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The World’s Most Powerful All-Electric Pipe Bending Machine

pipe bending machine
The 273 mm Unison all-electric bending machine. (Image courtesy of Unison/Westcon.)

The world’s largest and most powerful all-electric pipe bending machine was recently installed at Westcon Yards, a Norwegian offshore and maritime services company.

Capable of generating 660,000 Nm of continuous, servo-controlled torque, the machine is used for precision bending of thick-walled carbon steel pipes up to 273 mm (10 inches) in diameter.

Pipe Bending Machines

Most pipes produced by Westcon are one-off items for new systems, rerouting and maintenance purposes. They are typically made from carbon steel, with each pipe spool being up to 6 meters in length.

Because the pipes are usually part of fresh or seawater systems, hydraulic systems or diesel fuel distribution networks, they often involve tight radius bends to as little as 1.5x outside diameter. For this reason, they need to be constructed to millimeter accuracy.

Westcon used to fabricate all their pipes in sectional form. Individual sections, bends and end connection flanges were welded together to create the final assembly. Each weld required cleaning, inspection and non-destructive x-ray testing.

The addition of bending machines substantially reduces the number of cutting, welding and testing operations required for each assembly. Now, the pipes are cut, bent, re-measured, cut to final length and welded to the necessary flanges.

The pipes are currently cut slightly over-length and re-measured after bending to allow for any changes introduced in the process. Westcon anticipates that the need for this precaution will diminish as they gain experience using bending machines.

In-House Pipe Bending

This is the second pipe bending machine to be installed at Westcon. The first was a 90 mm (3.5 inch) single-stack model installed earlier this year. It enabled Westcon to bring fabrication of all pipe sizes up to 60.3 mm (2.4 inches) in diameter in-house.

With the addition of the more powerful pipe bending machine, the company now intends to produce nearly all pipe sizes needed for outfitting, service and repair operations in-house.

Both machines were supplied by Unison and are fitted with their laser springback system. This system automatically measures and adjusts bend angles to compensate for the tendency of tubular parts to spring back slightly after being bent.

The bending machines simplify and accelerate the production process by allowing parts to be fabricated from single-piece piping stock, rather than using multiple cut-to-length straight sections and pre-formed bend parts brought in from external suppliers.

“Now that the larger bending machine is in place, we expect to substantially reduce production times for all pipe sizes. It’s like going from 1930 to 2016 in one stride!” said Tommy Nilsen, Head of Prefabrication at Westcon’s Ølensvåg facility, where the bending machines were installed.

The Westcon engineering workshop. (Image courtesy of Unison/Westcon.)

The CNC-controlled machines were installed in a 3,650 square meter purpose-built engineering workshop with over 1,500 square meters allocated to pipe production. The facility includes a fully automated materials handling system, as well as an automatic pipe cutting machine.

The material storage/retrieval system, pipe cutting and bending machines at the Ølensvåg facility are fully networked.

The engineering department can create the necessary machine control programs from customer-supplied drawings, CAD files or from data derived directly from a physical pipe using a laser-based coordinate measuring machine.

“Our all-electric tube and pipe bending technology is starting to make major inroads into territory that was once regarded as the sole preserve of hydraulic benders,” said Unison CEO Alan Pickering.

Is In-House Pipe Bending Cost-Effective?

In the case of a large manufacturer like Westcon, bringing pipe bending in-house saves time and cuts costs by eliminating their dependence on an external supplier.

However, the scale and initial costs for the large scale pipe bending machine may be too much to handle for smaller companies.


Source : Engineering.com