Low-Budget Hydroformer Puts the Squeeze on Sheet Metal Parts

Between manufacturing technologies like 3D-printing, CNC routers, lost-whatever metal casting, and laser and plasma cutters, professional quality parts are making their way into even the most modest of DIY projects. But stamping has largely eluded the home-gamer, what with the need for an enormous hydraulic press and massive machined dies. There’s more than one way to stamp parts, though, and the budget-conscious shop might want to check out this low-end hydroforming method for turning sheet metal into quality parts.

If hydroforming sounds familiar, it might be because we covered [Colin Furze]’s attempt, which used a cheap pressure washer to inflate sheet metal bubbles with high-pressure water. The video below shows a hydroformer that [Rainbow Aviation] uses (with considerably less screaming) to make stamped aluminum parts for home-brew aircraft. The kicker with this build is that there is no fluid — at least not until the 40,000-pound hydraulic press semi-liquifies the thick neoprene rubber pad placed over the sheet metal blank and die. The pressure squeezes the metal into and around the die, forming some pretty complex shapes in a single operation. We especially like the pro-tip of using Corian solid-surface countertop material offcuts to make the dies, since they’re available for a pittance from cabinet fabricators.

It’s always a treat to see hacks from the home-brew aviation world. They always seem to have plenty of tricks and tips to share, like this pressure-formed light cowling we saw a while back.

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Hydroforming in the Garage with a Pressure Washer

Ever heard of hydroforming? It’s a manufacturing process used to form sheet metal into shapes using water at extremely high pressures. Not something you can do at home… unless of course you’re [Colin Furze].

Hydroforming works by evenly distributing pressure via water (conveniently, in-compressible) against sheet metal inside of a mold. Many automotive parts are created in this fashion. Typical systems run at around 15,000 PSI.

After building a giant pulse jet engine (complete with butt) to fart on France, [Colin] got the idea from a YouTube comment to try to do hydroforming at home — bending the sheet metal for the giant derriere wasn’t that easy. Hydroforming on the other hand is a surprisingly simple process. Weld some sheet metal together, add a pipe fitting to connect your cheap pressure washer and boom — hydoformed metal parts.

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