Cast, Billet, or Forged Aluminum: Which Parts are Best for Your Can-Am UTV?
Mar 30th 2022
With all of the different parts available for your Can-Am UTV modification needs, it can be difficult to determine which parts and materials are right for you.
Common replacement parts for your Can-Am Commander, Defender and Maverick are usually made out of aluminum. Aluminum is abundant, shapeable, re-workable and recyclable. When compared to steel and titanium, it also happens to be much cheaper.
When it comes to shaping aluminum into the parts we know and love, there are three major methods:
- Cast Aluminum
- Machined Billet Aluminum
- Forged Aluminum
What do those terms actually mean?
Let’s find out!
Cast Aluminum Can-Am UTV Parts
Manufacturers make cast aluminum parts by melting down solid aluminum blocks and pouring that molten metal into moulds. These filled moulds are then cooled, and the finished part is revealed. Most manufacturers then clean, polish or even sand blast the outside to smooth out any imperfections and ensure the part is ready for the customer.
Common parts made from this casting process are things like:
Although cast aluminum parts are more cost effective to manufacture, and just about any design can be poured, there is a downside: melting aluminum multiple times degrades the quality and can introduce impurities to the final product.
So what process creates a stronger and more pure part for your Can-Am UTV?
Billet Aluminum Can-Am Side-by-Side Parts
Instead of shipping in blocks or bricks like cast aluminum, billet aluminum ships in the form of giant cylinders.
Because billet aluminum can then be precision milled or machined using a CNC machine. These machines are set to mill the material to the exact specifications set by a manufacturer. This process leads to a perfectly made part, that will fit like a glove.
And because the aluminum hasn’t had to be melted down multiple times, machined billet aluminum results in a much stronger and more reliable finished part!
A favorite machined billet aluminum part tends to be the cases on a Can-Am Portal Gear Lift:
- Can-Am Maverick Portal Gear Lifts
- Can-Am Defender Portal Gear Lifts
- Can-Am Commander Portal Gear Lifts
Machining billet aluminum has also become a favorite method because of the level of aesthetic excellence that is attainable with the "subtractive manufacturing" process. That may sound vain, but you have to admit you likely bought your Can-Am UTV in part because you loved how it looked, right?
Forged Aluminum Can-Am UTV Parts
In some ways, the process of forging aluminum can seem similar to the casting process.
There is a mould, of sorts, that is used after all.
When forging aluminum parts, the same billet aluminum that is used for machined UTV parts is instead smashed into its final shape by a very large hydraulic press. Remember moulding Play-Doh into different shapes as a kid?
Yeah, it's just like that!
Except this hydraulic press has so much force that it can literally smash solid aluminum into an entirely new shape.
So what's the benefit of forging? Unlike casting, forging requires no additional melting of the source material. And unlike machining, you are not interrupting the original structure of the aluminum by cutting and carving it into shape.
Many argue that the resulting parts are far superior to cast aluminum, and still stronger than machined billet aluminum. The downside being that the forging process is not as customizable, and many types of parts cannot be created using this process.
One category of parts that are frequently made by forging are Can-Am UTV wheels:
Especially with forged bead lock wheels such as the Can-Am Grenade Beadlock Forged Wheels by KMC, where the bead lock ring itself is made from forged aluminum and built to withstand much more stress than a set of cast wheels. Forged would be the number one choice in most situations!
With everything we have covered today, here is the short of it:
Cast aluminum is cheaper, but may sacrifice some strength due to extra melting. Machined billet aluminum is the most precise method, making it easier to produce any part imaginable. Forged aluminum may be the strongest finished product, but it is more difficult to make more complex designed parts using the forging process.
All of this is to say, that there is no one best material or process!
Everything will depend on the part, its use, and if we are being honest, your budget! Hopefully these explanations can help you find the appropriate part for your specific needs!