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‘New Technologies for Tube & Pipe Production’

ITA Technical Conference

Prague Congress Centre, Prague, Czech Republic
24-25 October 2005

SESSION: Ferrous Tube – Welded

‘Predicting The Properties of Welded

Roll Formed Tubes for Subsequent
Processes Using the Finite Element
A Sedlmaier, data M Software GmbH, Germany

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Predicting the Properties of Welded Roll Formed

Tubes for Subsequent Processes Using the Finite
Element Method
A Sedlmaier, data M Software GmbH, Germany

Determining and optimizing the properties of a tube semi-finish in advance of subsequent
processes such as bending and hydroforming require simulation of the entire process chain.
Every single forming step must be considered in terms of its influence on material properties.
In many cases, for example hydroforming, one starts by simulating the forming operation
with the ready tube, although major properties such as work hardening have already been
defined by the production process in the tube welding plant. For this reason we commence
our simulation as early as the roll forming phase, considering the individual forming steps
in the process chain, i.e. roll forming, preparation for welding and calibration. Investigations
show that these steps have a substantial effect on later tube properties, and that they can
be influenced positively by adroit variation of the tube forming process.

A computer program system is presented here by means of which the entire tube making
process chain – roll forming, welding, calibration and even verification of the tube properties
by means of hydro forming – can be mapped.

Given the variety of their applications, welded roll formed tubes and profiles have taken on
increasing importance in recent years, finding their way into new sectors like the automobile
industry. The reasons for this include the introduction of new materials, and improved
possibilities for designing roll tools. Advantages that go along with the overall process are
the large choice of profile cross-sections, and the work hardening of the material that results
from the forming operation, which can be utilized in many cases by applying the right design
skills. Such are the benefits, but there are also a number of constraints, for example the, in
many cases, time-consuming design and production of roll tools, the, again time-intensive,
startup and try out of tool sets, or unwanted deformation and strain in the end-product – in
particular if the ready tube or profile is to be treated further in follow-on processes. This is
the case in the bending of tubes or hydroforming for instance.

Examples of closed roll-formed tubes and profiles

A listing of these aspects alone illustrates the potential presented by the use of powerful
analyzing and optimizing tools. If all the efficiency of roll forming is to be utilized in the
production of tubes, methods and means must be applied in the tool design phase that will
help to improve the properties of a tube semi finished product for its subsequent processing.
The software solution presented here is suitable not only for steel but also for non-ferrous
metals such as aluminum or copper.

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Roll tool design

For some time now the company data M Software, based in German Bavaria, has been
offering a virtual process chain for the design and validation of roll forming processes in
tube production. The COPRA® RF software program supports all steps in the development of
tube cross-sections. This starts with the definition and design of the individual forming steps
(flower pattern and roll passes), proceeding through generation of technical documentation
to quality control. A multi-stage concept accelerates both the design and analysis process,
allowing for the needs of the designer, who is looking for speedy design of a tool set, and
of the production manager, who is interested in early validation of roll forming and welding

COPRA® tube mill roll design software for flower and roll tool design

The forming sequence (flower pattern) is calculated either to the designer’s wishes or based
on ready stored, corporate strategies (center line, double radius, W-bend, linear, cage,

The geometry of the various roll tools is calculated by the design software according to
predefined machine parameters stored in a database. Information is entered about the
types of passes (forming stands), driving diameters, gear ratios, side rolls, their maximum
and minimum adjustments, etc. With these predetermined, corporate and machine-oriented
values, the user formulates an – optionally automatic – design for every forming pass, each
of which can be modified afterwards with a so called flower and parametric tool editor. The
software guides the designer through the process. Dialog boxes provide explanation where
appropriate, and reduce the required amount of user input to a minimum. Even if there is no
doubt about the continuing importance of the designer’s role, the roll tool design software
has become an important instrument for the efficient calculation and planning of tube mill
roll tooling.

Calculation of plastic strain values

For a long time the designer lacked reliable methods to provide information about the quality
of tool design. Roll tool design tended to be treated like some kind of black magic, often
leading to faults and difficulties in setting up new roll tools on a tube mill or problems with
welding quality. The increasing use of simulation tools is turning this magic of tool design into
a proper science that uses a continuously growing number of influencing parameters. The
aim of such simulation has always been to make the tube forming process reproducible and
enable prediction of subsequent product properties.

Roll forming is a continuous process with rotary tool motion. The sheet metal is bent into
shape at several consecutive stations by vertically or horizontally aligned, mating rolls.
For the most part, a change in the thickness of the metal is not intentional in roll forming,
but results in practice through the process. Forming occurs not only at the direct points of
contact between tool and workpiece, but also in the region ahead of the roll tool. Points
on the strip edge travel further than points in the middle of the strip. This produces strain
whose maximum, in most cases, lies in the region of the strip edge. Such strain can lead to
process-specific problems like strip edge waviness or undesirable deformation of the tube.

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Deformation of this kind is the result of residual stress induced by plastic strip edge strain.
The definition of the forming geometry, i.e. the tool design, must be aimed at preventing or
at least minimizing this residual stress.

Course of strip edge strain in a tube mill/roll forming mill

Finite element simulation: strip edge waves due to residual stress after first breakdown (left); strip edge
buckling after fin passes in practice (right)

Residual stress is stress that remains in the part following plastic deformation when the load
on the part is removed. It is produced by the elastic component of the deformation, creating
resiliency after removal of the load.

Based on extensive practical investigations and finite element calculations, the author’s
company developed a mathematical model for fast estimation of the plastic strain occurring
on strip edges during roll forming (COPRA® Deformation Technology Module - DTM). This
means that a newly designed forming sequence, before it is trialed on a machine or even
accurately verified by finite element analysis (FEA), can be speedily and surely examined
for such undesirable plastic strain, which can consequently be corrected. In addition to
theoretical values for the longitudinal or transverse strain appearing on the upper or under
side of the sheet metal, COPRA® DTM also shows how the values are distributed over the

This is important because in practice, in many cases, one only hears of strip edge strain,
whereas roll forming can quite easily create higher strain in other regions of the strip, as
is the case in what is called downhill forming for instance. COPRA® DTM produces a three-
dimensional presentation of the roll forming operation together with the roll tools. Thus,
immediately after tool design, the user sees a clear 3D display of the later forming process.
With this fast analytical tool it is possible to work through a whole number of different
forming variants, and, if need be, to correct the drafted forming strategy or the number of
forming passes used before actually getting down to the details or producing the roll tools.
That saves time and reduces the risk of reworking.

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COPRA® DTM (Deformation Technology Module) calculates longitudinal plastic strain values resulting from the
roll forming process in tube mills

Finite element simulation of the roll forming process

Not so long ago, the only possible way to arrive at a working roll set was practical trialing on
the machine. Today there is an alternative, a means of accelerating such a time-consuming
and costly tryout of a new roll set and avoiding the need to rework the roll tools: simulation
by the finite element method (FEM).

The performance of today’s computers allows the solution of extensive and complicated
problems by numerical simulation. Nevertheless, the computation time needed to resolve
the system of equations is very much dependent on the different parameters that are to be
defined. The finite element model of the roll forming process as a map of the real process is
determined among other things by factors like the number of finite elements (discretization),
the number and modeling of contacting bodies, the number and distribution of time
increments, and possible use of existing symmetry relationships.

In the numerical solution of a structurally mechanical problem by FEM, one always looks for
a balance between inner and outer forces. Once this is found, one is able to calculate the
displacements of the individual nodes and, in turn, the strain. Using the strain, the law of
materials enables one to deduce stress and force.

This is a case for the COPRA® FEA RF software package, which sets up on the commercial
MSC.MARC solver (responsible for performing the numerical calculations). Generating an
FE model of a complete roll forming installation will normally involve a considerable work
investment, requiring specialists trained for the purpose.

The geometry of every single forming roll must be imported as a curve, then rotated about
its axis, and positioned in space. After that, each roll must be assigned material and contact
information, and data have to be entered about output variables (job results), time sequences
(load cases), material and contact of the strip material and other, in part time-dependent,
boundary conditions. It can easily take up to several days in order to do such a job. COPRA®
FEA RF relieves the user of all this. The program generates an FE model optimized for
simulation of the roll forming process, and executes the computation within MSC.MARC5.

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COPRA® FEA RF: easy-to-use dialog launches a finite element simulation

COPRA® FEA RF uses cubic volume elements with assumed strain formulation for the
generated FE model. The advantage of these volume elements compared to the shell elements
frequently used to simulate metal forming processes is that they can map forces in all three
directions in space as well as the resulting stresses and deformations. Shell elements are
not able to do this in the direction of their surface normals. If a roll forming process is to
be realistically simulated and the influence of the roll gap analyzed for example, there is no
alternative to use of the described volume elements 4.

As shown by the investigations that were conducted, it is not enough to simulate the continuous
roll forming process just two-dimensionally or to approximate it 1. The longitudinal stress
appearing in the strip must not be neglected in an FE simulation 2 because it contributes,
among other things, to changes in wall thickness.

Multi-stage concept for design and verification of the tube making process:
1) Design of the tube to be produced
2) Design optimization by COPRA® Deformation Technology Module
3) Process verification by finite element analysis
4) Analysis and quality control of existing roll tooling by optical roll scanning

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A number of powerful analytical functions (postprocessor) in COPRA® FEA RF give the user
dependable information about the profile quality or material properties to be expected. Both
the ready tube and single intermediate stages are presented in three-dimensional color
images. The visualization of defects means that, for the most part, it is possible to dispense
with the empirical trials and adjustments to the tube mill or roll forming line that used to be
necessary, and a new tool set can already be analyzed and optimized in its design phase.

A two-stage solution to an optimized production result

Given the fact that a full finite element computation is not a matter of minutes, even with
the speed of today’s computer systems, a two-stage solution has proven its worth in actual
practice. This consists of preliminary optimization through a fast computing approach by
COPRA® DTM (calculation of plastic strain values) and subsequent validation of the complete
tool set by COPRA® FEA RF (finite element analysis). An optical scanning tool for roll and
profile cross-sections is available for the analysis and improvement of roll tooling already in
use in production. It delivers digitized tool contours that allow quality inspection of roll tools
parallel to production and FE analysis of the forming process.

Simulation of a tube forming process with COPRA® FEA RF

COPRA® FEA RF provides the user with important data about possible problem areas in metal
forming. In addition to information on the quality of forming, the software generates values
relating in particular to material strain and inner stress or quite simply to the forming forces
or moment. COPRA® FEA RF is a decisive aid in understanding the roll forming process, and
in this way contributes to improved quality. A number of examples are illustrated below.

“Air bending” in a station. There is the risk of marks on the outside surface of the tube, caused by the point
contact at the bottom roll. The part with the larger radius than designed must be formed later. This means
additional work for the fin stations.

Verification of tube quality: a poor and a better example

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Investigation of the V-angle. The V-angle is important in defining the position and geometry of the welding

COPRA® FEA RF: thermomechanical coupling for simulation of the welding process; heat distribution model
according to Scott 8

Practical example – wall thickness distribution

In what follows, the forming of a welded tube is simulated, and the results are compared to
practical values. The example taken is a socalled W-forming of a 60 mm steel tube with 27
stands. The thickness of the metal is 1.5 mm.

W-forming of a 60 x 1.5 mm tube6

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The tool set for this purpose was designed in COPRA® RF and the entire initial forming
simulated. The simulated pattern of the wall thickness of the coil versus circumference as a
function of the pass number is shown in the following diagram 6.

Pattern of wall thickness versus circumference as a function of pass number

Three extreme values of wall thickness appear. They are in the region of the plane of
symmetry (Max 1), in the region of the strip edge (Max 3) and at approx. 90°. It has shown
that all three extremes are formed in stands 16 and 17. These are fin passes, which apply
heavy compression to the metal strip.

Total equivalent plastic strain (TEPS) values at the entry to the first fin pass. A huge amount of calibration and
forming work is being applied.

Work hardening
The value of total equivalent plastic strain (TEPS) is used to calculate work hardening. This
value is the sum of the comparative logarithmic plastic strain values over the entire forming
process, and consequently exhibits a monotonically increasing pattern. If the comparative
strain for the entire forming process is summed, the result is a measure of the strain history
of a certain node. This can be taken as a qualitative measure of work hardening on this node

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Total equivalent plastic strain as a measure of work hardening

The following diagram shows the pattern of work hardening (TEPS) over the circumference
in the final state of the formed tube (red curve). This pattern is very similar to that for wall
thickness in the final state of the tube (blue curve).

Pattern of wall thickness (blue curve) and work hardening (red curve) over circumference; final state of tube

The patterns of wall thickness distribution and TEPS, each in the final state of the tube, both
exhibit maxima at approx. 92° and 180°. The wall thickness shows a further maximum at
14°, which may not be so conspicuous for TEPS but is nevertheless recognizable. From this
it can be concluded that zones of high work hardening may be expected in the ready profile
(tube) at approx. 15°, 90° and on the strip edge (180°) 4.

An element in the refined region in stand 17, where the wall shows the largest increase in
thickness (fin pass), exhibits the following stress condition:

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Increase of wall thickness at 90° (inside = Innenseite; outside = Aussenseite) 4

The comparative stresses are calculated as follows:

бv_tresca_inside = │-430 N/mm2 – 82 N/mm2 │= 512 N/mm2


бv_tresca_outside = │-126 N/mm2 – 215 N/mm2 │= 341 N/mm2

Both comparative stresses exceed the yield point. The wall can be expected to thin on the
outside, but the inside will thicken. The value of the strain on the inside exceeds that on
the outside, so here the wall will thicken overall. These findings are confirmed by practical

Determining tube properties by experiment

A bulge test was chosen to determine the properties of the semi-finished product ‘tube’ .
The experiments were conducted at the Institute for Production Engineering and Forming
Machines (PtU) of Darmstadt University. The following illustration is a schematic of the test

Schematic of bulge test setup 7 at PtU Darmstadt

(die = Matrize; tube = Rohr; sealing cone = Dichtkonus; radial expansion sensor = radialer Aufweitsensor)

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First a tube is placed in the bottom half of the tool. While the tube is being prefilled with
forming medium, the two axial cylinders with the sealing cones move to the ends of the tube,
fill out the cones and seal the tube. Then the tube is expanded by filling it with a constant
volume flow until bulge pressure is reached. The radial expansion is recorded during the test
as a function of the internal pressure that is created. By subsequent optical evaluation of the
plastic strain on the burst tube it is possible to deduce the nature of the expansion of the
tested tube.

The plastic strain on the burst tube was analyzed from the different measured values and
results of the bulge test. The pattern of the strain over the circumference shows to what
extent material has flowed in a region during the test. Optical evaluation was performed with
the GOM/Argus system. The dot matrix was rolled onto the tested tube by means of a silk
screen die 4.

Burst tube example 60 x 1.5 mm, roll-formed, HF welded 6,7

Optical measurement of circumferential strain (GOM/Argus system) 6,7

The two pictures above show a burst tube from the experiments and an optical evaluation of
the plastic strain over the circumference.

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Optical measurement of circumferential strain 6,7

Above diagram illustrates the evaluated pattern of the plastic strain around the tube
circumference. Three distinct minima can be observed, i.e. regions with lower values of

Comparison of experimental results with FEA results

Comparison of simulation with experiment:

wall thickness distribution and work hardening (TEPS) from FE simulation (top diagram); circumferential strain
values from bulge test and optical analysis (bottom diagram)

In the above comparison of the diagrams with the values for wall thickness distribution and
work hardening (TEPS) obtained by simulation and the circumferential strain determined in
the bulge test, it can be seen that the values correlate. Both the wall thickness and the work
hardening reach maxima (colored regions) at approx. 14°, 92° and 172°. It can consequently
be expected that these three regions will exhibit the most resistance to a change in shape

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through hydroforming (bulge test). At these points one will thus also expect to find minima
of the strain component in the circumferential direction. This is borne out by the bottom

Simulation of bulge test

Here the experimental bulge test is simulated by the finite element method. The simulation
model of the tube generated in COPRA® FEA RF is used, with the material properties
discussed above. The tube is continuously expanded radially by internal pressure. The bulge
test on the computer model matches the outcome expected from the practical experiment
– the tube fails at about the 130° position.

Simulation of tube bulge test with results matching practical experiment

Summary and outlook

The COPRA® FEA RF computer program system enables the design and construction of
roll tooling for the production of longitudinally welded, roll-formed tubes and profiles. Two
special program modules allow simulation of the forming operation for its optimization and
validation. Using the finite element method, the forming of a tube is simulated and from
this the theoretical wall thickness distribution and work hardening of the ready tube are
calculated. These values are compared to the results obtained by bulge tests.

The accuracy of the simulation results is confirmed by the practical experiments. An essential
finding of evaluation of the simulation is that the patterns of wall thickness and TEPS over
the circumference correlate. Increases in wall thickness result primarily from compression
applied to the profile in a circumferential direction and longitudinal stress. Compression in a
circumferential direction occurs - in our example - mainly when passing through fin passes.
The longitudinal stress that contributes to a change in wall thickness is created by bending of
the metal strip about the longitudinal axis. The quality of the treated tube and its properties
in terms of hydroforming depend, among other things, on suitable design of the geometry of
the fin roll passes and the vertical positioning of the forming stands 4.

The properties of roll-formed, longitudinally welded tubes as regards their suitability as semi-
finishes for subsequent forming processes can be predicted by finite element simulation. This
is of particular importance for the design of new tool sets and in the use of new kinds of high-
strength material. The software package outlined here also presents a solution for analyzing
and optimizing existent tool sets. A finite element model generated by COPRA® FEA RF can
be used for further investigations within an extended process chain. In the case at hand it
was presented for the welding process and bulge tests.

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* Albert Sedlmaier is co-founder and managing director of data M Software GmbH, based at
Valley in Upper Bavaria, Germany.

1 Karan Shah, Yingyot Aue-u-lan, Taylan Altan: “Using finite element analysis to roll-form
tubes”. TPJ – Tube & Pipe Journal, October 2003.
2 B.D. Carleer: “FE Process Simulation for Tube Hydroforming, Starting with the Tube
Forming Process”. Proceedings from the International Conference on Hydroforming,
sponsored by the University of Stuttgart, Germany, Nov. 6-7, 2001.
3 Michael Schäfer: Numerik im Maschinenbau. Springer Verlag, 1999.
4 Dirk Elsenheimer, Gerrit v. Breitenbach: “Untersuchung unterschiedlicher
Rohreinformverfahren mit Optimierung für das Innenhochdruck-Umformen”. Unpublished
paper, Institute for Production Engineering and Forming Machines, Darmstadt University,
5 MSC.MARC 2003. Company Brochure MSC Software, Santa Ana, California, 2003.
6 Gerrit von Breitenbach, Ulrich Semmler: “Analyse unterschiedlicher Herstellverfahren
längsnahtgeschweisster Rohre mit Optimierung für das Innenhochdruckumformen”.
Zwischenbericht zur Sitzung des EFB-Arbeitskreises “Übergreifende Optimierung in der
Blechteilefertigung”, June 14, 2005, Dresden.
7 S. Freitag, A. Sedlmaier, G. v. Breitenbach: “Prediction of Longitudinally Welded Tube
and Profile Properties by Using FE Simulation”. Proceedings of roll forming workshop at
data M Software GmbH, Valley, Germany, May 10-12, 2005.
8 Paul Scott: “The Effects of Frequency in High Frequency Welding”. Transactions of Tube
2000, Toronto; ITA Publication.

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