Lecture 9


          In these forming processes large amount of energy is applied for a very short interval of time. Many metals tend to deform more readily under extra fast application of load which make these processes useful to form large size parts out of most metals including those which are otherwise difficult to form.

          The parts are formed at a rapid rate, and thus these processes are also called high velocity forming processes. There are several advantages of using these forming processes, like die costs are low, easy maintenance of tolerances, possibility of forming most metals, and material does not show spring-back effect. The production cost of components by such processes is low. The limitation of these processes is the need for skilled personnel.

          There are three main high energy rate forming processes: explosive forming, magnetic forming, and electro hydraulic forming. We shall discuss these processes.

Explosive Forming

          Explosive forming, is distinguished from conventional forming in that the punch or diaphragm is replaced by an explosive charge. The explosives used are generally high explosive chemicals, gaseous mixtures, or propellants. There are two techniques of high explosive forming: stand off technique and the contact technique.

Standoff Technique . The sheet metal work piece blank is clamped over a die and the assembly is lowered into a tank filled with water. The air in the die is pumped out. The explosive charge is placed at some predetermined distance from the work piece, see Fig 9.1. On detonation of the explosive, a pressure pulse of very high intensity is produced. A gas bubble is also produced which expands spherically and then collapses. When the pressure pulse impinges against the work piece, the metal is deformed into the die with as high velocity as 120 m/s.

Fig 9.1 Sequeuce of underwater explosive forming operations.(i) explosive charge is set in position (ii) pressure pulse and gas bubble are formed as the detonation of charge occurs, (iii) workpiece is deformed, and (iv) gas bubbles vent at the surface of water.

          The use of water as the energy transfer medium ensures a uniform transmission of energy and muffles the sound of the explosive blast. The process is versatile a large variety of shapes can be formed, there is virtually no limit to the size of the work piece, and it is suitable for low quantity production as well.

          The process has been successfully used to form steel plates 25 mm thick x 4 m diameter and to bulge steel tubes as thick as 25 mm.

Contact Technique. The explosive charge in the form of cartridge is held in direct contact with the work piece while the detonation is initiated. The detonation builds up extremely high pressures (upto 30,000MPa) on the surface of the work piece resulting in metal deformation, and possible fracture. The process is used often for bulging tubes, as shown in Fig 9.2.

Fig 9.2 Schematic illustration of contact technique of explosive forming.
The process is generally used for bulging of tubes.

          Applications. Explosive forming is mainly used in the aerospace industries but has also found successful applications in the production of automotive related components. The process has the greatest potential in limited production prototype forming and for forming large size components for which conventional tooling costs are prohibitively high.

Electro Magnetic Forming

          The process is also called magnetic pulse forming and is mainly used for swaging type operations, such as fastening fittings on the ends of tubes and crimping terminal ends of cables. Other applications are blanking, forming, embossing, and drawing. The work coils needed for different applications vary although the same power source may be used.

          To illustrate the principle of electromagnetic forming, consider a tubular work piece. This work piece is placed in or near a coil, Fig 9.3. A high charging voltage is supplied for a short time to a bank of capacitors connected in parallel. (The amount of electrical energy stored in the bank can be increased either by adding capacitors to the bank or by increasing the voltage). When the charging is complete, which takes very little time, a high voltage switch triggers the stored electrical energy through the coil. A high intensity magnetic field is established which induces eddy currents into the conductive work piece, resulting in the establishment of another magnetic field. The forces produced by the two magnetic fields oppose each other with the consequence that there is a repelling force between the coil and the tubular work piece that causes permanent deformation of the work piece.

Fig 9.3 Various applications of magnetic forming process. (i) Swaging, (ii) Expanding, and (iii) Embossing or blanking.

          Either permanent or expandable coils may be used. Since the repelling force acts on the coil as well the work, the coil itself and the insulation on it must be capable of withstanding the force, or else they will be destroyed. The expandable coils are less costly and are also preferred when high energy level is needed.

          Magnetic forming can be accomplished in any of the following three ways, depending upon the requirements.

  • Coil surrounding work piece. When a tube like part x is to fit over another part y (shown as insert in Fig 9.3(i)), coil is designed to surround x so that when energized, would force the material of x tightly around y to obtain necessary fit.

  • Coil inside work piece. Consider fixing of a collar on a tube like part, as shown in Fig 9.3(ii). The magnetic coil is placed inside the tube like part, so that when energized would expand the material of the part into the collar.

  • Coil on flat surface. Flat coil having spiral shaped winding can also be designed to be placed either above or below a flat work piece, see Fig 9.3(iii).These coils are used in conjunction with a die to form, emboss, blank, or dimple the work piece.

          In electromagnetic forming, the initial gap between the work piece and the die surface, called the fly distance , must be sufficient to permit the material to deform plastically. From energy considerations, the ideal pressure pulse should be of just enough magnitude that accelerates the part material to some maximum velocity and then let the part come to zero velocity by the time it covers the full fly distance. All forming coils fail, expendable coils fail sooner than durable coils, and because extremely high voltages and currents are involved, it is essential that proper safety precautions are observed by the production and maintenance personnel.


          Electromagnetic forming process is capable of a wide variety of forming and assembly operations. It has found extensive applications in the fabrication of hollow, non circular, or asymmetrical shapes from tubular stock. The compression applications involve swaging to produce compression, tensile, and torque joints or sealed pressure joints, and swaging to apply compression bands or shrink rings for fastening components together. Flat coils have been used on flat sheets to produce stretch (internal) and shrink (external) flanges on ring and disc shaped work pieces.

Electromagnetic forming has also been used to perform shearing, piercing, and rivettting.

Electro Hydraulic Forming

          Electro hydraulic forming (EHF), also known as electro spark forming, is a process in which electrical energy is converted into mechanical energy for the forming of metallic parts. A bank of capacitors is first charged to a high voltage and then discharged across a gap between two electrodes, causing explosions inside the hollow work piece, which is filled with some suitable medium, generally water. These explosions produce shock waves that travel radially in all directions at high velocity until they meet some obstruction. If the discharge energy is sufficiently high, the hollow work piece is deformed. The deformation can be controlled by applying external restraints in the form of die or by varying the amount of energy released, Fig 9.4.

Fig 9.4 Unrestrained and restrained electro-hydraulic forming process.


  1. EHF can form hollow shapes with much ease and at less cost compared to other forming techniques.

  2. EHF is more adaptable to automatic production compared to other high energy rate forming techniques.

  3. EHF can produce small to intermediate sized parts that don't have excessive energy requirements.

          Accuracy of parts produced

          Accuracy of electro hydraulically formed parts depends on the control of both the magnitude and location of energy discharges and on the dimensional accuracy of the dies used. With the modern equipment, it is now possible to precisely control the energy within specified limits, therefore the primary factor is the dimensional accuracy of the die. External dimensions on tubular parts are possible to achieve within ± 0.05 mm with the current state of technology.

          Materials formed

          Materials having low ductility or having critical impact velocity less than 30 m/s are generally not considered to be good candidate for EHF. All materials that can be formed by conventional forming processes can be formed by EHF also. These materials are aluminum alloys, nickel alloys, stainless steels, titanium, and Inconel 718.

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