ATI uses the precision flowforming process to produce hundreds of different thin-walled components to net or near-net shape from a variety of high-strength and hard-to-form metals. A chipless cold forming process, flowforming can be a cost-effective alternative to conventional machining, and has its own dimensional, mechanical and metallurgical advantages over other machining processes.
Our Flowforming Capabilities
Our components range in size from diameters of 0.866" to 25.600" (22-650mm), wall thicknesses from 0.006" to 1.500" (0.15-38mm) with lengths up to 40 ft. (12 meters). Since flowforming poses no limitations on the relationship between component diameter and wall thickness, quite often we produce large diameters with precise thin walls. To date, we have successfully flowformed a myriad of geometries in more than 50 different metals ranging from aluminum to zirconium.
Precision flowforming is capable of dimensional accuracies well beyond those of other forming methods. Since flowforming tooling is subject to little or no wear, the CNC controlled process offers consistent and repeatable accuracies. The precision of the flowforming process often eliminates the need for finishing operations such as turning, grinding, honing, straightening, balancing or polishing. It can generate very thin and precise wall thicknesses economically and without difficulty. Unlike other forming processes, flowforming can vary the wall thickness of a component at any point and as many times as desired along the length of the component. Flowforming is also unique in its ability to form to size a pre-hardened workpiece, achieving high dimensional accuracies with a minimum of required finishing.
Finished flowflormed components tend to have superior mechanical properties compared to pre-formed materials, as the process realigns grain structure in a very uniform, axial direction. Flowforming creates a uniformly oriented crystal texture, increasing the biaxial strength of the metal. These effects can be enhanced through post-flowforming annealing.
Through its strain hardening of the base metal, flowforming increases yield strength and tensile strength of the formed material, making it possible to design thinner walls that yield lighter components. Flowformed components can also be solution annealed to remove residual stresses, and heat treated or aged to alter levels of achieved strength, hardness and ductility.
Flowforming reduces cost in a variety of ways. It is a chipless process with minimal material waste and labor cost. In almost all cases, we can flowform to net shape, maximizing material utilization while eliminating post-forming machining. The seamless nature of flowforming saves money by incorporating components like flanges into a single integrated design and eliminating welding. And flowforming can eliminate the costs of finish-machining and/or grinding by forming net-shape components from pre-hardened metal.