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Faw Car Co, a Chinese manufacturer of trucks, buses and cars, has invested in a hydroforming press from AP and T in order to produce the engine cradle for a new automobile model.

As the plan to produce a new automobile model was finalised, the company decided to invest in advanced technology in order to be able to shape more complex components.

The structure that the entire engine is mounted on in the automobile – the engine cradle – can be produced in a variety of different ways, for example by welding together several pressed sheet metal components.

However, Faw opted for hydroforming since it offered a number of advantages.

Bjorn Kinnby, AP and T’s Asian market director, said: ‘With hydroforming, it is possible to transform a bent and pre-shaped tube into the engine cradle’s final shape in one operation.

‘The material experiences no spring-back and it is possible to maintain extremely tight tolerances, otherwise known as the “net shape”.

‘In addition, it is much lighter and there is considerably less scrap compared with conventional manufacturing, which means both a lower manufacturing cost and a higher quality,’ added Kinnby.

Hydroforming involves filling a tube or profile material with fluid, typically an aqueous emulsion.

With the increase of the fluid pressure, the material expands and is shaped to match the tool’s mould.

Since the fluid’s pressure works perpendicularly against the mould’s surface, it is possible to shape components with complex geometries, often in one or two operations.

Typical forming pressures are between 1,000bar and 2,000bar.

In order to minimise the thinning of the material during expansion, fluid is injected from both ends of the tube with the help of the mould’s axial cylinders.

During the hydroforming process, the mould is held together by a hydraulic press, with press forces of 30,000kN to 50,000kN (3,000tonf to 5,000tonf).

The press that AP and T delivered to Faw has a press force of 35,000kN (3,500tonf).

The ‘short-stroke’-type, energy-efficient press has a short cycle time.

According to Liu Qiang, project manager at Faw, when evaluating the available options, AP and T was the only supplier that offered a NC-based system for the control of both the hydroforming tool and the press as a joint forming process.

The following nine months consisted of close project co-operation between the parties as AP and T designed, built and tested the hydroforming press according to the time schedule.

Jack Wang, AP and T’s area sales manager in China, said: ‘The very first piece of material we shaped was close to perfect and was within the applicable tolerances.

‘The reliability of the form is one of the advantages of hydroforming and the tolerance reliability is the result of our servo hydraulics together with the NC control system,’ he added.

Faw also has a 25,000kN (2,500tonf) hydraulic press previously supplied by AP and T, which has been used for several years for the testing of conventional press tools for vehicle components.

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