Unison tube bender makes light work of SST’s life-saving Halo system and other titanium structures
Investing in a Unison Breeze all-electric CNC tube bending machine has not only assisted Oxfordshire-based SST Technology in becoming the only British-based precision fabricator authorised to produce the life-saving Halo titanium driver protection system, as used in Formula 1, it has also equipped the business to complete numerous complex structural projects involving titanium tube including roll-cage structures for military vehicles and aerospace components.
The machine, a Unison Breeze 130 mm ‘large diameter’ multi-stack tube bender, was purchased to help SST produce high-performance optimal-flow exhaust systems for Formula 1, IndyCar and other motorsport sectors. With a pedigree in motorsport components and a powerful new tube bending machine to hand, however, SST’s thoughts quickly turned to driver safety. The exceptionally tight material control, production parameters and dimensional tolerances provided by the all-electric Unison Breeze tube bender, combined with SST’s considerable experience in the development and manufacture of ultra-precise fabrications, led to the company’s Halo design securing FIA conformity for use in Formula 1, Formula 2 and Formula E motorsport and being adopted by several race teams. SST’s Halo design requires the precise bending of titanium tube of 4 mm wall thickness.
Notoriously difficult to bend
Titanium, however, is notoriously difficult to bend. With low uniform elongation typically requiring a much greater bend radii than other metals, titanium does not readily lend itself to being formed; a characteristic that makes creating tubular structures for aerospace and motorsport applications particularly challenging. For successful tube forming, the material must be compressed on the inside of the bend and stretched on the outside, while wall thinning and ovality of the tube have to be kept to very tight tolerances. Traditionally, ‘hot bending’, a process involving the use of super-heated tooling, has been used to overcome the challenges of bending titanium. However, the very process of hot bending presents a number of issues. For example, the use of super-heated tooling requires considerable care and can present a hazard to operators; complex modifications must be made to bending machinery, and tooling heat-up times are lengthy. By contrast, Unison’s infinitely controllable and robust all-electric machines enable the safe, precise cold bending of titanium. With advice and application support from the technical team at Unison Ltd, SST were therefore able to develop a cold-bending process for their Halo design that allowed for the low elongation of the metal and delivered precise results.
“To successfully cold-bend titanium, factors such as material quality, tooling configuration, machine design and flexibility of control need to be considered,” comments Unison key account manager, Steve Haddrell. “This is because any variation in material quality, any lack of rigidity in the mechanics of the bending machine and any failure to achieve repeatability time after time will invariably lead to failure. With exceptional power, optimal rigidity, precise mechanical motion and all-electric control for accurate, effortless repeatability, we knew the 130 mm Breeze was the ideal machine for precision-bending SST’s Halo design. With material quality assured, it really came down to working with SST to establish the correct tooling configuration and programming of the Unison Unibend machine operating system.”
Delivering significant benefits
“Investing in the 130 mm Unison Breeze machine has clearly paid dividends,” says SST Technology’s group business development director, Daniel Chilcott. “Tool changes are rapid, programming is incredibly user friendly, while the automatic setup ensures uncompromising levels of accuracy and repeatability. Sufficiently impressed with the capabilities of our 130 mm machine, we have also purchased a smaller 65 mm Breeze model for the production of more intricate pipework and parts for aerospace and gas turbine applications. Combining this capability with our AS9100REVD accreditation means we are perfectly set up to support leading aerospace propulsion, fluid and air system OEMs.”
Intelligent tube manipulation
The Unison Breeze 130 mm tube bender purchased by SST is well suited to manipulating exotic alloys such as titanium and Inconel, as well as Super-Duplex stainless steels and provides high-quality thin wall bending. Multi-stack tooling allows the most complex of parts to be formed in one uninterrupted manufacturing cycle, while Unison’s bar code scanning system ensures that only the correct tooling is installed. The standard-fit rise and fall pressure die can result in significant savings in tooling costs and allows tools of very different radii to be used on a part within a cycle. The tube bender can be programmed manually or from CAD data using industry-standard IGES or STEP files.
“At Unison, we are often invited to advise customers on particularly challenging tube bending projects,” concludes Steve Haddrell. “That’s partly because of the immense capabilities offered by our tube bending machines. Assisting SST on establishing the optimal tooling configuration of their Unison Breeze machine for the production of the life-saving Halo device, however, is one of the most rewarding projects we have been involved in.”
Fourth Unison bending machine for leading aircraft component manufacturer
Leading aircraft component manufacturer, Globe Engineering, has installed a fourth Unison all-electric CNC tube bending machine at its facility in Wichita, Kansas.
Commissioned earlier this year, the new machine has joined Globe’s existing Unison all-electric tube benders at the Wichita site and will help to increase manufacturing capability significantly. With overlapping capacities, the Unison tube bending machines at Globe can bend tubes from 1.25”, 31.75 mm, to 6.00’’, 152.4 mm, in diameter, all with the highest levels of repeatability and accuracy.
In addition to supporting Globe’s ongoing requirements for bending high quality aircraft tubing, the new all-electric CNC tube bender from Unison will be used to bend a range of aluminium, stainless steel and titanium tubes measuring up to 1.25”, 31.75 mm, in diameter. Before investing in this latest machine from UK-based Unison, Globe had just one tube bending machine that was capable of bending stainless and titanium tubes from 5/8” to 1.00” diameter.
Bend shop supervisor Shaun Knuth says: “We are not just creating new capability by buying a new Unison tube bending machine, we’re creating capacity and a safety net, in case we have a breakdown.”
Describing some of the key advantages that Unison all-electric tube benders have over hydraulic tube benders, Shaun Knuth adds: “They’re more efficient because they use less energy. In fact, they only use energy while they are in motion. By comparison, the hydraulic benders use electricity all the time they are running, with their energy usage increasing during cycle time. Electric machines are much quieter too. Our Unison all-electric tube benders also offer greater repeatability. You simply select the exact pressure you need; if you want 1,272 psi of pressure, you just type that in, and the machine creates exactly the same pressure every time.”
Shaun Knuth also praises the fact that Unison all-electric tube benders can be operated more slowly when hot-bending titanium, all the way down to a creep, a process that removes the risk of overheating and minimises scrap. He also points out that there’s no need for titanium tubes to be lubricated with expensive, messy grease before hot bending when using all-electric machines.
Steve Haddrell, key account manager at Unison, adds that Globe Engineering’s latest order is particularly rewarding for several reasons: “Repeat orders are always great news because they carry a clear customer endorsement. Globe Engineering relies heavily on its tube bending machines and is familiar with the benefits of Unison’s all-electric technology, including fully automated machine setup, ease-of-use, very high bend accuracy and excellent repeatability.
“In this case, the company decided that these attributes, combined with the build quality and reliability of Unison machines, significantly outweighed any short term economic advantage of low cost tube benders. Increasingly, our customers regard Unison as a solutions partner, with our machines forming part of their long-term business strategy.”
Unison Ltd and Pneuform Machines Ltd announce joint venture
Joint venture will strengthen portfolio, build scale and accelerate growth
Unison Ltd, which manufactures tube bending machines and simulation software, announces that it has entered a joint venture with Pneuform Machines Ltd leading to full integration within the Unison family of companies joining Yorkshire CNC and Ingenium Integration.
The joint venture will strengthen Unison’s portfolio adding a range of small diameter tube and wire bending machines.
“Unison Ltd is excited about our joint business venture with wire and tube bending specialists Pneuform, who have been firmly established in the tube bending industry for over 50 years. The partnership will see new product lines added to our product portfolio which already houses the world’s largest range of all electric tube bending machinery and sits a alongside our Evbend range of machines. Pneuform are the perfect fit for Unison, adding a wealth of experience and engineering expertise, given their deep-rooted history. The Pneuform product range fits perfectly into the Unison tube bending range due to their commitment to robust and reliable machinery, delivering high-performance at a cost-effective price. Unison Ltd is committed to delivering the same high level of service and industry expertise Pneuform’s clients have grown to expect over the past 50+ years. Together, we can be much stronger and add considerable value to the tube bending sector/all market sectors we operate in,” says Alan Pickering, joint managing director at Unison Ltd.
“Pneuform are excited that the joint venture will enhance the marketing and the technical development of the range of machines it produces,” says Trevor Clark, managing director of Pneuform Machines Ltd. “The Pneuform range will be supported jointly by Unison and Pneuform. The joint venture will secure future ongoing support for existing customers and provide confidence that the bending machines will continue to be developed, supported and marketed into the long-term future”.
For more than forty years, Unison Ltd has been manufacturing tube bending machines working with our customers to design and build some of the most cutting-edge tube bending technology available on the global marketplace today. We push technical boundaries whether this is in the manufacture of the world’s largest all-electric tube bending machine, or an integrated software solution has rewarded us with a global reputation for solving the most challenging customer problems.
Pneuform was founded in the mid-1960s, concentrating its efforts on the design, development and manufacture of pneumatic and hydraulic tube and wire bending machines. Pneuform produce wire bending machines in both 2- and 3-axis models that cover a range of wires from 2 mm (0.08″) to 16 mm (0.63”). Pneuform also produces a range of tube machines that have been developed for specific industries. The 2-axis bending machine will produce serpentines, coils and spirals with either a static flat table for smaller parts or with an integrated 3-axis table to support large parts. The 3-axis bending machine provides the versatility to produce a variety of shapes.