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Formit 3 in 1 Universal Sheet Metal Machine review

By Jo Hinchliffe. Posted

Warco is a UK company offering a range of machine shop tools and is well-known for selling lathes, milling machines, pillar drills, and more. We were interested in the Formit range of tools which offer a three-in-one solution for bending, shearing, and rolling thin sheet metal, and also wire materials.

The Formit range has a range of sizes from 305 mm to 1000 mm, and also a ‘Mini Formit’ which can handle 200 mm wide materials. This review is for the 305 mm version. The Formit is a heavy object at just under 50 kg, and it arrived well-boxed and strapped to a pallet. For us, it was OK for one person to carry the box to the workshop, but others might need to arrange for a helping hand.

The Formit is largely assembled, with the rear guide rails, some of the adjustment screws, and the main handle needing attaching. However, and at no detriment to Warco, we are used to machine tools requiring some cleaning up and commissioning on arrival, and this was true in the case of the Formit. Similar to many machine tools, it arrived well-covered in packing grease and required a partial strip-down and clean.

Out of the box, we were generally pleased with the weight and quality of the castings, with the exception of the front left-hand foot which appeared to have not been cast correctly. It’s only cosmetic, and there is certainly enough metal there to be strong enough to bolt through and hold down, but it’s one mark off in the verdict. Everyone has a different approach for cleaning off machine tool packing grease; we prefer paraffin and a cloth, and we were pleased how well it cleaned. There were no oxidised patches on the machine, and it all looked OK. We quickly found some M10 steel nuts, bolts, and washers and mounted the Formit on a sturdy workbench.

A collection of items folded on the Formit, made from a variety of steels and aluminium sheets

The handle can be attached to either side of the machine – it sits in a grooved holder and a wing bolt simply traps the handle in any position you like. This is useful, as you might want the handle in the middle when using the rollers, but might want it at one end when using the shears or the bending aspects. Out of the box, our Formit would only rotate a small amount with the jaw of the shear hitting the surface of the bed. This is adjustable, of course, but it took a moment to work out how. We needed to undo the block on the right-hand side of the bed to access the bed securing bolt on that side. Having slackened off the bed securing bolts on either side, there are some adjustment bolts that sit horizontally, with large washers that connect to a groove in the machine bed. Tightening or loosening these pushes or pulls the bed backwards and forwards.

We were very impressed with the shear tool. Here, we see a 0.8 mm sheet of aluminium cleanly sheared. Note that there are no imperfections in the cut piece or the stock after shearing

Having got the shear clearing the bed, we did some test cuts. This Formit is designed to be able to handle mild steel up to 0.8 mm thick, and aluminium up to 1.2 mm thick. Using the shear confirmed this – we easily cut through a 25 cm wide sheet of 1 mm thick aluminium with no problem. As a sneaky experiment, we tried some 1.2 mm mild steel sheet and, indeed, this was beyond the capacity it could handle. However, some 0.8 mm mild steel sheet cut successfully, albeit with considerable effort on the handle. Incidentally, we also discovered that the packing strapping off the pallet we received was 0.8 mm thick mild steel, so this can make some useful scrap test pieces. We were very impressed with how the shear could cut very thin sheet with very little marking or buckling of the stock. We could trim drink can aluminium extremely neatly, for example.

The bending section consists of an array of vee press tools above a long single vee slot. The pressing tools are inserted and clamped in position; you can rearrange them so that you can do bends with a gap between bends – extremely useful for making folded metal boxes. Again, the bending section worked extremely well across a range of materials and is quite straightforward to use. The instructions state that it’s limited to 90-degree bends, but we found that with too much force, it will produce more than 90 degrees. It’s definitely worth practising with some scrap to get the feel of how to repeatedly make accurate 90-degree folds.

Whilst we may need more practice to increase accuracy, it’s easy to get started rolling curves and tubes on the Formit

The rollers are hidden under the yellow cover which pivots out of the way neatly. Obviously, when using the shear or the bending brake, the rollers will also move and, as such, it’s a good idea to keep them covered to reduce the risk of accidental entanglement. The instructions supplied give a good overview of how to use the rollers, and how to increase the tightness of the curve produced. With this type of roller system, you always end up with a small, flat section at the start of the roll, so it’s worth again practising with some scraps to dial in your approach before making a critical-sized component with them.

VERDICT

An excellent tool for making small metal parts, with all three functions working well.

8/10

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