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Hydraulic vs Mechanical Press Brakes: Which is Better – 2022

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Press brakes are a vital piece of metal-forming equipment found in many manufacturing shops. Press brakes apply tons of force to shape solid metal objects into desired shapes. The most common application is to bend sheet metal at a certain angle.

There are several types of press brakes on the market, but the two main types are hydraulic and mechanical press brakes. Both have the same purpose — to form and bend metal — but the process of how they do it differs between the two. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. Both of this tow type of press brakes has their pros and cons which, if looked at critically, can help you get the press brake that suits your needs perfectly. In this piece, we will focus more on the mechanical press brake vs the hydraulic press brake.

Hydraulic Press Brakes

CNC Hydraulic Press Brakes
CNC Hydraulic Press Brakes

Unlike a mechanical press brake, which uses a motor that the worker operates, a hydraulic brake uses, as the name suggests, hydraulic pressure to push the brakes’ ram into the metal.

The brake consists of two cylinders, one larger than the other, which are interconnected. Both of these cylinders contain hydraulic fluid. When the plunger is activated, the fluid interacts and drives the ram into the item — in this case, metal — that is placed in between the two cylinders.

Single Cylinder Hydraulic Brake Presses

The single-cylinder or bell crank hydraulic system relies on a single hydraulic cylinder. That runs parallel to the ram and bed. If your cylinder has been damaged, there are onsite cylinder repair services you can call to have them fixed.

These presses are capable of high tonnage loads. They’re often used in heavy bending applications. They also tend to have very basic numerical controls or NCs. They generally only use American planed tooling. You may get in touch with a hydraulic press manufacturer to order presses that can be used for punching, forming, and stamping operations. Even with an NC, you’re able to control the ram speed and position, something you can’t do with mechanical presses. This type of hydraulic system remains in use in some shops, but you get all of this and more with CNC hydraulic brake presses.

CNC Hydraulic Brake Presses

CNC hydraulic press brakes are driven by conventional hydraulic systems. They may use straightforward hydraulic hoses and pumps or servo-over-hydraulic that gives you the power of a hydraulic system and accuracy of an electric press brake. All of the hydraulic press brakes running CNC offer high repeatability and fixed reference points. You enjoy fast set-ups. They provide consistent bend angles. What about air bending? In this case, a hydraulic press brake might be a better choice. Another point in favor of hydraulic presses is that they can support all three major tooling styles: European, American, and New Standard.

Hydraulic presses offer speed, stroke, and force. This gives them incredible forming capacity. Coining shouldn’t be done with a hydraulic press brake because it could damage the press brake. Bottom bending can be done with hydraulic presses, but other types of brake presses are better for that operation. However, you can use hydraulic presses for stamping.

If you need precise, high-quality materials or want to run several operations through one machine, a CNC hydraulic press is the best choice.


There’s much to love about hydraulic presses. They work well and don’t require the same level of oversight as other press brakes. They’re also pretty quiet, so they don’t disturb the workspace too much when they’re in operation. They can also be more affordable than other options, making them a good option for businesses that are looking for a press but who don’t have an unlimited budget to play with. They’re also generally long-lasting and reliable, though repairing any issues and staying on top of maintenance can be expensive.


But hydraulic presses are not perfect. For one thing, they’re not as energy-efficient as other options. The press is ‘working’ even when there’s nothing in the machine. There’s also an issue of tonnage; there is no way to enhance the tonnage. This makes them less ideal for companies that need to have a degree of flexibility in their projects. There is also no way to control the speed of the machine.

Mechanical Press Brakes

A mechanical brake works a little differently than hydraulic press brakes. They’re powered by a motor that spins a flywheel at great velocity. The motor and flywheel are controlled by an operator, which then sets in motion the forces needed to bend the metal into place.


Part of the charm of a mechanical press brake is that its mechanics are more straightforward, especially when compared with a hydraulic press. This means that, first of all, using one is simple, and, second of all, it’s easy to stay on top of maintenance. They’re also extremely good for companies that need some flexibility in tonnage from their press brake; they’re capable of handling tonnage greater than 2.5x their rating.


However, there are a couple of downsides to the mechanical press brake that you should be aware of. One is that once the machine is engaged in a cycle, it cannot be stopped; it will complete the full cycle before coming to a halt. This can be an issue if you realize that the operator has made a mistake, and there could also be some safety concerns. There’s also a chance that the brake locks up if the ram does not retreat in time. Finally, while there’s greater flexibility in the range of jobs that these machines can handle, it can take more time than you’d like to change the bend angle. But this may only be a factor if you’re regularly changing the settings and there are time constraints.

Hydraulic vs Mechanical Press Brakes: 5 Comparisons

Comparisons 1#: Simple to Use

Hydraulic press brakes are simple to use and versatile for punching and forming sheet metal components. Even the tooling is easy for a hydraulic press and the material handling cost is also less. Stamping can also be done using economical tools on the same hydraulic press.

Comparisons 2#: Cost for Dies and Components

Mechanical presses use expensive dies and costly components, hence hydraulic presses are better. One more advantage of using it is that it can be set up quickly because they do not involve many other forming functions. It also reduces secondary forming operations such as moving the components to another machine. Hence, the hydraulic press is preferred since the tooling and setup time is less as compared to the mechanical press. Moreover, a hydraulic is a highly flexible punching, forming, and stamping equipment. It can even punch and form in upward as well as downwards directions. They also help to save the manufacturing time of sheet metal parts.

Comparisons 3#: Hydroforming Operation

The hydroforming operation is not possible on a mechanical press brake, because it does not have speed control and cannot remain on the bottom for carrying out the high-pressure forming operations. The slow speed of the hydraulic helps in the hydroforming process, in comparison with the mechanical. A hydraulic press brake provides dwelling and ram speed control which is not possible in mechanical. The hydraulic presses can be programmed to control the ram speed and ram position, whereas this facility is unavailable in mechanical presses.

Comparisons 4#: Work Speed, Stroke and Force

The hydraulic press has exceptional speed, stroke, and force; and has therefore increased the forming capacity of the sheet metal industry. They can offer full force at any stroke position and also provide flexibility in the dies. The ram stroke can be easily adjusted from minimum to maximum position. Hence, a hydraulic press can have longer strokes to include different types of dies; and can be easily set for various operations. The major benefits of these hydraulic presses include the following.

Comparisons 5#: Multi-Purpose

They are multi-purpose machines, and are adaptable for diverse operations; deliver better force at any point of stroke, and are capable to function at various strokes on the same machine. The ram stroke can be simply adjusted throughout the length. Also, the required speeds can be set and also easily reset at any position. It is possible to program and have total control over the ram stroke and position. A variety of operations can be performed at different pressures just by adjusting the command, pressure switch settings, or pressure control valve of the machine.


Mechanical brake presses are suitable for a limited range of applications if you can invest in the right safety equipment. For everything else, CNC hydraulic brake presses are the best choice.