Ever since I started using aluminum softball bats years ago I always wanted to learn as much about them as I could. While I was involved with Steele's Sports for over 15 years I was able to go to different bat manufacturers and see just exactly what went into making a softball bat. I mean I was absolutely horrified when the first time I walked into AMMCO (American Modern Metals) and saw that they were making bats for 10 or more bat companies.

Here I am thinking that  they make only the Steele Bat and that is it. I learned a long time ago that marketing is where it is all at. I remember in 1986 or 87 when we were selling more Elliott model softball bats than we could make. There was another company out there that had the same technology but didn't have a softball team out there promoting it. So they sold very little of that model softball bat. 

So I thought that I would put together a page to show you just how softball bats are produced. I had the opportunity to go to softball manufacturers plant.  The bat company has a rich heritage about making the finest softball bats in the world.  Whether anybody knows it or not,  in 1977 9 out of every 10 softball bats on a team were the green bombat. Pictured here.

While I was at Bombat I got a chance to sit down and talk to bat designer Tony Daddario about some of the steps that there are in trying to make the finest softball bats in the land. I will put an assortment of photos that were taken at Bombat while they were doing a run on some softball  bats. Throughout the page there is a glossary of words that relate to aluminum's and their whole process of making a softball bat.

C-405 Tubing
  Here is a piece of C-405 tubing that has been made by an aluminum company and cut into certain lengths and then shipped directly to the bat manufacturers. The wall thickness on these pieces of tubing are determined at the aluminum companies. Whether it be .50 or .72 it is measured at the aluminum  plant. They are given certain specs that the bat manufacturers are looking for. Even though the material is put together at the bat manufacturers, once it arrives at the manufacturers and the heat treat process is done the tolerance in the wall thickness will not change at all. If it does it is not noticeable.

The wall thickness of the tubing affects the amount of elastic deformation a bat wall will undergo during a given impact,  the "trampoline" affect of the bat. This is how much the walls will flex and rebound when struck by a softball. The thinner the walls, the greater the trampoline affect, and consequently the more energy is returned to the ball. This results in the ball rebounding off the bat faster and you will see a noticeable increase in the distance the ball travels. Most of your high performance bats today are in the .50 to .60 wall thickness range. A high performance single wall bat would be anywhere from .60 to .75. Another factor that plays in the trampoline affect is the heat treating.
 

 

Heat Treating This is a heat treating oven that can help in a number of ways for the strengthening of the tubing. Click on Tennalum at the bottom of the page to learn more about different heat treatments.
 
 

Glossary of Terms
 
AGING----A reaction of the alloying elements taking place in the heat-treatable alloys after solution heat-treatment that brings about an increase in hardness and strength with a decrease in ductility. The reason may occur at room temperature and is defined as natural aging. The speed of the reaction can be accelerated if it takes place at an elevated temperature in the250°F to 450°F range where it is defined as artificial aging.

 ANNEALING----A thermal treatment used to soften the metal by removal of stresses from cold working or by coalescing precipitates from solid solution. When the mental is fully softened it is call a full anneal. When only some of the stresses are removed it is called a partial anneal. In the latter case, the metal is stronger but less ductile than in the case of a full anneal.
 
 

Swedging
   Here is a photo of the C-405 tubing being swedge. The swedging machine's costs around $125,000. And when you are working this machine you must have safety ear plugs in because of the loudness of the machine. To me this is oe tough job just because of the sound. The swedging is the part that actually forms the C-405 tubing into the shape of the softball bat. Here is a picture of the C-405 tubing right before it is placed in the swedger. Once the tubing has been swedge it will cool off and will actually be right around 40 inches long. It is then cut off at both ends tofit it with the  correct sizes.

 BAR----A solid section of metal that is long in relation to its cross section, which is square, rectangular or is a regular hexagon or octagon, and in which at least one perpendicular distance between parallel faces is 0.375 inches or greater.

 COLD FINISHED----Rod or bar brought to a final diameter or thickness by means of a cross section reduction applies to the metal when it is at room temperature. Examples are cold rolling, cold drawing or cold extruding.
 
 

Welding One of the more heated jobs at producing a softball/baseball bat is the welding of the knob. Here the machinist is welding a knob on one of the different baseball bats.

 COLD WORKING-----Material reduction of deformation carried on at temperatures below those resulting in the recrystallization or annealing of the metal. Cold working of the metal will bring about strain-hardening with an increase in strength and hardness.

 ELONGATION---- This property designates the ability of the metal to stretch, or elongate, when it is subjected to an applied  stress. The distance the metal will stretch from the point where yielding begins to the point where the metal fractures is expressed as a percentage and is known as the elongation.
 

 HEAT-TREATABLE ALLOYS----Alloys, typically in the 2XXX, 6XXX and 7XXX series, that achieve their maximum strength either through solution heat treating and cold work.

 SOLUTION HEAT TREATING-----Normally used to describe a process where metal is heated at a high enough temperature to put soluble elements into solid solution
.
 HOT WORKING----- Working the metal at such a high temperature that strain hardening does not occur.

 
 

New Swedging Machine
Cost - $120,000.00

NON-HEAT-TREATABLE ALLOYS-----The most definitive term for the 1XXX, the 3XXX, the 5XXX and some 4XXX alloy  classes. These alloys gain strength through cold working and lose strength through thermal treatments.
 

 NON-HEAT-TREATABLE ALLOYS-----The most definitive term for the 1XXX, the 3XXX, the 5XXX and some 4XXX alloy  classes. These alloys gain strength through cold working and lose strength through thermal treatments.

 QUENCHING---- A closely controlled rapid cooling of metal from some type of high temperature operation such as heat treating or extruding. The cooling medium is usually water and the purpose is to chill the metal quickly and lock the alloying elements into the dispersed positions imparted to them by the high temperature operation.

 ROD---- A solid round section 0.375" or greater in diameter.

 STRESS RELIEVING------Often confused with ferrous stress relieval treatments, this process mechanically stress relieves the aluminum by stretching the rod or bar thus achieving a permanent increase in length and low residual stress levels.

 ULTIMATE TENSILE STRENGTH (UTS)-----A common term to describe mechanical strength. This metal property denotes how much stress can be gradually applied to the metal before it fractures. Tensile testing is done by pulling two ends of a test sample in opposite directions under a constantly increasing force, subjecting the product to stress. The stress  is measured until the product is pulled in two. The measurement at the exact time of fracture is the material's ultimate tensile strength.

 WIRE----- A definition of wire is just about the same as the definition for bar, in that wire can be almost any cross section, but, unlike bar, wire can be round. The major differences lies in the fact that the minor dimension for bar must be at least three-eighths of an inch (.375") while the major dimension for wire must be under three-eighths of an inch.

Aluminum Companies

Kaiser Aluminum

Pechiney Aluminum

Tennalum

Aluminum Alloys


Extra Swedgers
Since swedging is one of the most important parts of softball bat manufacturing Bat companies have  a number of extra swedgers just in case one breaks down and you need a part real fast. All in all this company has 6 swedgers so they can do 20,000 bats a month.

 WROUGHT PRODUCTS-----Products which can began as raw material castings and are mechanically worked by processes such as rolling, extruding and forging to the extent that all remnants of the cast metallurgical structure have been removed.

 YIELD TENSILE STRENGTH (YTS)----- A property of the material that describes the stress at which the material exhibits a specific permanent set. That is the point at which it will not spring back to its original length when stress in the material is relieved. For aluminum the yield strength is usually measured at the point where the stress applied to the material causes a 0.2% permanent set.

 



 



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