Stainless Steel Tube Bending: Process & Considerations

May 3, 2022

Stainless steel is one of the most popular materials used for custom tube bending due to its excellent strength and superior resistance to corrosion. It is the ideal choice for a variety tube and pipe components, including OEM instruments and machinery, manifolds and hydraulic fluid supply lines, cooling coils, water nozzles, and more.

When it comes to stainless steel tube bending, there are many considerations to keep in mind, such as the thickness of the material, the bending process used, desired configuration, and more. With over 44 years of experience, Triad Products Corp is an expert in metal fabrication. Keep reading to determine if stainless steel is right for your tubing application.

Challenges of Stainless Steel Tubing Fabrication

Stainless steel is a very hard material, so it can present certain challenges for tube bending operations. However, it also offers excellent ductility and can be easily formed into various shapes using the proper tools and machinery. Material thickness will determine the amount of force required to achieve the desired configuration. Thick-walled material and/or irregular shaped tubes will require considerable direct force using advanced bending equipment.

Triad Products Corp has experience bending stainless steel tubing for a variety of industries. Between our highly skilled engineers and state-of-the-art machinery, we can create simple and complex components for any application.

Stainless Steel Tube Bending Methods

Stainless steel can be bent using a variety of different methods. The best method for your process will depend on the shape and radius you want to achieve. Common stainless steel tube bending methods include:

Rotary Draw Bending

Rotary draw bending involves clamping the exterior of a stainless steel tube or pipe and forming it around a die until the desired bend radius is achieved. This process is ideal for high precision components and tight radius bends.

Three Roll Bending

In roll bending, three rollers are used to gradually bend a stainless steel pipe or tube by applying pressure at specific points as the material is fed through the machine. Three roll bending is typically used to achieve large radius bends.

Mandrel Bending

Mandrel bending is similar to rotary draw bending, but instead uses a mandrel to provide internal support while the tube is bent around the die. Mandrel bending is used to maintain the roundness of the tube and prevent collapse.

Compression Bending

Compression bending involves clamping the stainless steel tube around a stationary die and then pulling the material around it to form the bend. This process is fast, but should not be used when tight radius bends are a priority.

Ram Bending

Ram bending uses a hydraulic ram to bend stainless steel tubing in multiple locations as it is braced against a pivot block or roller. This process is easy and cost-effective, but is not ideal for applications that require a tight tolerance.

Considerations to Keep in Mind for Your Custom Steel Tubing Project

There are several considerations to keep in mind before starting with your stainless steel tube bending project. The most important factors to consider include:

  • Bend radius: Most stainless steel tubing applications require tight radius bends, requiring bending methods such as rotary draw bending or roll bending. A mandrel can be used for support to prevent wall collapse.
  • Yield strength: Stainless steel has high yield strength, which increases the likelihood of springback. It is important to determine the amount of strain to be expected before starting your tube bending project.
  • Material thickness: The thickness of the material affects the force required to achieve a specific configuration. Thicker walls have more strain and will require greater force, but thinner walls are more susceptible to collapse. Material thickness is an important consideration when determining the most effective tooling setup.
  • Welded vs extruded: Both welded (seams) & extruded (seamless) tubing can be bent. Seamless tubing is ideal when desired radius is very tight, while welded tubing is preferred for larger diameter applications.

Stainless Steel Tubing Grades

The most common grades used for stainless steel tube bending include 304 stainless steel and 316 stainless steel. The material grade you choose determines the type of bending process used along with the radius that can be achieved without damaging the tube.

304 Stainless Steel

304 stainless steel is one of the most common SS grades due to its versatility, corrosion resistance, and non-magnetic properties. However, its toughness may present challenges for tube bending without the proper tooling and equipment. 304 stainless steel can be used to create machining equipment, food processing equipment, aerospace components, hospital and medical devices, and more.

316 Stainless Steel

316 stainless steel contains added molybdenum for enhanced corrosion resistance and superior strength at high temperatures. While 316 is also very tough, it is ideal for use in corrosive, harsh environments, such as marine applications, chemical processing, pharmaceutical and medical applications, and more.

The stainless steel grade you choose depends on the requirements of your application. Triad also provides other stainless steel grades as specified by the customer. Contact us for help determining the best material grade for your application.

Is Stainless Steel Tube Bending Right for Your Application?

Stainless steel is not easily bent without the proper equipment and machinery. However, it provides many benefits for applications that require high strength and corrosion resistance. Here at Triad, we work with a variety of materials, tolerances, and requirements to provide our customers with high quality pipe and tube components for any industry. Contact us today to speak to an expert.

Custom Stainless Steel Tube Bending from Triad Products Corp

For more than 44 years, Triad Products has been in leader in stainless steel tube bending and fabrication. We cater to small to medium production runs ranging from 100 to 1,000 pieces. Join the hundreds of OEMs who consistently rely on Triad for their tubing components. Request a quote today to begin discussing your custom stainless steel tube bending project.