Banner
Stamping/Presses

Good form

By Lynn Stanley

Above: Single or dual sleds can move sheet metal in and out of FluidForming’s FormBalancer, allowing one part to be removed while another is forming, increasing production speed.

Pure physics provides manufacturers with a faster, cheaper, smarter way to shape metal

March 2020 - Magic is the art of illusion, aided by sleight of hand, deceptive devices and misdirection.

When it comes to fluid-formed parts, industrial users might have trouble believing what they see, but Paul Benny, CEO of FluidForming Americas, says, “There are no magic powders or mirrors. It is pure and simple physics that results in a highly repeatable, very accurate, cost-effective part.”

Founded in Hartsville, Tennessee, in 2014 as a German company’s North American subsidiary, FluidForming’s customers include Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Whirlpool Corp. Other end users run the gamut from aerospace, agricultural machinery and alternative energy to automotive and medical equipment.

FFJ 0320 stamping image1

FormBalancers are job shop ready and easy to install.

Like hydroforming, fluidforming is a way of deforming ductile and malleable metal sheets and tubes into lightweight, durable parts. But that’s where the similarities end. Instead of hydraulic oil, FluidForming’s FormBalancer uses tap water that has the capacity to shape metal at pressures of up to 4,000 bar/60,000 psi. The bladder-less, friction-less forming method is able to limit springback and material thinning, eliminates the need for consumables and can accommodate pre-painted, pre-polished and pre-patterned materials without degradation to a part’s surface.

Fluidforming is the reinvention of hydroforming, Benny says. “Legacy technologies have limitations and die stamping is not a controlled process. If you need an accurate, repeatable part that is pristine,” he says, “physics renders these conventional methods incapable of that. Our physics is different. We aren’t limited.”

FFJ 0320 stamping image2

Fluidforming is a bladder-free process that uses water as the force to form.

Minimizing risk

FluidForming Americas uses simulation and finite element analysis (FEA) to optimize part design and help customers determine material selection, thickness, formability and other variables. “This approach gives the customer a high degree of certainty about what the part will look like and minimizes their investment risk,” Benny says.

A single die (male or female) is then built and used for both prototyping and production. A nested tooling system means smaller dies with a range of properties can be used.

A recent aerospace contract called for material thinning to be held at 17 percent. “We asked them how they had been doing the job up to this point and they told us they had never been able to control material thinning at 17 percent,” he says. “Our analysis confirmed a material thinning control rate of 12 percent. They didn’t believe us. We ran some prototypes and it turns out we were wrong: Material thinning was controlled at 11 percent, far exceeding the goal of the specification.”

FFJ 0320 stamping image3

FluidForming can accommodate branding, logos, undercuts, and other complex shapes.

The ability to eliminate secondary operations can save manufacturers money. FluidForming Americas was asked to take on a project for a heat exchanger that required fitup and post-production processing with conventional forming methods.

“With our process, you won’t see tool marks or brush surface degradation,” says Benny. “Since going to market with a new heat exchanger produced with fluidforming, our customer has saved 30 percent in costs and significantly improved efficiency and performance. The part requires no polishing or welding. After looking at the prototype part’s fit and finish, the customer said they would not have believed the results they got were possible.”

Once customers begin to understand the changes in physics, “it allows them to leapfrog their competition because they can see how to optimize their processes and products cost effectively,” he continues.

FFJ 0320 stamping image4

Nested tooling capabilities reduce costs and material waste.

Four-in-one

In 2018, FluidForming introduced FormBalancer 25 for microchannel fuel cell manufacturing. Methods like die casting or bladder-based hydroforming were unable to control repeatability and accuracy. “We optimized the part without the customer being forced to over design it,” Benny says.  Microchannels—which have a hydraulic diameter under 1 mm—are used in fluid control and heat transfer applications because they offer low energy consumption heat transfer storage. Applications include heating and cooling equipment, consumer appliances, fuel cells, and automotive and aerospace components.

Able to form parts at 2500 bar/36,000 psi, the FB25 automates roll feed and die trimming and accommodates tight radii requirements of 0.2 mm with forming depths of 0.8 mm. FluidForming is able to use the FB25 to mass produce microchannel fuel cells. “We’re helping to commercialize fuel cell technology and make it more affordable,” notes Benny.

The company also introduced a 4-in-1 FormBalancer in 2019. The machine can form sheet metal and offer tube forming at pressures up to 60,000 psi. It can also convert to a bladder-based hydroformer with available force up to 14,000 psi or become a 2,500-ton hydraulic press. FormBalancers can accommodate 3D-printed, metal sintered, steel, aluminum and composite tools.

FFJ 0320 stamping image5

Fluidforming is compatible with prefinished, polished, patterned and etched materials.

“We’re the first company to offer sheet, tube, bladder and hydraulic forming all in the same machine,” notes Benny. “Operators can transition between these functions within minutes.”

The machine has a compact footprint and works with additive manufacturing functions.”

The system allows fabricators to transition from CAD to 3D-printed tooling, which makes it possible to go from design to production in days rather than weeks or months, he says.

“At the end of the day, we have a proven technology that affords customers a way to do things better, faster, smarter and cheaper,” Benny pledges. “That’s our hallmark.” FFJ

Sources

Banner

Company Profiles

AIR FILTRATION

IRONWORKERS

NESTING SOFTWARE

SERVICE CENTERS

Camfil APC - Equipment Trilogy Machinery Inc. Metamation Inc. Admiral Steel
Camfil APC - Replacement Filters

LASER TECHNOLOGY

PLASMA TECHNOLOGY

Alliance Steel
Donaldson Company Inc. AMADA AMERICA, INC. Messer Cutting Systems Inc.

SOFTWARE

BENDING/FOLDING

Mazak Optonics Corp.

PLATE

Enmark Systems Inc.
MetalForming Inc. MC Machinery Systems Inc. Peddinghaus Lantek Systems Inc.
RAS Systems LLC Murata Machinery, USA, Inc.

PLATE & ANGLE ROLLS

SecturaSOFT

BEVELING

TRUMPF Inc. Davi Inc. SigmaTEK Systems LLC
Steelmax Tools LLC

LINEAR POSITION SENSORS

Trilogy Machinery Inc. Striker Systems

COIL PROCESSING

MTS Sensors

PRESS BRAKE TOOLING

STAMPING/PRESSES

Bradbury Group

MATERIAL HANDLING

Mate Precision Tooling AIDA-America Corp.
Burghardt + Schmidt Group EMH Crane Rolleri USA Nidec Press & Automation
Butech Bliss Fehr Warehouse Solutions Inc.

PRESS BRAKES

STEEL

Red Bud Industries UFP Industrial AMADA AMERICA, INC. Alliance Steel
Tishken

MEASUREMENT & QUALITY CONTROL

Automec Inc.

TUBE & PIPE

CONVEYOR SYSTEMS

Advanced Gauging Technologies MC Machinery Systems Inc. BLM Group
Mayfran International

METAL FABRICATION MACHINERY

SafanDarley HGG Profiling Equipment Inc.

DEBURRING/FINISHING

Cincinnati Inc.

PUNCHING

Prudential Stainless & Alloys
ATI Industrial Automation LVD Strippit Hougen Manufacturing

WATERJET

Lissmac Corp. Scotchman Industries Inc.

SAWING

Barton International
Osborn Trilogy Machinery Inc. Behringer Saws Inc. Jet Edge Waterjet Systems
SuperMax Tools

METAL FORMING

Cosen Saws Omax Corp.
Timesavers FAGOR Arrasate USA Inc. DoALL Sawing

WELDING

HYDRAULIC PRESSES

MetalForming Inc. HE&M Saw American Weldquip
Beckwood Press Co.

MICROFINISHING TOOLS

Savage Saws Strong Hand Tools
Triform Titan Tool Supply Inc.

 

T. J. Snow Company

TPMG2022 Brands


BPA_WW_MASTER.jpg