Billet Camshaft Guide: What is it, How it Made & Advantages

What is a Billet Camshaft

If you’re buying camshafts, you’ll come across these two different types: the cast and billet camshaft. Billet cams are tougher. However, you’ll find that they cost more. Cast types are cheaper but less reliable in extreme lift and spring pressures, especially at higher RPM.

Here, we’ll help you understand what billet cams are, their manufacturing method, and everything about them, including how they compare to the cast types.

What is a Billet Camshaft?

A billet camshaft is a cam made by turning a lump of steel. It derives its name from its initial form before production: a forged slug instead of a cast form. The steel is usually blank without any profile. Instead, everything must be cut, including the lobe separations and journals.

These cams are typically aftermarket parts and available finished or as regrinds. Regrind cores allow you to customize their profile for desired lift and other specifications, such as duration.

The cams present many benefits that make them a more versatile choice, especially if your application is highly demanding, like racing or pulling. In these engines, spring pressures are high, requiring studier cams.

The flexibility of billet camshaft material
The flexibility of billet camshaft material
Resource: https://honda-tech.com

Billet Camshaft Material

The camshaft material can significantly impact its ability to resist wear and damage. It also affects its cost and determines its compatibility with components with which it has direct contact.

Billet camshafts are performance parts built from hardened alloy steels and tool steel cores, mainly 5150 and 5160 steels. These provide the best properties. They’re usually hardened by induction and carburized for strength.

Billet camshaft manufacturers may use other steels, including 8620, 8660, and 9310. These materials produce sturdy blanks and resist wear and shock.

Camshaft grinding
Camshaft grinding
Resource: https://youtu.be/ioyusqoUFCI?si=BmfwEdjY9niGO21t

How are Billet Camshafts Made?

Their production involves machining steel slugs. The process requires sophisticated CNC machining equipment, or the part may not come out as needed.

Enthusiasts may use ordinary lathes to turn blanks. However, using lathes requires intense concentration and skill. Here is how camshaft manufacturers make billet types in brief:


  • A steel blank is placed in a turning machine and spun against a computer-controlled grinding wheel

  • The use of CNC machines ensures higher precision, eliminating errors in the various ground sections

  • As it spins, a cam keeps changing its position to correspond to the required profiles

  • The profiles come to life, and other sections as required

  • The grinding process involves two stages: rough grinding and finishing

  • Rough grinding introduces profiles, while the last stage provides the required finish by removing imperfections.

  • The cam undergoes a hardening process to improve its mechanical and wear properties

  • Later, the finished cams go through a quality control process. These involve visual inspections and various performance and durability tests

  • Experts conduct tests using various testing tools and testing methods. Most importantly, computerized equipment takes measurements to confirm multiple specifications.

The cams may also receive hardening coatings. The hardening process is called nitriding. The coating also improves the lubricity of the lobes, allowing them to resist wear.

Custom billet camshafts consider customer requirements regarding material, size, and profiles. Manufacturing custom-made cams may also take a different approach than that described here.

On the other hand, customizable types are only slightly cut or machined. Depending on their applications, the user does the rest of the turning to achieve desired specifications. These are preferred when buying cams for modified applications.

Regrind performance billet cam
Regrind performance billet cam
Resource: https://www.lotustalk.com

What are the Advantages of Billet Camshafts?

These cams are forged steel. Forging produces better materials than casting. The metal grains follow specific lines, making the part resistant to breakage and other damage. As a result, these components do not wear as quickly and can withstand harsh engine conditions.

Modifying these cam types to fit your application is also easier. Many come with unfinished, allowing you to customize their specs. The thicker material also means you can achieve more regrinds.

The many advantages of billet steel make these parts an excellent choice for standard and performance engines. With your street car, you get many more miles with the part. If using it in higher-performance applications, you have a component that offers higher reliability.

Billet camshaft vs. cast camshaft
Billet camshaft vs. cast camshaft
Resource: https://youtu.be/mNbRbASf9Ug?si=PteF66QPncXfWpr9

Billet Camshaft vs. Cast Camshaft

Based on their starting forms, cams are either cast pieces or billet cores. The two materials are different, so their parts will have varying mechanical properties. Let’s start by comparing their manufacturing differences.

Manufacturing Ease

You get billet cams by machining forged blanks. This process is more demanding. It requires more steps, and the manufacturer has to ensure the proper machining method and tolerances.

On the other hand, cast cams result from pouring molten metal into prepared molds. The part then comes out with the profiles formed and only requires slight machining.

As you can see, casting a camshaft is more straightforward than cutting or grinding. The cast types are best for higher production volumes, given their ease of manufacturing. Steel cams, on the other hand, are best made in lower volumes.

Cost Difference

Because they’re more challenging to produce, billet cams cost more. The material is also more damage-resistant, which adds to the cost. Cast cams are more affordable: they’re easier to make. For example, the typical cast cam can cost $150, while a similar billet type costs $300.

Durability and Strength

Forged steel stands up to wear better. It also has a higher modulus of elasticity, making it more breakage-resistant. So, billets are going to last longer than cast types.

Casts have irregular grain structures and are comparatively weaker. But that doesn’t mean they will break at the slightest impact. It only makes them more likely to fail.

When manufacturing cast iron cams, the material is chilled to produce a surface that is resistant to wear. This layer can wear out with time, exposing the cam to friction, especially in low-oil conditions.

Best Application

A billet is an aftermarket camshaft that withstands higher spring pressures at higher engine revolutions. This property makes it best for high-performance or highly demanding applications like racing.

On the other hand, cast types are best for normal spring pressures. So your street-driven car will do fine with a cast iron cam unless you want a studier type that guarantees you a longer service life.

Overall, demanding applications require the robustness of forged pieces. Remember that if you’re buying a billet steel cam, your manufacturer may add a cast iron drive, or you may request that they do. That’s to prevent the steel from wearing the stock distributor gear.

Conclusion

Auto parts manufacturers turn a piece of forged steel to make billet camshafts. That makes it a more durable engine part than those produced by machining cast iron pieces. The cams are available as finished parts, or you can order them as customizable components for grinding.

At WanTuo, we manufacture both types of billet camshafts. Talk to us now. Our experts will help you select the best material for your application or market. Our camshafts are made with performance and durability in mind, making them reliable engine parts.

Louis
Louis

I'm Louis, a seasoned writer specializing in auto parts, particularly the science behind components like cylinder heads and pistons. With over a decade of experience and a background in mechanical engineering, my articles reflect a commitment to professionalism, blending technical insight with engaging content.

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If you’re buying camshafts, you’ll come across these two different types: the cast and billet camshaft. Billet cams are tougher. However, you’ll find that they cost more. Cast types are cheaper but less reliable in extreme lift and spring pressures, especially at higher RPM. Here, we’ll help you understand what billet cams are, their manufacturing

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