Tube hydroforming is at the heart of the process that enables modern-day life to proceed more efficiently. From the water piping systems of local utilities to the cars we drive and bikes we ride, tube hydroforming is the process that allows the efficient creation of complex shapes with minimal waste in modern life. So what exactly is tube hydroforming?
As technology advances, businesses, government agencies, and utility providers around the world seek out the most cost-effective way to obtain the materials needed for piping, rail systems, and car parts (to name a few industries) while ensuring the products received still meet stringent requirements for strength and structural integrity. This is where hydroforming comes into play.
Hydroforming is a process that takes ductile metals, such as aluminum, stainless steel, brass, and other low alloy steels, and transforms them into the shapes needed by various industries. The process is conducted by fitting these metals into preformed dies or molds and reshaping them with the help of high pressure hydraulics.
For instance, when a piece of copper piping needs to be molded to a particular shape and still maintain a high stiffness-to-weight ratio, hydroforming is used. The copper piping would be placed inside a forming die with the desired mold shape for the end product. The copper tube is then inflated with high pressure hydraulic fluids from the open ends that force it to conform to the new shape of the mold.
The hydraulic fluid forces the expansion or alteration of the tube until it fits into the desired mold. Hydroforming is done with all metals that can be reshaped at room temperature, and is capable of achieving complex yet strong molded shapes in a much more cost-effective manner than other stamping or welding processes.
Evolution of Tube Hydroforming
Hydroforming was born out of the deficiencies of older metal forming processes. The first patent for a modern version of hydroforming was filed with the U.S. Patent Office in July 1952 (and later issued in 1955) by Fred Leuthesser Jr. and John Fox of the Schaible Company in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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