The rolling process is used to transform cast aluminum ingot into any one of a number of intermediate or final products. Pressure exerted by the rollers as aluminum is passed between them flattens the metal and may cause work hardening.
Heat treatment is usually required before and between stages of the rolling process. Ingots are usually made homogeneous in grain structure prior to hot rolling in order to remove the effects of casting on the aluminum's mechanical properties. Annealing is typically required during cold rolling to keep the metal ductile and remove the effects of work hardening. The kind and degree of heat treatment applied depends on the alloy involved, the nature of the rolling operation, and the properties desired in the product.
It is necessary to use a cooling and lubricating compound during rolling to prevent excessive wear on the rolls, to prevent adhesion of aluminum to the rolls, and to maintain a suitable and uniform rolling temperature. Oil-in-water emulsions, stabilized with emulsifying agents such as soaps and other polar organic materials, are used for this purpose in hot rolling operations.
In the extrusion process, high pressures are applied to a cast billet of aluminum, forcing the metal to flow through a die orifice. The resulting product is an elongated shape or tube of uniform cross-sectional area.
Extrusions are manufactured using either a mechanical or a hydraulic extrusion press. A heated cylindrical billet is placed into the ingot chamber and the dummy block and ram are placed into position behind it. Pressure is exerted on the ram by hydraulic or mechanical means, forcing the metal to flow through the die opening. The extrusion is sawed off next to the die, and the dummy block and ingot butt are released. Hollow shapes are produced with the use of a mandrel positioned in the die opening so that the aluminum is forced to flow around it. A less common technique, indirect extrusion, is similar except that in this method the die is forced against the billet, extruding the metal in the opposite direction through the tam stem. A dummy block is not used in indirect extrusion.
Although aluminum can be extruded cold, it is usually first heated to a temperature ranging from 375 to 525°C, so that little work hardening will be imposed on the product. Heat treatment is frequently used after extrusion to achieve the desired mechanical properties.
The extrusion process requires the use of a lubricant to prevent adhesion of the aluminum to the die and ingot container walls. In hot extrusion, limited amounts of lubricant are applied to the ram and die face or to the billet ends. For cold extrusion, the container walls, billet surfaces, and die orifice must be lubricated with a thin film of viscous or solid lubricant. The lubricant most commonly used in extrusion is graphite in an oil or water base. A less common technique, spraying liquid nitrogen on the billet prior to extrusion, is also used. The nitrogen vaporizes during the extrusion process and acts as a lubricant.
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