Hydroforming services use fluid pressure and a die to shape ferrous and nonferrous tubular materials. They differ in terms of material capabilities, manufacturing capabilities, support and production services, geographic locations, applications, and certifications and quality requirements. Most hydroforming services work with metal sheets and tubes made of aluminum and aluminum alloys; copper, brass, and bronze alloys; carbon steel, mild steel, and general-purpose steel alloys; nickel and nickel alloys; commercially-pure titanium (CP), and proprietary materials. Aluminum hydroforming services produce lightweight parts with good elongation properties for aerospace and automotive applications. Sheet hydroforming services also fabricate parts from metal sheets, but do not require female die fabrications. Tube hydroforming services and pipe hydroforming services perform various tube bending and pipe bending operations. Tubes are formed by joining the ends of a sheet. According to some estimates, an aluminum alloy sheet can be elongated by 10% to 30% during the hydroforming process.
Hydroforming services can perform secondary manufacturing operations such as annealing and heating treating, buffing and polishing, end forming and end flattening, plating and coating, painting and powder coating, slotting and notching, piercing and punching, and welding and brazing. Companies with cut-to-length capabilities can cut roll-formed materials to customer-specified lengths. Hydroforming services with swaging capabilities form tubes through a rapid series of hammer blows. Swaging is used to point, size, reduce, shape, taper, bond or form metal parts through various hot or cold processes. Hydroforming services that can produce telescoping tubes with a spring-locking pin or other locking mechanism are also available. There are two types of punching operations: dimple and mandrel. In dimple-hole punching, a dimple is created in the tube. In mandrel punching, the use of a mandrel prevents changes to the tube’s diameter and geometry.
Hydroforming services provide support or production services such as computer-aided design (CAD), computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), assembly assistance, rapid prototyping, low-volume production, high-volume production, just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing, packaging and shipping. Companies that provide design assistance can help with concepts, manufacturing costs, manufacturing techniques and material considerations. Hydroforming services with JIT capabilities can reduce the need for inventory maintenance. Low volume production runs usually take less than a week. High volume production runs take a week or more.
Hydroforming services differ in terms of certifications and quality requirements. ISO 9001:2000 establishes requirements for company quality management systems and covers standards ranging from manufacturing to services such as design, development, production, and installation. AS9000 is a set of quality guidelines and requirements published by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) in cooperation with major aerospace manufacturers. AS9000 is based on ISO 9001 but maintains a particular focus on the aerospace industry. QS-9000 is a quality standard for suppliers of DaimlerChrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors Corporation. ISO/TS 16949:2002 is an automotive standard that supersedes QS 9000 and includes the process approach in ISO 9001:2000. Hydroforming services that meet U.S. military requirements (MIL-SPEC) are also available.