How to Calculate Bending Force in Air Bending (Sheet Metal)?

At present, the formulas for calculating bending force that are widely used have been adopted from foreign sources without any information about their origin or scope of application.

This article presents a systematic analysis of the derivation process of the formula for calculating bending force, as well as the required parameters. Furthermore, a new approach for calculating bending force is introduced to broaden its scope of application.


In recent years, the press brake machine has gained widespread use across various industries and has expanded its processing capabilities. Despite its popularity, there has been a lack of systematic discussion on the calculation of bending force.

Currently, there are approximately two types of bending force calculation formulas recommended by the product manuals of different press brake manufacturers.

bending force calculation formulas

In the formula:

  • P- bending force, kN;
  • S- sheet thickness, mm;
  • l –sheet bending length, m;
  • V- lower die opening width, mm;
  • σb- material tensile strength, MPa.

The recommended formula for calculating the bending force by the manufacturer is based on a previously mentioned formula. Both of these formulas have been taken from various product brochures, however, there is no proof of their accuracy.

The process of deriving the formula for calculating bending force, as well as its applicable scope.

Figure 1 is a schematic representation of the bending process of a sheet.

schematic working diagram when the sheet is bent
  • P: Bending force
  • S: Sheet thickness
  • V: Width of lower die opening
  • r: Inner radius during the bending process
  • K: Width of the horizontal projection of the deformation zone during bending.

The calculation of the bending force and its parameters are explained as follows:

The recommended width of the lower die opening (V) for free bending is 8 to 10 times the sheet thickness (S), with a width-to-thickness ratio of V/S = 9. Press brake manufacturers provide the values of the die width (V) and the inner radius (r) of the bent workpiece in their bending force parameter table. The radius-to-width ratio is usually r = (0.16 to 0.17) V, and in this case, the value of 0.16 is used.

During the bending process, the material in the deformation zone undergoes significant plastic deformation, causing it to bend around the centerline. In some instances, small cracks may appear on the outer surface of the curved area. The stress in the deformation zone, except near the central layer, is close to the material’s tensile strength, with the upper part of the neutral layer being compressed and the lower part being in tension.

Figure 2 illustrates the cross-section and corresponding stress diagram in the deformation zone.

section and corresponding stress diagram in the deformation zone
  • S-sheet thickness
  • l- sheet bending length

The bending moment at the section of the deformation zone is:

bending moment on the section of the deformation zone

The bending moment produced by the bending force in the deformation zone is depicted in Figure 1.

bending moment generated by the bending force in the deformation zone

From M1 = M2, we get:

bending force calculation formulas

When bending a sheet with a universal mold on a bending machine, as shown in Figure 3, most sheets are bent to 90°. In this case, K is:

bending with a universal mold on a bending machine

By substituting K into equation (1), we obtain:

bending force calculation formulas

The tensile strength of ordinary materials, σb, is 450 N/mm². This value can be used in formula (2) to calculate the result.

bending force calculation formulas

The formula for calculating the bending force obtained here is in agreement with the information provided in foreign brochures.

Air bending

The variables in the formula are:

  • S: Sheet thickness
  • r: Inner radius when the sheet is bent
  • K: Width of the horizontal projection of the bending deformation zone.

As can be seen from the derivation process, when using formulas (2) or (3) to calculate the bending force, it is important to ensure that two additional conditions are met: the ratio of width to thickness (V/S) must be equal to 9, and the ratio of radius to width must be equal to 0.16. If these conditions are not satisfied, significant errors may result.

New methods and steps for calculating bending forces

The calculation of bending force can be complicated when it is not possible to meet the two additional requirements (width-to-thickness ratio V/S = 9 and radius-to-width ratio = 0.16) due to design or process limitations. In such situations, it is advisable to follow these steps:

  • Calculate the width-to-thickness ratio and the radius-to-width ratio based on the plate thickness (S), bending radius (r), and lower die opening (V).
  • Determine the projection width of the deformation zone by considering the sheet deformation.
  • Use formula (1) to calculate the bending force, taking into account any differences in the bending radius and corresponding deformation zone.

These steps will provide a more precise and dependable result compared to using the commonly used formula. An example to illustrate this process is shown in Figure 4.

New bending force calculation formula

Given: Sheet thickness (S) = 6mm, Sheet length (l) = 4m, Bending radius (r) = 16mm, Lower die opening width (V) = 50mm, and Material tensile strength (σb) = 450N/mm².

Question: How can we calculate the bending force required for air bending?

Here are the steps:

First, calculate the ratio of width to thickness and the ratio of radius to width:

bending force calculation formulas

Then calculate the projected width of the deformation area:

bending force calculation formulas

Finally, use formula (1) to calculate the bending force:

bending force calculation formulas

If the usually recommended formula is used to calculate the bending force:

bending force calculation formulas

It can be inferred from P1/P2 = 1.5 that the difference between P1 and P2 is 1.5 times.

The reason for this discrepancy is because in this example, the bending radius is relatively large, which results in an increased deformed area and therefore requires a greater bending force. The ratio of radius to width in this example is 0.32, which surpasses the previously mentioned criteria.

Using the standard formula to calculate the bending force is not suitable for this scenario. The advantages of using the new method for calculation can be observed in this example. Additionally, there is an online calculator available to calculate the bending force using the new method.

Tensile Strength Table

Material Tensile strength
American European China N/mm²
6061 Aluminum Alu50 LD30 290
5052 Aluminum Alu35 LF2 303
1010 Mild steel DC01 10/10F 366
A 536 -80 G 60-40-18 GGG-40 QT400-18 400
A 351 G CF 8 G-X 6CrNi 18 9 Q235 450
A 572 G50 S 355 MC Q345 550
304 Stainless Inox V2A 0Cr18Ni9 586
316 Stainless Inox V4A 0Cr17Ni12Mo2 600
4140 Low alloy 42 CrMo 4 42CrMo 1000


The formulas and steps provided for calculating the bending force are suitable not only for angular bending of a sheet, but also for arc-shaped bending (which technically should be referred to as angle bending with a large bending radius).

It is crucial to keep in mind that forming an arc shape requires a unique mold design.

When projecting the deformation area, the calculation must be based on the process parameters established during the process, which cannot be determined through a single formula.

At a specific iron tower factory, we successfully bent a cylinder with a wall thickness of 12mm, a diameter of 800mm, and a length of 16m using a 28000kN press brake machine and a circular mold.

The method outlined in this article was utilized to determine the bending force and produced satisfactory results when designing a mold for an arc shape.

Further reading:

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20 thoughts on “How to Calculate Bending Force in Air Bending (Sheet Metal)?”

  1. Hello,
    Not matter how I calculate the new formula. I can’t come to the same conclusion. Can you explain again with the values you used?


    1. Could you advise more details about your metal materials and sizes, and how did you calculate the bending force?

        1. Hi Hobie, we need to know what’s your metal material, bending length and thickness in order to help you do the calculation.

  2. I’ve been trying to recalculate their structure.
    Material 450 mpa
    Thickness 6 mm
    Die 50 mm
    Bending radius 16 mm
    Length 4 m

      1. I do not want to have it calculated via an online calculator.
        I want to understand the formula and the calculator.
        Where did the 16,66 come from?
        What do I put as V in the formula? 50?
        Root 2 is also 1.41?
        No matter what I put, I can’t get that 0,537V.

  3. Hello dear administrator,
    I have 2 question,
    you know there is different bending types (mostly use U, V, Z). you have shared Z calculator. But how we will calculate press force for other types?

    Second one is about different bending methots Air bending, bottoming and coining. Can we call coining your these new mothot ?

  4. Hi,
    I feel that the bending force calculation formula that is derived here is applicable only for 90 degree bend angle. Can we use this formula for calculating the required bending force other than 90 degree.

    1. If not 90 degrees, then the inner radius will also be changed, the formula and calculator mentioned in our post are still applicable.

  5. On the ratios, your text says DIAMETER-to-width ratio, but the values for RADIUS-to-width are actually used in the example . Should the diameter or radius be used in the ratio?

    1. Also, on the calculator, the final result had the units of “TON”, however the example problem has the final result in the units of “kN”. It appears that the unit label on the calculator should be changed to “kN”.

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