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History and Processes of Tube Hydroforming

History and Processes of Tube Hydroforming

Hydroforming has been one of the most cost effective methods of forming and shaping metals for decades. Several variations of hydroforming methods have come about over the years, each serving a different purpose.

In tube hydroforming, there are two widely recognized practices; high pressure and low pressure. During the high pressure process, the tube to be shaped is enclosed in a die before pressurization begins. Previously known as the Variform process, the low pressure method starts by the tube being pressurized to a pre-determined volume during the closing of the die. The tube is held in place and sealed at both ends by axial punches. The axials on both sides are moveable, this movement being required in the process to provide axial compression, and to feed material towards the center of the tube. In both methods, hydrolic fluid is pushed into the tube through one of the punches, increasing the pressure within until the tube expands outwards and the desired shape is reached.

Historically, the tube hydroforming process was patented in the 50’s. However, it wasn’t until the 70’s that the process was widely used in an industrial scale. Back then, it was used for the production of large T-shaped joints for the oil and gas industry. Today, tube hydroforming is an important part in the automotive industry where many important applications can be found. Tube hydroforming is also the method of choice for the tubular bodies of bicycles, and the various components of motorcycles.

Since its inception in the 50’s tube hydroforming has been an essential part of the manufacturing industry. If you would like to know more about hydroforming and it’s variations, feel free to visit our website or contact us.

Tube Hydroforming Is the Future for the Automobile Industry

Tube Hydroforming Is the Future for the Automobile Industry

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.

Production Comparison

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.

The Future 

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.

For more information on hydroforming, contact us any time.

Hydroforming Prototyping

Hydroforming Prototyping

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 Prototypes

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.

Want more information on hydroforming prototyping? Contact us any time, or click here here to request a quote.

Deep Draw Hydroforming Explained

Deep Draw Hydroforming Explained

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.

7 Benefits of Hydroforming

7 Benefits of Hydroforming

A cost-effective way of forming certain metals into strong lightweight structures is by hydroforming. This can be done with aluminum, brass, low alloy steels and stainless steel.

Starting with a blank metal tube the tube expands into the desired shape when placed in a customized tool specifically designed for this purpose. The tool closes around the tube and the hydraulic rams are used to seal off the ends while water is forced into the interior of the tube.  You can see an animated hydroforming process here on this page, what is hydroforming.

When the required water pressure is reached the metal transforms into the shape of the mold. At the same time the hydraulic rams are computer-driven to each end of the tube so smooth, thick walls are formed as the metal expands turning it into attractive, repeatable shapes.Once the water is disposed of and the part removed the system moves on to the next blank tube.

Seven main benefits of hydroforming:

1. Much fewer welds are required

Previously, if wanted to transform metal into different shapes a lot of individual sections had to be welded together but hydroforming enables the metal tube to be turned into long, complex shapes with a reduced number of welds that reduces resistance and improves the efficiency of the airflow.

2. Few Steps in the Process

The whole process can be done in a much quicker time, often taking as little as 20 seconds for loading the blank tube to unloading the finished product. This is because many parts of the exhaust chain can be combined into one seamless assembly.

3. Remarkable Precision

The in-feeding of the material is accurately controlled by the computer while the metal is under high pressure inside the tool up to within 10 thousandths of an inch. This will be from 25,000 to 30,000psi.

4. Waste Reduction

By repeating the process you eliminate wastage from dented or accidentally bent parts and less material is needed due to the consolidation of the sections into one assembly.

5. Weight Reduction

Hydroforming produces lighter products as the required stiffness can be achieved using thinner walls. In previous processes this was not possible.

6. Form More Complex Shapes

Complex shapes can be achieved from pre-bent tubes by hydroforming and they can even have inlet and outlet openings incorporated.

7. Reduced Tool Costs

The number of tools can be reduced drastically due to fewer sections and the elimination of the burring and punching processes.

To get more information on hydroforming, contact us.

What is Tube Hydroforming?

What is Tube Hydroforming?

Often, when it comes to discussing what we do, the very first question asked is: What is tube hydroforming? The simplest answer is that hydroforming is a way to shape metal. This cost-effective process is used on metals such as aluminum, steel, stainless steel, copper and brass.

Hydroforming is a common application in the automotive industry, where it can produce stronger structures for vehicles such as engine cradles, suspension and radiator supports. Other examples of items that can be produced by hydroforming include kitchen spouts — which were the original intention of sheet hydroforming — as well as satellite antennas, saxaphone tubes and bicycle frames.

Before the process of hydroforming was developed, items were made by forming two halves and then welding them together. By using die molding and highly pressurized fluid to form metal, hydroforming eliminates the inefficiency of welded pieces and allows for more complex shapes and contours of the metal.

There are two types of hydroforming: sheet hydroforming and tube hydroforming. Sheet hydroforming uses one die and a sheet of metal, while tube hydroforming involves the expansion of metal tubes into a shape using two die halves which contain the raw metal tube.

Specializing in tube hydroforming, American Hydroformers has a high pressure hydroforming press system that provides higher efficiency and versatility with parts that have complex geometries or extensive secondary operations. We work with a number of industries, including automotive, appliance, diesel exhaust and plumbing. We also offer complete assembly level fabrication of automotive structures, industrial laser cutting and stencil work. For more information on our services, contact us.

Innovative Uses of Sheet Hydroforming

Innovative Uses of Sheet Hydroforming

Most consumers are already fairly well aware that one of the most common applications of sheet hydroforming is found in the automotive sector. For years, auto makers have taken advantage of hydroforming techniques to make their models faster, lighter, and more attractive.

Take, for example, the Lincoln MKC, displayed at the 2013 LA Auto Show. One of the MKC’s selling points is, in fact, a product of sheet hydroforming: a completely seamless liftgate.

Instead of punching the sheet metal between two large dies, the sheet is formed around a die using a liquid-filled bladder. By taking away the seams from the rear of the vehicle, it creates an incredibly clean and strong design, while also simplifying assembly. (Auto123.com)

Such innovations in the automotive world involving hydroforming have become commonplace, however.

What may come as more of a surprise would be the recent application of hydroforming to develop Gramovox’s classy Bluetooth gramophone. Built in the shape of a retro gramophone horn, this wireless speaker adds a sense of whimsy to any and all musical styles with the added bonus of a vintage sound produced combining both classic 1920s techniques with modern-day developments, “with the cone spun on a lathe and the neck hydroformed out of metal sheets. The two parts will then be hand welded together” (cnet.com)

With the project to produce these little beauties still seeking support through Kickstarter, it seems unlikely that consumers will see these readily available any time soon; however, it is fascinating to see how blending modern hydroforming techniques with creativity can bring about truly fascinating and useful products.

For more on the unique uses of hydroforming, sheet hydroforming or metal fabrication in general, please feel free to contact us. We look forward to working together with you.

The History of Hydroforming in the U.S.

The History of Hydroforming in the U.S.

Hydroforming is defined as the process in which metal is shaped using fluid dynamics. The result is lightweight, structurally strong, stiff pieces of the original metal. Metals that can be hydroformed include, but are not limited to brass, stainless steel, low-alloy steel, and aluminum.

Hydroforming became popular in the early 1900s as the automotive industry began to take hold in the United States. The process allowed automotive manufacturers a more desirable alternative to casting using die sets. Die-set part manufacturing required more finishing work and produced less structurally sound parts due to metal stretch and excessive handling.

Hydroforming tools were born as a result of the arduous research and development of the Cincinnati Milling Machine Company founded by Geiger and Holtz in 1889. By the 1930s, the Cincinnati Milling Company was the main supplier of metal forming machines in the U.S. and Europe. As the demand for shaped metal parts increased, the Cincinnati Milling Machine Company began the process of developing deep draw forming techniques using lighting reflectors and gear case covers.

The company was transformed in 1956 to Cincinnati Milacron and research and development of the hydroforming process accelerated. This allowed more advanced forms of hydroforming to begin to take shape. As a result, the old style of deep draw became obsolete and more modern hydroforming techniques began to take the helm. By the 1970s, Hydroforming was officially out of its fledgling stages. These hydroforming machines reduced the need for excessive metal part finishing, which in turn reduced the turn over time for parts, increased efficiency, and reduced the workforce needed to produce quality product.

American Hydroformers has effectively mastered the tubular hydroforming process, supplying multiple industries with high quality hydroformed parts. For over ten years we have continued to raised the bar, producing the most durable, uniquely crafted, and versatile hydroformed parts on the market. For more information on how our expertise, please contact us.

Hydroforming Makes Offshore Wells Safer?

Hydroforming Makes Offshore Wells Safer?

From durable auto bodies to high-tech bicycle components, the hydroforming process is well-known for breaking technological barriers on land.  Now, engineers in the offshore oil and gas industry are looking to hydroforming for inspiration in improving well safety.

In the wake of the Gulf Coast oil spill disaster, increased regulatory scrutiny is being turned on the offshore oil and gas industry.  The integrity of wells underwater, where maintenance is difficult and pressure is immense, is of particular importance to both the environment and regulatory agencies.  At the same time, increased demand means that underwater wells are becoming increasingly vital for petroleum production worldwide.

Faced with an urgent need for increased well safety, petroleum engineers have found a solution in the process of hydroforming.  Taking advantage of the natural hydraulic pressure at the sites of deepwater rigs, oil and gas engineers have developed a process called Metalmorphology.  Inspired by hydroforming, metalmorphology allows engineers to form metal components after the metal has already been inserted downhole.  The pieces can be formed with an astounding 100% conformance rate, making it much easier to prevent the release of environmentally harmful chemicals from undersea oil  and gas wells.

As hydroforming processes develop, the possibilities for their application continue to expand in exciting new directions.  American Hydroformers is dedicated to using the most advanced hydroforming technology available to make the manufacturing process more efficient.  Feel free to contact us and find out how our hydroforming expertise and cutting-edge methods can provide you with a structurally superior, economically-produced product.

The Deep Draw Hydroforming Process & Advantages

The Deep Draw Hydroforming Process & Advantages

In the 1940s, deep draw hydroforming became the forefront method for developing and manufacturing irregular shaped metal parts. Die style stamping became archaic, as it became inefficient in comparison to the hydroforming method.

The old style die stamping method used heat to draw metal and parts formed using this process took longer to make as the process of shaping the metal uniformly took more time and manpower to develop. Deep draw hydroforming allowed manufacturers to create irregular or asymmetrical parts using a cold forming process. Because hydroformed parts requires less finishing work, less time and manpower is needed to create perfect pieces.

One distinct advantage of deep draw hydroforming is it allows the manufacturer to create and manipulate a variety of metals including aluminum, brass, carbon steel, stainless steel, and alloy. This versatility has allowed manufacturers to meet the demands of a variety of industries including, but not limited to the aerospace industry, the automobile industry, and the HVAC industry.

Top Advantages of Deep Draw Hydroforming

  • Many parts can be formed using a one step process
  • Irregular shapes can be manufactured in less time due to less finishing work on the final product
  • Material stability and durability is maintained during the forming process
  • Less machines are used in the process resulting in quicker set up times
  • Development costs are significantly reduced
  • Abnormalities such as ripping, tearing, wrinkling, and marking associated with traditional die forming is eliminated

For more information about how deep draw hydroforming can save your firm time and money in the manufacturing process, contact us. The experts at American Hydroformers have proudly served the metal manufacturing industry for over 10 years and are dedicated to creating comprehensive metal manufacturing solutions for your firm.