Forging Residual Stress

Metallic materials inherit their mechanical properties through various processing steps that are optimized to provide useful spatial distributions of constituents, mechanical deformation, and orientation. Among forming methods for metals, the forging process typically provides parts with superior static strength and fatigue performance. For this reason, forgings are well-suited for use in key structural components requiring strength and durability.

In many aluminum alloys, quenching from high temperature enables high strength, but it also leaves significant levels of residual stress. Residual stress fields require specific attention, especially with respect to managing distortion of parts machined from forgings and in anticipating the effects of residual stress on part performance. When residual stress is not managed appropriately, excessive distortion drives part rejection in manufacturing, and residual stresses shorten service life by accelerating corrosion and fatigue cracking.

Hill Engineering works in the metallic materials supply chain to deliver residual stress technologies for measurement and modeling that benefit suppliers, system integrators, and end users across industry. Some of our most advanced work is in aircraft materials, where our measurements are being used to improve and validate advanced modeling aimed to revolutionize the design of forgings, with specific attention to residual stress fields.

Supported by the US Air Force, and working closely with the F-35 aircraft manufacturer and a key material supplier, Hill Engineering developed and applied residual stress measurement technology for very large aluminum forgings used to produce F-35 bulkheads, frames, and spars.

Cut-away of F-35 showing large single-piece bulkheads, frames, and spars made from forgings

Forging for a single piece bulkhead on F-35 variant with short takeoff and vertical landing capability

Contour method measurements confirmed what was predicted by modeling, that high residual stresses in quenched material are relieved to low levels by cold compression with specially designed dies. The measurement capabilities provided the F-35 team with data that supported their use of airframe materials.

By developing technology to serve the metallic materials supply chain, Hill Engineering delivers capabilities needed to solve challenging problems with structural materials. Contact us to see what we can do together.

Residual stress field in a quenched forging (top) and a cold-compressed forging (bottom) – model forecast (left) and measurement data (right) with tension in red and compression in blue

Reference information:

Forgings – What we Make, 2016, Alcoa Defense.

An Integrated R&D Roadmap for Residual Stress Management in Large Structural Forgings, M. James, et al, 4th Residual Stress Summit, Tahoe City, CA, Sep 2010.

The Impact of Forging Residual Stress on Fatigue in Aluminum, D. Ball, et al, AIAA SciTech, Kissimmee, FL, Jan 2015.

Development of the Contour Method

The contour method uses careful sectioning and precision inspection techniques to develop a two-dimensional map of residual stress on a plane through a part. The contour method was invented circa 2000 by Dr. Mike Prime of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Hill Engineering staff were instrumental in commercialization of the contour method, working in close collaboration with  Dr. Prime as early as 2000, and licensing the technology in 2006 from Los Alamos under US Patent 6,470,756 B1.

The first commercial applications of the contour method were related to the development of laser shock peening and improving manufacturing processes like welding and forging. Investments from the federal Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program have allowed us to demonstrate the usefulness of the contour method, and to enhance the quality, precision, and capability of the measurements we perform.

The contour method provides a unique capability to reveal the two-dimensional distribution of residual stress on a plane cut through a part, referred to as a residual stress map. After more than a decade of research and development, Hill Engineering is the industry leader in providing contour method stress mapping services for industry.

Further information on the contour method is provided elsewhere on our site, and other case studies illustrate its use.

Illustration of the contour method principle

Residual stress measured in a Ti-6Al-4V weld using the contour method superimposed on top of a photograph of the specimen