Friction stir welding (FSW) is a relatively new welding process that was invented at The Welding Institute in Cambridge, UK in 1991. FSW is a solid-state joining process that uses frictional heat combined with accurately directed forging pressure to produce high integrity welded joints for extruded or wrought aluminum. The process can also be used to join copper, titanium, and certain alloys. This automated frictional welding process is more robust than other joining processes and is a good fit for industries that must employ high-volume production, such as the automotive industry.
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The solid-state welding process in which the materials that are used for welding never go over the require melting points is known as friction-stir welding. This process requires heat to be generated during each point of contact that is used to join the materials together. During the friction-stir welding process, a spinning tool is imposed on a piece of work. The spinning tool is put through a downward force and turning over to the weld direction.
For many years, American Hydroformers has been one of the leaders in hydroforming technology and friction stir welding technology. Friction stir welding is a type of technique that offers a variety of benefits and advantages over one of the more traditional methods known as fusion welding. Friction stir welding has the ability to create a bond of any size, and this is one of the reasons why it has the ability to serve a wide range of industries.
The welding technique, friction stir welding, was developed almost 30 years ago in 1991. Although it was invented many years ago, it has seen a high rise in demand over the past few years. One of the main reasons that friction stir welding has seen such a massive increase is due to the rising demand for greater strength and durability in applications.
Lauded as the most significant innovation in metal joining in the last decade, Friction Stir Welding (FSW) introduces a solid-state joining process that is environmentally friendly, versatile, and energy efficient. FSW outperforms conventional fusion welding by joining aerospace aluminum alloys, and other metallic alloys, that are high-strength. The significance of this advancement is that aerospace aluminum alloys, like 2XXX and 7XXX series, have been classified as virtually non-weldable with conventional welding processes because of porosity and microstructure solidification behavior. Resistance welding can be performed on aluminum alloys, however, surface preparation has to be performed, which is expensive and surface oxide becomes a problem.
Friction stir welding is an innovative and unique method of joining metals by using frictional heat combined with a controlled forging pressure, producing full penetrated welded joints with high integrity that are defect free. Friction stir welding is most efficient on cylindrical components, flat plates as well as on parts of uneven thickness.
Friction Stir Welding: Applications That Are Far Out and Close to Home. Liquid hydrogen, it’s a substance that has fascinated mankind since the 1800s. That’s when James Dewar unleashed it as well as his thoughts on vacuum flasks and regenerative cooling on to the world. At the time, many Americans were unsure about what liquid hydrogen could do but that would all change thanks primarily to NASA and its Centaur rockets. Although revolutionary, the upper stage rockets did pose a problem that until recently has continually vexed the government agency. It was one of tank integrity.
The process of friction stir welding is a relatively new way to join metal components together. It is a metal joining method that has applications in industrial fabrications and manufacturing such as aerospace, automotive manufacturing, and industrial engineering, anywhere that metal components need welds that meet the most demanding specifications.
Though friction stir welding is a relatively new technology, it is making waves in just about every industry that chooses to adopt and use it. Most notably, perhaps, is the car industry.
Welding in a car plant has moved at breakneck speed in the last 50 years. As the venerable hand-welder was replaced by robotic arms in the mid-century, soon the automobile production line (perfected by Henry Ford nearly a century ago) will be replaced with the soft hum of friction, as two materials are bonded together with a sturdy and “miraculous” bond.
As an article from Car and Driver says:
FSW is a solid-state weld involving no molten metal. Heat generated by pressure and friction is all that’s needed to ensure a strong metal bond.
Additional benefits of friction stir welding are numerous:
– Easily bond dissimilar metals together. Even if one is steel while the other is aluminum.
– The time it takes is drastically reduced. For example, the simple process FSW makes out of welding two, different metals, would have taken hours longer with fusion welding.
– It’s a safer process. With fusion welding, there are sparks, molten heat, and a need for protective clothing. Not so with FSW. Because as the die rotates atop the seam with applied, consistent pressure, the heat bonds them without sparks or concern for safety.
– A lighter weld that adds no extra mass. Unlike fusion welding, which adds metal filler (e.g. unnecessary weight), FSW adds nothing. Which, if one was to argue it, actually reduces the weight of the finished product.
Friction stir welding will no doubt begin to overtake traditional means of welding in ever manufacturing industry over the next decade, just as it did in the aerospace world. We’re excited to see how this burgeoning new way to bond materials becomes the new standard.
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A relatively young technique in the field of welding, friction stir welding was invented then scientifically proven as a viable method in December of 1991. By definition it is a ‘solid-state joining process,’ meaning that the material being used for welding is not melted. This process employs the use of a third body tool to join together the two facing surfaces.
The process starts with heat being generated between the friction stir welding tool and material, which leads to a softened region. The tool then mechanically mixes the metals between the two pieces at the place of the joint. The softened metal can then be joined by pressure, supplied by the welding tool. This process is described as being much like joining pieces of clay or dough. Friction stir welding is excellent for items requiring superior hold strength without the need of a post-weld heat treatment.
There are several advantages that friction stir welding has been observed to have over traditional fusion welding. Some of these include;
- Free range operation positions (horizontal, vertical, etc.) because there is no weld pool.
- No consumables.
- Easily automated on simple milling machines due to lower set up costs and less training.
- Improved safety due to the absence of toxic fumes or the spatter of molten welding materials.
- Reduced impact on the environment.
As with the advantages, a few disadvantages also go along with the friction stir welding process. A few examples of the disadvantages are;
- An exit hole is left in the metal when the tool is withdrawn.
- Less flexibility than whats found in manual and arch welding processes.
- Often slower than fusion welding techniques, however this can be offset if a smaller number of welding passes are required.
Despite being a relatively new process, friction stir welding has already made a place for itself in several industries. These include automotive, offshore and ship building, aerospace, railways, personal computers, and various electronics. The future for this process is promising, paving a way for itself to maybe one day surpass traditional welding methods as the go to technique. If you would like to know more about friction stir welding, or other fabrication processes such as hydroforming, feel free to contact us at our website.