Description of Metal Spinning
Metal spinning, also known as spin forming or spinning or metal turning most commonly, is a metalworking process by which a disc or tube of metal is rotated at high speed and formed into an axially symmetric part. Spinning can be performed by hand or by a CNC lathe.
Metal spinning does not involve removal of material, as in conventional wood or metal turning, but forming (moulding) of sheet material over an existing shape.
The spinning process is fairly simple. A formed block is mounted in the drive section of a lathe. A pre-sized metal disk is then clamped against the block by a pressure pad, which is attached to the tailstock. The block and workpiece are then rotated together at high speeds. A localized force is then applied to the workpiece to cause it to flow over the block. The force is usually applied via various levered tools. Simple workpieces are just removed from the block, but more complex shapes may require a multi-piece block. Extremely complex shapes can be spun over ice forms, which then melt away after spinning. Because the final diameter of the workpiece is always less than the starting diameter, the workpiece must thicken, elongate radially, or buckle circumferentially.
A more involved process, known as reducing or necking, allows a spun workpiece to include reentrant geometries. If surface finish and form are not critical, then the workpiece is "spun on air"; no mandrel is used. If the finish or form are critical then an eccentrically mounted mandrel is used.
The basic hand metal spinning tool is called a spoon, though many other tools (be they commercially produced, ad hoc, or improvised) can be used to effect varied results. Spinning tools can be made of hardened steel for use with aluminum, or from solid brass for spinning stainless steel or mild steel.
Some metal spinning tools are allowed to spin on bearings during the forming process. This reduces friction and heating of the tool, extending tool life and improving surface finish. Rotating tools may also be coated with thin film of ceramic to prolong tool life. Rotating tools are commonly used during CNC metal spinning operations.
Commercially, rollers mounted on the end of levers are generally used to form the material down to the mandrel in both hand spinning and CNC metal spinning. Rollers vary in diameter and thickness depending the intended use. The wider the roller the smoother the surface of the spinning; the thinner rollers can be used to form smaller radii.
Cutting of the metal is done by hand held cutters, often foot long hollow bars with tool steel shaped/sharpened files attached. In CNC applications, carbide or tool steel cut-off tools are used.
The mandrel does not incur excessive forces, as found in other metalworking processes, so it can be made from wood, plastic, or ice. For hard materials or high volume use, the mandrel is usually made of metal.
Advantages and disadvantages
Several operations can be performed in one set-up. Work pieces may have re-entrant profiles and the profile in relation to the center line virtually unrestricted.
Forming parameters and part geometry can be altered quickly, at less cost than other metal forming techniques. Tooling and production costs are also comparatively low. Spin forming, often done by hand, is easily automated and an effective production method for prototypes as well as high quantity production runs.
Objects can be built using one piece of material to produce parts without seams. Without seams, a part can withstand higher internal or external pressure exerted on it. For example: scuba tanks and CO2 cartridges.
One disadvantage of metal spinning is that if a crack forms or the object is dented, it must be scrapped. Repairing the object is not cost-effective.
Fig. 1. A shear formed product: a hollow cone with a thin wall thickness
Fig. 2. Shear forming schematics