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A computer numerically controlled dieless incremental forming of a sheet metal


S Matsubara Department of Production Mechanical Engineering, University of Industrial Technology, Hashimotodai 4-1-1, Sagamihara-shi , Japan

Abstract: In a previous paper a new incremental tube-forming method was proposed in which forming is carried out by a series of movements of a hemispherical head tool without using any die or mandrel that corresponds to the product shape. This paper aims to develop a similiar method that can form at metal sheets into three-dimensional shapes without using dedicated dies. For this purpose, very simple and compact tooling is devised and put on the bed of a numerically controlled (NC) machine tool. It can be controlled with an NC program, which is made by commercial CAD /CAM (computer aided design /manufacture) systems. The method is broadly applicable to any product where the outer surface is convex, and is examined for the forming of an aluminium sheet into cones and pyramids having an arbitrary number of sides with a half-apex angle with a minimum of 108. Sharp edges between adjacent sides of the pyramid are easily formed. The ratio of the wall thickness of the product to that of the original sheet corresponds with the sine of the half-apex angle of the pyramid, and the sine law in shear spinning holds. The outer surfaces of the products have a glossy appearance due to ironing by the tool. Keywords: dieless forming, incremental forming, bulge forming, numerical control

INTRODUCTION

The necessity for small lot production is increased in deformation processes that are suitable for mass production. However, use of dedicated tools in the processes prevents its realization for economical reasons. For small lot production, several processes have been developed where general-purpose tools were used to form sheet metal incrementally. Some of these include a traditional method that is numerically controlled (NC) [1], incremental bulging methods using a ball roller [2], a hemispherical tip [3], a high-speed water jet [4] and a forming method by compression sequence with elastic or rigid tools [5]. In a previous paper [6], the author proposed a new incremental tube-forming method in which the forming was carried out by a series of movements of a hemispherical head tool without using any die or mandrel that corresponds to the product shape. A similar method was developed that can form at metal sheets into three-dimensional shapes without using dedicated tools [7]. The deformation processes can be progressed on an NC milling machine, of which systematic
The MS was received on 31 August 2000 and was accepted after revision for publication on 25 May 2001.
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movements are controlled with an NC program. In the method, a very simple and compact tooling was devised. However, some problems were introduced. In the present paper, the tooling is improved to solve the problems and movement of the forming tool is generalized. The method is broadly applicable to any product whose outer surface is convex, and is examined for the forming of an aluminium sheet into cones and pyramids having an arbitrary number of sides. Sharp edges between adjacent sides of the pyramid are easily obtained. The outer surfaces of the products have a glossy appearanc e due to ironing by the tool. The productivity is reasonable for small lot production. The system for this forming method can be constructed from commercial NC machine tools and CAD /CAM (computer aided design /manufacture) systems. 2 PRINCIPLE OF THE FORMING METHOD

The tooling shown in Fig. 1 is developed and mounted on the bed of a machine tool (NC milling machine). The tooling is reconstructed from a die set for press working. A sheet of metal is placed on the upper plate, which can slide vertically. It is xed at its periphery by the supporting
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Fig. 1

Schematic representation of tooling for the incremental forming of a sheet metal

frame. At the beginning of forming the sheet metal is positioned where its lower surface comes into contact with the top of the xed tool. A forming process progresses with continual repetition of a revolution of the forming tool around the xed tool and a small movement of the former tool to go down. The movement pushes down the peripheral part of the sheet metal as well as the upper plate by the same amount. The upper plate plays a role in preventing excessive deformation of the sheet metal and may be called a back-up plate. During this process, the central part of the sheet metal material keeps its vertical position as it grows. Using this method, shapes and sizes of products are determined only by programmabl e tool paths. The above process can be realized on normal NC machine tools without any modi cations. 3 3.1 METHOD OF EXPERIMENT Workpiece material and tooling

materials can be employed for xed tools. The supporting frame has a square window with sides of 101 mm. The width of the sheet metal that is sandwiched between the upper plate and the supporting frame is only 3 mm. The forming tool and the surface of the sheet metal that comes into contact with it are lubricated with a deep drawing oil. The weight of the upper plate and supporting frame is compensated by pneumatic cylinders.

3.2

Tool path

Annealed commercial pure aluminium is mainly used for workpiece material and its thickness is 1 mm. The testpiece is sheared into a square with sides of 107 mm. The forming tool is made of cold die steel and hardened to a Rockwell C scale hardness of 60. The diameter of the stem of the tool is 10 mm. The nose of the tool is hemispherical and the radius is 5 mm. The nose is nished by grinding and polishing. The forming tool is xed in a tool chuck instead of a cutting tool such as a ball-end milling cutter. The feed rate of the forming tool is 1000 mm /min, which corresponds to the maximum speed of the machine tool used in the experiment. The xed tool is made of the same material as that of the forming tool. It will be mentioned later that softer
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Some examples of paths of the forming tool are shown in Fig. 2; these correspond to the product shape to be formed. The forming tool rotates around the xed tool on horizontal planes. After each revolution it moves to a somewhat lower and outer position. The next revolution is repeated until the forming is nished. Therefore the product is formed from its central part to the periphery. In the case of a pyramidal product, the movement of the forming tool between two revolutions must be done in angular positions corresponding to an edge between adjacent sides of the pyramid. The reason is that if the movement is done along a line on a side of the pyramid, a tool-mark line will be generated there. In conic products, the generation of the line is unavoidabl e by the path shown in Fig. 2, though the line will disappear by another type of path such as `spiral revolution, which is diYcult to make using many commercial CAD /CAM systems. The distance of the movement of the forming tool between two revolutions is de ned as a pitch, which is diVerent from a height pitch, because the former pitch directly controls the appearance of the product. The lateral and vertical movements of the forming tool
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Fig. 2

Some examples of tool paths to form a metal sheet into a cone or pyramid

determine the lateral and vertical shape of a product respectively. The forming tool must be oVset because of its nite size. The position of the tool (XT , YT , ZT ), which is referred to its tip and not to the centre of the hemisphere, is determined relative to a contact point (XC , YC , ZC) between the tool and the workpiece: XT XC r nX YT YC r nY ZT ZC r nZ r Here, X , Y and Z denote a three-dimensional position, n(nX , nY , nZ ) is the outward unit normal vector at point C and r is the radius of the nose of the forming tool. After the tool path was determined, an NC program corresponding to it must be generated for driving an NC forming machine.

4 4.1

RESULTS OF THE EXPERIMENT Shelly products

Figure 3 shows some products formed from a commercially pure aluminium with a xed tool having its stem of circular section and spherical nose of 2.5 mm radius. The tops of the cone and pyramids spire in a remarkable way; they can never be formed by press working in one stage. The height of the products is 60 mm, but higher products can be obtained if forming and xed tools having a length that balances the height of the products to be formed are used. The edges between adjacent sides of the pyramidal products can be observed clearly and their sharpness cannot be realized by press working. In addition, all of the edges are observed to be straight. The forming condition resembles the condition where the sense of the revolutions around the xed tool is alternative to

Fig. 3

Cone and pyramids having various numbers of sides made of a commercially pure aluminium (the height of products of 60 mm, half-apex angle of 158, spherical radius of the inner surface of the top is 2.5 mm)
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Table 1

Total twisted angles generated in the forming of hexagonal pyramids with a height of 45 mm, when the sense of revolutions is kept constant
Pitch (mm)

The deformation mechanism in the proposed forming method may resemble that in shear spinning from a scienti c point of view. However, the latter forming method uses a lathe type of machine and only shapes with rotational symmetry are allowed to form. 4.2 Wall thickness of products

Half-apex angle 158 30

0.25 30 8 9

0.50 25 8 7

0.75 208 7

1.00 15 8 5

each other, because if the sense is kept the same during the forming, uncontrollabl e twisting of a pyramidal shape around its axis is produced. Table 1 shows some results of this twisting produced in the forming of pyramids having a hexagonal base and a height of 45 mm. The reason for the twisting is that, in the forming operation, the part that has already been formed is compelled to rotate around the xed tool by movements of the forming tool. A pyramid that is twisted arbitrarily, as a designers idea, can be obtained if a path of the forming tool is like that shown in Fig. 4 and the sense of revolutions is alternative to each other. Figure 5 shows some products thus obtained, where d denotes the rotation of the angular position of an edge of the product per unit height. If the movements between revolutions in Fig. 2 are controlled so as to constitute an arbitrary curve, a pyramidal shape that has a vertical section corresponding to the curve can be generated. Figure 6 shows pyramidal products having the vertical section of an arc shape.

The distribution of the thickness of the sides of shelly products is almost uniform except for the top portion of the pyramids. Figure 7 shows the relation between the half-apex angle of the pyramids with the hexagonal base and the wall thickness of the product at midheight. The ordinate is the ratio of the wall thickness of the product to that of the sheet metal. The plots are almost located on the solid curve that is determined by the sine of the half-apex angle of the pyramids. This fact suggests that there are no movements of material particles in a horizontal plane during forming. The sine law in shear spinning is a necessary condition for forming to be performed successfully. In this incremental forming method without using a dedicated mandrel, the sine law holds as a result of the forming. 4.3 Formability

From Fig. 7, the wall of the products becomes thinner as the half-apex angle reduces. Table 2 indicates the limiting half-apex angle of products that could be formed without defects like tear, buckling and so on for some materials. The table shows the thickness strain as well, which was calculated as a logarithm of normalized thickness. The limiting half-apex angle of the product made of annealed pure aluminium is 118, and the wall thickness of the product is reduced to less than one- fth of its original one. The strain in thickness direction is 1.66. In this incremental forming method, sheet metals can be considerably thinned and expanded. Mild steel, copper and its alloys have good formability, which is almost the same as aluminium. The author has successfully formed other kinds of sheet metals so far, such as stainless steel, titanium, gold, silver, platinum and so on. All these materials have proved to show very high formability, which could not have been anticipated from experiences in press working. Among these materials, stainless steels show lower formability, possibly due to the temperature rise during forming. 4.4 Material for tools

Fig. 4

An example of tool paths for forming pyramids twisted arbitrarily as a designers idea

The forming tool made of cold die steel is usable for forming many kinds of sheet metal, but may cause the stick-slip phenomenon in stainless steels. The problem is avoidable by the use of a cemented carbides tool. For xed tools, however, hardened tool steels are not necessarily required, because the tools are subjected to
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Fig. 5

Twisted pyramids formed by using tool paths shown in Fig. 4. (The height of the products is 50 mm. The d denotes the rotation of the angular position of an edge of product per unit height)

Fig. 6
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Pyramidal products having the vertical section of an arc shape. (The height of the products is 50 mm)
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Table 2
Material (JIS) A1050-O A1050-H A5083-O

The limiting half-apex angle of products made from some aluminiums


Limiting half-apex angle (deg) 11 13 21 Normalized thickness 0.19 0.23 0.36 Thickness strain 1.66 1.49 1.03

recommended to be about ve times the thickness of the sheet metals. 5 5.1 SOME REMARKS Forming system

Fig. 7

Relation between the half-apex angle of the pyramid with a hexagonal base and wall thickness

low contact pressure and no frictional stress. Mild steel, urethane rubbers, plastic such as epoxy resin and so on can be used for these tools. 4.5 Radius of the hemispherical nose of the forming tool

If the radius of the hemispherical nose of the forming tool is less than three times the thickness of the sheet metals, galling of the sheet metal is likely to take place. On the other hand, the use of a large radius is restricted, because of its possible interference to shapes to be made. The radius of the forming tool is, therefore,

Generally new techniques need new machines that are particularly designed and manufactured. The proposed incremental forming method, however, can be realized using commercial ones such as NC cutting machine tools and software devices to make NC programs. The advantage s of using commercial ones are that costs of their installation will be reduced and their performance will increase more and more. Figure 8 shows a typical system using a machining centre and a CAD /CAM system. Today there are wide varities of CAD /CAM systems in scale. Even personal computer based small CAD / CAM systems can make contour paths for nish cutting that meet the requirements already mentioned for the proposed forming method. 5.2 Productivity

In incremental forming, the time required for the forming is generally long due to its nature. Almost all the

Fig. 8

An example of a computer NC dieless forming system that can consist of commercial machine tools and CAD /CAM devices for the incremental forming method
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A CNC DIELESS INCREMENTAL FORMING OF A SHEET METAL

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Fig. 9

Products having an octagonal base, formed with various pitches

products shown here need about 10 minutes to form. Considering that the lead-time includes not only forming itself but development of the process, the productivity may be reasonable for small lot production because dedicated tools are not needed. Some techniques are eVective in reducing the time. One of them is to adopt larger pitches between the

revolutions of the forming tool around the xed tool. The time for forming is reduced in inverse proportion to the pitch. Figure 9 shows products formed by adopting pitches of various sizes. The product for the smaller pitch of 0.125 mm has smooth and glossy sides. In a traditional bulge forming, the outer surfaces of the products will

Fig. 10

An example of products made by a simultaneous multiforming method. (The height of the pyramids is 30 mm)
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be elongated without contact pressure and will not be so glossy. On the other hand, the products for the other larger pitches have poor sides with tool path marks. If the appearanc e of products is not important, the time reduction is possible by adopting a larger pitch. Another technique is a simultaneous multiforming method where several sets of forming and xed tools are installed in the tooling. This is possible because the individual forming load is very small and the tool set is not expensive. An example of products made by this method is shown in Fig. 10. Today, the maximum speed in machine tools for cutting usage becomes increasingly high, and a speed of 100 m /min is not unusual. According to the authors estimation, that supposes the use of some techniques which were mentioned above, a production rate for relatively small products can be reached up to that of press working using hydraulic press machines.

2. Pyramidal products can have sharp edges between adjacent sides which cannot be realized in press working. 3. The outer surfaces of the shelly products have a glossy appearance due to ironing by the tool. 4. The wall thickness of the shelly product is determined by the sine law in shear spinning. This means that the thickness of a sheet metal to be used is easily calculated using only the shape of a product. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The author wishes to thank Amada Foundation for Metal Work Technology for support of this work and Professor T. Nakagawa for his encouragement. REFERENCES
1 Nakajima, N. Numerical control for traditional manual forming of sheet metal (in Japanese). J. JSTP, Plasticity and Processing, 1979, 20-223 , 696 700. 2 Iseki, H., et al. Forming limit of exible and incremental sheet metal bulging with a spherical roller. In Proceedings of 4th ICTP, 1993, pp. 1635 1640. 3 Kitazawa, K., et al. Incremental sheet metal stretchexpanding with CNC machine tools. In Proceedings of 4th ICTP, 1993, pp. 1899 1904. 4 Iseki, H. A simple deformation analysis for incremental bulging of sheet metal using high speed water jet. In Proceedings of 6th ICTP, 1999, 2, 1483 1488. 5 Matsubara, M., et al. Development of incremental sheet metal forming using elastic tools (principle of forming process and formation of some fundamental curved shapes). Int. J. Jap. Soc. Mech. Engrs, 1996, 39 (1), 156 163. 6 Matsubara, S. Incremental nosing of a circular tube with a hemispherical head tool. J. JSTP, Plasticity and Processing, 1994, 35-398 , 256 261. 7 Matsubara, S. Incremental backward bulge forming of a sheet metal with a hemispherical head tool a study of a numerical control forming system. J. JSTP, Plasticity and Processing, 1994, 35-406 , 1311 1316.

5.3

Size of products

The author has experienced forming of large-scaled products in a joint study with a company. One example is 1400 mm in width, 700 mm in depth and 500 mm in height. The maximum size of products is limited almost only by the scale of the forming machines. The forming load is very small because of a limited forming area in the course of the forming, and is not dependent on the size of products. Therefore, largescaled products are especially suitable for incremental forming.

CONCLUSIONS

1. A newly devised tooling and its movement controlled by NC machine tools make it possible to form at metal sheets into three-dimensional shapes of wide range without using dedicated tools.

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