If you’ve done research into getting your product or part manufactured, you’ve probably encountered the terms Cast, Forged and Billet. It’s not always easy to find information about what each of these metal/manufacture types mean or the benefits and negatives of each process. So we’re going to take you through the processes involved in each, the positives and negatives, and help you make an informed decision about your product’s manufacturing process.
First of all, the different terms and what they specifically mean.
Cast metal is metal that has been heated up past its melting point and poured into a mould, using one of a number of techniques such as gravity or high pressure die casting, to form the shape of your desired product.
Forged metal is heated up until it is malleable (not molten) and forced into the desired shape. This is the same process that blacksmiths and ironmongers originally used to create horseshoes, swords and armour. However, modern methods usually use high pressure stamping, rather than a hammer and anvil.
Billet is a form of material and doesn’t necessarily indicate the manufacturing process (or quality) of the final product. Billet metal is a solid length (often in a square or circle profile) of material that has been extruded into shape, either by continuous casting or hot rolling. Billet material is often used in machining.
WHICH IS BETTER FOR MY NEEDS?
Each form of production has its benefits and negatives depending on the constraints of the project. These constraints could be budget, product size, manufacturing quantity, tolerances or type of finish.
Casting is incredibly versatile and the area that we specialise in. Casting can cater for lower quantities with processes such as sand casting, or incredibly high volumes with processes such as high-pressure die casting. Casting is a ‘near-net-shape’ forming method, so very little material is wasted, and very little post-processing is required to form the geometry of the component. The materials can be versatile, and a wide variety of surface finishes can be applied.
Forging a part can result in high strength, high quality units but requires relatively extensive finishing work to remove excess. Forging is also limited to simpler shapes, free from overhangs or too many concave surfaces.
Billet material, however, is not a manufacturing process, simply a form of material (like ingot, nugget or round) and is often used for CNC machining products and produces high quality, high accuracy parts without the need for expensive tooling. This makes it exceptional for low quantity or bespoke work that doesn’t need to be mass produced.
Whilst, CNC machining of Billet material is possible for large scale production; the cost increases linearly with each unit.
Billet material is also often incorrectly associated with unanimous quality; the quality (particularly in terms of strength) is determined by the quality of the billet material used – not all Billet material is top quality. MRT Castings has seven decades of experience producing highly complex, quality castings. We work with our clients from concept through to finished article.
Whilst other processes are available, we believe that the versatility of casting, combined with robust design and advanced CNC methods will serve the majority of needs.
To learn more about our casting journey, check out our infographic or contact us today to speak to one of our casting experts.