Advanced Tube Benders Speed Construction of Subsea Wellhead Trees

FMC Technologies boosted their subsea tree system building productivity with a new process that uses all-electric Unison tube bending machines from Horn Machine Tool to drastically reduce the batch fabrication cycle times of uniquely shaped tubes made for each tree from very expensive alloys, such as Super-Duplex and Inconel 625.

FMC Technologies, Inc. (Houston, TX) is the leading supplier of subsea tree hydraulic control systems for wellheads in the energy industry, employing approximately 18,900 employees across 30 production facilities in 16 countries who are involved in the design, manufacture and service of technologically sophisticated subsea production and processing systems, surface wellhead systems, high pressure fluid control equipment, measurement solutions, and marine loading systems for the oil and gas industry.

All-electric Unison tube bending machines from Horn Machine Tools (Madera, CA) are helping this company to substantially reduce build times and multiply its manufacturing capacity. Six sites worldwide now use these tube bending machines in a new production method that was pioneered by FMC Technologies employees in Norway and Scotland.

In the old production process, the subsea systems supplier would first plan the routes for the hydraulic tubing runs that interconnect the valves and other component parts of the subsea trees, then fabricate the custom tubular part shapes while the trees were being built. This sequence slowed down the build cycle and limited the total number of trees that could be assembled in the company’s sophisticated system building cells.


A demonstration of how FMC Technologies installs subsea tree hydraulic control systems for wellheads used in the oil and gas industry.

Management decided to investigate the use of 3D modeling of tubing that would allow the tubing system required for subsea tree orders to be designed and bent in advance of system building and then delivered to the manufacturing cells ready for immediate assembly. As part of this process re-engineering initiative, the company also purchased another Unison tube bending machine with servomotor-based actuation to provide a complete CAD/CAM solution.

The new machine’s advanced all-electric architecture was preferred over the more traditional hydraulically-powered bending approach because of the greater precision and inherent repeatability that it supports, which allows tubular part shapes to be bent right-first-time and avoid scrap.

This is ideal for the subsea tree production environment, which demands lots of the tubing parts with unique shapes that FMC Technologies fabricates as a single batch for each tree project. The tubular materials being bent are often very expensive alloys as well, such as Super-Duplex and Inconel 625, so avoidance of scrap is a major saving.


A demonstration of a Unison all electric 2 inch LH & RH multi-stack tube bender.

FMC Technologies selected Unison as its bending machine partner after talking to numerous machine tool manufacturers primarily because of the company’s willingness to engineer a bending process to meet the company’s precise needs. The two companies worked closely together on developing and streamlining the tubular part manufacturing process, including automating the transfer of data from its CAD system and simplifying the subsequent part shape programming process.

Unison also supplies benders complete with application-specific tube washing machines which ensure that the tubular parts provided to FMC Technologies’ assembly bays are clean and ready to weld, thus minimizing any welding failures.

Using the new process, the time required for tubing assembly inside the manufacturing cells has fallen by around two-thirds, with the additional advantage of introducing a standardized process with a consistent quality that negates possible human error or fatigue.

This new tube bending process is a win-win solution for our business, as it provides us with a highly consistent and repeatable manufacturing process that is considerably faster than before. It boosts our productivity and shortens our delivery times to customers,” said Richie Barker, a manufacturing specialist in global manufacturing at FMC Technologies.

We have been very proud to be selected for this project as the aims have been so far-reaching — our machines are now an integral element of a design-to-manufacturing strategy that is helping one of the world’s best-known oil and gas companies to maintain its leading position in a highly competitive market,” adds Steve Haddrell, a key account manager at Unison.

FMC Technologies has now rolled this production methodology out to other manufacturing sites in Angola, Brazil, Norway, Scotland, Singapore and the U.S. that produce tubing for subsea trees using Unison machines.

FMC Technologies, Inc., 5875 N. Sam Houston Parkway West, Houston TX 77086, 281−591−4000, Fax: 281−591−4102, www.fmctechnologies.com.

Horn Machine Tools, 40473 Brickyard Drive, Madera, CA 93638, 559−431−4131; sales@hornmachinetools.com, www.hornmachinetools.com.

Unison Ltd., Cayton Low Road, Eastfield, Scarborough, YO11 3BT, United Kingdom, +44 (0) 1723 582 868, sales@unisonltd.com, www.unisonltd.com.

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