The features of a mechanical guillotine

The features of a mechanical guillotine

Despite the prevalence of hydraulic guillotines in recent years, mechanical guillotines are still a popular choice for sheet metal workers worldwide. For the right application, this traditional design can still bring many benefits to today’s workshops.

So why still invest in a mechanical guillotine? Simply put, they are easy to use, feature fast cutting cycles, require little maintenance and are very cost effective - both for the initial purchase and for ongoing running costs.

So how did mechanical guillotines develop and what applications are they most suited to?

The development of mechanical guillotines

Early mechanical guillotines were driven by a central factory belt drive system; this arrangement developed over time with the machines ultimately being fitted with their own electric motor, resulting in the popular direct drive models which have continued to this day. 

They are now commonly fitted with a powered back gauge and a simple positional controller. This allows the operator to quickly and accurately set the required cut length, further speeding up the cutting process.

The lowest capacity models feature a fixed blade gap as there is no need to alter this within the thickness range of the machine. Slightly higher capacity models will generally have mechanical blade gap adjustment at the front of the machine, allowing it to cope with a range of material thicknesses.

What applications are they commonly used for?

While there are still a small number of specialist mechanical guillotine shears supplied for high capacity shearing - mainly in blanking or cut-to-length lines - the majority of mechanical guillotines now sold are for sheet material, typically in the range of up to 3mm mild steel.

A summary of the key features of this design

  • Easy to use; with a very simple design and easy-to-use controls there is very little else to consider except the length of the required cut
  • Fast cutting; mechanical guillotines are typically able to produce a much higher number of strokes per minute than a hydraulic guillotine
  • Cost effective; without expensive hydraulic components and a simple, effective design, these machines require a relatively low initial investment
  • Low running costs; without a hydraulic motor running constantly, the mechanical machines mostly only use power when the pedal is pressed to operate the machine
  • Less maintenance requirements; there is very little maintenance required beyond lubrication and periodically turning or ultimately resharpening the blades

Other productivity features available

While in many respects a mechanical guillotine is a simple machine for a specific purpose, a good number of options have been developed over the years to further increase their productivity. Examples of these are angle gauges, pneumatic sheet supports, laser cutting lines and extended squaring and support arms.

A later development is the return to sender function, where the machine is fitted with dual function sheet supports which allow the material to fall to the front or the back of the machine subject to the cut length. A classic use of this function is cutting strips which drop down to the front of the machine ready for easy collection.

Find out more or arrange a demonstration

Please get in touch with us at or via our contact page to book a demo. Or simply give us a call on 01785 336732 and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have. Alternatively, you can follow the links to find out more about our RGMS and XRG models.