Metal forging is one of the traditional ways of manufacturing components. Here is what metal forging is, different techniques of metal forging, its benefits and applications.
What is metal forging?
Metal forging is a manufacturing process, and it involves the shaping of metal objects. Metal forging uses the application of heat and pressure. One of the main goals of forging is to change the shape of a metal workpiece and also improve its mechanical properties. Forging aims at producing strong and durable components for a wide range of applications, including automotive, aerospace, construction, and more.
Here are some key steps involved in metal forging.
Die design & making
Firstly, the dies are designed and made. Usually forging dies include forging dies, trimming dies and flattening dies.
Once the forging dies are ready, the heating process begins. Steel billets are cut and heated in a furnace. Usually in the forging process temperature is maintained above its recrystallization point but below its melting point. Such temperature helps make steel malleable, and easy to deform for the forging process.
The malleable steel is deformed and placed on the die. Then the dies are pressed to get the desired shape. The force applied causes the metal to flow and take on the shape of the die. In this process, extra steel metal overflows, and this material is shown around the product.
The next stage is trimming. Using trimming dies, the extra steel that may have gathered around the product is removed.
Once the trimming process is done, the forged metal is allowed to cool slowly. This process is also known as annealing.
Many times forging also includes further treatments that improve the mechanical properties of the metal. These treatments include:
- Heat treatment
- Surface treatment
- Machining, etc.
Different techniques of metal forging
Although there are several methods of metal forging, here are some of the popular techniques:
In this method, the steel workpiece is placed between flat dies. The workpiece is shaped by repeated blows or compressive forces. This method is more suitable for large, irregularly shaped components.
This method uses dies with specific shapes that feature cavities to precisely shape the malleable steel workpiece. This type of forging is more suitable for smaller components that may intricate designs or higher precision.
This kind of technique involves shortening a metal bar and increasing its cross-sectional area. It is widely used for producing items such as bolts, rivets, etc.
This technique uses a hammer or similar tool to deform the heated steel workpiece. The workpiece is placed on a lower die and then shaped into a desired form. Drop forging is commonly used to produce small to medium-sized components.
Other ways of forging
While the above are techniques of shaping the steel workpiece, there are other methods of forging according to temperature used, furnace, raw material and so on. Here are a few popular methods:
Propane metal forging
Propane metal forging is also known as propane forge. In this kind of forging, propane gas is used as a fuel to create flame for heating metal. The advantage of propane gas is it is easier to as compared to traditional coal fuel and heat can be easily regulated. It is often used by blacksmiths to produce various tools such as knives, blades, etc.
Powder metal forging
Powder metal forging is a combination of two manufacturing processes i.e. traditional metal forging and powder metallurgy. This process uses powdered metal as a raw material. Powdered metal is then compacted under high pressure to create a desired shape. Such a pressurised shape is called a performance. It has the desired shape but lacks density. The preform is then heated so that metal particles bond together perfectly and also achieve density.
Benefits of metal forging
Here are some of the key advantages metal forging process.
- Strength: The metal forging process increases the strength of metal objects. As a result, forged parts are stronger and are likely to perform better even in harsh conditions.
- Durability: Since forged steel items possess higher strength, they are resistant to wear and tear. As a result, they last longer.
- Precision: The metal forging process allows to creation of intricate and precise objects. This is because the forging process enables greater control over shapes.
- Low cost: Metal forging is a less expensive manufacturing method that offers various advantages. Also, it involves minimal waste of material.
Applications of metal forging
Metal forging is used in various industries. Here are some of the industries which widely use metal forging.
Several automotive components are manufactured using metal forging. For example, crankshafts, connecting rods, axles, transmission gears, suspension parts, etc. So, if you plan to start an automotive business, forging can be one of the key techniques for you to adopt.
Aerospace demands the precision that metal forging can deliver. Hence, the forging process is widely used in the aerospace industry to manufacture components such as aircraft engine components, landing gear parts, structural elements, and fasteners.
Oil and gas
The metal forging process is commonly used in the oil and gas industry to manufacture parts like valves, flanges, drilling equipment, and so on. These equipment and components withstand extreme conditions including varied temperature and pressure.
In the construction industry, metal forging is used to produce items such as structural steel elements, fasteners, and architectural components. These items contribute to the stability as well as aesthetics of the building.
Various components including train wheels, axles, couplings, and so on are manufactured using the metal forging process.
Wind turbine components, steam and gas turbines, etc., are produced using metal forging. These equipment withstand extreme temperatures and difficult weather conditions.
May forged components are used in the vehicles, tanks, artillery, weapons systems and so on. These items feature attributes such as strength, durability, and reliability.
Forged components are widely used in machinery used for agriculture. The list of equipment that contains forged items includes ploughshares, harrow teeth, etc.
Many hand tools such as wrenches, pliers, knives, hammers, etc., are made using the metal forging method.
Metal forging is an important method of manufacturing steel components. It helps achieve the desired aesthetics, precision, durability and strength. Interestingly, it is also one of the oldest methods of manufacturing. Metal forging method of manufacturing has been used since 4000 BC and the method is still relevant in today’s era.