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The first FSW-equipment was built as a modified milling machine at The Welding Institute (TWI) in the UK.

It was in 1991, when Friction Stir Welding (FSW) was invented and patented, to pursue research on the new welding technique.

See an introduction to this process in our page on Friction Stir Welding (Opens a new Window).

Many avenues had to be explored, concerning materials, machines, tools, properties, parameters, applications, economy.

The early successes using FSW equipment with important applications in refrigeration and aerospace spurred explorations in new fields like shipbuilding and transportation.

FSW equipment was originally developed by modifying universal milling machines.

They had to be made sturdier and capable of sustaining the remarkable forces involved in the process, while clamping securely the workpieces.

Development began with aluminum as the base metal to be welded, a promising choice for applications of the new process.

Then research continued with other materials like magnesium and copper.

FSW-equipment for innovative, effective and economic joining

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Steel, Stainless, Titanium and heat resisting materials followed, starting generally with moderate thickness and exploring the limits achievable.

Limited success was obtained but for certain hard to weld materials active research is still performed.

An interesting paper reviews the history of development of Friction Stir Welding equipment from the viewpoint of the patents applied for. See:

FSW Patents - a Stirring Story
TWI Patents.

Much thought had to be applied to generate the best tooling shape. Different shapes were tested and modified according to the results of their application.

Promising tooling materials were tested and developed to obtain adequate endurance at reasonable price.

New approaches were tried like skewing the axis of revolution of the tool relative to the perpendicular to the plane of welding, or making the tool retractable.

TWI remains probably the repository of most of the cumulated experience gained.

Whoever needs to be informed rapidly of all the details for studying a new application and for choosing suitable FSW-equipment should consider participating in a special course held at TWI. See:

An Introduction to Friction Stir Welding
TWI FSW Courses.

Many companies around the world entered in licensing agreements with TWI to build FSW equipment specially suited to new application requirements.

Now machines of all sizes are available, including portable and robot mounted.

A current list of licensees is available from TWI:

Friction Stir Welding Equipment Manufacturers
FSW-equipment Manufacturers.

Watch a nice application Video of FSW-equipment

Pipe - FSW

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niVsJPFlg1Y

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