Hydroforming aluminum products has been around for the last few decades in some for or another. In the beginning, it was perfected to manufacture lightweight parts for the automotive industry as cars strayed away from heavier models and progressed towards more economical and efficient versions. But has since branched out to several other industries.
The advantages of aluminum hydroforming are numerous. Including weight reduction, vastly improved design flexibility, space reduction science, reduced jointing, less “downstream processing,” and a large impact on dimensional performance.
By replacing steel with aluminum, advanced hydroforming techniques could be applied to some of the most trusted and widely-used hydroforming methods. Aluminum sheeting, once added to the materials rotation, significantly impacted the stamping application, opening the door for advanced products and design. Then, as the automotive industry began to rapidly request more lightweight products, hydroforming adapted along side it.
As a basic rule that is typically agreed on by experts, and is used as an outline for aluminum hydroforming, there are three factors that contribute to the characteristics of aluminum extrusions.
Elongation: Most think that aluminum, being a lighter, more malleable material, would exhibit greater formable features than steel. This is contrary to the truth. In fact, steel is more formable than aluminum, but is obviously more weighty. Thus, the elongation factor is paramount to aluminum’s performance and usability over steel in addition to weight.
Materials: That is, alloys and tempers. Aluminum comes in a large variety of both of these characteristics, but the most widely sought after is a material that is strong and stable. Something that aluminum can have trouble with if close attention is not paid.
Shapes: A huge factor for aluminum’s growth in hydroforming is its ability to be formed into a large amount of shapes and sizes. Further, the cross sections that aluminum comes in out rivals steel in every regard (steel typically only comes in one: round).
Using aluminum in the hydroforming process has, and will continue to change how the technique is done. As major industries continue to evolve, so will how products are used, and how they benefit everyone involved.
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