Tube rolling is the process of producing tubular parts through heat curing materials that have been wrapped around a circular mold. The mold is then removed after heat curing, leaving the molded tube. As one of the most widely used tube forming processes, tube rolling allows for high production rates while also enhancing strength-to-weight properties.
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Benefits of Tube Rolling
Some benefits of tube rolling include high part-to-part consistency and a good surface finish. Able to produce a broad range of part shapes, such as cylindrical, oval, rectangular, conical, and square, tube rolling is used in diverse industries and products, including sports and recreation, for fishing rods, golf shafts, tennis racquets and ski poles; electronics, for antennas and other consumer applications; industrial manufacturing, for heating elements and machine components; and marine and naval defense, for launcher tubes, telescopes, and masts. Tube rolling is often used in custom tube fabrication since it offers the ability to place fibers either along or around the part with knowledge of the end application. Able to be performed using various materials such as stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, magnesium, and brass, tube rolling can fabricate large and small diameter tubes with low tooling costs due to affordable and durable mandrels and the versatility of tube cutting.
Tube Rolling Processes
There are many different tube rolling techniques, which are most commonly undertaken using a tube rolling mill. A tube rolling mill can refer to a factory or a machine; however, the method typically remains the same in either technique. To begin the process, patterns, or flags, are cut out from materials such as epoxy pre-impregnated carbon, aramid cloth, or glass, and then rolled around a mandrel, which is typically made from steel or some other type of metal alloy. It is essential that a very tight roll is achieved so that air is not trapped and the fiber is properly aligned. Before the tube can be heat cured, it must be pressure-wrapped with heat-shrinkable plastic film or sleeve. Referred to as debulking, the wrapping increases the compaction of the part. Now able to be heat-cured, the material-wrapped mandrel is placed within an air-circulated oven or furnace at high temperatures. During heat curing, the outer wrapping functions to squeeze the air out of the ends of the wrapped material through shrinkage. The mandrel can be removed when the heat curing is finished, creating a hollow, tubular part with very thin walls. Typically rolled tube diameters range from .76 - 609 mm (.030 - 24 in.) and can reach maximum lengths of about 7.3 m (24 ft.).