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Tube Bender Makes Light Workof Formula 1 Halo Design
Unison Ltd’s multi-stack tube bending machine assists SST Technology with the precisefabrication of its Halo safety design for Forumla 1, as well as other titanium structures.
Investing in a Unison Breeze all-electric CNC tube bend- ing machine has assisted Oxfordshire-based SST Tech- nology in becoming the only British-based precisionfabricator authorized to produce the life-saving Halo titanium driver protection system, as used in Formula 1. It has alsoallowed the business to complete numerous complex structural projects involving titanium tubes—including roll-cagestructures for military vehicles and aerospace components.
;e machine, a Unison Breeze 130 mm, ‘large diameter’, multi-stack tube bender, was purchased to help SSTproduce high-performance, optimal-;ow exhaust systemsfor Formula 1, IndyCar, and other motorsport sectors. Witha pedigree in motorsport components and a powerful newtube bending machine at hand, SST’s thoughts quickly turnedto driver safety. ;e exceptionally tight material control, production parameters, and dimensional tolerances providedby the Unison Breeze tube bender, combined with SST’s considerable experience in the development and manufacture ofultra-precise fabrications, led to the company’s Halo designsecuring FIA conformity for use in Formula 1, Formula 2, andFormula E motorsport, as well as being adopted by several raceteams. SST’s Halo design requires the precise bending of 4-mmthick titanium tubes.
Notoriously Di;cult to Bend
Titanium, however, is notoriously di;cult to bend. With
low uniform elongation typically requiring much greater
bend radii than other metals, titanium doesn’t 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 bend-
ing titanium. However, the very process of hot bending pres-
ents a number of issues. For example, the use of super-heated
tooling requires considerable care and can present a hazard
to operators; complex modi;cations must be made to bending
machinery, and tooling heat-up times are lengthy. By contrast,
Unison’s in;nitely 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 was able to develop a cold-bending process for its Halo de-
sign that allowed for the low elongation of the metal and deliv-
ered precise results.
“To successfully cold-bend titanium, factors such as material quality, tooling con;guration, machine design, and;exibility of control need to be considered,” commentsUnison Key Account Manager, Steve Haddrell. “;is isbecause any variation in material quality, any lack of rigidity in the mechanics of the bending machine, and anyfailure to achieve repeatability time a;er time will invariably lead to failure. With exceptional power, optimal rigidity, precise mechanical motion, and all-electric controlfor accurate, e;ortless repeatability, we knew the 130-mmBreeze was the ideal machine for precision-bending SST’sHalo design. With material quality assured, it really camedown to working with SST to establish the correct toolingcon;guration and programming of the Unison Unibendmachine operating system.”
Delivering Significant Benefits
“Investing in the Unison Breeze machine has clearly paiddividends,” says SST Technology’s Group Business Development Director, Daniel Chilcott. “Tool changes are rapid,programming is incredibly user friendly, while the automaticsetup ensures uncompromising levels of accuracy and repeatability. Su;ciently impressed with the capabilities of the machine, we have also purchased a smaller 65-mm Breeze modelfor the production of more intricate pipework and parts foraerospace and gas turbine applications. Combining this capability with our AS9100REVD accreditation means we areperfectly set up to support leading aerospace propulsion,;uid, and air system OEMs.”
Intelligent Tube Manipulation
;e Unison Breeze tube bender is well suited to manipulating exotic alloys such as titanium and Inconel, as well asSuper-Duplex stainless steels, and provides high-quality thinwall bending. Multi-stack tooling allows the most complexof parts to be formed in one uninterrupted manufacturingcycle, while Unison’s bar code scanning system ensures thatonly the correct tooling is installed. ;e standard-;t rise andfall pressure die can result in signi;cant savings in toolingcosts and allows tools of very di;erent radii to be used ona part within a cycle. ;e tube bender can be programmedmanually or from CAD data using industry-standard IGESor STEP ;les.
“At Unison, we are o;en invited to advise customers onparticularly challenging tube bending projects,” concludesSteve Haddrell. “;at’s partly because of the immense capabilities o;ered by our tube bending machines. Assisting SSTon establishing the optimal tooling con;guration of theirUnison Breeze machine for the production of the life-savingHalo device, however, is one of the most rewarding projectswe have been involved in.”
The halo is a driver crash-protection system used in open-wheel racing series, whichconsists of a curved bar placed to protect the driver’s head.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime