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.

CNC Hybrid Press Brake Machine

Let’s dive into it.

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

Old English

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.

sheet metal bending

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.

press brake segment die

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 refer to the machine for bending.