When aluminum is fabricated into a certain configuration by way of a compressing force, the resulting product is known as an aluminum forging. In the process of forging, the aluminum’s grain structure is altered in order to conform to the desired shape. As a result, the metal is fortified and the final product turns out much stronger than it would if it were made by fabrication, casting, or welding.
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Applications of Aluminum Forgings
Aluminum forgings are frequently used in industries where weight is a concern, such as aerospace, because of their strength-to-weight ratio, low production cost, low density, and ability to handle the harsh conditions of space. Another industry that uses aluminum forging is the competitive racing industry, as aluminum forged wheels are light in weight, stiff, and strong. Outside of race cars, aluminum forged wheels are used in some models from brands such as Lamborghini, Audi, and Porsche.
Other applications that frequently utilize aluminum forgings include missiles, engines, oil drilling equipment, ships, and tractors. Aluminum forgings can come in a multitude of standard configurations, such as flanges, hubs, sleeves, discs, blocks, bars, cylinders, and rings. Many companies also offer customization services.
Manufacturing Process of Aluminum Forgings
In the process of aluminum forging, a cast or extruded piece of aluminum is heated, and is forced by a hammer or press to take the shape of a die. The process uses extreme pressure to form the die’s shape, as opposed to casting, in which the metal is melted down and poured. However, hot forging is one method that can be implemented and is used to make aluminum parts that can weigh up to 25 tons.
Alternatively, cold forging is a process that hammers or presses aluminum parts ranging from room temperature to several hundred degrees Fahrenheit into a die. In the cold forging process, the final product is made even stronger, due to its crystalline structure conforming to the component’s shape. Regardless of the process, aluminum forging improves the aluminum’s physical properties, such as its mechanical characteristics and strength, all while reducing its size.
Benefits of Using Aluminum Forgings
Aluminum is highly reliable and economical. It is one of the easiest metals to forge, due to its mechanical properties. Advantages to aluminum forgings include electrical and thermal conductivity, resistance to fractures, and a smooth appearance. Additionally, forgings made from aluminum are more economical compared to other metals, such as copper, titanium, or stainless steel. Aluminum is roughly one third the density of steel and a favorable material for applications that are sensitive to weight. Aluminum forgings are also temperature resistant, and are capable of being used in work environments up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204.4 degrees Celsius).
Numerous chemicals and a great amount of energy is required to manufacture and fabricate metal. Therefore, these processes are not environmentally friendly. However, there are many aluminum forging facilities that have discovered and implemented ways to make their manufacturing process “greener.” One step that they have taken is scrap product recycling. The costs of purchasing aluminum and transporting the metal can be greatly reduced if a company chooses to manufacture products using recycled scrap metal instead of new aluminum.
Recycling metal reduces the need for energy-consuming equipment, chemicals needed to treat the metal, and fuel-consuming vehicles to transport the aluminum from place to place. Up to 90 percent of the transportation costs can be saved by choosing to recycle metal. Additional green practices that companies have begun to use include natural fuels for the forging procedures, making the switch to co-generation energy systems, switching to energy-efficient lighting methods, and the use of energy-efficient forging equipment. Each of these steps goes a long way in saving both the environment and company money.
Other Types of Forging Processes
- Open-Die Forging
- A process ideal for larger pieces of aluminum. Aluminum blocks up to 80 feet in length and weighing up to 100 tons.
- Closed-Die Forging
- Also known as impression-die forging, and accounts for the majority of methods of aluminum forging. This process involves two or more dies that contain molds that are joined together. Manufacturers are able to create forgings of closer tolerance and more complex shapes as opposed to the open-die forging process.
- Rolled-Ring Forging
- A forging process ideal for applications in which a strong, circular cross-section part is needed. Rolled-ring forging begins with the use of an open die to create a donut-shaped preform. Then, pressure is applied by rollers to achieve the desired size and thickness. Configurations can vary from flat (like a washer) to products with a height of more than 80 inches.