Mechanical, Hydraulic, and now Electric Press Brakes. Which is best for me?

Written By: Adam Mattes, V.P. Sterling Machinery Exchange (MDNA Member Firm)

One of the most popular questions we hear at Sterling Machinery Exchange is…

What type of press brake do I need?  Most people are price conscious but want to make sure that they have enough capacity, proper controls and the correct safety gear to do the job.  There are many questions you need to ask yourself when shopping for the perfect press brake. 

There are many different brands to consider with lots of options such as Cincinnati Inc., JMT, US Industrial, Amada, Baileigh, Komatsu, Niagara and Chicago just to name a few. Besides CNC Controls, back gauges, and safety curtains or lasers you must decide on which one of the major styles would be best.

Cincinnati Hydraulic Press Brakes
Cincinnati Hydraulic Press Brakes

The most popular style is a Hydraulic Press Brake.  This style is the safest, most controllable and a bit more expensive than a mechanical brake.  They generally allow for multiple speed changes, for example you can set a Fast Approach Speed, Slow Forming Speed and a Quick Retraction Speed to really increase production time between bends.  Hydraulic also allows you more precision bends allowing for greater control when inching down and setting up for your job.  Another major benefit of the hydraulic brake is that you can reverse your stroke at any time.

The other biggest option is a Mechanical Press Brake.  These have been around for decades and many are still in use.  They are great for more simple jobs with less setup or special punching applications.  A mechanical press brake actuates a few different

Niagara Mechanical Press Brake
Niagara Mechanical Press Brake

ways, with either an air clutch system allowing for an electric foot pedal or a mechanical clutch and foot treadle.  The main difference between a hydraulic press brake and a mechanical press brake is that the mechanical brake cannot retract the ram until the flywheel has completed a full rotation.  This makes it harder to do certain jobs and you will not have the same control as a hydraulic machine allowing for ram retraction at any time.

New to the market is the Electrical Press Brake.  These machines are great for intricate jobs with multiple setups.  They use much less power to run and will give you the exact same bend every time by way of the servos that power the ram.  These are made for super high repeatability and are silent between strokes, great for laboratory or small shop environments.

Cincinnati Electric Press Brake
Cincinnati Electric Press Brake


Depending on the job you have you can save tens of thousands on bells and whistles that you don’t need.

You can visit Sterling Machinery Exchange, A member of MDNA at to Buy, Sell or Trade Your Machine today.  For thousands of machinery demonstration videos please visit Or
 Call Adam Mattes at Sterling Machinery Exchange 
626-444-0311 to find out what style press brake would be best for your needs. Article Written by:  Adam Mattes, Vice President & Auctioneer of Sterling Machinery Exchange

For more information on Press Brakes 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