If you work in the industrial sector or enjoy mechanical hobbies and projects, you know there is a wide range of tools available to make the job both easier and more efficient. One such machine tool is the shop press.
While there are many shop presses available, the hydraulic shop press is a common and valuable tool to have in one’s shop. Before we get into the types and functions of shop presses, let’s take a quick look at our top 5 shop presses.
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Top 5 Best Hydraulic Shop Presses
Dake B-10 Model Manual Utility Hydraulic Bench Press with 10-Ton Capacity
Dake’s 10-ton shop press works well for small projects, especially those that can be completed in home shops. Available for under $700, metalworking enthusiasts might be spending a bit more, but they can feel confident with the quality of the work produced.
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It comes standard with the frame, removable flat and step-reduced ram noses, as well as table plates and v-blocks.
The table itself can be adjusted to work with many different sizes of metals and other materials. For non-standard pieces, the hydraulic pressing cylinder can be moved as well. The gauge on top can read in both tons and psi to continually check the pressure (source).
BIG RED T51201 Torin Steel H-Frame Hydraulic Garage/Shop Floor Press
As this shop press comes in at less than $300, the moderate price point can accommodate most budgets. The press frame is constructed from strong and durable steel, with a lead-free coating on top to extend the life and prevent rust from forming.
The hydraulic cylinder is also made of steel, which makes it possible to keep the oil pressure low, adding to the longevity of the press. The Big Red press works well for straightening, bending, and stamping metals (source).
Black Bull PRESSA6T 6-Ton A-Frame Shop Press
This Black Bull shop press is commonly used in home and automotive shops to install, repair, and remove bearings, gears, ball joints, bushings, and U-joints. Most metals can be easily bent and straightened, and the price point of under $200 makes it accessible for personal as well as professional use.
Constructed with steel and finished with powder-coated paint, this shop press is designed to be long-lasting. It includes a spring-return ram and adjustable table to accommodate a variety of products and finish the job in a short amount of time (source).
Dragway Tools 6-Ton Hydraulic Shop Floor Press
Priced right and also in the $200 range, the Dragway 6-ton press works well for smaller home shop projects. This tool is lightweight and easy to use, which makes even longer-lasting projects simple to finish.
The 6-ton capacity might not seem impressive, but this tool is capable of completing a variety of hobby and auto projects. It has the ability to adjust the cross beams higher and lower to fit projects of varying sizes. The heavy-duty springs return the ram quickly after pressing, which adds to the ease of use.
Strongway Benchtop 10-Ton Hydraulic Shop Press with Gauge
This hydraulic shop press is built with precision in mind using high-quality steel to ensure the longevity of the tool. After the initial steel construction, the press goes through a chemical wash before being coated with lead-free paint that is designed to be resistant to damaging elements.
In addition to the paint coating, the seals and wear rings are also constructed with durable materials to help the machine take on tougher jobs and last longer. The tool can be found under $400 and works well for straightening, stamping, pressing, and bending most metals (source).
A More Versatile Shop Press Option
After looking at the 6-ton and 10-ton hydraulic shop press reviews above, you may be thinking you need something bigger or wondering, “How big of a hydraulic press should I buy?”.
A 6 or 10 ton will be excellent for pressing bearings and other light-duty punching and metal bending. If you plan on getting into more metal fabrication soon, a 20-ton or 30-ton shop press would be even better.
Ultimate Shop Press Plans
Are you on a budget? Then check out our 25-ton Hydraulic Shop Press plans here. Build your Hydraulic Shop press, punch and brake to expand your home, garage, or business shop without breaking the bank on an expensive Ironworker. We did just that many times in our fabrication shop and offer those same tried and true plans to you. Build this 3 in 1 shop press that functions as an ironworker and be more versatile with additional shop press accessories.
Above, you can see both a rendered image of the shop press and also an actual build of the shop press. This 25-ton shop press is versatile and robust and completely worth building. With a few accessories, it’s like you’ve got your Ironworker, but at a fraction of the cost. For the money, this is by far the best bang for the buck.
Basic Principles of Hydraulic Presses
Hydraulic shop presses are essential tools that can be used for a variety of metal manipulation purposes. The pistons inside the machine are able to produce a strong force that makes many tasks much easier.
In order to understand more about the hydraulic press, it is important to know how and why it works.
How A Hydraulic Shop Press Works
The hydraulic shop press functions by using hydraulics to exert a force on metals to form, secure, forge, and punch holes in metal.
These pieces of machinery can both increase your versatility in the type of work completion and make your job much simpler.
Types of Shop Presses
The kind of power press one decides to purchase is dependent on the scope of the work needing to be completed. There are shop presses for both large and small-scale projects, including both business and personal uses. The four main types of presses are pneumatic, mechanical, hydraulic, and servo.
Pneumatic shop presses operate by applying pressure to air contained in a tube to force the air up and down through the valves to complete the job at hand. The pressurized air is continually pushed through until the task is completed.
Many shops use pneumatic presses because they are dependable, easily controlled, and fast. They last for a long time and require very little maintenance. While they perform many of the same tasks as hydraulic presses, they can usually complete the work much more quickly.
Pneumatic presses are quite simple tools that make taking care of them a relatively easy task. In addition, the press can be controlled to start or stop the action as needed.
This manual capability mimics the control feature of manually operated presses. Still, the pneumatic press can complete complex types of work that require more force.
These types of shop presses operate by using a motor to turn the internal components, which then build up and release pressure to manipulate the metal into the desired form.
The length of each stroke produced is usually a fixed distance. Still, several models offer the capability to adjust the distance as needed.
Mechanical presses have rapid production speeds, which can come in handy when the job requires many parts to be manufactured in a short amount of time. Even so, the initial installation is simple and relatively inexpensive.
Instead of utilizing pressurized air to operate, hydraulic shop presses use a liquid, usually oil, to complete the work. By putting pressure on the oil through the use of a piston, the oil is then able to push down on another piston to manipulate and shape the metal.
Hydraulic presses operate at a fairly slow speed. Even so, they can complete large amounts of work, especially on tough metals and hard plastics. One of the downsides of the Hydraulic press is that they can require a fair amount of maintenance.
The oil pressure must continuously be monitored, and the pistons have to be checked regularly to ensure the tool is performing correctly.
Mechanical Servo Presses
The mechanical servo press has many of the same characteristics of pneumatic and hydraulic presses. These tools offer a wide range of versatility due to the programmable features. They are able to complete jobs at fast production speeds.
Controlled by an AC motor, mechanical servo presses use a relatively low amount of energy, which can help maximize the output potential. The smaller size and motor allow for a reasonably simple setup but do not compromise accuracy or production.
The idea of the hydraulic press is based on Pascal’s Principle, which states, “When pressure is added to a liquid at rest, there is an identical increase in pressure at all points” (source).
In terms of how the press functions, there is a small amount of pressure applied to one of the pistons, which in turn allows the bigger piston to produce a large amount of force.
The smaller piston produces a small amount of force, while the larger piston produces a large amount of force. The increase in force is proportional throughout the process.
The effectiveness of the hydraulic press is dependent on the ability to compress liquids. It is difficult to compact liquids, but the power produced by this type of press makes it a much simpler task.
Once the liquid, usual oil, is pushed down, the pressure that is evenly produced allows the machine and operator to manipulate, form, or flatten the metal.
Two pistons are used to plunge up and down with the use of the internal liquid. As the pistons exert force, the pressure is increased, allowing the die at the base to shape and form the metal underneath.
Not only can this machine tool work to alter the shape and size of metals, but it can lift them as well when the press acts as a lever.
The hydraulic shop press is a relatively simple piece of equipment that operates on a cylinder and piston system. There are two cylinders, one large and one small, that are connected by a tube. All three parts contain hydraulic fluid.
Within each cylinder, there is a piston. The smaller cylinder, or plunger, contains a small piston, while the larger cylinder, or ram, contains a large piston.
When working in conjunction with each other, the pistons inside the cylinders move the liquid up and down to create a force strong enough to shape and form the metal at hand (source).
Uses and Benefits of a Hydraulic Shop Press
Although hydraulic presses are commonly found in industrial settings, they can also be used in smaller shops. The size of the machine and the amount of force able to be applied dictates the general usage.
Due to its simplicity and ease of use, the hydraulic press can be utilized in several different manners.
Hydraulic Press Applications
Most commonly, hydraulic shop presses are used for manufacturing a variety of parts and compressing strong materials in commercial settings.
Many appliances, including refrigerators, washing machines, and dishwashers, have components that are made and assembled with the use of a hydraulic press. Panels can be shaped, stamped, and put together efficiently.
A wide selection of electrical parts for both large and small-scale operations can also be made. Electrical equipment, including panels and switches for an industrial application, can be created.
Thermostats in both residential and commercial settings can also be manufactured with the use of this type of press.
In addition to the appliance and electrical equipment, hydraulic presses can be used to make automobile and aircraft components. Clutch systems, gears, and fuel injectors, as well as simple mechanisms like windshield wipers, can be manufactured for cars.
The same parts can be made for airplanes, but it is also possible to create and assemble aircraft body panels and wings.
Hydraulic presses also have their uses for many items found in households, as well as the military. Food products, such as meats and cheeses, can be pressed and packed.
More Applications Than One Might Think
Many forms of make-up and even pills can be manufactured too. Within the military sector, hydraulic presses can help with packing down ammunition and making various components of machines and modes of transportation.
In addition to large-scale manufacturing, hydraulic shop presses can also be very beneficial for small businesses and projects. These pieces of machinery can be used for punching, straightening, flattening, and bending metals.
Crushing metals such as oil filters and cans, as well as separating rusted parts, can also be done with this type of press.
In-home shops and garages, hydraulic presses can help with crafts such as sword or knife making. They can also ease the process of making jewelry for both personal and professional use.
For projects such as these, a smaller press can be used. These more compact machines not only cost less than the industrial sizes but also take up significantly less space.
Another handy tool for metalworking in small shops and garages would be a small plasma cutter. See our article on this topic for more details.
Advantages of Using a Hydraulic Shop Press
The versatility, flexibility, and ease of use make the hydraulic press advantageous in many ways. They are easily programmable to perform a variety of functions and meet even the most complex job requirements.
This type of press is able to apply a strong and smooth force during the entire manufacturing or manipulating process, regardless of the length of the stroke or desired pressure.
The pressure applied remains consistent for the entire project, which eliminates the need for constant changes and adjustments.
Unlike other shop presses, the hydraulic press takes up a small amount of floor space, allowing for more equipment and movement. Their ability to produce a large amount of pressure and force is not dependent on the size of the machine.
The design of the tool is quite simple, which makes it easy to use for a variety of purposes.
Servicing, Built-In Protection and More
If service issues are to arise, it is fortunate that the cost of maintenance is relatively low. Due to the simple components and structure, repairs and replacements are often much cheaper than other types of presses.
Built-in protection to reduce stress on the machine can help make the hydraulic press function better and last longer.
Even if someone is not an expert at operating a hydraulic press, it is simple enough to learn the process. This machine is both versatile and capable of completing several projects.
Once an operator has decided on the amount of pressure that is needed for the task, (options range from 5 tons to 200 tons), one next needs to determine how large of a piece of metal will be used in the process.
Once these decisions are made, it is important to consider how often the press will be used before making a final choice in the best machine for the process (source).
Hydraulic Shop Press Buying Options and Maintenance
There is a wide variety of hydraulic presses available both online and in stores. The type of machine one decides to purchase depends on a few different factors.
After buying the hydraulic shop press that works best for one’s needs, it is also essential to learn about the accessories available and maintenance required to maintain the effectiveness of the tool.
Choosing the Right Hydraulic Shop Press
There are a number of hydraulic presses on the market for both professional and personal use. Operators should look for a press that is capable of accomplishing the type of work and tasks at hand.
One should initially think about what type of projects he or she will be working on with the hydraulic press. The tonnage of each press varies, so determining the type of usage that will happen will help ensure the correct machine is purchased.
Shop presses that provide adjustable settings and customizable speeds and pressure work best for those completing many different types of tasks.
Types of Hydraulic Shop Presses
For smaller projects, such as jewelry making and wheel bearings, it is wise to find a more compact hydraulic press that takes up less space in the shop. Choosing one that is less expensive, but still up to completing the work can be an economical option.
The smallest hydraulic presses are usually either 5-ton or 6-ton. While these are the cheapest and smallest options available, they are only capable of completing small tasks.
Most commonly, people decide to purchase either a 12-ton or 20-ton piece of machinery for their home or hobby shop. Due to the multiple choices available from more manufacturers, these hydraulic presses are able to complete a wider variety of work on many different types of metals.
For professional settings, especially industrial environments, individuals and companies might decide to go with a 50-ton or 200-ton hydraulic press.
While these machines cost a bit more, they are made of sturdier materials to handle tougher jobs. They can accomplish much larger tasks that require a high level of repetition.
Hydraulic Shop Press Maintenance
It is imperative to fix any issues with one’s hydraulic press as soon as they arise. It is also important to perform preventive maintenance in order to maintain quality and extend the life of the press.
Just as is the case with any machine or tool that uses oil, checking the oil level, temperature and cleanliness are some of the most important tasks.
Low oil levels can allow too much air to enter the cylinders. If the oil is running too hot, it can seriously damage the machine. Accessories such as water coolers can help regulate the temperature. Filtration systems can help keep the oil clean and the machine running smoothly.
Checking for oil leaks on a regular basis is also incredibly important. Even small leaks can cause significant problems if they are not quickly fixed. By making sure all the fittings are tight and the hose is in good condition, one can avoid costly repairs.
Additionally, checking to make sure all nuts and bolts are secure will help maintain proper operation.
It is also crucial to ensure both the hydraulic shop press and the area around it are kept clean. Dust, dirt, and other small particles can get into the system and clog various components of the press. Cleaning the tool and workspace can reduce the number of clogs, rust build-up, and potential accidents.
Check the owner’s manual or with the manufacturer to determine what daily and yearly maintenance should be taking place. Following the set guidelines can help ensure the longevity of the machine.
If components are not checked and replaced on a regular basis, hydraulic press downtime and failure can cause unnecessary headaches and expenses.
If an operator waits until a part is no longer functioning, larger problems can occur. Most manufacturers share the expected service life for each part. Replacing these parts on a set schedule can help avoid contamination and repairs (source).
Hydraulic shop presses are just one type of press available for both professional and personal use. They offer many benefits and advantages over other types of shop presses. There are hydraulic presses to fit every budget, project size, and type of task.
If one is searching for an effective and efficient way to form, secure, or manipulate metals, hydraulic shop presses can be a valuable purchase.
By determining one’s needs before purchasing and maintaining the quality of the tool, one can ensure his or her hydraulic press remains in good working order for a long time.
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