Many people are not familiar with sheet metal forming. As its name implies, metal forming is a manufacturing process to transform sheet metal material into specific shapes. Its literal meanings could confuse people with metal stamping. Forming and stamping, however, involve completely different machinery and equipment for manufacture and have their respective advantages and disadvantages.
BASIC of SHEET FORMING:
Forming requires cutting sheet metal material into the same width as the desired workpiece before further processing. The material will then be placed on the pay-off reels and transferred to the straightening machine, stamping press, and forming tools to perform a series of operations including punching, bending, embossing, and flanging to finish the manufacturing process.
For sheet metal forming, both the stamping and forming operations are done on the same machine with separate workstations. The material is first punched at the stamping station and then delivered to forming station for bending and shaping. The forming module must be designed via CAD/CAM engineering technology by professional engineers. Although forming involves different processes and methods from stamping, they are operated with similar logic and concepts. As a result, a stamping die designer can receive further professional training to be competent in the design of forming tools that require a high degree of precision to ensure optimal quality.
TYPES OF FORMING MACHINES:
There are primarily two machine types: multi-slide sheet forming machines that are mostly used in Europe and Japan, and four-slide metal stamping machines that are more common in America.
For multi-slide forming machines used mostly in Europe and Japan, the maximum number of slides that can be installed is about 7 or more. Each slide can be equipped with a variety of different forming tools designed based on specific requirements to perform various bending and folding motions. An arbor designed to match the shape of the workpiece is installed at the center of these slides to serve as an inner module and to offer pivotal support for connected slides. Each slide performs bending, flanging, embossing, and other motions continuously as required by workpiece specifications in a speedy fashion when the material enters the position of the forming arbor to complete multi-slide operations. Unlike the progressive die of a stamping press that can finish a number of workpieces with each press, it takes all the multi-slide motions to complete each workpiece.
A four-slide metal stamping machine more widely seen in America, as its name suggests, is composed of four slides used in the manufacturing process. It is similar to a multi-sliding machine because each sliding plate can be equipped with different forming tools according to various requirements to complete the production.
A multi-slide forming machine operates vertically while a four-slide stamping metal stamping machine operates horizontally. The difference lies in long-lasting regional habits in Europe and Japan that prefer the former machine type, and in the USA it is the latter type.
FEATURES AND ADVANTAGES:
- With the precut material, scrap material can be reduced which helps lower the cost of more expensive metal material.
- An inspection device can be added to the forming machine for online inspection and quality control.
- External devices can be installed on the forming machine for automated online assembly.
- Allow viable operation of an automated production line.
- Lower cost in the design of forming tools than metal stamping dies.
- Higher flexibility in the modification of the forming tools.
- Suitable for the manufacture of miniature complex-forming components.
- Ideal for the manufacture of 3D components that cannot be made with a stamping press.