Common Questions about Tube Benders

So, you’re a fabricator working on a tubular project and are in need of a tubing bender. You’re overwhelmed with all of the options and unsure about which tube bender is the right machine for you. Regardless of your application, Trick-Tools is here to be an information source to make sure you’re investing in the right tool to overcome your fabrication challenge. We’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions to help aid in your research for your next tubing bender.

What is the primary use of a tubing bender?

Professional shops, as well as DIY fabricators, both rely on benders. These tools are required for building tubular structures such as tube chassis and roll cages for race cars and offroad vehicles as well as handrails and other tubular applications. Whether building a simple transmission cross member or a complete ORV roll cage, tube benders are a necessary piece of equipment. In addition, tubing benders are also used in bending header primaries and exhaust systems, turbo manifolds, brake lines, and even solid bar applications. Trick-Tools offers options for all levels of fabricators looking to take their work to the next level.

How many types of benders are commonly used and how are they powered?

Tubing benders offered on the market can be broken down in the 3 main categories; manual, powered, and programmable.

Manual benders operate by a rack and lever system and are generally used by DIY home shop fabricators and small job shops limited on space and budget. This style of bender produces similar quality bends as the larger and more expensive hydraulic machines, but at a lower cost and at a much slower cycle time. Shops requiring faster cycle times gravitate towards air/hydraulic and electric/hydraulic tubing benders. As a result, these machines offer effortless bending.

Production-oriented shops often utilize powered benders with programmable functions. Programmable benders make it easy to recall parts that have been programmed into the machine. This simple process is a necessity when bending repeatable and consistent parts.

Are the bending dies easy to swap out for different size tubing? Will it bend square? How tight of a bend is possible?

The time to change tooling varies from a few seconds to several minutes depending on the complexity of the machine.  Most tubing bender manufacturers offer dies for both round and square tubing, as well as pipe sizes. The fabricator will need a die set for each specific OD (outside diameter) of material and Center Line Radius (CLR). Center Line radius refers to the measurement of how tight or how broad the bend is, like bending a tube around a baseball vs. basketball.

Achievable bend radius is a product of OD, wall thickness, and bend radius.  As OD increases so must the bend radius and wall thickness.  For example, a typical non-mandrel bender, 2” tubing would require at least a 6” CLR, and .095” wall thickness, but 1” tubing could be bent on a 3” CLR with an .065” wall.  A good rule of thumb for a non-mandrel bender is the CLR must be 3 times the OD of the tube.

Can it do Mandrel Bends?

Mandrel tube bending is a widely misunderstood bending term. Many customers, and even some bending companies, refer to the bending dies as mandrels or shoes. Technically, the mandrel is a part of the tooling set but does not exist in most bending applications.

The mandrel goes inside the tube and is held by a mandrel rod to support the tube at the tangent point of the bend. The mandrel is then extracted after the bend is complete or within the last few degrees of bending. This requires a machine with a bed longer than the tube being bent and strong enough to support the forces against the mandrel.

Common mandrels configurations include the plug, ball, disc or multi-ball or disc design. The type of mandrel required varies depending on the wall thickness of the tube, radius required, and type of material being bent. Mandrel bending can create a bend much tighter than empty bending as well as improve the appearance of bend. Radii as tight as one times the diameter of the tube (1D) are possible. This is especially useful for automotive exhaust applications or when a fluid or gas is being flowed through a tube. Most chassis or frame tube bending applications do not require a mandrel. Even though the bend may appear stronger the outer wall of the tube is actually stretched thinner by the mandrel bending process

We want to help you!

In the end, tubing benders come in all shapes and sizes and these are just a few questions to consider when purchasing the right tubing bender for your budget, demand, and application. Head over to our website to see our line up of tubing benders and visit our YouTube Channel to see these tools in action. As always, give us a call with any questions or concerns and we’d be happy to assist you!

Bend-Tech Dragon Tube Cutting and Marking System

When first introduced to the Bend-Tech Dragon Plasma Notcher, it didn’t take us long to figure out how it got its name. Its unique beast-like figure looks intimidating and the sparks from the plasma cutter replicate the breathing of fire. These characteristics are vastly similar the the fictional beast, making the Dragon a perfect name for this hardcore Plasma Notcher.

It’s accuracy and capabilities are unlike any animal we’ve seen, almost as if it’s unreal. The Dragon is capable of taking full length tubing, cutting it to length, notching the end profile, marking holes or slots as needed, and marking any bend locations with rotation and degrees; something you wont find in any other plasma notcher.

Included with the Bend-Tech Dragon is two powerful software packages; Bend-Tech Industrial and Bend-Tech Dragon Software. Working side by side, these products will allow you to create 3D CAD designs from scratch or convert from SOLIDWORKS, AutoCAD, Inventor, PRO Engineer, etc. into a readable format for the machine. Dragon Software will automatically create your cutting, marking and etching paths directly from Bend-Tech Industrial and comes with a nesting ability to allow several parts on the same stock tube.

Check out the video below and see this nonfictional machine in action. This video was shot at the Trick-Tools booth during the 2015 SEMA Show and highlights some of the major characteristics that make the Dragon a necessity in a production environment.

What is Mandrel Tube Bending?

Mandrel tube bending is a widely misunderstood bending term. Many customers and even some bending companies refer to the bending dies as mandrels or shoes. Technically the mandrel is a part of the tooling set but does not exist in most bending applications.
The mandrel actually goes inside the tube and is held by a mandrel rod to support the tube at the tangent point of the bend. The mandrel is then extracted after the bend is complete or within the last few degrees of bending. This requires a machine with a bed longer than the tube being bent and strong enough to support the forces against the mandrel.

Common mandrels configurations include the plug, ball, disc or multi-ball or disc design. The type of mandrel required varies depending on the wall thickness of the tube, radius required, and type of material being bent. Mandrel bending can create a bend much tighter than empty bending as well as improve the appearance of bend.

Mandrel tube bending diagram

Mandrel tube bending diagram

Radii as tight as one times the diameter of the tube (1D) are possible, whereas with empty bending (bends without an internal mandrel) acceptable radii are usually two to three times the diameter (2-3D). This is especially useful for Continue reading