Hydroforming is a new and unique process for metal fabricating and forming. What it does is it allows for the shaping of different metals such a stainless steel, regular steel, copper, brass, and aluminum into lightweight yet very stiff and strong pieces. Hydroforming metals is classified into two main groups: sheet hydroforming and tube hydroforming. Both processes are desirable to companies that manufacture different metals because the overall process is more cost effective that other methods.
Sheet hydroforming was originally used to help manufacture kitchen spouts because the end result of this type of hydroforming was a strong metal that was also not very grainy. This allowed for the spouts to be finished into a nice shiny metal. This classification of hydroforming uses one die and a sheet of metal and is pushed into the die by the force of high pressure water that is applied to one side of the sheet. One the other side of the sheet is the mold and as the sheet is pressured against it the metal begins to form the shape that is desired.
Tube hydroforming uses two die halves and can use high pressure or low pressure water. When high pressure is used, the mold or tube is completely enclosed in a die before the pressurization of the tube begins. Whether high or low pressure is used, the end result is the same. Tube hydroforming was initially used in order to provide large sized T shaped joints for parts in the oil and gas industry. But now this type of metal product is primarily used in the auto industry and the bicycle industry. This type of metal is very popular in the auto industry because it allows for complex shapes to be created that are also stronger, lighter and more rigid that older parts. It also allows for very large “unibody” seamless pieces to be created
The benefits of hydroforming are many. In addition to being more cost effective to produce metals, it is more efficient at creating replacement parts. It also eliminates the need to weld together two halves of a pipe and effectively eliminates the need to weld together parts at all, making it possible to create a wide range of shapes and objects that are seamless. These seamless metals are also stronger since they no longer have the potential to crack or erode at the seam where they were connected. When you compare hydroforming to regular metal stamping and welding, the parts that are created through hydroforming are more lightweight and have a much higher stiffness to weight ratio.
The process of hydroforming is fairly straightforward: If the metal shape desired is something other than a straight line, then the sheet or tube is placed in the hydroforming press. The press will then cause the water inside the tube to pressurize until the metal begins to move and shape itself into the die cast until it has filled out the entire die. Once the hydroforming is complete then the part is taken through a wash that takes off any rough edges and prepares it for laser cutting.