Initial situation

S.M.A. Metalltechnik, based in Backnang, Germany, makes tubes and tubular systems for the automotive industry; the Daimler group and their subsidiaries are their most important customers.

Effect

S.M.A. Metalltechnik, with its 210 employees, including 10 apprentices, is proof that Germany need not fear competition from developing countries. Their strategic advantage can be summed up in one word: simplification. Breaking down complex processes into simplified steps is the speciality of Metalltechnik. Over the years they have purchased a large number of tube bending machines, some equipped with various automation devices, for making tubular components in small batches for Meibach or large quantities for Daimler.

The solution

The first BLM tube bending machine arrived in 1997: it was a MULTIPLA. Since then, they have purchased ten SMART machines with integrated tube loading and unloading systems.
In July 2004 they added an E-TURN left hand- right hand tube bending machine for tubes up to 35 mm diameter. They declare to be satisfied with the good quality-to-price ratio of the machines and their reliability, considering that the tube bending and forming machines work three shifts a day, seven days a week. The machines are robust and simple, meaning that stops for maintenance are not very frequent. The SMART is being used to bend an aluminium tube to make very complex shaped piping for the Mercedes Class-C cooling system including various 180° bends which would be impossible on any other machine.
Another use of the BLM machines is in tube end-forming in which technical levels once defined as ‘unattainable’ can now be achieved. From the technical-productivity point of view, it was a small revolution which made it possible to process very complex parts simply by forming to create joints, connections and unions between tubes which do not need brazing.
The AST-L tube end forming machine is used to make superior quality components. This method is particularly suited for cooling system components. Being able to obtain very high forming levels with various tools fitted on the same machine, means that very complex tubular shapes requiring particular connections are feasible even without seals.

The benefits

Reliability, structural robustness, quality and energy saving are the reasons that made tube bending a winning move. With the application development unthinkable levels of process simplification can be achieved in the forming area.

Technical aspects

All-electric bending guarantees maximum accuracy and short cycle times. Righthand -lefthand in-process bending capabilities can be exploited to make complex shapes that no other machine could produce.