Analysis of the conform process : a specific form of aluminium extrusion
Since the Conform process was patented 30 years ago, there have only been approximately 200 machines sold worldwide. Given that Conform competes economically with conventional extrusion and is also reported to be a more energy efficient process, it is surprising that the use of Conform is not more widespread in today's increasingly environmentally conscious and high-production focussed world. One explanation for this is likely to be due to the fact that there is still limited knowledge of the thermo-mechanical behaviour of the workpiece during extrusion. Furthermore, for the aluminium industry, there are still issues remaining regarding the production of flash and the quality of the extrudate in terms of mechanical properties. This study provides the reader with the findings of the research and experimental work undertaken by the author, his co-workers and fellow specialists, in the field of aluminium extrusion including Conform. The experimental work includes both laboratory experiments performed with a direct extrusion press and an experimental machine set up to replicate the Conform process. The experimental work is also simulated using finite element modelling techniques. The results from these analyses are then validated by comparing industrial and experimental data. The finite element analyses are enhanced by using parallel processing technology and user sub-routines. The author proposes new models to allow for the study of the different sub-processes in Conform. These include the coining of the feedstock, formation of the upset zone, extrusion of the flash, the filling-up of the expansion chamber / feeder plate and the extrusion of the extrudate. The author also investigates methods which predict microstructure and surface cracks in the extrudate. The author suggests innovative techniques to improve the efficiency of finite element analysis in metal forming. Finally the author recommends procedures for the study of structural integrity and the optimisation of the tooling used in Conform.