What Is a Press Brake (And Why Is It Called That Way)?

If you read the term “press brake” for the first time, I believe most of you don’t know what exactly does it mean.

You will never connect this term with one machine for sheet metal bending.

Now let’s get started from the definition of the press brake.

Press Brake Bending Animation


What is a press brake?

Let’s check out the definition first:

A press brake is a machine tool for bending sheet and plate material, most commonly sheet metal.

It forms predetermined bends by clamping the workpiece between a matching punch and die.

The video below will help you understand how the press brake is working.

After watching the above video, I believe you already know what is a press brake used for?

Why is it called press brake?

Now we already know the meaning of press brake, we have a new question:

Why call it “press brake”? Why not directly call it a “bending machine”?

Let’s dive into it.

Nowadays, when people talking about press brake, they mainly refer to the hydraulic bending machine for sheet metal bending.

However, do you know why such a bending machine is been called “press brake”?

This question also confused me for quite a long period of time.

Sometimes I even wondering does this term really right to define the hydraulic bending machine.

After doing some homework, now I finally know why it’s been called “press brake”.

Please note that the term “press break” is completely wrong cause nothing is broken or shattered.

Let’s dive into it.

”Press Brake” Development

We all know the word “brake” means to slow or stop upon being brakes in the current time. Do you know what does it means in the 15th century.

Actually, at that time it is defined as “an instrument for crushing or pounding”.

Derived over time the term “brake” became synonymous with “machine” which is used to crush grain.

Therefore, when people want to express “press machine”, they always use the simplest term “press brake”.

At that time the two terms started to share the same meaning.


In Old English, the verb “brake” was brecan, and in Middle English it was breken.

Later on, the “brecan” evolved to “break”, meaning to divide solid objects into parts violently, or to destroy.

That’s why the two terms “brake” and “break” are closely related.

The Middle English verb “breken”, or “break” used in modern sheet metal bending means to bend, change direction or deflect.

Even the light beam can be “break” by using a mirror.

Now we know the verb “brake” refers to a machine that bends.

When you read here, you must be wondering why to put “press” into the term “press brake”.

Around 13th century, “presse” was used as a noun which means “to crush or to crowd”.

By the later 14th century, “press” means “a device for pressing clothes or for squeezing juice from grapes and olives”.

And later on “press” evolved to mean “a machine that applies force by squeezing”.

For the sheet metal fabricators, they always refer to the punches and dies, which exert the force on the sheet metal to make it bend, as “presses”.

That’s where the “press brake” term comes from.

According to different power that actuates the machine, different tools are used to realize the bend action, different types of the bends that produced by the machine, you can get a variety of different names for the sheet metal bending machine.

The leaf brake is using an upward-swing leaf to bend.

Leaf Brake

Box brake (pan brake, or finger brake) to form boxes or pans by means of forming sheet metal around segmented fingers attached to the upper jaw of the machine.

Finger Brake

Press brake performs the bending by punches and dies.

See also:


With the development of technology, the machine evolved from manual press brake to mechanical press brake, hydromechanical press brake, hydraulic press brake and electro press brake.

No matter what it’s been called, the “press brake” still refers to the machine for bending.

Just like the video shows below.


We finally know what is a press brake and why it is been called so.

More detailed information about the press brake, such as types, working principle, toolings, application, training, programming, tips etc, you can read the ultimate guide to press brake.

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2 thoughts on “What Is a Press Brake (And Why Is It Called That Way)?”

  1. Thanks for the insightful information on break press. Our small scale business enterprise is into design and assembly of DC to AC inverter for the growing renewable energy market in Nigeria.
    Over the years we rely on Indian market for parts like sheet metal enclosure/cabinet etc. Post covid Government has increased import tarrifs making things difficult. Because of this bottleneck, we have to look inward for our sheet metal enclosure needs.
    We will appreciate if the author can assist in recommending all the necessary machinery needed (semi-auto) for small scale sheet metal forming business.

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