Sheet metal punching is a metal fabrication process that is extremely commonly used and plays an essential role in modern manufacturing. The process involves forcing a tool known as a punch die through the sheet metal workpiece, resulting in the formation of a hole by a process known as shearing. The process also results in the production of scrap metal pieces from the punching which are known as slugs. The slugs are often collected and recycled.
Punching is popular for several reasons, the most important being cost effectiveness and production volume. It is well suited to the speedy production of holes in medium to high volume production using sheet metal at relatively low costs.
Sheet metal punching is now widely regarded as one of the most mature technologies in metal fabrication. The earliest evidence of metal punching being used dates back to around 800 B.C, when the ancient Greeks are known to have experimented with punches and dies in the manufacturing of coins.
The method did not really become widely known until much later, however. The first verified record of punches and dies used in a machine having guides to ensure punch-to-die alignment dates back to the fifteenth century, when a German locksmith used them to manufacture hinges.
Fast forward many years to 1796, and we find that a patent was granted to a Mr. DeVere of France for “Dies for Punching and Drawing Sheet Metal,” arguably the first of its kind.
Despite these early explorations, it was not until the 1800’s when the widespread industrial use of sheet metal punching really took off. The industrial revolution, car manufacturing and the wars saw punching being used at an unprecedented scale, and it has shown little decline to the present day.
Despite being widely recognised as one of the most well established metal working techniques, punching is not always fully understood. This can lead to problems for parts designers – especially if they are not highly experienced in working with sheet metal. In order to ensure that a project is realised successfully, it is essential to have a strategy in place from the outset.
At the heart of a modern metal fabrication workshop is Computer Aided Design (CAD). The job of the CAD technician is to convert a drawing of a virtual part into a corresponding tangible part made out of sheet metal. It is frequently the case that something that can be relatively easily mapped out in CAD cannot be recreated precisely in the physical world.
Some of the aspects an experienced fabricator will tend be much more familiar with than a designer are variables such as bend radii – the slight rounding of the edges that naturally occurs with a punched hole. Another important consideration is material thickness, whose variation can be slight but significant.
The key to a successful project is to work as a team, so that everybody has a mutual understanding of what is and isn’t possible from the outset. With good communication, problems can be eliminated at the design stage, reducing costs and wastage and resulting in a better final product that meets or exceeds expectations.
Here at Hitherbest, we have over 35 years of experience in sheet metal punching and are proud to operate some of the most efficient and accurate machines within the industry, ensuring that the finished product presented to you is of the highest quality and consistency.
By teaming up with our excellent operators and programming engineers, you can be sure that your product is optimised before it evens starts the manufacturing process, meaning we can provide you with the most accurate representations of your designs within both a competitive time frame and price window.
For more information about our sheet metal punching services, call us on 01952 632100 or click here to contact us online.