The presented paper provides a modelling strategy for roll forming of a high strength aluminum alloy tube. Roll forming allows the cost-effective production of large quantities of long profiles. Forming of high strength aluminum brings challenges like high springback and poor formability due to the low Young’s modulus, low ductility and high yield strength. Forming processes with high strength aluminum, such as the AA7075 alloy, therefore require a detailed process design. Three different forming strategies, one double radius strategy and two W-forming strategies are discussed in the paper. The paper addresses the question whether common roll forming strategies are appropriate for the challenge of roll forming of a high strength aluminum micro channel tube. For this purpose, different forming strategies are investigated numerically regarding buckling, longitudinal strain distribution and final geometry. While geometry is quite the same for all strategies, buckling and strain distribution differ with every strategy. The result of the numerical investigation is an open tube that can be welded into a closed tube in a subsequent step. Finally, roll forming experiments are conducted and compared with the numerical results.Current research in production technology focuses primarily on increasing resource efficiency and thus follows the approach of fundamental sustainability of processes and products. High strength aluminum alloys (e.g. AA7075) are commonly used in aerospace applications in spite of their high cost of about 5 €/kg and poor formability . Due to ambitious legal requirements, such as the CO2 target in automotive engineering, new lightweight construction concepts are still needed . An excellent basis is offered by the production of high strength AA7075 thin walled tubes as semi-finished products by roll forming. These can be further processed in subsequent customized processes such as welding, stamping, cutting or rotary swaging.
According to DIN 8586, roll forming is a bending technology with rotating tool motion to produce open and closed profiles . Several pairs of forming rolls are aligned one behind the other for the forming process. The friction between the rotating forming rolls and the sheet metal causes a forward movement of the sheet. Simultaneously the sheet is formed in and between the stations. For the production of large quantities, roll forming is a cost-effective manufacturing process, compared to tube extrusion or tube drawing. Roll forming can also be competitive for smaller quantities, if the number of forming passes is small enough . The incremental nature of the roll forming process also allows forming of high strength materials, such as ultra high strength steel (UHSS) .
During roll forming there is a limit for the amount of deformation regarding buckling limit strain (BLS), which can be reached in one forming station . Abeyrathna , Park  and Bui  showed that longitudinal strain has a major impact on product defects, such as bow or buckling. The maximum longitudinal strain occurs in the area of the band edge. Plastic elongation in the roll gap between the forming rolls followed by compression when the sheet leaves the forming rolls leads to buckling. Figure 1 illustrates the elongation, followed by compression when forming a tube. To prevent buckling, the maximum longitudinal strain must be low. Once buckling takes place, welding of the formed tube becomes very difficult or even impossible . Parameters with a large influence on buckling are the stiffness of the sheet and the yield strength of the material. According to Halmos , elongation of the band edge depends on the flange height and inter-station distance ld. High bending angles of a single forming station Θp and a small inter-station distance ld lead to large elongation of the band edge and thus to buckling. For circular sections (e.g. tube), the BLS is 5–10 times higher than the BLS for a U-profile .Groche et al. , Park et al. , Zou et al.  and Lee et al.  showed that roll forming of high strength materials and especially of high strength aluminum drawn tube brings challenges compared to commonly roll formed steel grades. High strength leads to high springback and thus to less dimensional accuracy in the processed part. Parameters, which have an influence on springback are shown in Table 1. Difficulties regarding aluminum include early fracture due to low ductility, higher springback and redundant deformation. This requires a well-designed forming strategy in order to get the lowest possible springback and buckling in the roll forming process and the best quality of the processed part. In contrast, aluminum shows a good-natured behavior with regard to buckling due to a higher value of BLS compared to steel .The single radius-forming strategy has the advantage to form tubes with different sheet thickness on the same tool. A flower pattern with constant bending radius over the entire cross-section of the sheet is characteristic for the single radius-forming. For high-strength materials, the single radius-forming strategy is not applicable due to high springback caused by the high elastic bending content [10, 18].