We see cast aluminum wheels every day, but rarely does anyone ever know what actually happened behind the scenes to produce them. The process is laden with highly sophisticated equipment and materials that combine to create high-strength, perfectly round parts for your ride. This pallet of raw castings represents the halfway point in the manufacturing process.We see cast aluminum wheels every day, but rarely does anyone ever know what actually happ One of the best things about working in the magazine business is the opportunity extended by manufacturers to let our lenses behind closed doors to document precisely how a particular product is made. With this series, we have covered a whole assortment of topics ranging from complete vehicles to the tires they roll on. However, until now, cast aluminum wheels have gone overlooked, so we jumped at the opportunity to tour the manufacturing facility of American Eagle Wheels, located in South Carolina. While some of the various steps in the manufacturing process were off-limits to our lenses, we were able to see for ourselves most of the steps involved in how a cast aluminum wheel is made. We left with a newfound respect for the efforts required to build them. Each wheel begins life as an idea that is digitized by a talented designer and CAD software. Here, lead Mechanical Engineer Bob Arsov pauses from his latest design to explain how his visual concepts undergo stress test analysis in virtual form prior to development. Once a design passes critical strength evaluations, a mold can be produced from that design.Each wheel begins life as an idea that is digitized by a talented designer and CAD softwar More About American Eagle Wheel Founded 1977, American Eagle is a family owned and operated manufacturer. The American Eagle family of brands includes the following: MSR/BOSS Motorsports, Eagle Alloys, Vodoo, Extreme Alloys, and USA Forged. Unlike most American-based wheel manufacturers, American Eagle operates entirely on U.S. soil. All wheels start from raw material that originates within the USA, and all manufacturing processes take place here, too. All other wheel manufacturers have moved all or part of their processes overseas to take advantage of export subsidies, devalued currencies, as well as environmental and labor cost savings. At the time of print, American Eagle was the only remaining aftermarket producer of cast aluminum wheels that can truthfully claim "made in the USA." These raw ingots of 356-grade aluminum alloy will eventually become wheels. Shipped into the plant via 18-wheeler, each ingot weighs upwards of 1,500 pounds and is capable of producing as many as many as 100 wheels. Plant workers use forklifts to transfer these ingots to a central melting furnace, where the solid masses are liquefied into a molten state.These raw ingots of 356-grade aluminum alloy will eventually become wheels. Shipped into t Once the molten aluminum reaches 1,350 degrees, the material is transferred to a tap-out well as seen here. Here it awaits transport to the casting furnace. In this photo, you can see the spillway where the molten aluminum exits the tap-out well to be transported via forklift in a steel vat to the next step in the process.Once the molten aluminum reaches 1,350 degrees, the material is transferred to a tap-out w This is what a wheel mold looks like. Essentially, a mold consists of several machined sections of steel that come together to create a cavity for molten aluminum to fill. American Eagle uses what is referred to as "counter-pressure casting technology." The way it works is like this: the negative cavity of the mold is pressurized with molten aluminum. The pressure causes the aluminum to flow into all sections of the mold, filling in any voids in the process. Because the process uses gravity at first to fill the mold, the mold is positioned vertically with the lower portion of the mold face-up. This lower section will create the front face of the wheel. The segmented side portions of the mold are known as side cores. There are typically six side cores for a given mold. The upper mold portion can be seen in the background of this photo, and the upper mold section creates the mounting or backside of the wheel face.This is what a wheel mold looks like. Essentially, a mold consists of several machined sec Here, workers prepare the casting equipment for a pour. A releasing agent is applied to areas of the mold to help the various mold segments release from the aluminum wheel after it coolHere, workers prepare the casting equipment for a pour. A releasing agent is applied to ar Here you can see the mold-handling equipment as the manufacturing technician applies the releasing agent. Each mold segment comes together with a precision fit to eliminate seams on the final product.Here you can see the mold-handling equipment as the manufacturing technician applies the r Once the casting process is completed, the aluminum wheel is allowed to cool. Next, workers inspect each part for anomalies. Then, depending on the intended wheel design, a light de-flashing operation is conducted to remove any leftover slag. In some cases, the wheel may be sent to be shot-peened to improve surface hardness and strength. Shot-peening is a cold-working process in which small spherical media (aka shot) bombard the surface of a part.Once the casting process is completed, the aluminum wheel is allowed to cool. Next, worker Next, the wheels are bundled into groups and sent over to heat treating-the controlled heating and cooling of the wheel to alter its physical and mechanical properties without changing the shape. After heat treating, the wheels undergo a quench process to further improve the material's strength. Next, the wheels are subjected to a proprietary artificial aging process. This gives the thinner edge areas of the wheel added strength for impact resistance.Next, the wheels are bundled into groups and sent over to heat treating-the controlled hea The next phase of production is machining. First, the lug holes are bored into the center hub of the wheel. Next, the various details of a particular wheel design are cut into the casting. This is when the physical design of the wheel really starts to take shape. American Eagle uses large computer-controlled robotic machines that would make Robocop look like a child's toy. We spent fifteen minutes watching the massive robots turn raw castings into beautify crafted wheels. This operation was very impressive to watch.The next phase of production is machining. First, the lug holes are bored into the center Here, you can see the difference between a raw casting and a fully-machined wheel. Once all the machining processes are completed, some wheels are sent to paint. Here, you can see the horizontal conveyor system that transports the wheels into the paint booth. All coats are applied by robotic painting machines within the booth. Chrome and powdercoated wheels are shipped to other facilities for treatment.Once all the machining processes are completed, some wheels are sent to paint. Here, you c Once the wheel's particular finish is applied, the wheels are stockpiled in storage areas while they await packaging and shipping.Once the wheel's particular finish is applied, the wheels are stockpiled in storage areas SOURCES American Eagle Wheel Corporation 5780 Soestern Ct Chino CA 91710 www.americaneaglewheel.com By Robin Stover Enjoyed this Post? 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