Have you ever wondered how pipes and tubes used in plumbing, cars, or hydraulic systems are bent to the precise angle and shape? Special tools and machines, referred to as tube or pipe benders, are used to bend piping of different materials to form various shapes and angles. These tools are made from metals with high tensile strength, such as stainless steel or die-cast aluminum, making them resistant to pressure when bending pipes and tubes. Below are some common types of pipe bending tools.
Manual Pipe Benders
Manual pipe benders or hand tubing benders are commonly used by hobbyists, DIY users, or in worksites where electricity is not needed or unavailable. This type of tube benders is portable, so they can be taken off-site. Manual pipe benders are commonly used for bending brake lines, fuel lines, and general hydraulic lines.
Hydraulic Pipe Benders
Hydraulic pipe benders allow accurate pipe bends by enabling the user to set the bender at a specific angle. They are designed for bending almost all types of pipes, however some models are not applicable for bending conduit pipes.
Electric Pipe Benders
Electric pipe benders provide high-speed performance and high-precision control, making them a workhorse in any fabrication shop. Similar to hydraulic benders, electric pipe benders can be programmed at a specified angle.
There are several approaches to pipe bending. These methods depend on the size of the tube, the material it’s made from, and the radius or angle of bend.
Press or Ram-Style Bending
This method is the oldest and simplest type of pipe bending method there is but it still widely used in many industries. Press bending is executed by holding the pipe in place at two points and then a third tool is used to apply pressure at the center of the material to create the bend. However, this bending technique is less precise compared to newer methods as it can deform or warp the pipe.
Rotary Draw Bending
Rotary draw bending is the preferred pipe bending method for achieving precision work. This method involves using different die sets to form the desired bend radius. A rotary set up typically includes the following pieces:
Pressure die: Holds the straight section or tangent of the tube
Clamp die: Rotates the tube around the bend die
Mandrel: Supports the tube interior
Wiper die: Prevents wrinkles from forming on the bend’s inside radius
Rotary draw bending is typically used in bending handrails, ornamental iron work, conduit bending, car chassis, and roll cages.
Mandrel bending involves stuffing the pipe with hardened steel to prevent distortion. Mandrel bending is usually done with tubes that are rectangular or have a thin wall pipe.
Roll bending involves three rollers, called a jig, positioned in a pyramid form. The tube is set into the jig then the bend is created by pressing the center roller against the tube. Roll bending is ideal for circular fabrications, like wheels.
While the above pipe bending methods may have overlapping features and capabilities, choosing the appropriate technique will depend on the business’ or user’s metal fabrication needs.