The Advantages Of Hydroformed Bellows

Hydroforming is an innovative manufacturing process that might be unfamiliar to many. Hydroforming essentially presents an alternative to conventional sheet metal stamping, utilizing high-pressure hydraulic fluids to mold metals such as aluminum or steel into desired shapes. This forming method is split into two primary categories:

  • Tube Hydroforming: For shaping metal tubing.
  • Sheet Hydroforming: For shaping sheet metal.

Hydroforming excels in producing parts with complex geometries that might be challenging or impossible to achieve through traditional methods.

How A Hydroforming Press Works

Some hydroforming is done using a common piece of manufacturing machinery called a press. Press hydroforming involves a high-pressure hydraulic press and a few key steps:

  • A mold, or die, is set up in the hydroforming press.
  • A metal piece is positioned within the die.
  • High-pressure hydraulic fluid is then applied to mold the metal into the shape dictated by the die.

In essence, a hydroforming press shapes metal through the application of high-pressure hydraulic fluids to achieve the desired form. Here at Intran we don’t utilize a hydroforming press, but you can check out the video below to see the process of creating hydroformed aluminum in action 

Sheet vs Tube Hydroforming

Sheet hydroforming is another process that is commonly used in the automotive sector. Sheet hydroforming is an efficient production process for creating various hydroformed aluminum auto components, including exterior body parts, mufflers and even door frames. While not a method we use here at Intran, it’s a widely utilized technique in industries ranging from automotive to aerospace. 

The sheet metal hydroforming process employs a die combined with high-pressure hydraulic fluid to press a flat piece of sheet metal into the die. This process molds the sheet metal to precise dimensions. Some of the most common metals used in sheet hydroforming are:

  • Aluminum
  • Stainless steel
  • Copper
  • Steel
  • Brass

Tube hydroforming is exactly as is sounds. It involves expanding tubes into specific shapes using water or hydraulic fluid within a mold. The process begins by inserting a metal tube into the hydroforming machine. A negative mold (die) with the desired shape is set inside the machine. The machine then pumps hydraulic fluid into the tube at pressures of approximately 15,000 to 30,000 psi. This creates enough force to expand the tube to fit the die and achieve the intended shape.

This method is particularly useful in the automotive industry for creating structural components and is also employed in the creation of high-end bicycle frames, among other applications. Tube hydroforming is one of our specialties at Intran, you can read more about our process here or explore the details below.

The Importance Of Bellows In Tube Hydroforming

At Intran, we specialize in not just tube hydroforming, we also focus on hydroforming services for tubes with bellows, particularly focusing on automotive parts. In the automotive realm, metal hydroformed bellows are integral to systems like exhaust pipes and heat exchangers. They help to manage thermal and pressure-induced expansion without compromising the system’s integrity.

Hydroformed bellows are flexible tube segments designed to resemble an accordion that allow the tube to expand or flex under different conditions. These high-tech components find applications in machinery, medical devices, and industrial settings, extending beyond their traditional use. The creation of hydroformed bellows involves applying hydraulic pressure to a metal tube against a mold, shaping it into the desired accordion-like structure.

We hydroform bellows that can be categorized into two types:

  1. Molded: Molded bellows are created when a tube is shaped with a deep drawing technique. There are a variety of processes to choose from. The most popular processes include roll forming, rolling, expanding mandrel forming, elastomer forming, and hydroforming. Molded bellows have more structural integrity than welded bellows.
  2. Welded: Welded bellows are called edge-welded membrane bellows. These can be produced by welding a number of membrane shapes together.

Advantages of Hydroforming

Hydroforming is a cost-efficient production method due to its speed, automation, reduced waste, and minimal need for tooling and welding. It’s a highly economical option for manufacturing complex parts. Hydroforming offers numerous benefits, including:

  • Strength: Seamless construction results in stronger parts.
  • Precision: Hydroforming allows for the creation of complex shapes with exact dimensions.
  • Efficiency: The automated process reduces human error and material waste, leading to a more sustainable manufacturing approach.
  • Lightweight: Enables the production of sturdy yet lightweight components.

Additionally, if bellows are needed, hydroforming is one of the best methods to use when you want to create bellows in your tubes. Hydroforming doesn’t create any seams or vulnerable areas thus maintaining the structural integrity of the bellows. However, hydroforming tubes with bellows is a process that requires a lot of experience and expertise. The manufacturer has to create a finished product that’s both:

  • Strong enough to withstand the internal pressure and thermal movements
  • Responsive enough to flex and expand

Choosing the right bellows design involves considering their thickness and layering based on the specific application demands. While single-layer bellows might suffice for low-pressure environments, multi-layer or convoluted bellows are preferable for systems experiencing significant vibrations or requiring extended life cycles. At Intran we are bellows hydroforming pros – we have the knowledge to help you through the selection and design process.

If you want high quality hydroformed tubes with bellows, do your due diligence. A manufacturer that makes quality hydroformed bellows delivers much more value than one that doesn’t. Hydroformed bellows play a crucial role in various automotive components, facilitating the management of pressure, vibration, and thermal expansion in tubing systems. You’ll get high quality hydroformed bellows with us.

Bellows Hydroforming Services From Intran

At Intran we understand the advantages of using advanced hydroforming technology to manufacture a wide array of parts, no matter the complexity. We invite you to contact us to explore our hydroforming capabilities. If you have specific inquiries not covered here, feel free to reach out to us for further clarification.

May 23, 2024 Tagged: ,