Materials engineers spend countless hours researching ways to create new metals that are lighter and stronger. At Steel Industries, we already know that nothing beats heat-treated aluminum forgings. It’s the best option for companies that need lightweight, energy-efficient components.
Heat-Treated Aluminum Forgings Stack Up to Steel
When it’s forged and heat-treated, aluminum takes on some mechanical properties that are comparable with steel forgings. Depending on the processing method, aluminum can be forged to be even stronger than some steel. The big payoff is that it’s about one-third the weight of steel. This means aluminum parts can be made thicker and stronger while still relieving weight.
Aluminum forgings are heat-treated for the same reason as steel forgings. The process relieves metal stresses in castings, improves mechanical properties, and makes machining or welding easier. Heat-treating is also very consistent and produces nearly uniform properties throughout the forging. It also delivers all these benefits at a lower cost than steel forging.
What are Heat Treatments?
Not every aluminum alloy is suitable for heat-treatment, but the ones that are can be processed in different ways. At Steel Industries, our talented crew uses specialized equipment to make sure the rigid heat control needed to get optimal results for aluminum alloys is maintained.
The general types and advantages of aluminum forging heat-treatments include:
- Preheating or homogenizing: Ideal for heavy or intricate forgings, this high-temperature process encourages uniformity and greatly improves the workability of aluminum.
- Annealing: When aluminum needs to be formed into difficult shapes, annealing is the most effective method. This process heats metal close to a melting point and then allows it to slowly cool. The result is the aluminum becomes more malleable because its hardness is reduced.
- Solution heat treatments: This process raises the alloy temperature to about 980 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately an hour. The heat dissolves the alloying elements in the aluminum. It’s then quenched in water to rapidly cool the metal and prevent the alloys from precipitating or separating. This treatment increases strength, flexibility and also relieves stresses making the material easier to machine.
- Precipitation heat treatments: This method heats aluminum alloys to a specific, constant temperature so elements can be added to the forging. It’s done after the solution heat process and enables the dissolved elements of the solution heat treatment to fully separate from the metalwork. The result creates the maximum hardness of the aluminum.
- Artificial aging: To speed up the natural, room-temperature settling of the properties of newly forged aluminum, artificial aging is used. This high-temperature process helps forgings achieve close tolerance specifications and speeds up the manufacturing of machine-ready parts.
Advantages of Heat-Treated Aluminum Across Many Industries
The demand for heat-treated aluminum forgings continues to grow at a rapid pace. At Steel Industries, we’ve forged products ranging from pistons and gears to wheel spindles for the aerospace, defense, and marine industries.
The reason heat-treated aluminum forgings are ideal for a variety of industry applications is they provide a strong but lightweight metal for speed and energy efficiency. Manufacturers need these attributes to create quality products and heat-treated aluminum helps them do it more profitably.
Other benefits of forged aluminum include:
- Lightweight and low density
- Design flexibility
- High thermal conductivity
- Good strength to weight ratio
- Good surface finish
- Cryogenic properties
- Corrosion resistant
Steel Industries’ heat treatment services for aluminum forgings are the first choice for manufacturers that have strict alloy specifications and need quick delivery of high-quality components to keep their businesses running at full speed.