Rapid Infrared Heating for Aluminum Hot Forging

Rapid IR 1Queen City Forging applies rapid Infrared heating to aluminum forgings, creating enhanced physical properties, such as improved fatigue life, fine grain aluminum microstructure, and better response to heat treatment. QC Forge uses IR heating technology to reduce energy consumption and lower production costs.

Preheating of the metal billets prior to hot-forging is an area with potential for significant energy savings.

Challenges facing U.S. forging companies include increasing demand for energy efficiency, cost reductions, and pressures of international competition. Volatile energy prices and the growing need for improved energy efficiency continue to force U.S. forging companies to adopt improved and cost-efficient techniques.

Rapid IR 2In a conventional aluminum forging application, preheating of billets is typically achieved using convection gas-fired furnaces. However, low rates of heat transfer to the work piece, along with the need to heat both the furnace structure and the work piece, mean this method requires relatively long cycle times and is thermally inefficient.

Over the past few years, heating techniques have been developed using high-speed convection furnaces and induction furnaces producing higher heat transfer rates. Unfortunately, these provide only marginal improvements and present notable disadvantages. For example, induction furnaces can provide more efficient heating, but their use is limited by higher equipment costs and the geometry of the metal stock being heated. Induction furnaces often have problems coupling with aluminum alloys, and are unsuitable when reheating forgings requiring multiple aluminum forge cycles.

Addressing the inadequacies of the existing heating techniques, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, along with industrial and university partners, developed a hybrid infrared heating system that permits rapid and uniform heating of aluminum alloy billets prior to forging. The system can also be used for subsequent reheating of forgings requiring additional forging operations.

Rapid Infrared (RI) heating has been proven to reduce the heating times by an order of magnitude, decrease energy consumption by factor of three, and produce forgings with enhanced metallurgical and mechanical properties.

Field testing of this hybrid infrared system in full-scale production setup demonstrated cost savings up to 40-50% through reduced energy consumption, increased throughput, and improved consistency in the process and quality of the product. This aluminum hot forging innovation is a proven process and a viable aluminum forging design consideration for today’s manufacturers.

This technology is exclusively available at Queen City Forging.

U.S. Patent 7,544,256B2

Aluminum Forging at Queen City Forging -- article in the Business Courier

These PDF files contain papers that:

  1. Discuss the principles underlying this new technology
  2. Provides energy and cost saving comparison between this and the conventional convective heating technique
  3. Explains the property enhancement in aluminum alloys using rapid heating

Download these PDF files:

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