An Engineers’ Guide to Sheet Metal Bending and Laser Cutting

Sheet metal bending is an underrated process useful in engineering and manufacturing. Especially when mass production is concerned, sheet metal bending is crucial. The sheet metal is a thin metal form bent for use in various applications. Besides metal bending, laser cutting is another crucial process used to shape metal.

In this blog, we will discuss these two techniques and cover everything engineers need to know to master them.

Understanding Sheet Metal

Sheet metal is thin, flat sheets of metal. Metal sheets can comprise various metals, including aluminum, copper, and iron, and are not limited to steel. Sheet metal is available in different thicknesses and has distinct uses. Understanding sheet metal is the first step before you attempt sheet metal folding or laser cutting.

Materials: The choice of material depends on factors like strength, corrosion resistance, and cost. Usage is one of the crucial deciding factors. For example, if you are looking for strength, then carbon steel is better. If you are looking for softer metal, then aluminum is better.

Thickness: Sheet metal thickness is measured in gauge or millimeters. Thicker sheets are more robust but may require more force to bend or cut.

Sheet Metal Bending

Sheet metal bending is a versatile process that allows engineers to fold sheet metal into desired shapes and then send it for further processing. Here is what you should know about sheet metal folding:

Bending methods: There are multiple sheet metal bending methods, such as press brake bending, bottom bending, and air bending.

Each method has advantages and must be chosen based on the desired outcome.

Bend Allowance: Calculating the bend allowance is essential for precise bending. It accounts for the material’s thickness, bend angle, and bend radius to determine the flat pattern length.

Tools: Proper tools are crucial to achieve the desired bends and angles. Engineers must invest in proper punches and dies to offer quality sheet metal folding.

Laser Cutting

Laser cutting is another method for shaping sheet metal, where a high-powered laser is used to cut through the material. The considerations of laser cutting are:

Types of Lasers: Three main types of lasers are used in laser cutting- fiber lasers, Co2 lasers, and vanadate crystal lasers. One must be chosen based on the material type and thickness.

Edge Quality: The quality of the cut edge can be affected by factors like laser power, cutting speed, and assist gases.

Sheet Metal Design Considerations

Certain design considerations must be kept in mind during sheet metal folding. These considerations are discussed here:

Bend Radius: An appropriate bend radius must be maintained to ensure the sheet metal doesn’t crack or deform.

Wall Thickness: A uniform wall thickness must be maintained throughout the metal body to avoid any inaccuracy during bending.

Holes and Cutouts: Map holes and cutouts strategically on the sheet metal to avoid burring and compromising structural integrity.

Grain Direction: Also bear the sheet metal’s grain direction in mind, as cutting against the grain can lead to weakness in the metal.

Metal Sheet Bending Tools and Machines

Every engineer knows the importance of investing in the right metal sheet bending tools and machines, which are crucial for efficient sheet metal processing.

Press Brake

A press brake is a primary sheet metal folding machine with a sturdy frame, a punch, and a die. The metal sheet is put on the die, held with a back gauge, and then the punch is lowered on the metal against the die with considerable force and bends the metal at the desired angle. Hydraulic sheet bending machines are very popular in the market.

Laser Cutting Machine

Select a laser-cutting machine that suits your material type and thickness requirements. Also, consider your market before investing in one.

Safety Precautions During Sheet Metal Bending

When undertaking sheet metal bending or laser cutting, safety precautions must be borne in mind to avoid accidents. Here are some essential safety measures to follow during sheet metal bending:

Personal Protective Equipment: Always wear PPE, gloves, safety glasses, appropriate clothing, etc.

Machine Guards: Guards are designed to prevent contact with moving parts and reduce the risk of accidents. They must be in place before commencing metal bending.

Workspace Organization: Keep your work area clean and clutter-free to avoid any accidents. Also, it will aid in moving swiftly around the equipment.

Bending Aids: Use bending aids and tools, such as bending pliers or bars, to assist in holding and guiding the sheet metal during bending.

Future Trends in Sheet Metal Processing

The sheet metal processing industry is changing thanks to rapid technological advancements. Some sheet metal bending trends that you must be aware of are shared here:


Increased automation, be it the use of CNC machines or robotics in sheet metal processing, you will see more of these in the times ahead.


Integration of digital design and manufacturing tools for seamless processes.

Sustainability and Eco-Friendly Practices

With increasing emphasis on climate change, the future belongs to sustainable sheet metal processing techniques.

Sheet Metal Bending at New Mexico Metals LLC

The sheet metal bending process requires mastering the technique by understanding materials, processes, and design principles. At New Mexico Metals LLC, we offer unmatchable sheet metal bending services.

We have two sheet metal bending machines- Chicago Mechanical Brake and Baileigh Magnetic Brake, which offer numerous shapes. If you are looking for a specific bend, we can discuss it and help you.

Visit us today to learn more about us!



Frequently Asked Questions

Que: Is laser cutting good?

Ans: laser cutting is a versatile technique that can be used on a number of materials, including distinct metals such as steel, aluminum, copper, etc.

Que: How can I reduce metal waste during sheet metal processing?

Ans: You can reduce waste by optimizing your designs, nesting components, and recycling scrap material. Use the latest design techniques to help you out.

Que: What is the minimum bend radii for sheet metal?

Ans: There is no specified radii angle. The bend radii depend on the material and its thickness. You must determine it after getting an understanding of the metal.