If you were to read a collection of tube bending articles written at various times over the last three decades, you might be surprised by how much bending technology has changed, especially within the last 20 years. Benders have advanced, new features have been developed, and bending knowledge has improved and spread.
To get a sense of how much the industry has advanced, consider two people doing two different things in the early 1990s. One is a tube bender technician working for an aircraft parts manufacturer. He’s well-versed in bending technology and bending machine and knows the combinations of tubing alloys, tooling sets, lubricants, and bender settings that result in tight-radius, repeatable bends. The other owns a pickup truck, and he’s changing the spark plugs. The truck is so big and has so much room to spare under the hood that he sits on the fender with his legs inside the engine compartment. He rests his feet on the wheel well as he works.
What do these two activities have to do with each other? Everything.
A Tale of 1D Bends in Two Industries
The aircraft industry has always been one of innovation. From the first flight in 1903, the technology it used to build aircraft was almost unrecognizable a mere 50 years later. Wooden frames covered in cloth and internal combustion engines had been replaced by aluminum airframes, aluminum skins, and jet-powered engines. The first flights were measured in seconds for time and feet for distance; five decades later, jets were flying for hours and hundreds of miles. Always space- and weight-conscious, aircraft companies led the way in reducing component size and weight. In tube bending or pipe bending machine, this means tighter bending radii and thinner walls. By the 1990s, it wasn’t uncommon for a tubular aircraft part to have a bending radius equal to the tube’s diameter, known as a 1D bend.