Blog

Hydroforming Titanium for the Masses?

Hydroforming Titanium for the Masses?

The advantages of using titanium and titanium alloys have long been apparent to both the scientific and commercial communities:

  • Good strength
  • Resistance to erosion and erosion-corrosion
  • Very thin, conductive oxide surface film
  • Hard, smooth surface that limits adhesion of foreign materials
  • Surface promotes dropwise condensation

Due to these benefits, titanium and titanium alloys have become important players in a variety of different industries.

Since the introduction of titanium and titanium alloys in the early 1950s, these materials have in a relatively short time become backbone materials for the aerospace, energy, and chemical industries. (The Key to Metals

However, although there are many advantages to using titanium, its commercial use has been somewhat cost prohibitive. Over the years, manufacturers have instead turned to stainless steel, which although not as durable as titanium, is significantly more affordable to work with.

Until recently, that is.

In 2012, it was announced that a team led by André Albert at the Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Engineering “developed a new process for hydroforming titanium at high temperatures in a single step that promises to make titanium more of an everyday material,” a process which allows titanium to be forged by hydraulic pressure in a single step and in one place without cracking (Gizmag). Needless to say, the savings that this new procedure would provide would be an enormous boon to the industry.

With titanium’s exceptional versatility, this new hydroform procedure could move its use from the aerospace industry into everyday life, including window frames, hydraulic lines, jet engine components, bio-compatible implants, and bicycle frames — not to mention the possibilities for the automotive industry, where “because of the lack of cost-effective forming technologies for titanium, currently manifolds, exhaust pipes, catalytic converters and mufflers are primarily manufactured from high-alloy stainless steel” (TechFragments).

With hydroform bringing down the cost of titanium production, perhaps its only a matter of time until more and more of our everyday tasks — cooking, cleaning, grooming, working out — are aided by titanium instruments.

If you have questions regarding developments in hydroform technology and how we can help you take advantage of them, please feel free to contact us.

Tube Hydroforming is Beneficial

Tube Hydroforming is Beneficial

First referenced from an early 1900s process, tube hydroforming is constantly improving parts and workplace functionality. Tube hydroforming is a metal forming process where pressurized fluids form the workpiece into a shape. This technique is only now really starting to take off, though the concept of tube hydroforming has been around a while.

Until the 1980s, there was no way to economically build a tubular part with dimensional stability, design flexibility, and hole-making ability, so tubes had to be welded together from stamped parts. When tube hydroforming was fully realized and established, it satisfied a long-awaited need in the industry, which explains why tube hydroforming has gained rapid acceptance throughout the USA.

Tube hydroforming offers many benefits as compared to conventional forming techniques. The ability for deeper draws and closer control of perimeters increases part stability and prevents wrinkles and tearing. Tube hydorforming creates a part that is stiffer, less likely to have defects, and is resistant to buckling. Hydroforming replaces the stamping assemblies which are expensive and need large assembly areas and a lot of welding. The flow of the process will increase because less die is used, since the process is metal on fluid shaping and not metal on metal. Tool costs will be reduced by at least 40% because the fluid replaces half of the tooling that would be needed with welding and stamping techniques.

New capabilities for hydroforming are being found every day, as engineers learn where and how to apply tube hydroforming for best use. As a result, hydroforming is used to make more and more parts. About 15 years ago, 10% of steel in North American vehicles was tubular, while today the percentage has risen to over 16%. Tube hydroforming is steadily gaining in popularity because it lessens capital costs, reduces the number of parts needed, increases and improves structural strength of product, and offers flexibility and design quality that just does not come with welding and stamping techniques. A number of automobile industries have switched from stamping and welding to hydroforming because it is more cost-effective and creates more high-consistency parts.

For more information on tube hydroforming and hydroforming services, please contact us.

Hydroforming History

Hydroforming History

Recently, the Auto Tech Review acknowledged that without constant evolution in hydroform technology, the advancements enjoyed in the automotive world today just would not be possible:

The demand for weight reduction in modern vehicle construction has led to an increase in the application of hydroforming processes for the manufacture of automotive lightweight components. Hydroforming is a promising technology that has greater potential for automotive applications. (Auto Tech Review)

So when did the hydroforming history begin, let’s take a look.

Although it would be difficult to imagine where today’s automotive industry would be without hydroform, it must be remembered that the technique is relatively new. Based on a 1950s patent held by Fred Leuthesser, Jr. and John Fox of the Schaible Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, the process first came into its element in the 1970s when buoyed by aid of computer technology.

Originally used to produce stronger kitchen spouts, the process was eventually employed to produce bicycle parts, piping joints, as well as automotive components. Throughout the 80s and 90s, the process was adapted to produce even larger structural parts.

By the early years of the 21st century, the process of hydroforming had become well-known, and its application in the automotive world was widely acknowledged.

According to a Japanese study published in 2004 in the Nipon Steel Technical Report, the advantages to using hydroform over the traditional press forming had already become apparent and included the following:

  • Cost reduction
  • Weight reduction
  • Improvement of fatigue properties
  • Improvement of component strength
  • Simplification of work processes
  • Improvement of yield
  • Reduction of spring back
  • Capability of large deformation

To find out how the development of hydroforming technology can aid in the production of your product, please feel free to contact us.

Hydroformed Components

Hydroformed Components

What do a satellite antenna, an aluminum frame bicycle and the engine cradle of your neighbor’s motorcycle have in common? Chances are they were all made with hydroformed components.

From the medical industry to motorcycle manufacturers, the process of hydroforming offers many key advantages. To name a few, this superior fabricating and forming process allows:

  • Higher production efficiency
  • Elimination of welding
  • Creation of geometric shapes
  • Increased strength
  • Deeper draws
  • High quality surfaces
  • Tight tolerances
  • Low tooling costs
  • Elimination of draw marks

Take a cue from the automotive industry. The ever increasing demand for lighter weight components has just about necessitated the use of hydroformed components of countless automobiles. As a matter of fact, in 1997 Chevy used hydroformed components in the mass production of the Corvette. They’re not the only ones to reckognize a good thing when they see it. The high precision that can be accomplished with this technique is reflected in the use of hydroformed components in medical implantable devices, including some pacemakers. Even the music industry has benefited, as a well known saxophone maker uses a hydroformed brass tube in the popular instrument.

While it may seem at first glance that it’s just too good to be true, this technique was patented over 60 years ago and is still going strong. As it turns out, you can re-invent the wheel, and chances are the rim on the new one will have been hydroformed. Contact us to find out more about how to increase quality and strength while reducing costs.

Tube Hydroforming vs. Metal Stamping

Tube Hydroforming vs. Metal Stamping

Today, nearly all businesses that desire to form parts have concerns regarding the strength, weight, and cost of a component. Metal stamping has been a traditional metal forming procedure. It does not always ensure those characteristics that businesses are looking for in a part, as does tube hydroforming.

There are some disadvantages of stamping. Prices for low production runs have never been economical. Facilities that have to place their whole collection of programs into action refuse to accept smaller runs. High tooling prices are proving to be the enemy of the industry. Moreover, stamping could have a detrimental impact on the structural strength of those parts being formed.

Stamping  results frequently in material wastage. Most stamping businesses do not have any way to reuse the unstamped parts of a sheet metal. The process of production and prototyping tooling translates into more lead times. Once finalized, altering as it raises the job costs the tooling design is not achievable.

Stamping has longer timelines and higher project costs. What is hydroforming?  A better metal forming process called Hydroforming addresses all the disadvantages linked to the metal stamping procedures. A pressurized hydraulic fluid is useful for forming a metal sheet within the desired contour.

Design molds and making changes to it can be achieved in several days without adding additional costs to a job. This approach can be coupled with deep drawing to achieve contoured parts.This procedure is appropriate for forming ductile metals such as 400 and 300 series of stainless steel, aluminium, bronze, and brass that are recommended for low weight applications.

Tube hydroforming as a procedure is utilized for making parts with a diameter of up to 20″ and a height of up to 9″. It may be used for creating parts in both convex and concave shapes. Unlike metal stamping, this approach has proven to be efficient while creating high consistency components with the desired tolerances. It is a procedure that reduces the demand for secondary finishing procedures.

It comes as no surprise that hydroformed components are sought after in businesses for example:

  • Metal furniture bases.
  • Medical equipment.
  • Nuclear business.
  • Industrial pumps components.
  • HVAC components.
  • Commercial food equipment.

Tubular Hydroforming

Tubular Hydroforming

Most of us have never considered the world of hydroforming or tubular hydroforming. The components made from these methods have permeated a great many areas of our lives from the vehicles we drive to the bikes we ride. Have you ever stopped to consider all the possibly applications of tube forming? Most of us think of automotive or, perhaps, architectural applications for hydroformed tubes. However, you’re just as likely to find hydroformed tubes in anything you can think of that you’d need a high strength, light weight tube for. Here we’ll take a look at the world of fitness to see where you’ll find hyrdroformed tubes.

In the world of fitness, you can use tube forming to make the following parts:

  • Tubular frame rails
  • Levers
  • Brackets
  • Shafts
  • Spacers
  • Pedals
  • Clamps

Many of these parts are obvious. They are the large and small hollow tubes that make up the structure of the machine. You’ll find the frame rails on the sides so you don’t fall of the machine, levers in the braking mechanisms of bikes. Around the gears and wheels you’ll find shafts and spacers. Clamps are usually found around the frame to keep the wires for the electronics safely tucked away.

However, these aren’t the only parts that are made for fitness machines; these are just the ones that use tube forming processes. In a similar process called sheet hydroforming the following parts for fitness machines can be made:

  • Leverlers
  • Flywheels
  • Mounting plates

While all of these parts are standardised for various types of machines, the beauty of tube forming for components is that they can be made-to-order for a custom design! So, if you want to start fix or design your own fitness gear, all you have to do is get the specifications for your design and leave the rest up to us.

Accuracy in tube hydroforming

Accuracy in tube hydroforming

As the demands for lightweight construction and precision grow, tube hydroforming is becoming increasingly popular. Hydroforming is used in a wide variety of applications from industry parts to bikes because the process can create parts that have desired properties, such as complex geometrical shape and light weight. Even the new Corvette design employs hydroformed tubes to keep the car lightweight. With the wide variety of complex shapes that tube hydroforming processes can be used for, you may wonder how accurate the end product is. Well, let’s take a look at some of the variables that go into hydroforming.

First, you start with a tube or sheet of steel that is placed into a cavity, and water at high pressure pushes the steel into the shape of the cavity. The factors that can affect this are:

  • Change in outer forces

This is looking at the pressure considerations of the liquid in the die cavity, which are between 30 to 150 MPa in comparison to the

  • Material yield strength
  • Inner radius of the sharpest cross sectional.
  • Material wall thickness.

When the pressures are correctly balanced, the deformation of the metal will have an optimal flow and a minimal wall thickening.

  • Change in friction

For optimal flow of the metal, friction should not be too much or too little. With too much friction, the strain of the metal as it bends could cause it to crack and break. Too little friction could me a malformed product.

  • Change in material behavior

During deformation, metals undergo stress and strain. With optimal heat and pressure, the metal flow will be such that the metal deforms smoothly into the cavity it’s being molded to.

The changes in these factors will determine optimisation of the flow of the metal as it forms to the cavity. However, skilled technicians can minimize the thickening of the walls, which increases the accuracy and meets tolerances for your project. It is possible to manufacture parts that can fulfil demands with tolerances of 0.5mm for a geometrical shape up to 500mm.

Part Analysis

Ready to get your project under way? Contact us to work with our skilled technicians for your next project.

Hydroformed Bicycle Frames

Hydroformed Bicycle Frames

You may think that if you’ve seen one bike, you’ve seen them all. Yes, they come in different colors and wheel sizes with different kinds of brakes; but they’re basically all the same. After all, they’ve all got two wheels, pedals, and a seat. How different can they be? As any cycling enthusiast can tell you, the answer to that question is very! Differences in the materials and manufacturing processes that are used can make one bike feel and ride very differently from another.

One of those different manufacturing processes involves hydroforming – a process that uses fluid and high pressure to form the tube. In bicycles, this results in a frame that’s not only stronger but also sways less under pressure, allowing it to accelerate faster. A new hydroforming process (triple hydroformed) that’s being used in some bikes goes a step further and reshapes the tubes after they’ve been welded together. The resuting frame contains less material and therefore weighs less. It also provides a more comfortable ride by minimizing vibrations to the seatpost. When all is said and done, hydroforming helps create a bike that accelerates faster, climbs hills easier, and corners easier than others – qualities any cycling enthusiast would die for.

But bikes for the cycling enthusiast aren’t the only kind of bikes hydroforming is helping to improve. Electric bikes are another. Electric bikes combine human power with the power of electricity. The two working together make for a ride that’s much less strenous. Older people find them easier to ride, and commuters can arrive at work and not have to shower immediately. Sales for electric bikes have been improving in the last few years – especially amongst those looking for alternative methods of transportation. Costing between three and five cents per battery charge, it’s not hard to see why. In addition to those looking for a cheaper way to get around town, they’re also proving popular for use in businesses like deliver y services, resorts and bike rentals. Some police departments and security firms are beginning to use them as well.

Bottom line? No matter which kind of bike you’re looking for – regular or electric – you’ll probably want to look for hydroformed bicycle frames. With better handling and less weight, they make riding a breeze.

To find out how we can help you with your hydroforming needs, contact us. We’re here to serve you.

Advantages of Tubular Hydroforming

Advantages of Tubular Hydroforming

Any item that is built with a metal tube can be made more efficiently and cost-effectively with tubular hydroforming. The process was first developed and used in the 1950s. The disadvantages of pressing and stamping tubes, i.e. weak stress points, unseen defects, and uneven distribution of metal, disappear, leaving a lighter weight but stronger metal tube.

In a nutshell, tubular hydroforming involves pumping hydraulic fluid into shape at high pressure, forcing the metal evenly into all corners of the mold. The metal, aluminum, stainless steel or other metal, flows into the shape of the mold, rather than being stretched over a die, creating a stronger tube than one that has been pressed. The metal can be further heat treated to strengthen it even more.

The advantages of this process include so much more than just lightweight and strength. Consider the following.

  • Unique shapes are possible with indents or angles. For instance, one end of the tube could be round, the other oval or a tube could be made with a flattened center section.
  • Even thickness of the metal with no thick or thin spots. This reduces unseen weak spots which can break more easily.
  • Cost-effective. Less waste of raw metal or due to damaged finished pieces.
  • Uses less energy to produce. The process is streamlined and robotic, and doesn’t require high temperatures.
  • There is less hazard to employees since the process is done at room temperature.
  • Leaves a smooth surface ready to paint or use as is.

Whatever product using a metal tube you may produce, it is probably possible to produce it better and more inexpensively with tubular hydroforming. The inherent strength of the product produced makes this process ideal for many products and industries, not just automotive and plumbing. It’s also frequently used for bicycles and musical instruments.

Visit our website and view the video of the hydroforming process to easily understand how it works. Then contact us so we can discuss how to help you build a better product through hydroforming. It’s a call you’ll wish you made years ago.

Improving the World with Hydroforming

Improving the World with Hydroforming

Hydroforming is a cost-effective way of shaping ductile metals into stiff, strong and lightweight pieces.  Practically all metals that can be cold formed are suitable for hydroforming, and without being limited by geometric complexity, the applications are becoming endless.  Here are a few industries which utilize hydroforming:

Aerospace:  The precision and reliability of hydroformed parts is crucial to ensure success and safety in areas such as turbine construction, array antennas and construction of exterior structures.

Alternative Energies:  Much like in aerospace, the components of alternative energy machines demand a lot in form and function.  Be it solar, wind or waves, the flexibility of hydroforming production allows a wide array of metals to be utilized towards producing advanced components for the energy of the future.

Medical:  Due to not being limited by traditional manufacturing methods, hydroforming finds a good niche in producing intricate parts for medical appliances such as pace-makers and advanced prosthetics.  Being as it is so cost-effective, hydroforming has the ability to make much needed medical procedures more affordable to people who truly need them.

Home Appliances:  Hydroforming makes very asthetically pleasing products; because of the unique manufacturing process, pieces come out smooth and free from dents and blemishes.  In the appliance industry, hydroformed parts are moving into the eye’s view as they gain acceptance and use as handles and more due to these unique qualities.

Automotive:  Faster, lighter, stronger seems to always be on the minds of motor enthusiasts, and hydroformed parts fit into this category perfectly.  One of the most recognized uses for hydroforming, components made for vehicles gain durability from eliminating weak points made by traditional shaping and welding techniques.  From retrofitting late-model cars to creating tech-forward alternative fuel vehicles, you can find an application for hydroforming.

Plumbing:  Because the unique array of shapes able to be produced by hydroforming, not only is it excellent for creating strong and dependable fittings for under the sink, but hydroformed faucets and fixtures are gaining emerging acceptance as well.  Limitless arrangements are possible, giving designers unprecidented freedom to create new and beautiful products.

At American Hydroformers, we offer complete assembly level fabrication of automotive structures, as well as industrial laser cutting and stencil work in addition to our quality hydroformed and tube hydroformed products.  Contact us to see how we can improve your products today!