The tube hydroforming process has been used in industry for several years to produce components such as exhaust manifolds. Recent advances in forming machines and machine control systems have allowed for the introduction and the implementation of the process to produce several automotive components, which were originally produced by the stamping process. Components such as side rails, engine cradles, space frames, and several others can be economically produced by tube hydroforming. The process involves forming a straight or a pre-bent tube into a die cavity using internal hydraulic pressure, which may be coupled with controlled axial feeding of the tube. One of the remaining challenges facing product and process engineers in designing hydroformed parts is the lack of an extensive knowledge base of the process. This includes a full understanding of the process mechanics and the effects of the material properties on the quality of the hydroformed product.

This paper reports on the results of two dimensional plane strain finite element models of the tube hydroforming process, which were conducted using the commercial finite element code ABAQUS/Standard. The objective of the study is to examine the effects of material properties, die geometry, and frictional characteristics on the selection of the hydroforming process parameters. The paper discusses the effects of the strain-hardening exponent, friction coefficient at the die-workpiece interface, initial tube wall thickness, and die corner radii on the thickness distribution of the hydroformed tube.

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