With a growing demand for light-weight materials that still support variable weight-distribution, tube hydroforming is becoming a leader in the automobile manufacturing industry.
Tube hydroforming is the future in the production of automobiles because of its ability to be bent and molded into complex parts and shapes without the necessity for welds. In turn, what is created is a single “uni-body” design that has a high “strength-to-weight” ratio, or its specific strength.
The specific strength is calculated by dividing the materials strength by its density. This is also known as its breaking length, for which tubular hydroformed products is very high.
For comparison of production, there are still many automakers that rely on the seemingly primitive process of stamping out sheets of metal that are then bound together through welding. This includes the production of the chassis, suspension, engine block harness, and so on. Not only can this be more expensive and time-consuming, the chances for breakage increase with every welded joint.
Whereas the hydroformed technique uses high pressure that essentially forces ductile metal into the desired shape quickly and easily. This process is more cost-effective, requires less manpower, and produces a superior product that is both stronger and more long-lasting.
Having first been used nearly 30 years ago, tubular hydroforming is quickly becoming a worthy challenger to the old way of metal stamping. It continues to promise more simplified modules, weight reduction and distribution, improved hardness, and an overall structural strength that is vastly superior to its predecessor. It’s only a matter of time before this process of design and engineering is adopted and used more widely.
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If there was one aspect about engineering that hydroforming could benefit, it would be the prototype process. However, the act of producing hydroformed products that are more easily testable than a life sized models, in terms of limits, structure, and so on, is more of a pipe dream than a reality. Time and cost often outweighs means. But it doesn’t have to be that way, enter hydroforming prototyping.
Hydroforming is a special method in which metals are bent and shaped. It is very often found in use in the auto industry, but many industries have adopted the benefits of hydroformed products.
How this works with prototyping is like this: A prototype is introduced, it is scanned into a computer where a simulated process tests the endurance and stability of the product, giving feedback to the designer so that they can then makes changes. This not only benefits the design, but also the cost.
Further, computer prototyping allows the design engineer the ability to test various geometrically designed parts (this is especially true in sheet hydroforming, or SHF) for stress and cohesion. This allows for quick changes and even quicker results. It also gives the engineer an idea what real life stresses may do so that they can alter the design as necessary.
Working in Tandem With You
The collaborative process not only benefits those who have put their hard work into the design process, it also aids us in gathering a greater understanding about the product you want hydroformed. Because theoretical designs are often subject to real world failure, prototyping them is a cost-effective measure that prevents loss for your company.
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In the metal forming industry ‘hydroforming’ has become somewhat of a buzzword and general term for metal shaping. But there are many ways of shaping metal in this industry, all with their own unique advantages.
Deep draw hydroforming is a process by witch metal sheets (commonly referred to as ‘blanks’) are formed into parts by being drawn through a die by a punch. The edges of the blank are held in place by clamps called ‘blank holders’ while the punch pushes the metal sheet into an opening to shape it. The punched piece can also be put through the process again to ultimately increase the height and reduce the diameter of the punched item. This second pass is usually known as a redraw. Draws can be done multiple times until the desired height and diameter are reached.
Approximately 40% of the blank diameter can be drawn in one pass, with one set of tools. To continue increasing height and decreasing diameter, multiple draws must be done to avoid punching through the bottom of the blank. Of course, percentages will vary depending on type of metal, blank thickness, quality of materials, and what shape the final item is being formed into.
As previously mentioned, different types of metal stand up to being drawn better than others. One of the best for this process is aluminum. It is strong yet lightweight, easily drawn, readily accepts a host of finishes, has a pleasing appearance, and can be shipped without worry that it will rust. On top of all that, tooling aluminum is cheaper than generally any other metal. Other good metals for this type of tooling include copper, stainless steel, and brass.
For more information on hydroforming and metal shaping in general, feel free to contact us.