One of UK’s leading manufacturers of high-quality bathroom products chose SEL to design and manufacture a semi-automated flush pipe bending machine.
With the client requiring a bespoke automated solution capable of bending a straight PVC pipe at a 90-degree angle with great precision and control. SEL were able to create an innovative machine with emphasis on quality control to meet the customer’s meticulous specifications and requirements.
The key challenge of this project was to ensure the pipes were not being damaged during the bending process. To achieve a smooth bend without any creasing, buckling or other defects, our designers used a combination of press moulding and blow moulding as part of the pipe bending process. The machine underwent extensive in-house development trials and progressive modifications until the highest quality standards could be achieved on a consistent basis.
To start the bending process, a pipe is placed in the machine and the process begins with pistons on either side of the pipe converging and creating an airtight seal with the pipe. The pipe is then rotated in position to allow for the mid-section to be uniformly heated by ceramic heating elements. After the pipe reaches the optimum moulding temperature, a total of three air cylinders are activated, pressing the upper tooling down whilst the sides of the pipe are raised to allow for the pipe to be guided into a 90-degree bend in a controlled manner. During this process, the air within the pipe is pressurised, preventing it from collapsing and ensuring the pipe acquires the full shape of the converged tooling. After a few seconds of cooling the cylinders then retract, exposing the now bent and fit for purpose, flush pipe.
The machine is fully guarded with polycarbonate panels covering all access points and safety interlocks on sliding door panels, thus providing great visibility without compromising operator safety. Two pipes can be bent simultaneously during the same cycle, doubling the machine’s productivity and increasing its overall efficiency.
As per the customer’s specifications, the machine requires an operator to insert the two pipes into the machine to start the bending process and then to remove them once the process is complete. This is a great improvement on the previous production process of bending the pipes manually, reducing the repetitive physical strain that the operator experiences. However, the machine could be developed further to be fully automated using an industrial robot to autonomously process the high-speed pipe transfer should the customer decide to explore that route in the future.