It is important to be well informed before making such a large investment in metal-forming equipment. I am certain that you will be able to use the information in this buyer’s guide to locate a metal-forming machine that will continue to be useful to your business in 25 years.
Precision metal stamping machines typically fall into one of three categories: mechanical presses, hydraulic presses, and bladderless hydroforming presses. For easily shaped, shallowly recessed pieces, classic mechanical presses are the most efficient method of mass manufacturing. These presses are less versatile than others because of their set stroke lengths, and they need expensive progressive dies. Some producers in consumer-facing businesses may worry about consistency in product quality and final assembly. Mechanical machines may have a lower upfront cost, but they often have higher tooling and maintenance expenses.
Mechanical presses can cycle at high rates, but hydraulic presses are more versatile and effective when working with complicated forms and geometries. Conventional hydraulic hydroforming presses employ bladders that cap the forming pressure at around 10,000 psi. As with any moving part, a malfunctioning bladder can affect the end product’s accuracy, repeatability, and even aesthetic quality by leaving marks from friction. The cheap initial cost of these machines does not account for the inevitable costs of non-conforming component waste, consumables, and post-production fixturing.
There is no hydraulic fluid or expensive, easily-ruptured bladders used in bladderless hydroforming presses, which is better for the environment. FluidForming presses can reach forming pressures of up to 60,000 psi, resulting in a level of precision and reproducibility of 99.996 percent. The greater upfront cost of a bladderless hydroforming press is balanced out by its low cost of tooling, operation, maintenance, and post-production, as well as its low material waste.
While shopping for a metal forming machine, remember to think about your current and potential clientele. The tradeoff between speed and precision is crucial. Currently, what do your customers care about most? If we fast forward 10 years, what do you think their manufacturing priority will be? In the future, what type of customers do you want to have? When throughput and volume are more critical than precision and consistency, high-speed mechanical presses make sense. However, when production methods evolve, these high-output, low-cost presses may no longer be optimal.
Bladderless hydroforming is the best option when exactness, reliability, and consistency are paramount. Six Sigma FluidForming is well suited for use in the aerospace, medical, high-end home goods, and automotive sectors. Besides these, three-dimensional shapes, complicated geometries, small radii, and integrated writing or branding are all areas where precision metal forming might make a significant impact.
Progressive dies are necessary for satisfactory accuracy in both mechanical stamping and conventional hydroforming. The total return on investment (ROI) is harmed by the need for progressive tooling because of the time and money it takes. There is the possibility of nested tooling, but using progressive dies makes the process rather expensive.
Forming pressures of up to 60,000 psi may be attained in bladderless hydroforming presses. From prototype to mass manufacturing, often just one die is needed. The prototype tool is the actual production tool. The presses may use nested tooling and can use tools that have been 3D printed. Components that are flat and shallow, such as those made from coil stock, are ideal for production using conventional mechanical presses.