Evolution is inherent to the materials and equipment used in assembly, regardless of the product being made. For example, semi- and tank trailers increasingly feature composite-material components, along with those made of traditional steel or aluminum.

Wabash National Corp. (WNC) assembles its trailers with high-quality stainless steel and aluminum parts. The company also uses formed-metal parts for its dry freight, refrigerated, platform and bulk-tank trailers, and dry and refrigerated truck bodies.

In 2019, WNC was in the market for a new hydraulic bulge forming press. This type of press uses hydraulic pressure to deform the steel piece in a nearly spherical shape with full symmetry.

Barb Yocum, lead manufacturing engineer at Walker Engineered Products (a division of WNC), says WNC reached out to Beckwood Press Co. for help to find the best machine for the application. Beckwood gladly took on the project, with its engineers designing a custom 3,500-ton press that was delivered in October 2019. WNC put the press to work almost immediately, forming stainless steel and aluminum tankheads with diameters up to 13 feet for the company’s tank and silo products.

“Beckwood [was fully] engaged and supportive during this project,” says Yocum. “Every step, from quoting to design, [they were] detailed, careful and worked hard to provide the press we needed for our operation.”

The press measures 285 inches by 216 inches, weighs 650,000 pounds and sits in a 6-foot-deep pit. Its 160-inch-square bolsters contain machined T-slots for use with a quick-die-change system featuring chain-driven die clamps and a bed trolley. The trolley transports dies up to 30,000 pounds across a 30-foot track via a push-button control station.

Equally impressive is the fact that the press is able to bulge-form using either air or water. This dual capability is specifically designed to accommodate WNC’s existing tooling and save the company money.

An adjustable gib-guidance system ensures bed-to-ram parallelism throughout each stroke. Closed-loop pneumatic control allows WNC to form parts to specific dome heights while utilizing up to 750 psi of air pressure.

Polycarbonate guarding around the forming area enhances worker safety. Other safety features are hydraulically actuated die blocks that secure the ram during die changeover, and a collision detection system on each end of the trolley.

“This [bulge forming] press is one of the largest and heaviest machines we’ve ever built,” says Jeffrey Debus, president of Beckwood. “We have seen an increase in requests for presses of this magnitude. [Thankfully,] the extended ceiling heights and heavy crane capabilities of our new facility allow us to assemble, program, and test these machines in-house, which greatly expedites delivery to our customers.”

Established in 1985 in Lafayette, IN, WNC is a diversified industrial manufacturer that also makes liquid transportation systems, structural composite panels, and specialty food grade and pharmaceutical equipment. The company is well known for its industry innovation (more than 300 patents) and durable products.

Beckwood offers both standard and custom presses, as well as automation equipment for nearly every industry. Recent innovations include Triformline precision forming equipment, EVOxline servo-electric presses and a line of temperature-controlled presses for compression molding, and hot forming and superplastic forming.

For more information on hydraulic presses, call 800-737-0111 or visit www.beckwoodpress.com.