How technology has increased the versatility of tubular steel

Tubular steel has been around since the 1920s. It is a versatile material that is ideally suited for making material handling and storage equipment. It is lightweight and strong and can be easily shaped and welded to create durable and practical equipment. Innovative technology has been developed to make tubular steel more versatile.

Lasers

Conventionally tubular steel is cut using sawing, drilling or milling. Laser cutting equipment is quicker and can save costs. Laser cutting tools can adapt to large batches of tubular steel or one-off prototypes. Highly complex shapes, mitre cuts, and special profiles can easily be a done by a laser cutter. Five-axis cutting machines can cut any shapes. Designers can ask for any shape or letter to be cut into tubular steel to add decorative touches.

Steel slitting

Tubular steel is made from strips of steel that are formed into the tubular steel shape. Most tubular steel is either square-shaped or round pipe-shaped. The steel is first rolled out as wide strips that need to be slit into the narrower strips that make the tubular steel.

Modern steel slitters use computer software that improves the accuracy, speed and efficiency of the slitting process.

Steel tube slotting

Slotted tubes have a variety of uses in such fields as warehouse storage systems, shelving, electrical switch cabinets, fencing, and radiators.

To make the process of tube slotting more accurate, laser cutting and flow drilling machines are used to economically produce slotted tubes of all sizes. Designers can call upon any specification of slotted tubes, and modern machinery can be quickly configured to produce bespoke designs.

Welding

To fabricate equipment such as storage and material handling equipment, tubular steel lengths are welded together. The traditional form of welding is tungsten arc welding, which creates strong welds. A tungsten tip is heated with a welding torch until it melts and is applied to the tubular steel lengths to form a weld that joins the tubes.

For very thin tubes of between 0.250 and 0.375 inches in diameter, it is difficult to use arc welding because of the small tube size, Electric Resistance Welding can be used instead, and is a system that uses a rotating copper electrode to heat the tube edges so that they can be welded.

Laser welding is generally only used for specialist metals and premium quality stainless steel. Laser welding produces a very small bead, but accuracy is critical to form strong welds.

Tube manipulation

Tubular steel is easily bended using standard tube-bending machines found in many workshops. For more complex shapes, rotary draw bending machines are used. They can produce several angles of bends that retain their strength.

Roll blending applies pressure to the tube to gradually change the bend radius. Roll blending can be used to make coils, while three roll bending creates many plane curves.

Modern technology has increased the versatility of tubular steel. It can be formed and cut into any shape to make a wide variety of objects, from trolleys and furniture, to musical instruments.

Posted by Mark
3rd September 2018
Metalworking

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