Interlaken has been providing precision hydroforming solutions for over 30 years.
Interlaken’s Hydroforming Machines and Warm Forming Machines are for use in production or process development applications. A Hydroforming Machine is a computer controlled hydraulic press with data acquisition that uses a high-pressure liquid to hydroform materials. A Warm Forming Machine uses heated dies and gas to form aluminum and magnesium at elevated temperatures to 350ºC. Higher temperature solutions are available.
Interlaken’s Hydroforming Press and Warm Forming Press were designed to embrace both tube hydroforming and bladder hydroforming (hydro forming) applications. This process is very repeatable with hydroforming equipment. Many manufacturers use hydroforming equipment for producing parts that require very tight tolerances.
The Critical 6 Questions to ask when searching for a hydroforming company
A hydroforming press is a significant investment for any size company. The problem is many companies have not previously purchased a hydroforming system and do not know what to look for or the right questions to ask. There are a lot of companies that would be happy to sell you a hydraulic press with a pressure intensifier and call it a hydroforming system. Just because a particular company may sell hydroforming equipment does not mean they know how to make it work.
Before you submit your confidential drawings and specifications for a system quotation, review and address these simple set of questions to ensure that you get precisely what you want in a hydroforming company without losing your investment.
1. Do you sell hydroforming systems or do you just sell equipment that can be used for hydroforming?
The difference here is not in the wording, it is in the company’s knowledge base. A good company that sells hydroforming systems is knowledgeable in all aspects of hydroforming and what it takes to make the system perform to each customer’s particular requirements.
2. Do you have in-house FEA hydroforming analysis expertise?
Any qualified vendor will have in-house expertise in this area. This is such a critical element in specifying and designing a quality system that not having this capability would make one wonder about the level commitment the vendor has to hydroforming. The FEA is used for two things, part feasibility and system sizing. All of the critical components of the hydroforming system are sized based on analysis, the clamp tonnage, the intensifier pressure and volume and feed cylinder stroke and force. A misstep here could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars if the press is sized incorrectly. This analysis capability also allows the system supplier to determine whether a particular part is feasible for the hydroforming process and provides the basis for discussions between the hydroforming system manufacturer and the user regarding possible changes to improve the part characteristics for “hydroformability”.
3. Do you have experience making my part with this material?
A company that has experience with your industry and your part in particular is invaluable. This will give them a unique insight into your special needs and the know how to provide you with a system that is customized for your application. A thorough understanding of the material properties and how they change during hydroforming is absolutely critical.
4. Is the hydroforming servo controlled?
Servo control allows positions to be held within 0.001” and forces to 50 lbs. On small, dimensionally sensitive parts this tight control over force and position is critical. It also makes for a very repeatable process and thus consistent part quality.
5. Do you have an in-house die design staff?
You are going to need tooling designed for the part. What should the tool be made of? How will it integrate with the press? Is it designed for easy removal from the press? A basic die for forming a simple tube consists of four parts; upper and lower die cavities and left and right plungers. The plungers are for plugging the ends of the tube to maintain pressure and if necessary to feed the tube during forming. How do you design this plunger? How does it seal the part? How does it feed the part? The plunger is also the portal for the forming fluid. How is it integrated? Will the design ensure the tube won’t leak? Does the design change if I need to feed my part? This discussion will quickly flush out the pretenders.
6. Is on-line trouble shooting provided as part of the support package?
This is particularly critical for production applications. A good PC based control system with remote capabilities will allow for virtually instant support and assistance with process development and on-line training of new operators. It will allow the supplier to “see” the system on-line and to solve problems quickly. It will reduce the number of field service calls. And if a service call is required it will help the service engineer identify the problem before he leaves the factory.