Introduction to Slide Forming

Hamond Industries Ltd - the Slide Forming Specialists

About Slide Forming

Animation of a Slide Forming Machine, also sometimes called a fourslide, making a case clip

Slide forming machines are specialized presses built from the ground up to do complex stampings with speed, accuracy, repeatability, economy and ease. Tooling cost is low even in the face of significant part complexity. Complexities like bends over 90°, multiple bends in different directions, extrusions and tapped holes, things that are difficult or expensive with a standard stamping press, are all handled cost-effectively on a slide machine.

The machines used in slide forming go by many different names, including fourslides, multislides and vertislides.

We have several different types of slide forming machines - a number of horizontal fourslide machines, and a number of the newer vertical machines called vertislides.

Slide forming is an amazingly flexible manufacturing process. But to do it well, you need a trained and experienced staff of setup operators, toolmakers and designers. Our staff are trained for slide forming and very experienced in it.

Learn more about slide forming (and see a more detailed explanation of the process)

Slide forming is a refinement of metal stamping. In order to understand slide forming, you have to know a few things about metal stamping and the consequent economics.

In a standard stamping press, you have 4 basic components:

  1. the machine itself, providing the power and the physical structure
  2. a pair of parallel surfaces that close and open again under power (the “bed”, which stays still and the “ram” which moves down and back up)
  3. A two-part die-set, one part of which is fastened to the bed and the other part to the ram. The die-set provides accurate line-up of the cutting surfaces. It is job specific and houses:
  4. the job-specific punches and dies.

When the ram closes, the punches and dies interact, cutting, bending, etc, and making the desired part. When the ram opens again, the part(s) are removed and new material is moved into place.

In this sort of press, the motion supplied by the machine is all vertical. It makes flat parts easily. Some features, like bends less than 90° can also be done easily. But if you add part features like bends over 90°, multiple bends or metal with varying amounts of spring-back, suddenly you don’t have a simple job.

You can, of course, add all the complexity needed to the die-set (and many people do). But each new complex feature requires expensive cams, benders or other submachines to be built into the job-specific tooling. Building these mechanisms into the job costs the customer significant tooling money up front.

Slide forming machines have cams and slides built into them, reducing the tooling cost of a complex job.

Slide forming machines integrate and synchronize 3 sections that are usually separate in a press (straightener, feed and press) and add a fourth forming area.

The feed and straightener work much like a regular press, except that the accuracy is much better because of the integration.

The press section is used to make holes and certain other part features. The parts are not separated from each other in the press.

forming example

The strip then travels to the forming section. Here each part is separated from its neighbour and can be bent by tools coming from as many as 5 directions.

In the example picture on the right:

  1. the strip touches a sensor, ensuring that it has fed completely
  2. a clamp comes down to hold the part firmly
  3. the part is separated from the rest of the strip
  4. a tool comes down and bends two tabs down (the numbers are on the leading edges of the tool)
  5. a tool comes in from the side and justifies (restrikes) the tabs that were bent down, for more accuracy (there is a corresponding tool on the other side but it's outside the picture)
  6. also outside the picture, another tool comes up from below and bends a tab in the other direction (up).
  7. All the tools release (the clamp last of all) and the part is ejected by two rods that come forward from the back (you can see them if you look carefully but they aren't numbered)

Each tool is modular, independent, highly repeatable, accurate and adjustable, and can be as complex as the job needs. All of this happens at speeds from 30 to 250 parts per minute.

Unless you've seen one of these machines working, it's hard to visualize . The cams and other mechanisms needed to operate and synchronize these motions are already built in to our machine, so they don’t have to be built into your job-specific tooling.

On some of our machines, we have added a 5th station. It sits between the press and the form area, and can put a tapped hole in your part. Subject to some spacing constraints, we can even put multiple tapped holes in your part.

We can also use that space to do certain types of assembly, and we can in theory weld parts together there (we've never tried the last one). These extra operations are not cheap (because they slow the machine down) but they are both more reliable and cheaper than other methods.

If you just want to make flat parts, there's little point making them on a slide forming machine. On the other hand, if the parts you want are more complex, slide forming makes economic sense. Parts with bends, especially if there are several, are almost always cheaper on a slide forming machine than on a straight press. Better yet, if you can simplify your overall product or reduce part count by the introduction of one complex part, slide forming can be a godsend to your bottom line. Many of our customers owe their competitive advantage to the parts we can make for them. Call us. Maybe we can contribute to your competitive advantage as well.