A new type of discrete clamp stretch forming machine based on flexible holding technology was developed to improve the performance of traditional rigid clamp stretch forming machine used for double-curvature metal sheet forming, and its forming characters were illuminated simply. The FE model of flexible discrete clamp stretch forming was set up, and extensive numerical simulations of spherical parts for both the flexible holding mode and the rigid holding mode were carried out by dynamic explicit finite element analysis. The numerical results show that the distribution of stress, strain and thickness were well-proportioned in the flexible holding mode. The larger the spherical radius is, the smaller the minimum transitional length of sheet metal is. The transitional length of 60mm is suitable for flexible discrete clamp stretch forming in the case of considering the forming quality and material utilization. Then, the stretch forming experiment proves that the flexible holding technology is feasible, and the error contrast illustrates the new type of discrete clamp stretch forming machine is practicable.