Hydroforming, also known as “counter-pressure forming,” is a fabrication method that uses pressure to force ductile metal into the shape of a die. Unlike traditional stamping and welding, hydroforming allows for complex shapes to be created without welding parts together, making it very popular for applications which require uniform, high-performing parts. Below is more information about hydroforming, and the advantages it has over traditional machining methods.
Hydroforming vs. Traditional Welding: Why is it Better?
Before the development of hydroforming, car manufacturers (and other manufacturers) used the traditional stamp-and-weld method, in which parts and panels are stamped out of steel sheets and then welded together. Car manufacturers used this method to create suspension pieces, engine cradles, body frames, and other important components.
Hydroforming was a welcome change for the automotive industry, because it allows for complex shapes to be created without any welds, creating a strong, lightweight component that isn’t susceptible to “falling apart at the seams,” as it were. Hydroforming is a big reason why today’s cars are safer, faster, and more reliable than earlier models. In addition, in many cases, it makes the production process faster and more efficient.
How is Hydroforming Used to Make Auto Parts?
Today’s auto industry mostly uses tube hydroforming, or the process of taking a steel tube and forming it into a desired shape. The process is as follows:
- A tube is placed into the deformation chamber, along with the negative die into which it will be pressed.
- A pressure medium (usually either water or hydraulic fluid) is forced through the tube, molding it into the shape of the die.
- Once the part is formed, it can be finished with surface treatments such as trimming, laser cutting or painting.
- Occasionally, additional welding is performed. After the component is finished, it is ready to be included in the assembly process.
What are the Pre-Hydroforming Requirements?
Before a part gets approval for fabrication and duplication, it usually passes through a few preceding stages. First, the part is planned with a computer-aided design (CAD) software program. A prototype is created and used to conduct studies, such as metallurgical tests or finite element analyses. If the test part is deemed suitable for hydroforming fabrication, computerized press controls and material handling systems are installed to manage the model run production.
Need Hydroforming Equipment in Apex NC?
If you’re in the market for new or used hydroforming equipment, or other used metal fabrication machinery, contact Active Machinery today for a free quote. Our knowledgeable team members can help you select the equipment that’s right for you.