Wire forming or bending is the process of taking wire from spooled coils or a blank length and bending it into specific forms using state-of-the-art equipment and techniques. Wire shapes are used across diverse industries such as formed components, and material handling solutions among other applications.
What are the types of wire forms?
Wire forms come in diverse shapes and sizes which can be broadly categorized under 2- and 3-dimensional wire-based configurations. 2D configurations refer to simple forms such as curves, and 3D configurations refer to complex multi-component wire assemblies.
How metal wire is formed
Multiple wire forming manufacturing processes and machines are used in bending wire to meet precision tolerances and critical specifications. These requirements include the length, form, and complexity of the end-product or shaped wire.
Expert wire forming manufacturers will make use of four major forming techniques to meet these specifications:
Welding custom wire forms
- Two welding processes are generally used to develop custom wire forms:
- Resistance welding – The resistance process involves sending an electric current through the pieces of wire and using electrodes to join them into custom forms.
- Metal inert gas (MIG) welders – Metal inert gas involves the use of inert gas and a feeder wire to melt and join pieces of wire into custom forms.
Bending wire forms
Image above: An industrial fan manufactured by TFG USA via wire forming.
Bending is generally used to shape pieces of wire into certain configurations, such as turning a piece of wire into a spring. Common bending wire forms machines are:
Single-headed bending equipment
The single-headed bending equipment utilizes computer numerical control (CNC) systems to automate the wire bending process. This CNC single-head wire bender is capable of bending complex 3D shapes from wires up to .39 inches or 10 mm in diameter.
Double-headed bending machine
Two independent bending heads provide end-users with a powerful wire bending machine for bending wire alongside bars, plates, and wire-wound resistors. The double-headed machine is also CNC-controlled, thus adding a level of automation to the wire-bending process.
Multi-axis camless wire bending equipment
Camless 3D wire forming equipment takes advantage of forming software to automate the bending of wire with diameters within the 0.3 mm to 10 mm range. It is a CNC-controlled process that delivers highly-precise forms according to requirements.
Flattening and piercing wire
Flattening and piercing are processing techniques used to create wire forms or prepare a piece for further bending activities. The process involves the use of a “flatten-punching and wire bending integrated machine” to execute multiple wire forming activities. Flattening leaves flat surfaces on the piece while piercing leaves holes within the piece.
Threading and drilling wires
For applications in which threaded or drilled wire forms are required, the threading and drilling process must be applied. Here, threading, drilling, and milling equipment are used to customize parts according to the requirements.
Secondary wire forming operations
To meet the quality requirements many enterprises desire, wire forming manufacturers, undertake diverse secondary operations to implement designs or finish the surfaces of bent pieces of wire. These secondary operations include:
Shaping or stamping operations
- Flattening, piercing, or threading processes may be viewed as secondary operations as they involve the inclusion of designed patterns on wire pieces. For the processes of threading, drilling, or piercing, robotic devices equipped with technologically advanced correct tools are used to implement the finish.
- Applied surface finishes enhance pieces of wire with features or new capabilities suited to the required functionality. For example, electro-polishing removes the first layer of the wire piece, leaving an ultra-clean surface finish that reduces friction and increases the lifespan of the finished piece. Other secondary finishing operations include powder coating, nickel plating, vinyl coating, passivation, and zinc plating.
- Industries such as healthcare and medical device manufacturing function under strict regulations to ensure the safety of patients and caregivers. These regulations apply to the use of wire pieces within devices used for these industries. Hence, secondary quality assurance operations such as sterilization and other finishing operations may be part of the wire forming process.
Finally, the proper packaging of wire forms ensures increased shelf-life and minimizes manual detangling and sorting during use. Items such as packing clasps, strapping packaging, and premium boxes are some features the customer may require to package the finished product.
Wire forming machines
Wire forming machinery includes traditional equipment that relies on manual labor, semi-autonomous equipment that utilizes computer-aided manufacturing tools, and fully-automated robotic devices to ease the forming process. These pieces of machinery are used to execute simple and complex forming activities alongside other secondary operations. Some of the machines used in manufacturing wire forms include:
3D wire forming machinery
This refers to CNC 3D wire forming machines that are used for high-speed and precision manufacturing or forming of 3D wire forms. This equipment is capable of executing operations such as threading, punching, piercing, and heading when required. Above is an image of a 3D wire forming machine courtesy of BLM Group.
2D wire forming machinery
This refers to 2-dimensional CNC-forming machines for making 2D wire forms. The machine utilizes cutting, punching, and piercing tools.
Desktop or tabletop bending machines are used for smaller wire welding tasks and may include the use of either a hydraulic or pneumatic system to provide the necessary bending force.
The four-slide machine is used to produce small stamped wire forms for large-volume production runs. The machine includes a stamping press and an electric motor to execute stamping operations.
Spring coiling machinery
Spring coiling machinery could refer to either manual coilers or CNC spring coilers. These pieces of equipment are used to produce a variety of custom wire forms and springs. Spring coilers with multiple axis – 2, 4, 6, and 8 axis – are used to form pieces of wire with varying diameters. These axes provide wire forming companies with independent control of tooling positions to develop complex forms.
What is CNC wire forming?
When high-precision and the need to create complex designs from pieces of wire is the goal, CNC wire forming provides the best technical capabilities for achieving these goals. CNC wire forming machines utilize computer numerical control systems to form highly accurate 2- or 3-dimensional wire forms using cutting, drilling, and bending tools.
The utilization of CNC systems and programming introduces an aspect of autonomous digital control no other wire forming manufacturing process can match. CNC wire forming excels at producing custom designs and configurations at high accuracy for mid- to large-volume production runs while reducing material waste.
Industries and applications
Custom and complex wire forms are used across a variety of industrial sectors for diverse applications. The industries and their products that rely on wire forming components include:
- Door and window handles, seat frames, and instrumentation systems
- Livestock control, fencing, wire racks, shelving, and wire baskets for the support and organization of livestock control equipment.
- Seat frames, spring making, ring coiling
- Protective barriers
- Server racks, cable control, power control
- Material handling equipment and storage shelving
Electronics and Industrial Engineering
- Components in electrical fittings, electronic casings, material handling equipment, and storage lockers
- Fans, barbecue grills, dishwasher racks, screen doors, clothing hangers, seat frames, guard rails, shelving, racks, wire baskets, decorative items, water bottle holders, and wire hooks
Warehousing, Shopping Malls, and Retail
- Shopping carts and baskets, point of purchase displays, security gates, and store fixtures
Frequently asked questions
What are the advantages of wire forming?
High-quality wire forming items support a variety of applications across every industrial and consumer sector. They provide durable, functional, and aesthetic products that improve operations and safety.
How do I choose the best wire forming product?
Consult with an experienced wire forming engineer.
How do I select the best wire forming manufacturer?
To make the right choice, ask the supplier to provide case studies of similar projects, reach out to their referrals, and request a prototype where necessary.
What kinds of materials are used in wire forming?
Multiple materials are used in wire forming. Steel and stainless steel remain the most common materials used.
Wire forming vs. wire welding?
Choosing between both options depends on your applications and project requirements. Your product might also require both options. It is recommended that you speak to an expert when making a choice.
Contact us to start a wire forming project today
At The Federal Group USA, we understand the importance of producing quality wire forming products for your business. No matter what your requirements may be, our processes are developed to meet your needs. Contact a Sales Engineer today to get started!
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