Mandrel bending, a precision metal bending technique widely utilised for shaping pipes without compromising their internal diameter, is common in industries like automotive, construction and furniture manufacturing where maintaining a consistent bend is crucial. 

The use of a mandrel ensures that the inner diameter of the metal tube remains consistent throughout the bend, preventing kinks and buckles that can compromise the structural integrity of the material.

However, even with the use of a mandrel, deformation is still a common challenge.

What causes kinked or buckled bends?

Before we dive into solutions, let's first identify the causes of these unwanted deformations. Several factors can contribute to kinks and buckles, including:

1) Not Considering Material Properties: 

The hardness of the material is a critical factor in metal bending, influencing how the material responds to external forces during the bending process. This aspect is particularly significant when considering the susceptibility to kinks, with pliable metals and stiff metals exhibiting different behaviours under excessive force.

Pliable Metals (e.g., Aluminum):

Pliable metals, characterised by lower hardness, are more forgiving during bending. These metals have a higher degree of ductility, meaning they can undergo substantial deformation before experiencing failure. Aluminium, for example, is known for its malleability and ease of bending. It can withstand bending around relatively tight radii without developing kinks, provided the bending process is controlled and within the material's limits.

Stiffer Metals (e.g., Iron):

Stiffer metals have higher hardness values, making them less forgiving during bending. Iron, being a relatively stiff material, is less ductile compared to aluminium. When subjected to excessive force or bent around tight radii, stiff metals are more prone to developing kinks, cracks, or fractures.

2. Pushing The Bend Radius: 

Metals have a specific bend radius beyond which they cannot be bent without causing structural damage. Pushing the bend radius beyond the material's capability can result in permanent deformation, cracks, or fractures. This compromises the structural integrity of the metal, leading to weakened and potentially unusable products. As the metal is bent, the outer edge experiences excessive stretching and deformation.

Tighter bend radii puts additional stress on the material, but also requires higher forces. This increased force puts additional strain on the bending equipment, often leading to premature wear.

3. Not Considering Wall Thickness: 

When metal is subjected to bending, the outer wall experiences stretching, while the inner wall experiences compression. Both of these deformations are consequences of the bending process and can contribute to overall shape changes in the metal. As a rule of thumb, the thickness should ideally be no thinner than 3% of the tube’s outer diameter.

Thicker tubes are generally easier to bend, reducing the risk of buckling or cracking during a bend. However, larger tubes are undoubtedly harder to handle and manipulate, and can create more wear on your machinery.

The key is to manage these deformations within the material's limits to avoid issues like kinking, cracking, or other structural defects.

Stretching the Outer Wall:

As the metal is bent, the outer wall of the bend experiences tensile stress, leading to stretching. Excessive stretching beyond the material's ductility or elasticity limits can result in permanent deformation, thinning or even rupture of the outer wall.

Squishing the Inner Wall:

Simultaneously, the inner wall of the bend experiences compressive stress, leading to squishing or compression. If the compression force is too high or the material's resistance to compression is exceeded, the inner wall may deform, creating bulges or other shape irregularities.

Both stretching and squishing can contribute to overall deformation during bending. Achieving a balance between these two effects is crucial to obtaining a smooth, uniform bend without compromising the structural integrity of the metal. Proper tooling, appropriate bend radii, and an understanding of the material's properties are essential to control these deformations and prevent issues like kinks or fractures in the bent metal.

4. Not Enough Lubrication 

As we’ve said, the intricate nature of mandrel bending subjects pipes to high levels of stress and pressure. Friction only makes this process worse.

By actively reducing friction between the mandrel and the interior of the pipe, we can reduce the stress put on the interior of the pipe and ensure a seamless glide during the bending process. 

In the market, a diverse array of lubricants tailored for mandrel bending addresses specific materials and applications. Selecting the right lubricant is crucial, considering the factors we’ve mentioned above. Gel formulations are highly recommended because you can apply it exactly where needed without it running off.

Find out more about our popular METFORM OF GEL.


By understanding the principles behind mandrel bending and implementing best practices, you not only enhance the aesthetics of your finished product but also ensure its functionality and longevity. 

Whether you're in the automotive, manufacturing, or any other industry that relies on precision bending, the investment in proper equipment, expertise and lubrication is well worth the superior results (and a smaller scrap heap).