What is Hydroforming?

A look into the process of sheet metal hydroforming with Jones Metal Products

hydroforming | July 10, 2017 |

Hydroforming is a metal forming process that can create complex and structurally strong  parts from ductile metals. This is done by exerting a highly pressurized fluid force of up to 10,000 PSI onto a piece of metal to change its shape. The process is unique in its ability to form parts to very close tolerances. Hydroforming can be an adaptable and affordable solution for many industries, ranging from aerospace and defense to healthcare and power generation.

Understanding the Hydroforming Process

What is Hydroforming? Understanding Sheet Metal Hydroforming StepsIn general, hydroforming is completed by one of two methods: sheet hydroforming or tube hydroforming. The difference in these methods stems from the shape of the metal being formed. For sheet metal hydroforming, 

  • a flat metal blank is affixed to the placeholder ring,
  • the upper part of the press is lowered and the chamber is pressurized,
  • the hydraulic die punch—which acts like a male die element—is raised
  • and the pressure molds or forms the blank to the die punch underneath it. 

This process is illustrated on our hydroforming process page. 

Tube hydroforming, by contrast, begins with a metal tube. This tube is placed into the machine and is surrounded by its die; then, the pressurized fluid moves through the tube to shape the metal tube to its die. Jones Metal Products does not offer tube hydroforming services.

Hydroforming with Jones Metal Products 

We create products using sheet hydroforming, deep draw hydroforming and fluid cell hydroforming. 

Deep Draw Hydroforming 

At JMP, all of our hydroforming presses are sheet metal forming presses. And all are capable of drawing a part up to ½ the length of the part’s diameter.  When they form to this depth, or close to it, they are forming a deep draw. Full specs and information about deep draw hydroforming can be found here

Fluid Cell Forming

Another hydroforming method offered at JMP is called fluid cell forming. The main components of fluid cell forming are the fluid cell press, the metal blank to be formed, the product’s die tool and a rubber diaphragm. The blank is placed on top of the die, and then rubber diaphragm is moved over the blank.  The fluid cell press exerts up to 11,600 PSI of pressure onto the rubber diaphragm, forming the part beneath it. Fluid cell forming is ideal for shapes up to 72” long, 6.9 “deep and 27.6” wide

Jones Metal Products was the first contract manufacturer to offer fluid cell forming in the United States, making a process once used solely by large aerospace manufacturer available to small and mid-sized manufacturers as well. 

Is Hydroforming Right for You?

Hydroforming is a process that can form parts from a diverse range of metals including aluminum, stainless steel, titanium and clad metals, brass, copper and alloys including Hastelloy®, Inconel, cobalt and nickel. 

Products with complex shapes or specifications are often perfect candidates for hydroforming because the process can create unusual angles, inverted lips or folds without compromising the stiffness of the metal. 

Another point of consideration is product finish. If a product needs to have a smooth surface with minimal scratches, hydroforming can decrease the need for down-stream processes that buff and perfect the finish. Because hydroforming uses fluid pressure, scratching and flaws can be more easily avoided. 

Additionally, hydroforming is a cost-effective process for both small and large orders. Because there is no need for a mating tool, initial costs are kept down. Only one tool is needed to create parts by hydroforming. With fluid cell forming, multiple tools can also be used at the same time, so different parts can be made simultaneously, which saves both time and money.

JMP has over five decades of experience hydroforming products. We pride ourselves in our ability to create parts of exceptional quality in both a timely and cost-effective way. Contact us today to talk with one of our hydroforming experts. 

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