Inside Wiseco's In-House Forging Operations

May 31, 2019 / by Graham Heeps

After more than 75 years in the game, the name Wiseco has become synonymous with race-proven piston technology. But did you know that Wiseco offers their decades of forging expertise to customers around the world? 

“About twenty years ago we started offering forging services,” says Steve Legat, Wiseco’s forge manufacturing manager. “And the reasons were simple: We had the capability and the capacity to do so, and the demand was there.”

To inquire about Wiseco's in-house forging services, click HERE.

Early on the service was mainly focused around top-tier motorsports efforts, with IndyCar and Formula One teams utilizing the Wiseco Precision Forge to produce components like brake calipers and rotor hats. “At this level of racing these teams are looking to maximize durability, and forging is superior to casting because of the low-porosity and the strength requirements of forged materials. When you move to forging you’re aligning the grain flow with the features of the part. We’re starting from a round bar of aluminum and going to a design that’s “near net” to the part.”

in-house forging 1
Wiseco has been providing forging services to outside companies for over 20 years, offering quick, reliable, and precise forging operations for a plethora of part styles, and shapes.

The process also helps optimize the part’s design, allowing for a lighter and stronger components. “When we forge a bar of aluminum, it’s forging around the features of the part, so there’s not a lot of wasted material,” Legat adds. “We go near-net – most of your features are as-forged. You’re not milling any of the material away to finish the process.” 

While the benefits of forging are well known, the options that are available to Wiseco customers who are in need of such services might not be as well understood. Here we’ll take a closer look at the company’s in-house forging services to get the full rundown of what’s available.

The Hardware

Wiseco uses four different types of presses for their forgings. “Which press will be used to manufacture a particular part is typically dictated by the size and geometry of that part,” Legat explains. “We have a mechanical press that’s a thousand tons of pressure. In terms of part capacity, you’re talking a maximum of 3.75-inches in diameter and five inches of height. Then we have another mechanical press that’s 2,000 tons – with that one you’re looking at a part diameter of about 5.25 inches and a six-inch height. Then we have a smaller hydraulic press that’s 750 tons that does parts that are about 5in by 5in in dimension. That one does our more complex pistons, designs with deep pockets, thin webs – thinner cross sections.”

Wiseco has several types/sizes of forge. Which forge is used is dependent on the size and geometry of the part being forged. 

The hydraulic press offers a bit more control than its larger mechanical counterparts do, Legat notes. “With a mechanical press it’s one shot. You hit it with 2,000 tons of pressure one time, and that’s what you get. But on the hydraulic press we can do multiple blows, we can control the speeds, and we can control the tonnage as needed. Because of that, parts that can’t be made on a mechanical press because of the detail involved can often be made on a hydraulic.” 

The fourth press in Wiseco’s lineup is a 1500-ton hydraulic press. “That one’s got a bigger footprint,” Legat says. “With that one we can produce parts that are close to 15in in diameter and 8in in height. It’s used for brake calipers, disc hats, and all of our clutch components. I actually do a fire hydrant coupling for a customer using that press. Anything that’s substantial in size – basically anything over six inches – goes on that press. But 1,500 tons is not a crazy amount of pressure, so the part geometry does determine what you can put on there to some degree.”

in-house forging 2In addition to forging, Wiseco can also produce tooling in-house. 3D design, rapid prototyping and heat treatment are also among Wiseco's capabilities. 

And as you’d expect from a Wiseco-produced part, these components are built to perform and backed by the company’s ANSI/ISO/ASQ Q9001-2015 quality certification. “We were the first in the building to get ISO certification,” says Legat. “And the reason we got that certification was so that we could supply higher-end automotive parts. These things are going on top-spec Porsches, Corvettes and that sort of thing, and the quality certification basically verifies that we’re doing what we say we do.”

Wiseco’s wide range of forging capabilities offers a lot of versatility in terms of the parts they can produce. “Along with all the different clutch components we’ve also done wheel nuts for Formula One. “If it can fit into the footprint of the press and the geometry allows for it, it can be forged.”

Wiseco can forge several different types of aluminum depending on the end-use of the part. Shown is a piston forged from 2618 aluminum alloy. 

Material Options

Wiseco Precision Forge offers various types of aluminum to fit the different needs of different parts. 2618, 4032, 6061, and 7075-grade aluminums are all on the roster, as well as a few more exotic options. “We also do a lot of work for Aerospace Metal Composites, which is a supplier of metal matrix material – basically silicon carbide, really high-end stuff,” Legat notes.

And while material choice is more application-driven on the piston side of things, he says it’s typically up to the requirements of the customer on other components.

“We recommend alloys on some occasions. For instance, I know that all of our brake calipers are made with 2618. Sometimes a smaller company will come to us and ask for suggestions, and we already know what’s being run out in the field. But more often than not it’s customer-dictated. They already have a pretty good idea of what they want.”

Getting Technical

When a customer comes to Wiseco with a forging request, the component information is keyed into 3D modeling software that allows engineers to streamline the development process even more. “We use Solidworks as our modeling software,” says Legat. “We’ll take a model from a customer and make it forgeable – we basically take any holes or other elements we can’t forge in it and turn it into a forging-friendly design. That helps us determine the size and thus which press it will go on and what the process will entail. With something like brake calipers they go on the press three times – there’s pre-form dies, blocker dies, finish dies, and a few other elements to consider, so I’ll look at what all the steps will be. We give that model back to a customer for their approval and then go from there.”

And for unique or unusual parts, Legat utilizes forging software that allows him to simulate the forging process to ensure there won’t be any surprises. “I can put in the parameters I would use in the real-world situation – press type, tonnage, materials, temperatures, speeds, lubrication, etc, and the simulator can go from a raw bar to a finished part. It’s very true-to-life. One aspect that really makes it handy is the fact that you don’t have to build tools to run samples – I can do that all at my desk without the added expense to the customer. And if needed, I can tell them about any design changes that might be needed and optimize the weight of a part before we move on to the next step." 

Precision forging allows the forging blank to more closely resemble the finished part. This reduces the required machining , material waste, and maximizes time.

That has a positive not only on cost, but development time as well. “It definitely cuts turnaround time down,” says Legat. “I can have a simulation up and running within a few days.”

And once development has progressed to the point of production, Wiseco’s forging process also utilizes various technologies to ensure that the parts produced are as strong, light, and efficiently produced as they can be. “We’re running what we call isothermal – our starting billet temperature is the same as our tooling temperature,” he says. “That means you get better flow and a stronger part because of the consistency it provides.” 

For more info on Wiseco forging, click HERE  

All Under One Roof

Another aspect of Wiseco’s forging services that helps the company stand out is the fact that the entire process is done in-house. “From design, to the raw material that’s cut in-house and the tooling that’s designed and manufactured in-house, we’re able to control the entire production process,” Legat says.

That in turn allows Wiseco to ensure that every aspect of the process is up to the company’s standards, which includes manufacturing tolerances of plus or minus 0.015in. “We run induction heating now, which is a more thorough way to heat the raw material. It gives you much more consistent heat than soaking in an oven does, and instead of taking several hours to get a job up to temperature, now we can do that in about a minute.”

And Wiseco continues to bring innovation to the forging process. “We’re looking at different ways of pre-heating our tooling,” Legat says. “Just a few weeks ago we installed an electric oven on our workhorse automotive mechanical press to get a more thorough distribution of temperature when pre-heating the dies. We used to use gas torches and band heaters, but you end up heating more air than the tool itself, so this is both more efficient and provides more consistent temperatures.” And that, in turn, results in better material flow and a stronger part overall.

Whether your job involves a handful forgings for a small pilot run or thousands of validated parts for production, Wiseco has all the bases covered. Give ‘em a buzz and find out what nearly eight decades of forging experience can bring to your project.

To submit a forging inquiry, CLICK HERE. 

Topics: NEW PRODUCTS, featured, ENGINE TECH, Tech

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Written by Graham Heeps