Essential Capabilities for Mechanical & Fabrication Projects

Essential Capabilities for Mechanical & Fabrication Projects

Pipe forming, bending, and flaring are essential capabilities that enable metal fabricators to create forms, structures, systems, and components for all types of industrial mechanical and fabrication projects. At APEX, our skilled team and specialized metal forming tools enable us to eliminate costly welding operations and provide piping solutions with more integrity, faster production, and lower costs. Sounds great, but without some of the basics, exactly what each of these capabilities does and their benefits can be unclear.


This blog will help get you up to speed with essential capabilities in mechanical fabrication, including pipe forming, pipe bending, and lap joint flaring.


What is pipe forming?

Pipe forming is the general process of pipe fabrication where forming operations are substituted for welding. With the right engineering, these methods help increase the integrity of piping systems, speed up fabrication and installation, and help reduce material and labor costs compared to welding. Thanks to several inherent advantages, pipe forming is the preferred method of fabrication for many major processing companies.


Pipe forming procedures like press bending and rotary draw bending are used to form pipes into an endless range of potential shapes. Straight tube stock can be formed on a bending machine to create single or multiple bends to achieve the specified design. With these processes, pipe fabricators form complex shapes out of many different sizes of round, square, and rectangular metal tubing.


For a better idea of the impact that pipe forming can have on a project, consider this recent biodiesel refinery construction project for Mid-Atlantic Bio-Diesel. Our prefabricated, machine-formed piping solutions would save significant time and money across the project compared to welding. Roll flared lap joints and cost-effective flanges enabled easy alignment and fast installation times, and prefabricated pipe spools helped eliminate the time and costs of preparing individual drawings for each spool in the system. Learn more about that project here.


What is pipe bending?

Pipe bending is a basic machining process that refers to any metal forming process used to form pipes or tubes permanently. This machining procedure can be a form-bound or freeform-bending process. In the world of metal fabrication, pipe bends are used as a substitute for welding that offers:

  • Higher integrity
  • Faster fabrication
  • Lower costs

Pipe bends are classified according to the centerline radius of the bend as a ratio to the nominal pipe diameter. Most cold bends (bends made at ambient temperature) are made on a 1.5D radius, making them interchangeable with long radius butt weld elbows and a frequent choice for countless projects where bending can be applied without changing existing designs. When modifying existing formed systems, standard weld fittings can be used, or vice versa.

Alternatively, 3D bend radii may be utilized in situations where flow restriction may be a concern. While 3D bending may require some special design considerations, it has the potential to save energy when properly applied.


One great example of how pipe bending can make a significant impact on the efficiency of a project comes from S.C. Johnson & Son, whose new east coast emulsion polymer plant demanded a comprehensive piping solution that was cost-effective while maintaining the highest standards of quality, durability, and dependability. APEX developed a prefabricated machine-preformed piping solution that eliminated the need for 4,000 welds and cut total installation costs by 30%. Read more about that project here.


What is lap joint flaring?

Lap joint flaring or Van Stone flanging involves roll flaring the end of a pipe section to form a lap that is perpendicular to the pipe axis, allowing for flanged connections without welding. A loose backup flange with the I.D. of the lap face is placed on the pipe before flaring. Precision machining ensures virtually identical laps every single time, making lap joints a reliable connector. With freely rotating pipes and flanges, bolt-hole alignment is never an issue. Lap joint flaring is a cost-effective solution that is easier and faster to produce and install than welded pipe connections.


Recently, one of our clients began an expansion program at one of their chlor-alkali plants and sought APEX’s expertise in bending, forming, and welding high alloy materials to install and move corrosive fluid through several thousand feet of titanium pipe. Since titanium is difficult to weld and form, lap joint flaring was the ideal solution. Overall, lap joint flaring and bending led to eliminating 2,200 welds from just that one project and reduced costs by 50%. Get more details on that project here.


Achieve Better Results with Fewer Welds

APEX leads the industry in close-radius pipe bending and lap-joint flaring, including high nickel alloys and titanium. We bend and form pipe, structural steel, and plate for numerous applications. Our pipe bending and flaring capabilities eliminate costly welding operations and provide piping with higher integrity, faster fabrication, and lower NDT costs. Through our constant investment in advanced technology, our craftsmen are experienced with the latest equipment in the industry. Learn more about our pipe bending and forming procedures and contact us today.