Forging, Casting, Extruding, Cold Working/Hardening

in Aircraft Materials Processes and Hardware

Forging is the process of forming a product by hammering or pressing. When the material is forged below the recrystallization temperature, it is called cold forged. When worked above the recrystallization temperature, it is referred to as hot forged. Drop forging is a hammering process that uses a hot ingot that is placed between a pair of formed dies in a machine called a drop hammer and a weight of several tons is dropped on the upper die. This results in the hot metal being forced to take the form of the dies. Because the process is very rapid, the grain structure of the metal is altered, resulting in a significant increase in the strength of the finished part.


Casting is formed by melting the metal and pouring it into a mold of the desired shape. Since plastic deformation of the metal does not occur, no alteration of the grain shape or orientation is possible. The gain size of the metal can be controlled by the cooling rate, the alloys of the metal, and the thermal treatment. Castings are normally lower in strength and are more brittle than a wrought product of the same material. For intricate shapes or items with internal passages, such as turbine blades, casting may be the most economical process. Except for engine parts, most metal components found on an aircraft are wrought instead of cast. All metal products start in the form of casting. Wrought metals are converted from cast ingots by plastic deformation. For high strength aluminum alloys, an 80 to 90 percent reduction (dimensional change in thickness) of the material is required to obtain the high mechanical properties of a fully wrought structure. Both iron and aluminum alloys are cast for aircraft uses. Cast iron contains 6 to 8 percent carbon and silicon.

Cast iron is a hard unmalleable pig iron made by casting or pouring into a mold. Cast aluminum alloy has been heated to its molten state and poured into a mold to give it the desired shape.


The extrusion process involves the forcing of metal through an opening in a die, thus causing the metal to take the shape of the die opening. The shape of the die will be the cross section of an angle, channel, tube, or some other shape. Some metals such as lead, tin, and aluminum may be extruded cold; however, most metals are heated before extrusion. The main advantage of the extrusion process is its flexibility. For example, because of its workability, aluminum can be economically extruded to more intricate shapes and larger sizes than is practical with other metals.

Extruded shapes are produced in very simple as well as extremely complex sections. In this process a cylinder of aluminum, for instance, is heated to 750– 850 °F and is then forced through the opening of a die by a hydraulic ram. The opening is the shape desired for the cross section of the finished extrusion.

Many structural parts, such as channels, angles, T‑sections, and Z-sections, are formed by the extrusion process. Aluminum is the most extruded metal used in aircraft.

Aluminum is extruded at a temperature of 700–900 °F (371– 482 °C) and requires pressure of up to 80,000 psi (552 MPa). After extrusion, the product frequently will be subjected to both thermal and mechanical processes to obtain the desired properties. Extrusion processes are limited to the more ductile materials.

Cold Working/Hardening

Cold working applies to mechanical working performed at temperatures below the critical range. It results in a strain hardening of the metal. In fact, the metal often becomes so hard that it is difficult to continue the forming process without softening the metal by annealing.

Since the errors attending shrinkage are eliminated in cold working, a much more compact and better metal is obtained. The strength and hardness, as well as the elastic limit, are increased; but the ductility decreases. Since this makes the metal more brittle, it must be heated from time to time during certain operations to remove the undesirable effects of the working.

While there are several cold working processes, the two with which the aviation mechanic will be principally concerned are cold rolling and cold drawing. These processes give the metals desirable qualities which cannot be obtained by hot working.

Cold rolling usually refers to the working of metal at room temperature. In this operation, the materials that have been rolled to approximate sizes are pickled to remove the scale, after which they are passed through chilled finishing rolls. This gives a smooth surface and also brings the pieces to accurate dimensions. The principal forms of cold rolled stocks are sheets, bars, and rods.

Cold drawing is used in making seamless tubing, wire, streamlined tie rods, and other forms of stock. Wire is made from hot rolled rods of various diameters. These rods are pickled in acid to remove scale, dipped in lime water, and then dried in a steam room where they remain until ready for drawing. The lime coating adhering to the metal serves as a lubricant during the drawing operation.

The size of the rod used for drawing depends upon the diameter wanted in the finished wire. To reduce the rod to the desired size, it is drawn cold through a die. One end of the rod is filed or hammered to a point and slipped through the die opening. Here it is gripped by the jaws of the drawing block and pulled through the die. This series of operations is done by a mechanism known as a drawbench.

To reduce the rod gradually to the desired size, it is necessary to draw the wire through successively smaller dies. Because each of these drawings reduces the ductility of the wire, it must be annealed from time to time before further drawings can be accomplished. Although cold working reduces the ductility, it increases the tensile strength of the wire.

In making seamless steel aircraft tubing, the tubing is cold drawn through a ring shaped die with a mandrel or metal bar inside the tubing to support it while the drawing operations are being performed. This forces the metal to flow between the die and the mandrel and affords a means of controlling the wall thickness and the inside and outside diameters.