How Are Alloy Wheels Made?
How Are Alloy Wheels Made?
Though self regulated, there are quality standards to govern the production of all automotive wheels, including alloy wheels. Some countries though, like Germany and Japan, have government regulations requiring aftermarket wheels to meet certain criteria and ensure proper fit. The United States has taken steps to establish guidelines but it will be some time before they can enact regulation of any kind. Consequently, all alloy wheels are not made the same. The performance of an alloy wheel is a direct result of the manufacturing technique employed.
At OE Wheels we utilize complete supply chain control in order to maintain an unsurpassed focus on product safety and quality. Our state-of-the-art manufacturing utilizes the counter pressure injection, gravity fed and flow formed processes. Each alloy wheel is then sent through heat treatment for increased fortification. Our quality control program also includes such steps as x-ray inspection and pressurized immersion. All of our alloy wheels have passed or exceeded required safety testing and are JWL, SAE, VIA or DOT approved.
Rims verses Wheels
What is the difference between wheels and rims? A wheel is comprised of a hub, spokes and rim. With alloy wheels, sometimes these components will be one piece, sometimes they will be two or three piece. The hub is the center portion of the wheel and is what mounts the wheel to the vehicle's suspension. The spokes radiate out from the hub and attach to the rim. The rim is the outer part of the wheel that holds the tire. While many people refer to wheels as "rims," this is technically incorrect.
1 Piece Wheels
The 1 piece wheel is the most common type of cast aluminum wheel. The wheel rim manufacturing process generally consists of pouring or forcing molten aluminum inside a mold made to form the wheel, but there are several ways to make a cast wheel.
A gravity cast aluminum wheel uses the most basic process of pouring molten aluminum into a mold, utilizing the earth's gravity to fill the mold. Gravity casting of aluminum wheels offers a very reasonable production cost and is a good method for casting wheel designs that are more visually oriented or when reducing wheel weight is not a primary concern. Since the process relies on gravity to fill the mold, the aluminum is not as densely packed as with some other casting processes. Often gravity cast aluminum wheels will have a higher weight in order to achieve the required strength.
Low Pressure Casting
A low pressure cast wheels uses positive pressure to move the molten aluminum into the mold quicker and achieve a finished product that has improved mechanical properties (more density) over a gravity cast wheel. There is a slightly higher production cost over gravity casting, but low pressure casting is the most common process approved for cast aluminum wheels sold to the O.E.M. market. Some companies offer wheels that are produced under a higher pressure using special casting equipment to create a wheel that is lighter and stronger than a low pressure cast wheel, but there's a higher cost associated with the process. Low pressure cast wheels offer a good value for the aftermarket while still maintaining wheel strength and a lighter overall weight.
Flow Forming Technology
This specialized flow forming process begins with a low pressure cast wheel, but then uses a special machine that spins the initial casting, heats the outer portion and then uses steel rollers pressed against the rim area to pull the rim to its final width and shape. Thus flow form wheels use a combination of heat, pressure and spinning to create a rim area with strength similar to a forged wheel, but without the high cost of forging. Some of the special wheels produced for O.E.M. high performance or limited production vehicles are flow form wheels, utilizing the flow forming process to obtain a dramatic reduction in wheel weight while enhancing structural rigidity vs. a standard cast aluminum wheel.
Forged wheels represent the ultimate in 1 piece wheels. Forging is the process of placing a solid billet of aluminum between dies under an extreme amount of pressure. This creates a finished product that is very dense, very strong and therefore can be very light. However, the costs of tooling, development and equipment make forged wheels very exclusive and they usually demand a high price in the aftermarket.
3 Piece Wheels
A 2 piece or 3 piece wheel is sometimes referred to as a multi piece wheel, and utilizes two or three components assembled together to produce the finished wheel. Multi-piece wheels can use many different manufacturing methods. Centers can be cast using various methods or can be forged. 2 piece wheels combine an integrated center and hub section with a rim section. 3 piece wheels use a center, a hub and a rim section. The rim sections for 3 piece wheels are normally spun from disks of aluminum. Generally, spun rim sections offer the ability to custom tailor wheels for special applications that would not be available otherwise. The rim sections are bolted to the center and normally a sealant is applied in or on the assembly area to seal the wheel. This type of 3 piece wheel construction was originally developed for racing in the early 1970s and has been used on cars ever since. 3 piece wheels are most popular in 17-inch and larger wheel diameters.
No matter what type of wheel you're looking for, all OE Wheels are manufactured to stringent standards, fully tested and carry a lifetime structural warranty. Whether you're just looking for individual rims for sale, a set of 4 rims or complete wheel and tire packages, OE Wheels is ready to help!
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