Reduce manufacturing costs. Improve lead times. Decrease shipping costs. Maintain consistency and quality. Sounds ideal, right? It may seem like a tall order, but all of these production goals are possible through roll forming—if your design is optimized for this process.
A highly stable and efficient metal fabrication process, roll forming runs coiled metal through a series of roll tooling, gradually forming the metal into the desired cross-section profile. Given the right applications, roll forming can be one of the most cost-effective production methods available. As roll forming continues to prove its application across industries, the opportunities for engineers to push the boundaries of design possibilities are likely to increase. But in order to fully leverage this alternative production process, engineers need to know how to design for roll forming’s in-line processing capabilities.
Design Considerations for Roll Forming
Compared to other production methods such as stamping or press braking, roll forming has many benefits. Roll forming can produce parts of any length without adding secondary operations. It can also handle high-strength materials easily because of its variable forming speed, and tooling can be designed to reduce springback and maintain part integrity.
Designing for roll forming is in many ways a whole different animal. Below are three crucial roll forming design elements for engineers to consider.
Some parts are perfect candidates for roll forming simply based on their shape. Parts with multiple bends are well suited for roll forming because of its ability to reduce complex, multi-component parts into a single-part structure, streamlining production.
When designing a new project, look for ways to combine components. Several simple components might be able to be combined into a single, more complex shape—eliminating fasteners and reducing labor.
Roll forming is an ideal method of production for long parts or those requiring a large production volume. The only length limitation is the length of the coil being fed into the line, which in turn produces less scrap than sheet metal.
When you are designing a long part, consider roll forming’s ability to include additional features (e.g. holes) without interruption. Consider whether multiple short parts can be combined into a single, longer part. Alternately, press-braked or stamped parts could be redesigned for single, in-line processing to minimize drop-off.
Material selection is a critical element of both cost control and design integrity. Metals such as aluminum and steel possess a powerful ability to manipulate their physical condition during the manufacturing process without losing their strength.
When possible, design with stronger, lighter metals in mind, such as light gauge HSLA or structural steel. This way, the profile can be reengineered to utilize less material content and drop gauge while maintaining structural integrity. Decreased material content and product weight impacts material costs, freight costs and more all along the supply chain.
Roll forming design knowledge and execution can make a significant difference on a project’s bottom line. Becoming more familiar with the roll forming process, along with its practical applications and design possibilities, goes a long way toward making a significant difference in a project’s profitably and success. If you need help jump-starting your roll forming design process, our standard profile engineering guide includes engineering drawings and section modulus requirements for commonly roll formed shapes.
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