Automotive Industry Experiments With Hydroforming

Compiled By Deborah Austin A process called hydroforming is revolutionizing production for automotive OEMs and parts suppliers, says business research/management consulting firm Kline & Co., Little Falls, N.J. The technology also presents new metalworking fluids challenges: Hydroforming lubricants look more like coolants than conventional drawing and stamping fluids, and high- and low-pressure processes require differing lubricants. The metals industry has used hydroforming for several decades. The variation transforming the automotive industry -- tubular hydroforming -- involves bending a steel tube to conform to the near-end shape and forcing pressure media such as a water/oil mix through the tube so the tube conforms to the shape of a die. Hydroformed parts can be stronger and more lightweight than stamped or welded parts, says Kline. Some utilization examples include: The redesigned 2002 Dodge Ram uses hydroformed frame parts to reduce chassis vibration, and German automaker Opel is producing hydroformed engine cradles.

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