The term "tubes" refers widely to solid or hollow cylinders of many shapes, sizes and material compositions, used for a variety of structural and conveyance purposes. Tube manufacturers ensure that their customers, who range from medical part suppliers to plumbers, always get the best tubing for their application; the services they offer relate to tube forming and fabrication and tube finishing. Some examples of products produced by tube manufacturers include: pipe elbows, floor flanges, exhaust pipes, water pipes, automotive fuel lines, hydraulic cylinders, point-of-purchase displays, bike frames and tent frames.
Note that the terms "tube" and "pipe" are often used interchangeably, and, therefore, it is not uncommon to hear tube manufacturers being referred to as pipe manufacturers. In fact, tubes and pipes are almost exactly the same thing, except that, in general, tubes have more strict engineering requirements that pipes.
Generally, tube manufacturers produce three main types of tubing: seamless, as-welded and drawn-over-mandrel. Seamless tubes are created using either hollow tubes that have been extruded or solid bar drilled to exact specifications via the rotary piercing process. Once formed, manufacturers can change their sizes and/or tolerances by putting them through a variety of cold-working techniques. As-welded, also known as welded or electric resistant welded (ERW), tubes are made, naturally, through welding. They too can be reduced in size to match customer specifications. Finally, manufacturers fabricate drawn-over-mandrel tubes by inserting a mandrel, or metal ball or rod, into previously formed tubes as they are bent through a die. Mandrel drawing imparts the qualities of improved surface finish, weld integrity and dimensional accuracy. Manufacturers also often employ tube swaging machines to create bends. These machines alter tube end diameters using pressure applied by hydraulic or mechanical tools. To perfect and finish their products, tube manufacturers also utilize a number of specialized and secondary processes, such as flaring, plug drawing, rod drawing, cutting, notching, annealing, coating, sizing, flattening, punching, drilling and buffing. In addition, much of the equipment used and processes employed by tube manufacturers are now supplemented by precise operations of CAD drawings and CNC machinery. These allow for closer tolerances, more specific lengths and dimensions, increased production speeds and fewer human errors.
Some of the materials most commonly offered by tube manufacturers include: copper, aluminum, brass, bronze and stainless steel. Materials are chosen for an application based on their qualities and how they will strengthen and support said application. Along with a variety of materials, they offer tubes in all dimensions imaginable. This diversity means that manufacturers can serve customers in many industries, such as: industrial manufacturing, automotive, plumbing, heating and cooling, HVAC, medical and laboratory supply, consumer goods, retail services, architecture and sports and recreation. Tube manufacturers that provide the support and expertise customers look for will ask questions relating to an application's shape and dimension requirements, the environment in which the tubes will be immersed or placed, anticipated pressure or stress and local/regional and/or industry regulations. Common tube and pipe-related regulations include those set forth by ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) International and the BSI (British Standards Institution) Group.
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