Understand the tube and pipe manufacturing process

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There is probably nothing more essential to the success of a modern infrastructure than simple steel pipes. Steel pipes are widely used in applications ranging from underground water pipes and power lines to sewers and drains. There are over 2.5 million kilometers of pipeline in the oil and gas industry alone, not to mention millions of additional kilometers in water supply systems and other infrastructure networks.

But how are these pipes made? How did the industry develop to be able to supply almost countless kilometers of pipe and tubing? The process of manufacturing stainless steel tubes and pipes has evolved along with advances in industrial technology. In this article, we will describe part of this process.

What raw materials are used?

The basic raw material used in the production of tubes and pipes is steel. Steel is an alloy composed of aluminum, titanium, manganese, zirconium, vanadium and tungsten. Finished pipes often also have an exterior coating. This coating can be an advanced carbon coating to increase the durability of the pipe, or something as simple as a coat of paint.

Pipe and tube manufacturing processes

Steel pipes can be produced by a number of different methods. Here are some of the most common and efficient pipe manufacturing processes.

Mannesmann Cork Mill Manufacturing Process

This method was founded by Mannesmann, a German engineer. It starts with a cylindrical steel billet, which is drilled and fed between two rollers. At the same time, a cone-shaped mandrel is inserted into the billet. After being pierced, the billet undergoes another rolling step during which it is elongated. A third rolling in a cap mill completes the initial stage of tube manufacturing. It ends with heat treatment and undergoes a process of cooling, slicing and smoothing.

Mandrel grinding process

Like the Mannesmann process, the manufacture of mandrel mill tubes begins with a billet of hot steel. After heating, the billet is pierced and fed into a mandrel mill through several pairs of rollers. Then the pipe is heat treated and stretched, before being cooled, cut and straightened. Unlike the Mannesmann milling process, in most cases the desired diameter is achieved in one attempt.

Extrusion process

The manufacture of extrusion tubes uses hydraulic energy to push a mandrel through a heated billet. By doing this in a large die, the excess material is trapped between the mandrel and the die walls, extending and hollowing out the billet and producing a pipe.

Forged seamless pipe manufacturing process

A heated billet is used in the process. The hot billet is placed in the forging die, which has a diameter slightly larger than the finished pipe. A construction hydraulic hammer with a corresponding inside diameter helps to create a cylindrical forged pipe. The pipe is then machined to arrive at the final dimensions. The process is effective in the production of seamless pipes of large diameters.

Welded Pipe Manufacturing Process

Unlike some of the other processes mentioned, welded pipes are made using metal plates or coils, rather than billets. The coil or plate is wound into a circular section. After rolling the circular section from the plate, the plate is welded. The advantages of this method include a less complicated manufacturing process and a readily available material. The pipes can be produced in large sizes without any restrictions. Pipes which are welded with filler materials can be used in the manufacture of elbows and large radius elbows.

These are some of the methods currently used to produce large diameter industrial metal pipes and tubes. These processes are constantly evolving and new methods, such as 3D printing, are showing promise.

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Bailey Hudson is a freelance industry writer who focuses on quality industrial equipment and modern manufacturing. Bailey is currently writing for SummitMT.


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