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Press Based Tube Forming

Traditional Tube Manufacturing Processes

Traditionally, tubes are manufactured on tube mills. Tubes – constant diameter, constant wall thickness – are made in semi-continuous processes, either seamless or welded. Tubes are then cut to length (typically 20’ or so), and then further processed as required.

There are limitations with the standard tube mill process. These include:

  • High diameter-to-thickness tubes are difficult to manufacture
  • Tubes are limited to single thickness/constant diameters.
  • OD variation as part of the manufacturing process is not possible

Netform has developed an approach to tube manufacturing that has two major differences to the tube mill process:

  1. The forming of the tube is carried out using the principles of transfer die stamping
  2. The tube is seam welded after the press operation.

This approach allows for a completely different approach to tubular product manufacture.

What is Press-Based Tube Manufacturing?

NETFORM’s press-based tube forming refers to the forming of a tube from a flat blank using multiple press hits. The forming process is then followed by a laser welding operation to generate the finished tubular product.

The process begins with a flat sheet metal blank with a shape developed from the unrolled form of the finished tube. The blank is then formed into a U shape through a press-based operation. The U-shaped part is then transferred to additional tooling stations to form the finished formed tube.

This formed tube is then transferred to a laser welding machine for clamping and seam welding. Here – working with German tube forming and welding equipment builder, Weil Technology – specially-designed tube welding machines take the formed tube and carries out the required secondary operations, including clamping, welding, weld planishing, end trimming etc.

Product Features Possible with Press-Based Tube Manufacturing

This process gives product engineers much greater freedom than traditional tube manufacturing processes. These include:

The ability to incorporate internal features such as cooling devices into the tube during the forming process/prior to laser welding.
The ability to manufacture tubes from different thickness or materials, through the use of tailor-welded blanks for the preform.
The ability to close the tube tightly around cooling inserts prior to welding, improving the thermal conductivity performance of the inserts.

In summary, the press-based tube manufacturing process allows for the reduction in system cost on tubular products that require expensive secondary processes such as swaging, hydroforming and necking.

Tube Forming Concepts

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