10 min read

Tube processing machines for heat pumps and HVACR systems

May 24, 2024 8:20:09 AM

Heat pumps represent the future of domestic and industrial heating, in this article you will discover some of the main technological needs in the production of tubes for heat pumps and for HVACR systems in general and some of the solutions proposed by BLM GROUP.

Prospects offered by the new Energy Performance of Buildings Directive EPBD for sustainable heating

The new Energy Performance of Buildings Directive EPBD approved on March 12, 2024 aims to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from public and private buildings which are responsible for 36% of emissions related to energy consumption. The replacement of gas boilers with modern, new generation heat pumps of greater efficiency is key among the various redevelopment interventions fundamental to achieving climate neutrality by 2050, which involves at least 15% of non-residential properties by 2030 and 26% of buildings of the lowest energy class by 2033.

With the growing diffusion of these devices, also favored by the ever-increasing global push towards decarbonization and the political support deriving from this fundamental directive, a significant increase in the sales of these systems is expected.

Therefore, the production needs of heat pumps and HVACR systems are constantly evolving, requiring greater efficiency, quality and the ability to adapt to changing market requirements.

BLM GROUP has always provided cutting-edge machines and work cell to manufacture tubes for HVACR systems such as: heat pumps, water heaters, heat exchangers and boilers and continues to innovate and customize its products through a relationship of active listening and cooperation with its customers. The goal is to meet the needs of a market increasingly oriented toward specific solutions in terms of applications, technologies and materials.

If you want to know more about the new European EPBD "green" housing directive, we recommend you to read this article on the European community website.



New HVACR systems, new technological needs

Here are some specific technology requirements for tube processing of heat pumps and HVACR systems in general:

  • productivity to respond to the growing production volumes;
  • production flexibility to respond to changing market needs;
  • quality of the components produced which translates into compliance with the project tolerances and the finishing of the curves;
  • production capacity which enables the ability to efficiently produce highly complex tubular components;
  • versatility of application allows the possibility of processing tubes of different materials and availability in different formats: from coils or from bars;
  • variety of processable diameters with the ever-increasing diffusion of heat pumps, the diameter range of the components of HVACR systems has expanded.

To meet these conditions BLM GROUP offers various technological solutions, dedicated machines, fully automated production islands and specific technical applications.


Machinery and techniques for processing tubes for heat pump and HVACR systems

Tube processing machines designed to operate stand-alone or integrated into automated work cells

To remain competitive in a constantly evolving industry such as HVACR systems, it is critical not only to increase the productivity of production lines, but also to ensure a high degree of adaptability to change.

The solution proposed by BLM GROUP in this case is to operate with stand-alone machines: tube benders, tube shapers and sawing machines to produce tubes for heat pumps and HVACR systems in general, which maintain a strong capacity for integration in complex work cells. This strategy maximizes production efficiency while ensuring the ability to efficiently produce limited volume batches for specific applications.

BLM GROUP offers a wide range of solutions: production islands and machines for manufacturing heat pumps and HVACR systems that carry out multiple processes in sequence and/or concurrently, starting from coils or bars. These production systems optimize material consumption, greatly reduce production costs and allow a rapid return on investment.

The addition of one or more robots for moving the workpiece between the systems and eventually in-line measurement systems for the dimensional verification of the produced parts, allows for 24 hours production with no operator and control of the entire process from the office via the BLM GROUP Prometheus production planning software.

Imagine being able to extract the parts to be produced directly from CAD, plan the batches and send them to the workshop in just a few simple clicks. With BLM GROUP this is possible.



In-line processing from coils, tube bending with and without mandrel

Tubes made for heat pumps and HVACR systems can be bent with or without mandrel.

In the event that mandrel bending is not required, the 4-RUNNER production process presents itself as one of the most compact and efficient solutions on the market for producing tubular components for heat pumps directly from coil. This machine enables the precise, efficient, and fully automatic production of custom-made, bent, drilled, and end-formed tubes.

4-RUNNER in fact, integrates a complete production process that starts from coil and performs decoiling, straightening, end-forming, measuring, rotary draw or compress bending, drilling, orbital or blade cutting and unloading of the final parts.

Coil production process carries out straightening, end-forming, measurement, tube bending and unloading of final parts.4-RUNNER coil production process that starts from coil and performs decoiling, straightening, end-forming, measuring, rotary draw or compress bending, drilling, orbital or blade cutting and unloading of the final parts.


When, during the bending phase, it is necessary to combine aesthetic requirements with rigid limitations on the ovality of the part and other technological parameters (such as centerline radius, diameter and thickness), the synergistic coupling of the 3-RUNNER machine for tube end-forming and cutting and the SMART tube bender gives life to an integrated production process that starts directly from coil and bends with mandrel.



Processing of tubes from coils or bars

Depending on material characteristics, heat treatment, diameter and user preferences, tubes used for heat pumps and heat exchange systems can be supplied in either coil or bar form.

BLM GROUP offers the optimal solution for every need: coil or bar production processes to produce tubes for the HVACR (heat pumps, ventilation and refrigeration systems), adaptable to different levels of production capacity and capable of performing straightening, end-forming, rotary draw or compress bending, drilling, orbital or blade cutting and unloading, all within the same production cycle.

Among the many solutions, the 3-RUNNER production system stands out, an automatic tube sawing and end-forming machine with bar loading, presented by the group at the TUBE 2024 international trade fair.

3-RUNNER with bar loader for end-forming and cutting tubes to size3-RUNNER with bar loader for end-forming and cutting tubes to size.


Reduce heat pump footprint thanks to the reduction of tube bending centerline radius

In the production of heat pumps, especially for domestic use, one of the most frequent requests is to reduce the dimensions of these devices to a minimum. This implies the need for tubular components capable of adapting to increasingly narrow spaces. In these circumstances, it becomes essential to create bends with very small centerline radii in relation to the diameter of the tube.

For this type of application, sometimes it is sufficient to use a mandrel and wiper die. However, when the ratio between the centerline radius and the tube diameter is less than 1, it becomes essential to use advanced software functionalities to ensure a bend with minimum ovalization and with an impeccable aesthetic finish. These functionalities manage the movement and forces of all the bending tools components with extreme precision.

Thanks to its consolidated experience in bending tubes with extremely small centerline radii, BLM GROUP offers cutting-edge technological solutions to ensure excellent quality results even in extreme bending conditions.

Find out more about the technology for creating curves with very small centerline radii.


Small-bending-880x600Some examples of bent tubes with an increasing difficulty ratio made with BLM GROUP tube benders. The difficulty ratio is indicated with DR and the DR = 8 value corresponds to an average degree of bending difficulty which requires the use of mandrel and wiper die. 


Tooling and techniques for bending already end-formed tubes at 180°

Tubes with 180-degree bending angle are found virtually everywhere in HVACR systems, coils, exchangers, but also in many other components. Generally, these parts are also end-formed to make the necessary joints with other pipes in the circuit.

End-forming tubes that have already been bent to 180° may prove impractical or require costly end-forming tooling, so it is preferable to make the bend after the pipe has been shaped.

180° bending process of an already end-formed tubes takes place in two phases:  first a partial 90° bend then a subsequent bend of another 90° to be carried out with compound tooling that accommodates the first section of the bend already made. Ultimately, ensuring the extraction of the part requires a specially shaped bend die that allows the end-formed section of the tube to be removed from the tooling.

In the image below you can see the two-stacks tube bending tools just described, equipped on a SMART: fully electric tube bender with in the same cycle right and left bending direction.

Bending tools with two stacks and specific modelled bend die for mandrel bending of an already end-formed tube with a 180° bending angleBending tools with two stacks and specific modelled bend die for mandrel bending of an already end-formed tube with a 180° bending angle.


Compliance with project tolerances

To ensure perfect sealing of the joints of the fluid ducts in heat pumps, it is essential to respect rigorous dimensional tolerances in the end-formed profiles of the tube ends.

BLM GROUP's fully electric end-forming units ensure perfect process repeatability and precision. Furthermore, extremely high precision telecentric measuring systems can be provided downstream of the end-forming process, capable of carrying out dimensional control on each produced part and guaranteeing certified production according to the required specifications.



BLM GROUP your partner in the HVACR world

In conclusion, in the HVACR sector it is essential to adopt cutting-edge solutions that guarantee high productivity, flexibility, automation, precision and repeatability. BLM GROUP's commitment is to offer not only individual machines, but entire production processes.

With more than 60 years of experience in the sector and an in-depth knowledge of tube processing technologies, we are ready to face the challenges of a constantly evolving market.

The expansion of the heat pump market represents a significant opportunity, and our consolidated experience makes us the ideal partner to support this continuous technological development.