Flexible manufacturing of hydraulic tubing assemblies has become an essential part of agricultural equipment production.
Efficient and cost-effective manufacturing of agricultural and mobile equipment today depends on highly engineered production systems. And that holds not only for complete machines like tractors and combine harvesters, but also for essential subsystems like hydraulic tubing assemblies.
transfluid Maschinenbau GmbH, a specialist manufacturer of tube bending and tube processing machines with headquarters in Schmallenberg, Germany, has been delivering its products and technology expertise to manufacturers of agricultural machinery for many years, said Stefanie Flaeper, the company’s managing director. That includes tube-processing equipment for heavy tubes and profiles used in the construction of frames, and for large hydraulic systems.
Because many agricultural OEMs deal with smaller series production, they require the most flexible manufacturing systems possible to craft finished hydraulic tubing assemblies. The great variety of geometries and low production volumes typical of mobile hydraulic tubing makes this a major challenge, said Flaeper. At the same time customers want production machines that are fast and easy to set-up and, of course, are extremely safe to operate, she continued.
Hydraulic pressures are also increasing in mobile and ag applications, driven by the demand for greater load capacity, higher productivity and better energy efficiency. That means engineers are specifying higher-strength tubing materials. As a result, transfluid is building machines that are structurally more robust and offer a higher power capacity, for long-life operation.
Tubing must also permit efficient flow with minimal losses, so it is important to have smooth, round bends with minimal ovality. transfluid machines incorporate a number of technical features which ensure high-quality bends. That includes, for example, a wide variety of application-specific tools; and electronic controls that tightly manage forces to ensure precise and repeatable part dimensions.
Weight is, of course, also an issue, as is the avoidance of expensive fluid connectors. Here, advanced forming and bending technologies can often simplify complex routing and connection systems, to save on material use and cost. And it goes without saying that a leak-free, stable connection system is always a requirement, for both safety and for a minimal environmental impact, said Flaeper.
All these requirements have a direct bearing on the types of machines the company designs and builds. “transfluid has its origins in the hydraulic industry, so we have a lot of experience working directly with systems manufacturers that we integrate into all our solutions for hydraulic connection systems. We have had quality requirements and experience for decades manufacturing different machines for the complete process chain in the tube-processing industry,” she explained. In addition to bending machines, this also includes cutting, forming, cleaning and assembly systems, and associated software tools.
For example, in the field of tube production, the goal is always to prepare ends and add connectors first, prior to bending operations. In the past, sealing and connecting elements were often attached to tubes by means of soldering or welding. “We are developing new processes together with our customers to offer a forming process direct on the tube,” she said. transfluid’s integrated forming technique generates optimal surfaces for flares and contours at the tube ends, giving customers new options for 90° face-seal fittings, 24° (DKO) connections, 37° flares and various bite-type connectors.
This forming process is most effective if done prior to bending. After end preparation, the tube — including connectors with nuts or flanges — is loaded onto the bending machine for quick processing. The completed assembly can then be installed directly on the customer’s machine.
“This avoids high stock levels, and is the fastest and most-effective way of production,” said Flaeper. “Our goal is to greatly simplify and optimize the production processes with our solutions. To do this, our machines will produce tubes that are completely ready for immediate use after bending. The customer deals with one partner with experience in tube processing for hydraulic applications requirements, to maximize quality, efficiency and throughput.”
“Faster and more economical production is always important for our customers.” But it is equally important to get the right level of technology and flexibility to simplify and optimize the process and satisfy a user’s specific application requirements, she continued. Thus, transfluid makes a wide range of machines — some geared toward single-tube fabrication, and others more suitable for medium-to-high volume output.
For example, the company offers basic machines like the t bend DB 642K, a compact mandrel bending machine available from stock for quick delivery. The economical unit is typically used for lower production volumes and one-offs. And mounted on casters, it is easy-to-move, so the system can be used inside a plant or directly out at a work site.
The powerful and versatile fully hydraulic bending machine reportedly delivers excellent bend quality and the simplest of handling. It is capable of bending angles to 180°. It handles round tubes up to six meters long and 6 to 42 mm diameters, with wall thickness up to 5 mm for steel and 3 mm for ST52 and stainless steel. Maximum bend radius is 85 mm.
The unit includes PLC control and a touch panel. With electronic bend angle pre-selection, the operator can digitally specify up to 20 bend angles that are continuously displayed as actual values. Specific bending programs can be stored in the controller.
Like all transfluid machines, the DB 642K can be operated manually for efficient prototyping. And the mobile bending machine can be equipped to handle other tasks, such as hydraulic sawing, internal and external deburring, and fixtured assembly of common connection systems.
At the other end of the tube-processing spectrum are highly flexible and sophisticated CNC-controlled systems. OEMs face the dilemma of squeezing components and systems into ever-tighter and constrained installation spaces. As a result, transfluid’s customers are more frequently asking for machines capable of forming complex tubing configurations, or that consolidate several parts into a single component, said Flaeper. Thus, it is critical that machines can produce intricate and labyrinthine-shaped tubes without compromising quality or performance.
For instance, the t bend DB 630-CNC-R/L mandrel bending machine can generate extreme geometries, bend both clockwise and counterclockwise in one operation, perform push bending of large tubing radii and control weld-seam positioning. When needed to reduce wall thinning and permit short clamping lengths, a centerline booster applies additional axial force during the bending process. The freely programmable CNC touch-panel controller ensures a maximum level of flexibility for tubes from 6 to 30 mm in diameter.
With short set-up times and fully-automatic control, the unit is capable of quick operations and high-volume output, thanks to high-performance electric drives with brushless motors. An automatic tool change system helps optimize bending processes specific to the user.
“Important to all this is also the software to load isometrics directly from the CAD system, to get the bending data, the cutting lengths and to do a collision test before starting the bending process,” emphasized Flaeper. “It is also possible to get cutting lists for preparing the tubes and, if required, export the data to different systems, like ERP systems.”
In addition, many customers insist on integrated part-measurement systems to confirm quality. transfluid offers add-on systems to its machines that can precisely gauge specific geometries or even entire sets of components, in a direct and flexible manner. Available QC systems include optical and contact sensors that generate accurate digital data.
On bending machines, add-on inspection systems can measure bend angles or offer a connection port to an external (stand-alone) measurement system to check the bending geometry. Automatic data synchronization is possible. End-forming machines can include similar process measurements via a camera control system or other sensors that check the end-forming geometry.
“With our advanced software, even the very first tube is ready to be used in a manufacturing process,” added Flaeper. “This way, transfluid offers tubes to manufacturers of agritechnical products which are ready to be incorporated and produced in a way that is extremely close to the final manufacturing standards necessary for ensuring a functioning and reliable hydraulic system.”
transfluid has been operating successfully in Europe for several decades and is expanding its reach into North America. “We are now transferring our knowledge and experience to the U.S. market,” said Flaeper. On Feb. 1, transfluid tube processing machinery Inc. opened its doors in Greenville, S.C.
The 100,000 sq.ft. facility houses an experienced team of engineers and sales professionals, along with service technicians well-versed in the intricacies of tube-processing machinery. The location includes a showroom featuring a number of different machines on display. In addition, a wide range of spare parts are in stock for quick delivery.
transfluid Maschinenbau GmbH