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Tube Hydroforming Continues to Pioneer in Auto Manufacturing

Tube Hydroforming Continues to Pioneer in Auto Manufacturing

Tube hydroforming is continuing to be the lead manufacturer in parts for the automobile and bicycling industry, and it appears as if newly designed models for the 2015 line won’t be any different.

Because sheet and tube hydroformed parts are tensile, durable, and easy to produce, they have become a mainstay component in from everything in the automobile industry from the chassis, to headliners, to headlights, and more.

But more surprisingly, in the last few years, the bicycling industry has realized the potential for tube hydroformed frames because of their light-weight, all-in-one design that makes them perfect for all frame types, riding events, and cyclists.

So it is no wonder that when a car manufacturer like BMW realizes the potential in quality design and technique that they get in on the bicycle game. Which, according to their blog, is an entire line of bikes featuring hydroformed frames, in what they refer to as “clear-cut design meets pioneering technology.”

BMW is set to launch its latest generation of bikes in spring 2014. Like all vehicles produced by the BMW Group, the 2014 bicycle collection meets top standards in quality and design.

Featuring what BMW calls the “bull neck,” a one-of-a-kind frame design that would have never been possible before hydroforming because of excess weight from such a large form that would have burdened the bike and the rider.

As well as a “hydroformed frame [that] is robust and light, guaranteeing optimal efficiency by ensuring maximum power transfer with minimum effort,” that would not have been possible without hydroforming.

Hydroforming is leading the charge once again, and it’s only a matter of time that hydroformed parts begin to find homes in other industries that are looking for a cost-effective and waste-reductive process that yields quality parts that outlast many of its competitors. The future is bright for pioneers.

For more information on tube hydroforming, please contact us any time.

5 Reasons Why Tube Hydroforming is the Future

5 Reasons Why Tube Hydroforming is the Future

Though it is a relative newcomer, when compared side-by-side with the conventional process of stamping, tube hydroforming is quickly becoming a formidable technique for the automotive industry’s various uses and applications, among others.

But what is it about tube hydroforming that makes its quality superior to older techniques? The answer is in 5 aspects:

1. Stronger Result

After the production process is complete, a tube-shaped hydro formed part can support more weight, especially when compared to metal stamped parts. This remains true even when metal stamped parts are welded together in tube shapes. Further, less welds means a sturdier product that is less likely to fail under stress and pressure.

2. Weight Reduction

The finished tube hydroformed part or component weighs significantly less than its metal stamped counterparts. This makes it a prime candidate for industries (like the automobile industry) who seek fabrications that result in a product with a less density.

3. Cost-Effective

Tube hydroformed products cost less overall by comparison as well. Not just in terms of what its material consists of, but also in regards to how much scrap waste it creates, and manpower it takes to manufacture a hydroformed part. This cost is passed on to all parties involved in the hydroformed process.

4. Becoming Widely Used

While it is certain that the automobile industry has taken a tight hold upon tube hydroforming, it’s uses and benefits have been adapted in many markets and in multiple industries. Of late, bicycle manufacturing has picked up on the positive results from tube hydroforming, and have been producing lighter and stronger bicycles for use in leisure activities, and professional ventures.

5. The Future is Hydroforming

Over the last 15 years, tube hydroforming has gone from a relatively unknown fabrication process relegated to a small sector of manufacturers, to an engineering and a developing dream with wide variants and even wider uses. The limits of tube hydroforming have been pushed far past that of older techniques, like metal stamping, and continue to be used in new and exciting ways that many thought were not possible.

For more information on how we can help you, please contact us any time.

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.