It’s hot work, but the men and women who work in the Ferrari Foundry are fiercely proud of the skills and techniques they use to transform solid aluminium ingots into high performance racing components.
The technology has improved over the years, but they remain artisans, using their hands, their eyes, and ultimately their judgement to ensure every component that leaves the Foundry is of the highest quality possible.
In truth, the production process hasn’t changed much since Enzo Ferrari’s early days of building engines. Solid aluminium ingots are heated in two large melting furnaces; when they become liquid, they are poured into sand or steel casting moulds to produce machine components. But if that sounds easy, think again.
First, there’s the sheer heat involved. The melting furnaces are only turned off twice a year for maintenance; for every other working day of the year, they operate at an average running temperature of over 700°C, enough to keep 2000 kilograms of alloy in a liquid state. Of course, as soon as the alloy is transferred out into ladles it immediately begins to cool again, meaning work is fast and precise.
Then there’s the mould production process. Today the sand moulds are made by machine, but it is intricate human skill that ensures perfect productions every time: once made (a process that involves blasting the sand with sulphur dioxide to strengthen it), a machinist works over each mould, marking defects, and cleaning burrs by hand. A mistake here could mean a component defect, deep within an engine at a later date, so attention to detail at this stage is crucial.
Finally, the casting is done. The sand undergoes an ancient technique of flaming to ensure the alloy runs smoothly across the surface and into the mould without slowing and cooling too quickly. Then the alloy is poured, either from a ladle or direct from the furnace.
And even here at the final stages of pouring, it’s human experience that ensures the process is performed to the highest quality. Operators pour the molten alloy by hand, checking the temperatures and making any changes needed. Proof, if ever it was needed, that no matter how good technology becomes, it is the people of Ferrari who have guaranteed quality for 75 years.