Differences between Plate Rolling and Plate Folding in Steel Fabrication

17 July 2018

No matter what the project demands, a fabrication shop should have at least several solutions on hand to get the job done as specified. For plate rolling services, enormous alloy-reinforced cylinders are employed to bend thick steel plating. Placed alongside a plate folding machine, there are obvious differences between the two deformation techniques. In the latter machine type, corners and edges, not curves, are added to the plating.

Recognising Plate Rolling Equipment 

Like an old-fashioned laundry mangle, the equipment uses several horizontally mounted rollers to grip and pull an item through a centrally located insertion point. Of course, it’s thick plated steel, not wet clothing, that is drawn between those cylinders. And, far from being able to fit inside an outdated laundry room, this equipment is sometimes big enough to fill an entire factory floor. Anyway, as the dense panels approach the rollers, they bend. The equipment is essentially intended to bend the plates until they curve back upon their opposing edges and become cylindrical workpieces.

Describing Plate Folding Services 

This time, the project requires flat surfaces and angular features. The rollers are gone, replaced by straight-edged clamps and two-dimensional shaping dies. Instead of a robust gearing assembly, high-tonnage force is applied via a ramming mechanism, a piston that presses a blank steel sheet into an assortment of shapes. Using another colourful metaphor, the process resembles an origami creation, although the medium utilised here is hardened steel, not paper.

Shared Sheet Metal Deformation Features 

Whether the metal sheets are folded or bent, those contrasting deformation techniques are still controlled by finely tuned technological solutions. For the plate folding equipment, 7-axis CNC controllers manipulate the metal and shape it until it satisfies the desired product profile. Granted, the geometry assigned to a curved steel panel by a plate rolling machine probably won’t be as complex as a folded part, but that rolling machine has enough power, plus up to 4 cylinders, to bend thick panels. Conversely, steel folding equipment typically processes thinner sheet workpieces. After all, it’s not difficult to impart a radial feature on a thick panel, but it takes a great deal of kinetic energy to apply an angular bend to a dense steel piece.

All about the angles, plate folders create corners and edges and flat surfaces. Using a hydraulic ram and a relatively thin sheet of steel, geometrically complex items are not a problem, not when a computer-controlled 7-axis manipulation assembly is on the job. For plate rollers, similar complexities are dealt with by computer software. This time, however, it’s the radius of a turn that presents the biggest challenge. Material “spring” and heat treated steel plasticity are also issues here, for curved surfaces can recoil slightly.

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