For turbochargers, compressor wheels are super important. They ultimately dictate how much power your car can make. Selecting the right turbocharger wheels can have a huge impact on how the turbocharger influences your car’s performance.
“Billet” compressor wheels have been out for a few years now. Brand names used for turbos with “billet” compressor wheels are names like: “STX” for Steam Turbochargers, “XT” for Blouch’s turbos, “HTA” for ForcedPerformance, and “GTX” for Garrett turbos.
Most people assume they are all basically the same, but they are not.
Our billet compressor wheels improve performance over cast wheels of the same dimensions by increasing the blade area, and also decreasing the mass of the wheel simultaneously. We know our competitors do some or all of these things with their “billet” designs.
Here are some of the techniques used to make “billet” compressor wheels out preform their cast counterparts. These are well known to us and our competitors.
Given wheels that are the same size, aerodynamics are super important. They determine the wheel’s flow, and efficiency which both relate to things like whether a turbo can make power at 30 psi.
Large companies like Garrett or Mistubishi make wheels with 3rd order geometries. In simple terms, that means, the blades have more complex shapes. SteamSpeed also uses 3rd order geometries in some of our newer turbochargers. However, it takes quite a bit longer to mill a 3rd order surface into a compressor wheel and incidentally more money as well.
Many smaller turbo manufactures like Blouch Turbo or ForcedPerformance might or might not bother spending the extra time and money to mill their compressors this way because most customers don’t know the difference and it saves money for manufacturers on their bill of materials. Garrett takes the time to mill their full geometry even though it costs more. SteamSpeed is also doing this now with our prototype production.
It is much cheaper to mill the blade shape in one pass, but you can only mill less-complex compressor wheel shapes like this. The primary reason to use this method is to save money for the manufacturer by reducing machine costs with faster cut wheels. This is an example of what flank-milled with a lower order geometry compressor wheel looks like:
You can clearly see the lines horizontally down the blade where mill cut the blade in one single pass.
Garrett GTX and some newer Steam STX turbos do use 3rd order blade design, and use a much more expensive milling process than flank milling. Look at the detail of this Garrett GTX wheel.
Do you have a ForcedPerformance HTA turbo or a Blouch XT turbo? I have personally owned some of their products myself. Are you thinking about buying one? Before we created SteamSpeed, I was considering buying a Blouch XT turbo. Ultimately I bought a Garrett GTX based turbo instead, and now only install Steam STX turbos. Make a careful inspection of the wheels on the turbo you already own, or are thinking about buying and draw your own conclusions.
Here is a Forced Performance HTA 68 compressor wheel. How does it look milled?
Here is a close up on the Blouch Dominator 3.0 XT-R turbo. How does the wheel look milled to you?
Lots of people are using turbos with lower order aerodynamic designed compressor wheels. They can still make good power, but they are not as effective at making power as higher order blade designs.
SteamSpeed’s competitive advantage has been our keen understanding of how to pair turbine and compressor wheels together, resulting in ideal performance. For our turbochargers that have been issued flank-milled compressor wheels, we have mated them with ideal turbine wheels so that they make great power, produce high boost, while also enabling us to keep costs down for the customer. Aside from eliminating the middle man and selling direct, this is another reason our turbochargers cost less than our competitors’ while outperforming their comparative products. SteamSpeed maintains competitive pricing with turbochargers equipped with point-milled compressor wheels, but the pricing on those is understandably a bit higher than turbochargers with flank-milled wheels.
Look at the detail of a Steam STX 71 for LGT. Notice how the blades have lines running from top to bottom, rather than horizontal marks indicative of a flank mill process.
At SteamSpeed, our goal is to make the superior product, whether we use flank-milled or point-milled wheels. For our most premium turbochargers, this starts with not cutting corners with lower cost wheels, and only putting the best wheels in our turbos. It is understandable that if we are trying to be competitive at a lower price point that we may not be able to use point-milled wheels, but our flank-milled wheels will still be of superior cut and technology, therefore outperforming our competition at similar price points, or even higher in many cases. Eventually, our goal is to be able to us point-milled wheels on all of our turbochargers, not just the higher cost ones.