Hydroforming is a manufacturing process used to mold flat metal sheets into complex shapes by applying water pressure on a hydroform press. However, many companies find that this process is expensive and inefficient due to outsourcing the manufacturing of the pressing dies used to form the metal against. This is where Stratasys 3D Printing steps in to save time and cost for companies using this method.
By replacing outsourced dies with 3D printed Fused Deposition Modeling® (FDM) pieces, companies can create a 3D CAD design, print the part in 3D, and have it in use in as little as 24 hours. Switching to FDM is a seamless transition from traditional dies, and requires little change to current practices. In fact, using the fine detailing options available with 3D CAD modeling, this method can improve the precision of the mold while still shortening the overall production pipeline.
The plastic materials used in this process can withstand the pressure requirements of a hydroform press. There are a list of approved plastics, including ABS M30, polycarbonate (PC), and ULTEM 9085. Moreover, the FDM form blocks have been successfully used on metal sheets made of aluminum alloys, stainless steels, titanium, and nickel-based super alloys on a range of thickness from about 26 gauge (.016 inch) to about 10 gauge (.1 inch). These 3D printed parts have lasted hundreds of cycles showing little to no signs of wear and no maintenance between presses.
And don't just take our word for it. In a company case study, Pryer Technology Group (PTG) is a supplier of hydroform presses. Upon evaluating an FDM replacement in comparison to traditional dies, they found that printing FDM parts in-house not only cut down the pipeline from 5 to 1 day, but the FDM part was about 1/3rd of the cost.
“We were not familiar with FDM or the thermoplastic materials that are used in the process,” said Scott Pryer, President of PTG. “But after using FDM tools in our hydro forming presses, we are quite impressed. The FDM dies were produced in hours as opposed to the days that are normally required. These tools withstood up to 10,000 psi of pressure time after time. We believe that FDM tooling is a good option when time or traditional tooling methods are not practical. Since the tool building time–frame is greatly reduced, it will make part development easier. Tool designs can be tested, modified and retested quickly and easily.” - Stratasys
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