High Energy Hydroforming (HEH) is the process of forming sheet/thick plate metal using explosive materials. In general, a metal sheet is placed on a die. The die cavity is vacuumed and the assembly is placed in water. An explosive charge is detonated under water pushing the sheet into the die in about 2 milliseconds. HEH offers unique technical opportunities because it can be applied in any shape (double curved) and mass. Sizes range currently up to 8×2 meters or 5×5 meters, with thicknesses from 0.3 mm aluminium to 150 mm stainless steel, for example. Many types of aluminium, titanium, stainless steel, Invar and nickel have been successfully formed by 3D Metal Forming processes.
Every new project starts with FEM simulation of the metal forming process in order to optimize the forming steps. The shape of the blank material can be optimized for any product shape. Sheets can be formed from flat or bent condition, or from a conical or cylindrical shape. Sheets and tubes can be formed in welded condition, even when the welded sheets have different thicknesses. Good results have been achieved in steel (MIG and electrode welding), stainless steel, nickel alloys (laser and TIG welding) and aluminum (TIG and friction stir welding).
The tooling for HEH is relatively simple. One die half is needed without a mating part. Low cost tooling concepts decrease costs further. Prototypes can be delivered quickly. The tooling does not need to be installed in a machine so that production can be started immediately.
3D Metal Forming has vast experience in making parts for the aerospace industry, energy / big science market and for special high end architectural projects. Expensive joining operations can be saved by HEH because complex and large shapes can be formed in one piece. Even larger and more complex shapes can be formed by welding the sheets prior to forming.
The material properties of an HEH formed weld are very good.