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Warm Forming Simulation of 7075 Aluminium Alloy Tubes Using LS-DYNA

The demand for lightweight tubular products, designed specifically for transportation and recreational applications, is currently on the rise. In general, performance increase and energy cost reduction are the main reasons justifying the need for these specialty products. Hence, to reach these goals, both industries are turning to complex-shaped tubes for various types of applications. However, high performance aluminium tubes, such as 7075 alloy, provide very low formability characteristics at ambient temperature and do not have the ductility needed for hydroforming-based applications. A 1,000-ton hydroforming press, located at the Aluminium Technology Centre, was equipped with a + 600 °C heating die designed for such tube and sheet forming applications. The die has 10 separate heating zones that can be adjusted independently. The first application was employed to form a tubular bicycle component. To achieve this, a thermo-mechanical model was developed using LS-DYNA to determine the tube temperature distribution around the heating zones. To this end, conduction, convection, radiation and contact heat transfer conductance were the physical phenomena considered in the thermal model. Prior to developing the mechanical model, a heating chamber was designed and fabricated. Tube samples underwent in-chamber testing using a servo-hydraulic system at various temperatures and strain rates. With the results, an elastic viscoplastic temperature-dependent material constitutive law was used to properly predict tube strains and stresses. The finite-element model can predict the necessary tube temperature and gas pressure during the heat-based forming process, thus enabling to obtain optimum formability of 7075 aluminium alloy tubes.