Forging can produce a piece that is stronger than an equivalent cast or machined part. As the metal is shaped during the forging process, its internal grain deforms to follow the general shape of the part. As a result, the grain is continuous throughout the part, giving rise to a piece with improved strength characteristics.
Some metals may be forged cold, but iron and steel are almost always hot forged. Hot forging prevents the work hardening that would result from cold forging, which would increase the difficulty of performing secondary machining operations on the piece. Also, while work hardening may be desirable in some circumstances, other methods of hardening the piece, such as heat treating, are generally more economical and more controllable.
Production forging involves significant capital expenditure for machinery, tooling, facilities and personnel. In the case of hot forging, a high-temperature furnace (sometimes referred to as the forge) is required to heat ingots or billets. Owing to the massiveness of large forging hammers and presses and the parts they can produce, as well as the dangers inherent in working with hot metal, a special building is frequently required to house the operation. Most forging operations use metal-forming dies, which must be precisely machined and carefully heat-treated to correctly shape the workpiece, as well as to withstand the tremendous forces involved.