When many think about the manufacture of metal parts for cars, bicycles, and such, they often think of such processes as solid die stamping, However, in the late 1940’s and 50’s a new process called hydroforming was developed to form metal parts, especially those with asymmetrical and irregular shapes that are difficult for stamping to form.
What is hydroforming? Simply put, hydroforming uses a high pressure liquid to force a thin metal sheet or tube into a specialized die mold. Almost all metals capable of being cold formed can also be hydroformed: aluminum, brass, steel, stainless steel, and high strength alloys. There are two types of hydroforming; sheet hydroforming and tube hydroforming.
For sheet hydroforming, a metal blank sheet is placed over the mold. Then, in one type of sheet hydroforming, the mold is closed by a water filled bladder .Water pressure within the bladder is then increased, forcing the metal into the mold.
For tube hydroforming, a raw tube is placed between two dies. The ends of the dies are then sealed off and water fills the tube. The water pressure is increased until the tube takes the form of the mold.
The advantages of this process over traditional stamping are many. It is ideal for forming complex shapes. Hydroforming also produces parts that are more lightweight and have a higher stiffness to weight ration than stamped parts. Finally, its costs per unit are lower than stamping.
From hydroforming’s initial use in forming kitchen spouts its use has expanded to other plumbing fixtures, to widespread use in the auto and aircraft industry, to the manufacture of bicycles, and to the forming of the handles of appliances. Hydroforming has even been used to manufacture the brass tube of the Yamaha saxophone. It has proven itself to be an increasingly versatile tool.
Contact us if you would like to learn more about hydroforming and how it can meet your needs.