The Importance of Grain Direction in Folding

Posted by Tom on

As a sheet metal fabricator, we understand the importance of smart material utilisation. It plays a huge part in offering our clients the most competitive solution. While we strive to optimise this as much as possible, we need to be aware of how grain direction can influence the quality and consistency in the folding process.

Image showing ES3's LVD Easyform press brake folding some sample sheet metal parts.
ES3’s new LVD Easyform press brake in action

Where Does Grain Direction Come From?

Grain direction is a term used to describe the rolling direction of metal after being manufactured into sheet, plate or coil. This manufacturing method is where hot metal is compressed through rollers and forced into shape, elongating the crystals in the process.

Before processing, the crystals vary in both size and orientation, but then form in the direction of rolling, becoming the grains we see running the length of the sheet.

How Does This Affect Folding?

In cold-rolled steel, the inside bend radius can change depending on whether you’re bending with or against the grain. Grain direction also impacts the amount of spring-back you can expect. To predict the material’s behaviour accurately during bending you need to accommodate for grain direction, especially at the press brake.

Image showing where possible cracking can occur during the folding process in sheet metal fabrication

When folding, steel is strongest when bent against the grain. Bending sheet metal with the grain (longitudinally) increases the possibility of the grains separating at the grain boundaries. This limits how tight of an inside bent radius you can achieve without cracking the outside of the bend [see above image]. Bending like this (with the grain) can be less consistent, however less pressure is required to make a bend.

In summary, variations and cracking when bending longitudinally can be influenced by both the material and the application. Therefore, when it comes to grain direction in parts being bent, the most important element is consistency in direction.

Grain Direction Is Important

Optimising material utilisation in nest layouts is vital when parts are remaining flat. If batches of parts are being bent with some against, some with and others diagonal to the grain direction of the steel, each angle and dimension may vary across the entire batch. To amend this, we must cut parts in a uniform way, with grain direction marked on the parts. As a result, the quality and consistency of bending will be increased, therefore yielding better results and more accurate parts.

We have recently finished commissioning our new state-of-the-art LVD Easy-Form press brake. This new machine has 170 tons of power across a 3000mm bed length and boasts an in-process angle correction and monitoring system. Contact us to find out more about our quality sheet metal fabrication services.