It can be tempting to only take into consideration the cost of the material when trying to decide on bending tooling material. However, this is a simplistic view of the overall cost-effectiveness of tooling material.
Cost Benefits Analysis is About More than Just Material Price
The most cost-effective material for tube bending tooling isn’t the one with the lowest price for the material. To determine which material is most cost-effective you need to look at a couple of factors.
- Life span of the material- A tool made from cheap materials that breaks constantly isn’t really more cost-effective than a tool that had a higher up-front cost but a long lifespan. Determining the ratio of tool life to tool cost is key.
- Compatibility- This one is a bit harder, and might require you to consult the manufacturer of your machine, but you need to be certain that the tool material you chose is compatible with your machine and process.
- Downtime- Broken tooling often results in machine downtime. If you opt for lower quality material that results in a broken tool, will it cause machine downtime? How will that effect productivity?
At the end of the day, the goal should be a cost-effective tool that needs to be replaced when it has worn out, not broken.
Material Considerations by Process
We talked about compatibility with both your machine and process above. The various tube and pipe fabrication processes can have a big impact on tooling material suitability, so it’s worth diving a little bit deeper into this consideration.
Die Bending – Bend dies need to be able to take a shock without breaking. All three bending die types (bend, clamp, and pressure) need to be tough with hard working surfaces. This, unfortunately, means that often the best materials for die sets aren’t the cheapest. However, heat treated alloy steel is often the best solution.
Mandrel Bending – Traditionally aluminum bronze and hard-chrome-plated steel are the material choice for mandrel tooling. These materials will help ensure a long life, and wear rather than break failure, as long as the mandrel is properly placed (the nose supporting the point of the bend). If the mandrel is improperly placed, it can lead to breakage.
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