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Do I Need a Sheet Metal Folding Machine or Press Brake?

Written by, Andy KamashianAEA Southern Fabricating Machinery Sales, Inc. (MDNA Member Firm)  

There are many different kinds of fabrication equipment on the market intended to bend or shape metal in various ways. One question that the team here at SFMS is frequently asked is: “what’s the difference between metal folding machines andsheet metal press brakes, and which is best for my machine shop?”

At first glance, these two types of metal forming technology look similar, and even fill a similar role on the shop floor (namely, to bend metal into precise shapes). However, there are some key differences between the two types of machines that may make one better for your shop floor than the other.

What is a CNC Press Brake?

Sheet metal brakes see widespread use in manufacturing machine shops across the country. These machines have undergone numerous changes over the years, so it can be a bit difficult to generalize about their capabilities.

For example, there are four different methods that a press brake can use to apply force to a workpiece: mechanical, pneumatic, hydraulic, and servo-electric. Each of these methods has their own unique advantages and drawbacks. Hydraulic and mechanical drive systems are the most well-known types of press brakes, so we’ll use them as the primary point of comparison for this article.

The typical advantage of a CNC sheet metal brake over a metal folding machine is that the press brake has a higher tonnage than comparable CNC sheet metal folding machines—especially if it’s a hydraulic press. This allows the hydraulic press to shape much thicker metal workpieces than a CNC folding machine can handle.

What is a Metal Folding Machine?

In a lot of ways, a metal folding machine is very similar to a press brake. Even the general look of a folding machine is similar to a press brake. However, where a sheet metal brake gauges the flange and rotates the part up, the folding machine gauges the part (which is supported on the machine’s sheet support system) and turns the flange up. This is the key difference that separates the two types of machines.

Some key advantages of CNC folding machines include:

  • Size of Workpiece That Can Be Folded. A CNC folding machine’s integrated support backgauge holds up the weight of parts for the operator. Additionally, the way that folding machines bend metal makes it easier to bend multiple-setup parts that would normally require more manual interference. Because of this, metal folding machines are often able to bend larger (but not thicker) pieces of metal than press brakes.
  • Reduced Risk of Surface Damage. With limited movement between the tooling of a folding machine and the surface of the workpiece, there is typically less (if any) damage to the surface of the workpiece.
  • Multiple Station Setup Simulated in a Single Setup. CNC sheet metal folding machines can complete multiple complex operations by creating a multiple-station setup along the length of the machine. Throughout the motion of the part from one end of the machine to the other, the sheet support system holds the part while the backgauge moves it around. This allows for incredibly complex bends in metal with minimal operator input.
  • Simple Setup. Metal folding machines usually have a single set of universal tools that they use for all applications. This minimizes the setup time needed for changing tooling—as well as minimizing the storage space needed for spare tools.

Which is Better: Sheet Metal Brakes or CNC Folding Machines?

The answer depends on what kind of work you’re doing. A lot of the gaps in performance between hydraulic presses and metal folding machines can be closed by specific press brake features. For example, some sheet metal brakes have sheet lifters that support the weight of larger workpieces, making them easier for a single person to operate. Others have robotic interfaces that almost completely eliminate the need for a human operator.

In terms of accuracy, there’s not much of a difference thanks to advances in CNC systems.

Generally speaking, folding machines are better for more “delicate” work on large but thin pieces of metal that require multiple tooling changes and operations. Meanwhile, hydraulic presses are better for heavy-duty folding jobs that require a higher degree of force to complete consistently.

In many machine shops, there’s room for both types of metal fabrication equipment on the shop floor. However, if you have to choose between one or the other, ask yourself which type of work you do the most often, and which machine would be most compatible with that kind of work.


Southern Fabricating Machinery Sales staff are experts and can assist you in selecting the best equipment. You can visit Southern Fabricating Machinery Sales, a Member of MDNA at (Article Written by, Andy Kamashian, AEA Southern Fabricating Machinery Sales, Inc.)

For more information on this equipment or to buy, sell or trade them you can also contact any of MDNA’s machinery dealers, located around the world, by using the Find Members>Search tool on  

MDNA Runs Miles for Manufacturing at IMTS 2018

MDNA Members Troy Clark, CEA, Clark Machinery and David Valitt, Machinery Values Inc. were up early to run the M4M 5k with almost 500 other registered racers during the 2018 IMTS show going on this week. Will you join them at the next race?

Troy and David at the starting line M4M 2018 5K


“Since its debut at IMTS 2014, the Miles for Manufacturing (M4M) 5K has been run at meetings around the country and has raised more than $60,000 to assist middle school, high school and technical college programs that promote careers in manufacturing.

The IMTS tradeshow covers all of the cost associated with staging and promoting the M4M, so that 100% of all sponsor revenue and every dollar of runner registration fees go directly to the schools. Your support, whether as a sponsor, runner or a contributing spectator, directly benefits the students!

Proceeds from the September 12th M4M event are slated to support FIRST® Illinois robotics teams, FIRST®Indiana robotics teams, the Chicago Pre-College Science and Engineering Program, and STEM middle schools in the Chicago Public School System (CPS) among others. Donations are distributed by Smartforce Development at AMT.”- IMTS

Buyer’s Guide 2019, Reserve Your Space

Be a part of MDNA’s next Buyer’s Guide! Over 90,000 mailed to end-users and customers across the Nation and beyond!
Buyer’s Guide 2019

View the Order Form and Ad Options for Your Listing here

Members receive one FREE listing, but you must reserve this to be included.

Buyer’s Guide renewal deadline for submitting changes and orders is October 1, 2018.

The 2019 Buyer’s Guide is Offering: 

  • The inside front cover and inside back cover will be available by bid at this year’s Chicago Chapter Dinner Meeting Auction during IMTS this September. Members not present will be able to call in to place bids for these prime locations.
  • Pricing discounts available until October 1st
Don’t have an ad to include?
Don’t worry, MDNA can create one for you!


John Marshall of Marshall Machinery Ltd. (EAMTM & MDNA Member) has been awarded aJohn Marshall

Fellowship of the EAMTM, in recognition of his hard work, dedication and commitment.

John has been a member of the EAMTM Association since 1991, has been actively involved on the British Board for many years and was Chairman of the British Branch in 1999 and 2000.   John was a member of the EAMTM Council from 1996-2014 and acted as a member of the IT committee.

Since the formation of the EAMTM Association there have only been 35 fellowships awarded (including John) and this is usually an honor bestowed on Past Presidents.

“The EAMTM is very grateful for all the work and effort John has put into the Association and I’m sure he will continue to do so in the future.” —Lorna Kesby, Chairman – EAMTM British Branch

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How Getting Involved Changed the Game for this Member

Get Involved in MDNA Leadership and Enjoy the Rewards of Creating our History

By Kevin Brewster President / AEA, Brewster Machinery Sales Inc./ MDNA Chapter Leadership Chairman, New England National Board Representative, Proud Member of the MDNA & AMEA

At Fenway L to R: Mark Barowsky, American Systems & Equipment, Brian Besse, Wigglesworth Machinery, Kevin Brewster, AEA, Brewster Machinery Sales
At Fenway L to R: Mark Barowsky, American Systems & Equipment, Brian Besse, Wigglesworth Machinery, Kevin Brewster, AEA, Brewster Machinery Sales

As machinery dealers, we all know that sometimes our industry gets a bad rap. It only takes one bad apple to spread the taint through the barrel, and we all suffer when unscrupulous dealers take advantage of customers. That’s why it’s so important to encourage customers to buy equipment only from Machinery Dealer’s National Association (MDNA) Members. Our organization was created to promote the highest business ethics while furthering the interests of the industry. Every dealer in used equipment should belong to the MDNA and subscribe to its principles. Our organization, both in providing a bulwark against unethical business practices and helping to build dealer expertise, plays a critical role in creating respect for our industry.

MDNA New England Chapter meeting at OCC Orange County Choppers
MDNA New England Chapter meeting at OCC Orange County Choppers

Simply belonging to a chapter is just the beginning. You’ll start to accrue a wide variety of real benefits when you get involved. I’ve been heavily involved in chapter leadership for 4 years, and I can’t begin to describe how rewarding it is to know that you can make a difference in our industry and even throughout the U.S. manufacturing sector. And then there’s the satisfaction of getting to know fellow equipment dealers and helping less experienced colleagues build their businesses and address the challenges we all face every day.

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Kevin giving recognition during a New England Chapter meeting

I recently stepped down as the New England Chapter Chairman. Honestly, it was difficult. It was like letting go of a child. But I feel that it’s important to make room for others to become involved. I’m still the MDNA Chapter Leadership Chairman, I lead all of the chapter chairs throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. As part of that role, I want to encourage more members to attend chapter meetings and pursue chapter leadership roles.  There is nothing more inspiring and energizing than interacting with other dealers to share knowledge and experience. If it were possible I would attend every meeting of every chapter. I can’t emphasize enough how much I believe in our organization.

Kevin Brewster and guests at the New England Chapter Meeting at OCC
Kevin Brewster and guests at the New England Chapter Meeting at OCC

When you assume a leadership role in your local chapter, you’ll have the opportunity to identify priority issues in your local region and marshal the capabilities of your colleagues to address them. You’ll be able to leverage your experience in the business to generate new ideas that will help all of our customers do well. You can follow your passion, whether that be building our membership numbers, mentoring less experienced dealers, promoting the benefits of buying equipment from MDNA members, or spearheading educational outreach to customers.

MDNA's New England Chapter Meeting and tour of TRUMPF INC.
MDNA’s New England Chapter Meeting and tour of TRUMPF INC.

Chapter leadership has been working hard to make our meetings even more rewarding. Here are a few of the activities and initiatives we’ve implemented recently to add value and interest for our membership:

  • Chapter Leadership Boot Camp at the Weekend with the Pros
  • Chairman of the Year Award
  • Established a back office to make access to information easy
  • Created a Facebook page for our chapter leaders to enhance communication
  • Added chair photos and bios to the website
  • Encouraged involvement and excitement around chapter elections
  • Made plant tours a part of chapter meetings
  • Successfully involved local and state government officials, representatives from the Department of Labor, New York Council of Labor, and Smaller Manufacturing Association, and even end-user customers in chapter meetings
  • Invited celebrities to participate in chapter meetings “I.E. OCC”

This is just a beginning. Get involved in chapter leadership and help us add to this list. As a leader in our organization, you can help create a bright future for our membership, our industry, our customers and the manufacturing sector. Speak to your chapter leaders and find out how you can get involved. I guarantee the rewards will be enormous.


Kevin Brewster presenting a New Membership plaque
Kevin Brewster presenting a New Membership plaque

Being members of the MDNA offers us many benefits

“For over 30 years, Galaxie Corporation has moved plants and equipment around the GALAXY CORP IMG_8498[2]world. Membership in the MDNA offers Galaxie a large network of other dealers that we know we can trust to find the highest quality equipment for our customers if we do not have it in stock. Being a member of MDNA also gives our customers the assurance that Galaxie Corporation adheres to a high standard of business practice and strong Code of Ethics.”

— John S. Cauffiel President, Galaxie Corporation

Read More Testimonials 

Cobots are coming: When mech, man and manufacturing combine

by Delany Martinez, originally published via Multiview


While humans are capable of astonishing endurance and precision, repetitive motion tasks are bad news for manufacturing: they aren’t just physically harmful over time, they can lead to worker burnout.

When productivity is the main focus of most industries today, what’s a large company with large needs to do when faced with human limitations?

Hiring more workers is a huge drain on finances, but going fully automated isn’t likely to win any favors with the workforce, and by extension, the public.

The solution? Cobots, or collaborative robots.

What Are Cobots?

While they’ve been around in one form or another since the dawn of robotics, true cobots are robots that are purpose-built and field-tested to perform as reliably as their human counterparts — with one important difference.

Rather than advanced technology designed to replace humans, they’re made to work with and alongside their flesh-and-blood coworkers, reducing strain of both the mental and physical variety.

Instead of relying on a pair of human eyes to scan, for example, a conveyor belt full of components to spot damages, a cobot can be armed with visual guidance software that can complete the task in a fraction of the time. This leaves the cobot’s human co-worker the freedom to complete human intelligence-requiring tasks, thus increasing overall efficiency.

What’s the Holdup on Full Cobot Adoption?

Much like any industrial place where man and machine intersect, it’s complicated. The primary concerns are ethics and safety, and those aren’t small hurdles to overcome by any stretch of the imagination.

Safety comes into play when trying to balance the superior speed, longevity and precision of cobots with potential threats to their human handlers.

For example, if a human collapses or drops an item, they aren’t typically moving at high speed with hydraulics behind them: the wrong accident at the wrong speed can end up as a deadly accident. Likewise, if a limb, hair, or a piece of clothing becomes tangled in a piece of industrial equipment, workers may be literally putting their life in robotic hands — or lack thereof — by depending on a cobot to assess and address a looming emergency by cutting power.

Robots and cobots are, after all, a product of their programming, and scenarios like these are putting a lot of faith in programmers’ ability to encode every emergency situation before it has a chance to happen.

In terms of ethics, the issue is twofold: cobots may be taking jobs that humans either are or could be doing, and their human counterparts may face reductions in pay rates or hours of availability once cobots begin taking over repetitive or menial tasks.

Though they are intended for coworking with humans, it’s not hard to imagine the tension they bring to a competitive employment market. In all likelihood, even though they’re typically nothing more than a collection of metal, silicone and wires, cobots will invite the same uneasiness in certain situations that an overambitious co-worker driving to take over your job might inspire.

These concerns aren’t slowing down the gradual spread of cobots, however: at it’s core, they’re fed by a design market buoyed by the encroaching demand for personal assistance robots in the private sector.

It’s an industry that’s projected to be worth 10 billion dollars in only a decade, which is the kind of exponential growth its adopters can only dream about for their own products. While the proverbial bugs are being ironed out, cobots have most industry experts cautiously optimistic about the possibilities.

Only time will tell, however, if cobots will ultimately get a warm welcome or a cold shoulder from their carbon-based counterparts.

About the Author

Delany Martinez is a freelance writer with a passion for innovation, particularly in the manufacturing industry and within the supply chain. She’s had the privilege of working on several large logistics corporate blogs over the years, and can usually be found with her nose buried in industry trade magazines. Delany believes advances like driverless trucking will revolutionize the supply chain as we know it within a decade, and she is eager to see what the future holds.

These Members Met at a MDNA Event and Struck a Deal

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Scott Buth, Alternative Machine Tool, LLC

Testimonial from MDNA Member—-Scott Buth, CEA, CSA, Alternative Machine Tool, LLC

At the Detroit “Weekend With The Pros” I met a new MDNA Member, Matt Reed with Benchmark Machine Tools LLC. He introduced himself as an “Expert” in Parts Washers.

I am happy to report that I kept his card, and recently I came across a late model, parts washer that I needed his help on. Our deal went very smooth and we each made enough money to pay our MDNA dues for many years to come.

Without that “face to face” meeting, I would have never pursued this machine that was out of my area of expertise. I would highly recommend that any MDNA member contact Matt Reed when they come across a Parts Washer.—-Scott Buth, CEA, CSA, Alternative Machine Tool, LLC

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Southern Regional Meeting RECAP

Thanks to our great host and sponsors of the Southern Regional May 2018 Chapter Meeting:
southern fab machinery sales
Southern Fabricating Machinery Sales, Inc. – Host
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Direct Capital, A Division of CIT Bank, N.A. – Sponsor
Pearl Equipment Co- Friday Night Reception - Sponsor
Pearl Equipment Co- Friday Night Reception – Sponsor
Over 30 individuals from over ten MDNA Member firms attended the Southern Regional Chapter Meeting. Firms represented at meeting: AM Metalmaq, ABL Technology, EDM Systems, Great American, Hilco, Pearl Equipment, ReSell CNC, Southern Fab, Standard Industrial, Tiger Group.
Prospective Branch Member, Tiger Group’s, Wayne Hecht attended the meeting.
Meeting Overview and Topics of Interest:
  • Attendees reported that business is good in the Southern Region. Members in attendance report that machine sales and transactions have been strong for the first half of 2018.
  • Planning is underway for the SRC’s Fall meeting in conjunction with FABTECH- Atlanta. This will be a large scale chapter meeting and dinner event. All representatives from MDNA firms, from all chapters and Premier Vendors are welcome and encouraged to attend. Sponsorship and host opportunities are available, and going fast.

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southern reg 5.18

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A Hand Up for the Next Generation!

Mentoring Makes a Difference

Ask any accomplished person to what they attribute their success and you’ll probably hear a story about someone who helped them become the person they are today. In Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 11.05.42 AMfact, most highly successful people have a mentor (or mentors) who took the time to share their knowledge and experience. Mentorship can come in many forms; you may choose to mentor a child, a young adult, or a less experienced professional. But whatever the case, a mentor can offer a type of constructive guidance unlike that found in any other personal or professional relationship.

Acting as a mentor can be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll have, both personally and professionally. At the heart of being a mentor is becoming a trusted advisor to your mentee and making yourself available to pass on your knowledge and experience. You’ll offer advice and support intended to help your mentee develop in their career and as a person.

Today’s workplace is changing rapidly and in just a few years Millennials­—people born between 1977 and 1997—will make up almost half of the global workforce. This generation thinks about work in a different way and views it as an integral part of their lives rather than something they “balance” their lives against. They seek work that is meaningful and fulfilling, and they can benefit enormously from the attention and support of a mentor who can guide them toward fulfilling their goal of professional success accompanied by meaning. Acting as a mentor to a such a young professional can allow you to not only participate in their success but contribute on a larger scale as well – to your business or to your community.

A mentor must believe in the person they support both personally and professionally. The best mentor/mentee relationships require vulnerability and honesty. For the relationship to be successful, the mentee has to be comfortable enough to let down their guard and share their insecurities. The best mentors speak not only of their successes, but their failures as well. As well as passing on knowledge, a mentor must strive to inspire. Inspiration is married to emotion, and a successful mentor will infuse knowledge with emotional weight.

While long-term mentoring relationships are a deeply satisfying way to make a significant difference in another person’s life, mentoring can also be short-term or even a one-off incident. Taking half an hour for a coffee with a college student to talk about career opportunities in your field is also a way of mentoring. In my business as a machinery dealer, I often take the time to share aspects of my experience that will be helpful to my customers.

If we as a community develop a mentoring mindset, the benefits will be enormous. As the adage goes, experience is the best teacher. We need to share our experience in a way that will benefit the younger generation, but we need to do this in a way that will not alienate them. Mentoring relationships are just that – relationships – and are based on the give and take of conversation. Mentoring can be a particularly effective way to transmit knowledge to new generations.

Everyone benefits from the mentoring mindset. Young people not only acquire knowledge and skills, but they gain confidence from the relationship itself. Knowing that someone you respect and admire believes in you and is invested in your success gives a powerful boost to your motivation and confidence. And for a mentor, watching a young person succeed with the knowledge that you have played a role in that success is deeply rewarding. Everyone has something valuable to share. If we all adopt the mentoring mindset, we can each play a small role in making the world a better place one person at a time.

Written by Kevin Brewster, AEA, President Brewster Machinery Sales Inc.

MDNA Chapter Leadership Chairman/ New England Chapter MDNA Chairman and KB- with bms logo[1] copyNational Board Representative/ Proud Member of the MDNA & AMEA

About the Author:  Kevin Brewster, AEA has a long and diverse background in manufacturing, and was a precision machinist and tool maker for more than 20 years. He has been the owner and president of Brewster Machinery Sales ( for the past ten years. Kevin is chairman of the New England chapter of the Machinery Dealer’s National Association (MDNA), an MDNA national board representative, and an active member of the Association of Machinery and Equipment Appraisers (AMEA).



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