Roll Forming Vs. Press Braking

In a previous blog post, we discussed the differences between roll forming and stamping, and specific advantages roll forming presents over the stamping process. Here we will take a look at roll forming versus brake forming—the difference, advantages, and distinctions.

Also known as pressing or press braking, brake forming has some similarities to roll forming. However, brake forming has several limitations that make it the right choice only for specific situations. The tools only produce parts in low volumes, so while it can be economic if the required volume is kept to a minimum, it is a highly labor-intensive process with a longer lead time.

Automated brake forming

Additionally, press brakes are limited to the length of the part they can form—it is very difficult to find press braked parts that are very long. While some automated braking is now being seen, in general, it is still a much more expensive process.

Roll forming also has closer tolerances on the profile than brake forming. When it comes to hole punching and end flare, however, brake forming has better location tolerances. In simple terms, roll forming is done in a linear fashion, while brake forming is done in width.

What are some other differences and advantages of roll forming over brake forming? The profiles with roll forming are often so complex that they simply may not be able to be brake formed. Additionally, historical-style brake forming in many different operations leaves more room for error (and profile dimensions are much worse, and brake forming leaves a lot of gauging)—while roll forming is quicker and can do mostly anything, as opposed to brake forming, which is more limited. Brake forming, for example, can’t do sleeves, as the radius of a sleeve is too large.

Production automated brake forming may be used for higher volumes, but it is especially needed for items very difficult to roll form, such as ones that are not formed in a linear fashion only. Tooling and setups can be expensive, but tolerances are very repeatable for things like hole punching and lengths. It is the only high production option for some parts, and the use of these are growing, taking away more manual brake pressing in many operations than in the past on higher volumes. Roll forming has not seen much business loss from that style of brake forming, but it is a factor today.

As you can see, the only time brake forming is preferable to roll forming is when the volume is very low, the run is short, and the shape needed is compatible with the press brake.