It can be tempting to only take into consideration the cost of the material when trying to decide on a bending tooling material. However, this is a simplistic view of the overall cost-effectiveness of tooling material.

tooling_dies-1.jpgCost 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 material price. To determine which material is most cost-effective, you must look at several factors.

  1. The life span of the material- A tool made from cheap materials that breaks constantly isn’t more cost-effective than a tool with a higher up-front cost but a long lifespan. Determining the ratio of tool life to tool cost is key.
  2. Compatibility- This one is a bit harder and might require you to consult your machine's manufacturer. Still, you must be certain that your chosen tool material is compatible with your machine and process.
  3. 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 affect productivity?

At the end of the day, the goal should be a cost-effective tool that needs to be replaced when worn out, not broken.

Material Considerations by Process

We talked about compatibility with both your machine and the process above. The various tube and pipe fabrication processes can greatly impact 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 die types (bend, clamp, and pressure) must 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 choices 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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