Purpose: This paper presents a finite element-based assessment of the performance of some non-conventional blank-holding techniques. This includes friction actuted, pulsating, and pliable blank-holding techniques.Design/methodology/approach: A 3-D explicit-finite element analysis is used to investigate the influence of various blank-holder force (BHF) schemes on sheet metal formability limits especially wrinkling and tearing rupture. The role of relevant parameters of each blank-holding technique are also investigated. Three non-conventional blank-holders are considered,namely friction-actuated,elastic and pulsating blank-holders.Findings: For the conditions considered in this study, comparison with fixed BHF scheme revealed that slight improvements in the formability are observed for the three BHF schemes under consideration.Research limitations/implications: Only 5182 Al-alloy circular cups are considered. Further investigations should consider different materials and non-circular shapes because of their effect on sheet metal formability.Practical implications: Cylindrical cups’ drawing is responsible for the manufacture of billions of metal containers. This study can help improve working conditions leading to defect free products.Originality/value: The 3D-explicit finite simulations presented for a number of non-conventional blank-holding techniques are useful in the assessment of their performance.