (I still hate duct board and itch when I think about it.)

Northern, Harbor Freight, and a few others offer combo machines that have a roller, shear, and press pan break. Aside from the usual issues associated with a combo machine, does anyone have any experience with a press break? From the pictures, it looks like this thing forces the metal into a V shaped die rather breaking it over and edge with a lever. In my mind, this not only lacks versatility but would run a greater risk for scratching the soft copper. I really don't have the room for individual machines. I'm considering getting one and trying it with the understanding that I may have to bite the bullet also get a real pan break. I'm leaning toward either the 24" or 30" (and whatever I get will be too small for the next project). I learned on an 8 ft break and 4 ft foot shear. Dad got the pan break after I left for college... (I think he also hired two more guys) :)
 

C-Bag

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#2
Sounds like you are probably going to be really frustrated. I have a 30" 3-1 and I like it. But I did very little work on real sheetmetal machines. The cheapest is HF and I'm pretty sure just like a lot of Chinese stuff you can buy it from different importers but it's the same machine and all the others can be up to twice as much. The quality is all over the map. Expect to go through it really throughly. There are a lot of places they can be miss adjusted or just plain wrong. Being a 3-1 it does nothing as good as a dedicated machine but if it's been taken care of and set up right and you don't try to do more than it's rated for it gets the job done for me. Mine had been bought in '98 and in storage, never used. Was still on the original skid and chock full of cosmoline. So no rust.
 

JimDawson

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#3
It will work on about 22 ga mild steel, I broke mine trying to shear some 22 ga stainless. May work OK for copper. Not a very robust machine and poorly designed IMHO.
 

C-Bag

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#4
I've not done stainless but I've done a lot of 22ga full length and 18ga short pieces steel and aluminum. But mine was completely unadjusted and it took some effort to clean and set it up right.

IMO it's crucial you have two handles not one as it spreads the torque evenly. Most only come with one handle and you have to order a second. Mine came with the second so I have handles.

Like mentioned before the quality is all over the map. So there can be seen badly cast pieces, poorly machined pieces etc. It can be a crap shoot whether you get a good one or not. So far mine has done what I wanted. YMMV, drastically.
 
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Radials

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#5
I have the HF 30" 3 in 1 machine that I purchased third hand off a co-worker awhile back. After fully disassembling it just for a thorough cleaning and lube I'm glad that I didn't pay very much for it with a nicely made steel stand because the quality is absolutely terrible. Granted I'm not sure of the manufacture date of the machine so perhaps QC has come up a notch or two by now. I also agree with Jim that the machine is poorly designed.

I'm not sure as to the specifics of your project but keep in mind that bending angles on the machine isn't precise as there are no bend stops or angle gauges on my machine.

As far as the copper being scratched I might recommend perhaps putting a strip of masking tap over the lower die to protect the metal if it doesn't already come with a film on one side.

A dedicated finger brake and shear would be the better way to go. I have plans to keep working with this machine because springing for the individual pieces isn't justifiable right now. There will need to be some rework on it in the future as well to make it more functional for some other projects I'd like to do.
 

Bi11Hudson

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Had a 3 in 1 for several years, gave it away when I found a source for a smaller one. The big one was, I think, 30 inches. May have been 39 inches. I never got the shear to work right. The brake was adequate, as was the slip roll. The few times I used it on really heavy metal (rarely), it would sorta work. As in, I had to repeatedly press the same bend to get it right. It was OK for the price (little) but far too big for what I wanted to do.(model building) Hence the scrapping out on aquisition of a smaller (10") machine.

Looking at the 30" machine realisticly, it was much too light to do even 20 Ga steel full width. It was rated to do 16 Ga, but I never tried anything that heavy. I did do some "flashing tin" for a sort of gutter. It did do work longer than the 30" but it wasn't very pretty. If your'e going to do fancy work, my vote would be on a pan brake rather than a press brake.

Bill Hudson​
 

P. Waller

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#7
A press brake is very versatile.
These are not hobby machines.
They are VERY expensive and the tooling is also VERY expensive.
 

C-Bag

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WOW, that's crazy impressive. Thanks for posting that!
 

Bi11Hudson

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#9
Like most of the ones I have seen, an 8 foot machine would be considered small. A 12 footer would be the norm. The smaller "hobby level" brakes are technically press brakes. Although they have some shortcomings, which is why they are considered "hobby level" brakes. Lack of power and flexing being the two largest. An attempt that was only partially successful, at best, in my opinion. Although, they do pretty good work on flashing tin and the like.
 

vtcnc

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#10
Got a few projects around the house that require sheetmetal work in copper (art, and yes, wife is involved.) I sort of cut my teeth in my dad's A/C sheetmetal shop back in the day building metal air duct so I'm not unfamiliar with the process. (I still hate duct board and itch when I think about it.)

Northern, Harbor Freight, and a few others offer combo machines that have a roller, shear, and press pan break. Aside from the usual issues associated with a combo machine, does anyone have any experience with a press break? From the pictures, it looks like this thing forces the metal into a V shaped die rather breaking it over and edge with a lever. In my mind, this not only lacks versatility but would run a greater risk for scratching the soft copper. I really don't have the room for individual machines. I'm considering getting one and trying it with the understanding that I may have to bite the bullet also get a real pan break. I'm leaning toward either the 24" or 30" (and whatever I get will be too small for the next project). I learned on an 8 ft break and 4 ft foot shear. Dad got the pan break after I left for college... (I think he also hired two more guys) :)
We run Trumpf CNC press brakes in our shop. Nearly all of our dies are v shaped with corresponding punches for our applications. We often find ourselves using urethane or silicone strips to prevent bend lines from forming too deep on our parts when we need to bottom out our bends. You should be able to do something similar and minimize the bend lines and some finishing work after the fact can clean them up nicely to satisfy your quality manager's (WIFE) standards.
 

gr8legs

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C-Bag

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Buyer beware is absolutely the bottom line. And this is readily apparent when reading the reviews on the HF website. It's what absolutely informed my inspection criteria. It also made me know there is no way I'd go through having something like that shipped to me. It would be a miracle if bad manufacturing or shipping damage wouldn't make it useless. In my search over an almost a year I even found an original (I think it was Czech made) locally that was more than a new HF. After reading up it had no better reviews. So a knockoff of a poor design. But as a first time buyer, never user it's doubly hard to know what to look for. Mine was basically new so at least it hadn't been abused. I buy used HF because I can modify the daylights out of them and not feel any remorse.
 

BobSchu

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#13
I have a 3 in 1 machine I bought for aluminum bending and some small sheet metal bending I've been doing for building my hot rod (an AC Cobra) for the floor pans, inner fender liners, trunk pans, and a few other parts. Also use it for projects around the house. I've been pleasantly surprised at it's capabilities with the shear- I've cut up to . 090 aluminum and .060 sheet metal with it with some effort and it has cut clean and straight. I bent some .040 and ,060 aluminum, which is slightly over it's capacity but it seemed to work okay, but needed a bit of extra effort to get good 90 degree bends. Never could get the roller to work to my satisfaction, but I never really tried it with the 22 or 20 guage sheet metal it is designed for, so probably operator error on that one.
Mine is a 30" machine and seems to work okay. Definitely needed a bit of fiddling at first to get it set up right, but the previous owner had used it in a sheet metal shop so it had most of the break in already accomplished. Not sure what manufacturer it is, but I'm pretty sure it is a Harbor Freight unit. Seems pretty well put together but definitely not a production level machine. I think for the most part, these machines if assembled and manufactured properly and you check them for this before purchasing, will be fine as long as you stay within their ratings.

There are ways to work copper and other materials without damage by making inserts to protect the metal while working. Some type of phenolic material should work fine for inserts, or even just a thin piece of UHMW worked through the die to match the shape before bending.

Bob
 
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