Hydroforming vs. Rubber Pad Forming

How to determine which metal forming process is best for you part

hydroforming | November 21, 2017 |

Hydroforming and rubber pad forming (RPF) are two significantly popular methods of metal forming. The two processes vary in product finish, capabilities, pricing and production rate.


Hydroforming is the process of exerting high pressure on a metal blank placed over a steel forming tool to define and form the desired shape of the  blank. A variety of metals can be formed through the process of hydroforming, including aluminum, brass, carbon and stainless steel, copper and alloys. The process accepts both thin and thick blanks. The use of high and evenly distributed pressure reduces the risk of surface scratches and wrinkles on metal parts formed. The ability to create a high-quality product with only one tool or die (not a matched set as in stamping) reduces the cost of labor and materials. The set-up is built to last for many production runs over time.

Rubber Pad Forming

Rubber pad forming is accomplished on a hydroform or other hydraulic machine.  High pressure is exerted on rubber pads which in turn exert high pressure on a metal blank, which then forms to the shape of its forming box. Unlike hydroforming, rubber pad forming is limited to the forming of thin materials, primarily aluminum and thin specialty materials. The forming tool or box is made from relatively inexpensive resin board, aluminum, or plastic. Wrinkles can result. This type of metal forming is most useful for shallow parts that need moderately simple forming.  Production for this process is slower than other metal forming processes. The set-up is not built to last for many runs over time.

Find the Right Metal Forming Process for Your Part

Ultimately, hydroforming and rubber pad forming both offer advantages, depending on  the thickness of the material, shape of the part, and cost considerations. Jones Metal Products offers both and has been perfecting our hydroforming processes for over 50 years. Our experts perform precision forming, laser cutting and finishing while working hard to advance our processes and save customers money. If you have a hydroforming project, call JMP at 888-868-6535 to talk about how you can save money and boost quality of your metal products. Ready for a quote? Send your drawing to us today.

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