The wheel-manufacturing industry is both diverse and dynamic. With every passing day, new technologies and manufacturing techniques are enabling the production of lighter, stronger, and more durable wheels.
One of the most path-breaking new technologies to enter the wheel industry in recent years is known as ‘flow forming’. It has revolutionized the way in which wheels are manufactured and heightened customer expectations in the realms of quality, durability, and cost-effectiveness.
What is Flow Forming?
Flow forming is a manufacturing process that works by applying pressure on the inner barrel of a wheel. The pressure is applied after the wheel has been cast, and while it is spinning.
The process of flow forming facilitates stretching and compressing of the aluminum, which in turn increases the overall tensile strength of the material and improves the toughness and durability of the wheel.
In this sense, flow forming is similar to some forging processes and mechanisms. The final product, created using the process of flow forming, is lighter, stronger, and possesses enhanced elongation as well as improved shock resistance properties.
Flow formed wheels also have greater load capacity than a traditional cast wheel having a similar design. Motor-sport and dirt bike enthusiasts around the world prefer flow-formed wheels for their bikes over regular ones, due to the many advantages that such wheels offer.
As flow forming technology is relatively new, it is common for prospective customers to have many questions about what it is, how it works, and what benefits it can provide.
Moreover, flow formed wheels can be slightly more expensive in comparison to regular cast wheels, which can sometimes raise questions in the minds of buyers. So, when all is said and done, we have to answer the one fundamental question:
What Makes Flow Formed Wheels Lighter and Stronger?
After the casting has taken place and while the wheel is still spinning, pressure is applied to the inner barrel of the product. The resultant stretching and compression of the aluminum lead to enhanced tensile strength, which in turn ensures that the wheel is lighter, stronger, and more durable than usual. Greater load capacity and enhanced shock resistance are some of the other benefits that flow formed wheels offer.
Some Alternatives to Flow Formed Wheels
This makes flow formed wheels the convenient middle ground between gravity cast wheels and the more expensive fully forged wheels.
Gravity cast wheels are very affordable and have a quick and easy manufacturing process. Low-pressure cast wheels are a different category of the same product, hence the two are very similar.
Molten aluminum is poured from the top into a mold, during the manufacturing process of a gravity cast wheel. On the other hand, molten aluminum is injected slowly from the bottom end of a pressurized mold, to create a low-pressure cast wheel. Both these methods result in the creation of wheels that are cheap but low in tensile strength and durability.
On the other end of the spectrum are the highly expensive fully forged wheels, which are also the most lightweight wheels available in the market. A solid piece of billet aluminum is used to manufacture these fully forged wheels.
A press is used to hammer out the specific design of the wheel under high pressure from the solid piece of aluminum. While these wheels are extremely tough, strong, and quite light, they are extremely expensive and beyond the budget of most private buyers.
Why Choose Flow Formed Wheels?
The type of wheels you need will depend largely on the purposes for which you plan to use them. If you plan to drive solely on the highway, a few times a week on your way to the office and back, then a gravity cast wheel will serve you just fine.
On the other hand, if you are a dirt-bike enthusiast who enjoys motocross racing, then an ordinary cast wheel won’t cut it for your vehicle, as it won’t have the required durability and lightness. In that case, you will need a set of flow formed wheels, which will provide you with the tensile strength you need without breaking the bank.
During the flow-forming process, the mechanical properties of the cast rim are changed because of the pressure that is applied to it. Thus, the strength and impact values of such a rim become similar to that of a forged rim. In practice, this means that flow-formed wheels are 15 percent lighter than a standard cast wheel and far more shock resistant.
Moreover, as the weight of the wheel’s rotating mass has been reduced, this leads to greater responsiveness in the realms of braking and acceleration. Increased elongation also leads to greater flexibility in flow formed wheels, which reduces the chances of damage and breakage upon impact. Thus, these wheels are more reliable and typically have a longer lifespan than standard cast wheels.
Mentioned above are some of the major advantages of opting for flow formed wheels. You should, however, always do the required research to learn which type of wheel best suits the needs of your vehicle.