What Materials Are Best To Use For Tube Bending?

In the automotive industry, precision and durability are of utmost importance when it comes to various manufacturing processes, including tube bending and bellows work. A large part of a part’s quality is due to the equipment used to manufacture it. However, the selection of materials plays an equally important and critical role in ensuring components’ performance, strength, and longevity.

In this post, we’ll cover the best materials for hydroform tube bending, CNC tube bending, and bellows work specifically tailored to the automotive industry’s needs.

Hydroform Tube Bending

Hydroform tube bending is a technique that involves bending a tube using hydraulic pressure. This method is known for its ability to create complex shapes while maintaining the structural integrity of the tube. When selecting materials for hydroform tube bending in the automotive industry, the following options are recommended:

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel offers excellent corrosion resistance, making it suitable for various automotive applications. Its high strength and ductility make it ideal for hydroform tube bending, ensuring the component’s longevity and structural integrity.


Aluminum is lightweight, has good formability, and offers exceptional thermal conductivity. These qualities make it a popular choice for automotive components, especially in applications where weight reduction is crucial, such as heat exchangers.


Although relatively expensive, titanium possesses exceptional strength-to-weight ratio, corrosion resistance, and high-temperature performance. These properties make it an excellent choice for demanding applications where strength, durability, and weight reduction are critical factors.

CNC Tube Bending

CNC tube bending is a computer-controlled process that provides precision and repeatability in bending tubes. This method is widely used in the automotive industry for manufacturing exhaust systems, brake lines, and various structural components. When selecting materials for CNC tube bending, consider the following options:

Mild Steel

Mild steel is a cost-effective and versatile material commonly used in automotive applications. It offers good strength, ductility, and weldability, making it suitable for a wide range of components. Additionally, mild steel can be easily coated or painted for improved corrosion resistance.

Chromoly Steel

Chromoly (chromium-molybdenum) steel is known for its high strength and excellent toughness. It is commonly used in performance-oriented applications where lightweight and superior mechanical properties are desired, such as suspension components and roll cages.

Bellows Tube Bending

Metal tube forming with bellows involves several steps, including tube cutting, the corrugation used to give the tube an “accordion-like” structure necessary to expand and contract, and welding. For these reasons, the best materials to use are high-strength alloys that offer good corrosion resistance and durability, including:

Stainless Steel

Like hydroform bending, stainless steel is a good material for bellows tube bending due to its high strength and ductility. It offers excellent corrosion resistance, making it suitable for automotive applications that require longevity and structural integrity.


Inconel is a nickel-chromium-based superalloy often utilized in extreme environments where components are subjected to high temperature, pressure, or mechanical loads. It is a difficult metal to shape and machine using traditional methods due to rapid work hardening, but it is ideal for bellows forming.

Intran Offers A Variety Of Tube Bending Solutions

Intran’s goal is to provide turnkey solutions for all of your tube bending needs. Established in 1969, we have over 50 years of experience and possess a variety of manufacturing capabilities. We make parts for automotive OEMs and aftermarket manufacturers and are happy to discuss what materials we use and how we can be helpful to you.

Contact us if you have additional questions about tube bending using hydroforming, CNC, or bellows methods.

September 28, 2023 Tagged: ,