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Repairing the Nation’s Infrastructure – Roll Forming to the Rescue

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) produces a report card to grade different aspects of the nation’s infrastructure. With a few exceptions in the most recent report card, ASCE handed out C’s and D’s across the board, calling for the U.S. to make massive investments in all essential infrastructures from bridges and airports to dams, roads, and railways.

roadThe 2013 Report Card found a huge backlog of maintenance on current infrastructure, as well as an urgent need for modernization. Despite these challenges, the ASCE projected that the U.S. can develop a plan to promote sustainability, and renew and maintain its infrastructure by 2020, a commitment that would require an estimated $3.6 trillion.

Identifying everyday opportunities to optimize your manufacturing processes will help to defray the high cost of an infrastructure overhaul. One diverse application offering many cost and production benefits is roll forming. This metal forming application is a suitable alternative to stamping, extruding, and press brake bending, especially for longer applications with higher volumes.

Roll forming can process pieces up to 80’ long and 27” wide in high quantities. The tooling is less expensive than stamping and can manipulate a wide variety of thick, high-strength stock materials into standard or complex geometries; it is the only process capable of bending a curve in three different directions within the same operation.

In addition to the money saved on tooling costs, roll forming can consolidate secondary operations into one process, saving additional money that would normally be spent on outsourcing these services. The production and cost savings potential of roll forming make it the ideal solution for manufacturing a vast range of large-scale infrastructure components such as bridge deck sections, guardrails, signs, and more.

Cargowall Ltd. has over 20 years of experience manufacturing a broad range of durable signage and fencing products including two-piece assemblies, delineators, mini-posts, fence posts, and highway guardrails. We offer roll forming services, as well as a host of secondary and finishing services like stamping and welding.

Cargowall Ltd. is committed to providing our customers project assistance from design inception to completion. To learn more about roll forming and how it will help American industries renew the nation’s infrastructure, we invite you to download our free eBook, “How to Make Roll Forming Your Cost-Effective Parts Manufacturing Process.”

Roll Forming for the Transportation Industry

Transportation manufacturers of vehicles such as tractor trailers, trains, and school buses often face the challenge of needing large format components that are difficult to source. These parts must be able to support a great amount of wear, tear, and weight. To reconcile the heavy-duty machining required for these parts with cost-effectiveness and quick turnaround, many manufacturers have turned to roll forming.

truck on a highwayRoll forming is a sheet metal manufacturing technique that continuously bends or rolls sheets in large quantities. The process bends long sheet metal strips incrementally and consistently until achieving a desired cross-section. With the right tooling sets, a single roll former can bend a variety of parts into complex shapes.

For large parts produced in high volumes, such as rail tracks and grill bars, roll forming fabrication is preferred over other methods like brake forming for its high output and low cost. Roll forming requires less capital investment than brake forming, while maintaining the ability to roll much longer parts.

In the trucking and transportation industry, specifically, roll forming yields many benefits:

  • Versatility – Roll formers can process virtually any profile or part geometry, as well as a range of materials including steel, stainless steel, galvanized steel, hot-rolled steel, and more.
  • Longer Part Lengths and Heavy Gauge Capabilities – A single machine can roll sheet metal up to 58’ long and ¼” thick.
  • Reduced Costs – Equipment overhead and tooling costs of roll forming are less expensive than other processes such as brake forming. The ability to roll extra-long parts also lessens the need for welding and secondary finishing services.
  • Durability – Manufacturers can create strong structural beams, cargo control racks, and more.
  • Improved Turnaround Time – Because it’s a single, in-line process, roll forming can produce high volume orders completely in-house.

The streamlined process of roll forming fabrication results in improved turnaround time, inventory management, and cash flow, as well as reduced costs on equipment overhead, tooling, and cost of ownership.

Cargowall Ltd. has been a steel roll forming industry leader for more than two decades. We have experience with large tractor trailer and trucking manufacturers, as well as special logistic tracks for shipping and components for smaller body trailers. Whether your order is high volume, low volume, standard, or customized, we’re confident that our capabilities will be the right fit for your next roll forming job.

For more information on the benefits of the roll forming process and how it can save you time and money, we invite you to download our eBook, “How to Make Roll Forming Your Cost-Effective Parts Manufacturing Process.”

5 Things to Keep in Mind When Sending a Design to a Roll Former

Until you’ve actually sent a piece of material through a roll former it can be difficult to grasp how the process works. Even a single 90° bend has calculations and considerations that must be taken into account for the end result to be to spec, and those issues are compounded as you add subsequent formations to the part. Even today’s modern CAD programs sometimes struggle in creating blank sizes for roll forming compared to press brakes and similar machinery.

roll-forming-webOf course, not many design firms or procurement departments will find it feasible to install a roll former on their premises, as such prints are commonly outsourced to companies like ours here at Cargowall. Many times there are adjustments that need to be made to flat blank size, tolerances, and similar print callouts, but the more information designers have before sending out those specifications, the less time will be required to obtain the desired shape.

 1 – Roll Form Shape

Roll forming is a desirable manufacturing process because the production runs can be very quick, the method is relatively inexpensive, and the labor involved in the operation is minimal. That being said, more complex designs will completely negate these benefits and roll forming callouts should be done so with manufacturing efficiency in mind.

Something else to take into consideration when designing a roll formed part is the location and type of corresponding cutouts. Slots, holes, embosses, and other features will be distorted if they are too close to the bend. These features also may not be machinable once the part has been rolled so it’s important to consider the feasibility/alternate production methods of every cutout near a bend.

2 – Number of Bends

Single bends, whether they are in the middle or end of a part can be held to the tightest tolerances. The more subsequent bends that are added, the more difficult the manufacturing process becomes. Parts with 5-6 bends or more will inevitably create blind bends that may be accomplished but are going to be harder to control. In some cases welding two parts together is more feasible than multiple bends within a small area.

 3 – Type / Thickness of Material 

Any material that can withstand the specified bend to the radius can be roll formed.  These materials include hot-rolled, cold-rolled, mill finished, mirror finished, or other coated metals. Material type, yield strength, and bend radius will all contribute to the bend allowance (K-factor) that determines flat blank size before rolling. One design tip to remember is that the maximum thickness within the specified gauge range should be used during the design process.  This will eliminate potential roll interference.

4 – Tolerances

Part of designing for manufacturing involves exploring tolerances in depth. If a measurement is non-critical, it should be denoted and opened up so that the operator can focus on the key dimensions while using the secondary ones for runout. Typically on a roll former, cross-sectional flanges can be held to .015 (1/64) and angles to within 2° or less.

5 – Springback 

When a part is removed from the roll former, a certain amount of springback and end flare occurs as the pressure is relaxed. Thinner gauge materials will have more of this elasticity and thus the part may need to be overformed to reach the desired print angle. Therefore, designers should place a tolerance callout on all dimensional angles if they are critical.  Superior designs will include spring back compensation enabling the operator to control the whole range of material thickness and yields strengths that impact springback.

The best tips for creating the perfect designs for the roll former are to ask the manufacturers themselves. Cargowall is available to assist in the design process or to answer any other specific roll forming inquiries you may encounter. Please contact us at your convenience.