Minimizing Secondary Finishing Operations With Hydroforming

Posted by Samuel Ibrahim, Jr. on Mon, Mar 31, 2014

hydroform13 large resized 600When considering the numerous options available for working with metal, many companies choose the beneficial and cost effective process hydroforming.  Originally developed around 1950, hydroforming is ideal for shaping many types of ductile metals, including brass, aluminum, stainless and low alloy steels.  It holds a number of benefits when compared to similar work processes, especially when considering cost, precision, and efficient operation.  One area where hydroforming especially excels is its role in minimizing secondary finishing operations.

A Range of Benefits

Hydroforming is a technique that employs high pressure hydraulic fluid to press materials into a die at room temperature.  It was originally developed as an alternative to stamping for small quantities of parts.  Since then, hydroforming has become a major industrial practice.  The process offers numerous benefits over other similar machining methods.

 

  • Lower Costs.  A number of factors contribute to the cost reduction provided by hydroforming, including the area of tooling.  Processes such as stamping require a great deal of tooling.  A male die and a blank holding ring are essentially the only tools that are needed in hydroforming, since a pressurized forming chamber acts as the female die.  This results in an average 50% savings when compared to processes like deep draw stamping.  Hydroforming also features lower cost materials and reduced set up times, with easily mounted and aligned hydroforming tools.  It provides significant savings in product development.  Different material types and wall thickness specifications can be accommodated while manufacturing prototypes using hydroforming techniques.

 

  • High Quality Parts.  The hydroforming process is capable of creating high quality, precision components and parts.  Extremely tight tolerances are possible, including aircraft tolerances that are commonly ±0.03”.  The sheet hydroforming process is also capable of producing highly complex shapes in a single operation.  There is nearly no limit to the geometries that can be produced using this method, and the components produced are of consistently high quality.  Hydroforming creates quality results while accommodating materials of all different types.  In addition to commonly used ductile metals, hydroforming techniques can effectively shape copper and precious metals like gold.  Finally, hydroforming creates materials with reduced work hardening, maintaining material tensile strength for long periods of time.

 

  • High Efficiency.  Setup and handling processes are faster and easier with hydroforming.  Because of the simplified configuration of the process, tool change times are far faster than other traditional metal forming processes, often reducing change times by up to 70%.  Lead times for tooling are also reduced due to simpler tooling; the multiple processes required by traditional tooling are consolidated to one machine.  Parts and components that require many different operations can often be fabricated in just one cycle using hydroforming.  This process is simple to run and requires a low amount of skilled labor, saving high labor expenses.  Accurate results can be achieved with very low excess scrap, with the additional machining required to finish components often eliminated entirely.

 

Secondary Finishing Minimized or Eliminated

A great deal of time and expense can be devoted to secondary finishing operations.  Traditional machining methods are apt to leave marks from matched dies and other sources.  The additional labor costs can also be significant.  Hydroforming creates strong, attractive, and high quality shapes that require minimal secondary finishing.

Stamping, a metalworking process using a press to shape sheets of metal, tends to leave scratches on the part.  These scratches and other surface imperfections require polishing or surface refinement to repair.  Hydroforming eliminates the need for these by producing smooth parts the first time around.  Processes such as matched die forming also leave many residual marks on the shaped part.  Shock lines, draw marks, wrinkling, and tearing may occur.  Hydroforming is unique in shaping metals without these types of scuff marks.

How does hydroforming avoid the marring on finished products that occurs with so many other traditional machining processes?  The answer is in hydraulic fluids that shape the metal and the soft, flexible diaphragm.  Most hydroforming processes use a rubber diaphragm that acts as the common female die.  The outside surfaces of the hydroformed parts do not experience metal to metal contact.  This helps to virtually eliminate the scratching and scuffing that occur with conventional tools

Secondary operations to correct the flaws listed above can include a wide variety of machining processes.  In addition to polishing and buffing, CNC and laser machining may be needed.  Hydroforming prevents the need for these while maintaining dimensional consistency.  With options that include the use of vinyl clad material to protect polished sheet stock from being marred, the cost savings that hydroforming provides can be enormous.

A Wide Variety of Industries

The smooth surface finishes produced by hydroforming are required in a number of different areas.  Hydroforming is extensively used in the automotive sector and in the oil & gas industries.  High tolerance applications such as aerospace and medical products also count on the smooth and accurate work that this process produces. It is used in military, commercial, and alternative energy applications as well.  Commercial cookware utilizes hydroformed parts for their outstanding surface finishes, and the list goes on.  High quality and cost effective, hydroforming continues to be a method of choice for metalworking.  It not only eliminates the need for most secondary processing, but provides precise and efficient metal shaping.  It is widely known its pleasing aesthetic qualities, and also for highly accurate finishes for industries where accuracy is of the utmost importance.       

 

Tags: metal forming, manufacturing, Metal Stamping, hydroforming

The Case for Metal Spinning and Metal Hydroforming

Posted by Samuel Ibrahim, Jr. on Thu, Oct 10, 2013

Metal Spinning is a process by which a disc or tube of ductile metal is rotated on a spindle and formed into an axially symmetric part. Through the use of heavy forces and high speeds, the metal will deform and “flow” to form the desired shape around a mandrel, a kind of mold that is shaped to the interior geometry of the planned part. This process allows metal to deform evenly, without any wrinkling or warping, to create a smooth, even, and seamless surface. The processes’ heavy forces also realign and strengthen the grain structure, significantly increasing the tensile properties and fatigue resistance of the base material.

Metal Spinning offers a series of compelling benefits for prototype and specialty work. High precision tolerances are easily attained on a wide variety of metal materials and designs. Mandrels are easily manufactured using traditional lathe and mill work, and considering that they are not subjected to excessive force in normal use, may be made of nonmetal materials. CNC control, hydraulic assistance, heat for hot working, and toolholders can all be incorporated into the metal spinning process. Overall, Metal Spinning permits an unparalleled level of flexibility, speed, and efficiency without sacrificing the precision and accuracy delivered by traditional processes.

For designs that are not conducive to spinning operations, Metal Hydroforming provides similar benefits and efficiency gains, effectively replacing work performed by machining or dies. The sheet hydroforming technique replaces one of the rigid dies used in conventional stamping with highly pressurized hydraulic fluid, contained by a urethane diaphragm, to force the sheet metal into a one-sided die cavity. Since the diaphragm, which is essentially acting as the female die, has no distinct shape, its dynamics allow it to take on the shape of any conceivable geometry. Complicated shapes with concavities are now possible in a single press cycle, reducing the amount of follow-up work and required forming operations. Produced to net shape, a single hydroformed component can often replace multiple parts, resulting in assemblies with fewer parts, higher strength, and less cost.

Metal Hydroforming brings many advantages over the typical die press processes that it replaces, especially in the context of prototype and specialty work. New part designs only require replacement of the lower die, which is usually made of cheaper cast iron and not expensive tool steel. During pressure application, friction and stress on the sheetmetal is significantly diminished, resulting in more consistent stressing and increased material drawability. Supplemental finishing operations are not necessary as the material is not marred as it is in standard die operations. Simplicity, efficiency, and service life are all upgraded significantly with Metal Hydroforming.

With the combination of these two processes, a new, and far better, system for prototype and specialty work is realized. Metal Spinning and Metal Hydroforming provide a definite pathway for one-off productions, design formulation, scratchwork, and design qualification, and simultaneously provide a full replacement for expensive, time-consuming traditional methods. Furthermore, both processes may work with just about any cold formed metal, and are easily reconfigured for high production work without any sacrifice in quality. Once the prototype becomes the new product, Metal Spinning and Metal Hydroforming are flexible enough to become the manufacturing system for it.

Helander Metal Spinning is an experienced provider of those two services, able to add Metal Spinning and Metal Hydroforming capability to your production paradigm. Helander’s engineers, manufacturing technologists, and material specialists can provide in-depth analysis of component design, advise you on the feasibility and practicality of using metal spinning or hydroforming to form your component part, and can completely manage the production thereof within their state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. Contact us today to let us help you decide what’s best for your bottom line.

 

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Tags: metal fabricating, metal forming, Metal Spinning, hydroforming, Metal Spinning, Custom Metal Spinning, Metal Stamping

How Metal Stampers are saving big bucks with Helander

Posted by Samuel Ibrahim, Jr. on Wed, Oct 24, 2012

At Helander, nothing makes us happier than doing great work that saves our customers money. Recently we’ve discovered a new production niche that has been bringing us tons of new and repeat customers. It seems that metal stamping facilities often face a dilemma. One of their clients might come to them requesting a short run or prototype of a new project.  For the metal stamper this can be a giant headache, because it is often cost-prohibitive for them set all their machinery up to do small jobs. If they take the risk and don’t get the big project, they are out time and a lot of money. The solution? Going to Helander for metal spinning and hydroforming services that you can’t get elsewhere.

Metal stampers come to companies like Helander because we have the ability to spin or hydroform their short run orders (usually around 1,000 pieces) at a significant savings. How significant? How does 90% less sound? Our processes allow for metal stampers from all over the world to remove the risk of low volume production from their minds.  Instead, they can go ahead, and if they land the big contract, they often will be looking at orders of a million pieces or more.

It’s a pretty sweet deal for both sides, and it’s why so many metal stampers are subcontracting metal spinners and hydroformers like Helander. So if you’re a metal stamper, what are you waiting for? Contact us today to find out how we can save you lots on your short-run projects.     

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Tags: Metal Spinning, Metal Stamping, hydroforming