Using Hydroforming to Create Metal Prototypes

In a perfect metal fabrication world, every design engineer would use metal prototypes to accurately test part feasibility before full-scale manufacturing begins. Prototyping allows engineers to quickly turn a theoretical concept into a physical part that can be seen, touched and tested under real-world conditions. Unfortunately timelines and tooling costs often make metal prototypes an unattainable luxury.

At Mills Products, we’re engineers too. We understand the importance of short runs and functional metal prototypes. To help our fellow engineers meet their design goals and budget, we’ve developed a collaborative prototyping process that can quickly produce cost-effective metal prototypes – often WITHOUT traditional tooling expenses.

Sounds great, how does it work?

Hydroformed Metal Prototypes

Hydroforming is a cost-effective metal forming process that is commonly used by automotive and appliance manufacturers to produce complex parts from a variety of materials.

The hydroforming process introduces significant benefits over similar metal forming methods, including more flexible design options, part consolidation opportunities, and thin wall tubing capabilities. However, hydroforming’s biggest benefits may be how adaptable it is to the prototyping process.

Aren’t physical prototype design changes still expensive?

Computer Simulated Prototyping

To further cut costs and improve part precision, Mills Products uses computer simulations to accurately predict how a particular material will react under real-world conditions. Using this simulation, Mills is able to help design engineers:

  1. Make cost-effective changes to part geometry before the final prototype
  2. Test an alloy’s reaction to various stresses and thinning
  3. Understand what forces are needed to accurately produce the part
  4. Make design recommendations that can improve aesthetics and durability

How else can prototyping minimize our team’s design changes?

Collaborative Prototype Design and Engineering

Prototyping not only teaches your engineers about design optimization opportunities; it helps us better understand your product. Theoretical designs often behave differently than predicted when you start factoring in different pressures and procedures. By bringing us in early in your design process, we can collaborate with your team to cost-effectively solve design problems.

Our Prototyping Process

  1. Step One – Our engineers evaluate your part to determine if we can prototype it in a way that is cost-effective.
  2. Step Two – We work directly with your design engineers to understand appearance, strength and functional requirements.
  3. Step Three – We work with your team to collaboratively develop and test parts using accurate computer simulations.
  4. Step Four – Physical, functional metal prototypes are created to ensure parts meets your design aesthetics, form, fit and function.
  5. Step Five – Your design engineers can test the product and engage Mills Products to make additional design changes.

Learn More About Our Prototyping Capabilities

Since 1945, Mills Products has been helping design engineers solve the most complex design challenges. Our experience with automotive, appliance and military prototypes can help you meet your design’s form, fit and function, as well as produce short and long manufacturing runs at one of our North American locations.

To learn more, contact us today at (423) 745-9090.