Five Questions to Ask if You’re Considering Forged and Heat-Treated Aluminum Parts

Forging is an ideal way to create a custom-shaped aluminum part that can withstand excessive force. If you’re considering an aluminum forged part, there are a few questions we recommend you ask when choosing your sourcing partner and foundry.

Q: To what specific temperature does your foundry preheat blanks before forging?

A: The ideal answer to this question will vary somewhat from one grade of aluminum to another, but the ideal answer you’re looking for is whether they can nail this number down to within 10 degrees and provide the specific point in the process where the temperature is measured. If they don’t know these details, it’s possible that their blank temperature varies widely from one run to the next, which can result in aluminum forgings with multiple defects ranging from surface blisters to fractures. UGS maintains a list of specifications for each of our foundries that includes minimum and maximum preheat times and temperatures; we frequently audit our foundries to ensure they are consistent.

Q: What is the temperature range of the foundry’s quench water?

A: Again, the specific temperature will vary depending on the grade of aluminum, but it should be an instant red flag if they can’t easily give you the specific range of temperature. If the foundry doesn’t have minimum and maximum temperatures for each of the aluminum grades they work with, you might be best served looking elsewhere.

Q: What grades of aluminum can your foundry process?

A: Common answers from any supplier should be at least 6061 and 2104; these are common grades of aluminum and are the easiest to work with. A follow-up question you should also be asking is whether they process less common (and harder) specialty grades, such as 5082, 6063, 6082 and 7075—all of which we have foundries that regularly process.

Q: What is the largest size the foundry can process, particularly in the specialty grades?

A: Can they only forge smaller parts in the specialty grades, if at all, or like our foundries, can they process parts as large as 600 x 400 mm and up to 5 kg? Even if you only currently require a softer, more common aluminum in a smaller size, you may still want to choose a supplier whose foundries can handle specialty grades in larger sizes. You may require one of them in the future, but more importantly, it speaks to the skill level of the foundry, as these grades require a higher level of expertise.

Q: What are the foundry’s limitations?

A: It’s always good to know at the outset of a project what your supplier can (and just as importantly, can’t) do so you can avoid potential hurdles down the road. But their answer also speaks to their experience and skills. If they have a large list of limitations, this could be a red flag, depending on your needs. But if they aren’t able to clearly define their limitations, it’s definitely a sign you should find another supplier. While it’s ideal to find a foundry able to customize most parameters, it’s just as important to find a supplier who clearly knows what their foundry can and can’t do.