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The Amazing Friction-stir-welding

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Friction-stir-welding is a young process that has enjoyed a hefty development from the time it was first conceived at the Welding Institute, UK, less than two decades ago.

Some of the most demanding and successful applications of Friction-stir-welding were performed on items of aerospace travel hardware, demonstrating its highest reliability.

A new page is available by clicking on Friction Stir Welding Equipment.

We published a short note on Friction-stir-welding in Issue 47 of our Practical Welding Letter for July 2007. Click on PWL#047 to see it.

The special Issue 46 of Mid Month Bulletin for February 2010 was dedicated to Online Internet Resources on Friction-stir-welding.
Click on Mid February 2010 Bulletin to find it.

Friction-stir-welding, the Revolutionary Variant

Although it is considered a variant of well known Friction Welding Processes it seems to share only part of its name with the older versions, being effectively a new and different process.

At the heart of Friction-stir-welding is a special rotating tool, not exactly non-consumable (except when used to weld soft materials) but built to last for a few welds at least, depending on the base metal.

The weld tool has the task of penetrating the joint and of generating heat by its rotary motion, thus transforming a mass of material into plastic state.

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The displaced hot worked material gathers in the space behind the tool that moves along the joint leaving in its wake a continuous weld.

Two elements are critical in the welding tool: the pin or probe whose shape is optimized to stir the material, and a shoulder or disk that contains the worked material within the joint.

In the most common configuration two plates, presenting a butt joint without gap (or up to 10% the thickness at most), are firmly clamped on a machine base, similar to certain milling machines.
Other joint configurations can be welded, possibly in modified machines or with special fixturing.

As the base material is not melted, Friction-stir-welding is a solid state machine process producing high quality welds with minimum operator's influence.

Aluminum alloys, even those not weldable by fusion processes, are readily Friction-stir welded, resulting in high mechanical properties in the joints.

Because of its limited heat input, Friction-stir-welding produces minimum distortions and leaves much lower residual stresses. Its elevate welding speed contributes to the economics of production, even if the initial investment in equipment and tooling is considerable.

Although a number of possible weld discontinuities have been described, well developed processes are usually free from defects, notably from those being caused during solidification in fusion processes.

Energy efficiency is high and environmental impact is minimal. Different materials have been successfully welded like Aluminum, Magnesium, Copper, Titanium, Nickel, Steel and Stainless Steel.

The Friction-stir weldability or ease of welding these materials closely parallels their suitability to being extruded. Therefore Aluminum and Magnesium are most easily welded, Copper is more difficult to process as its hot working temperature is higher, while the rest of the above mentioned material are definitely more difficult to FS (Friction-stir) weld.

Several variants of basic Friction-stir-welding have been proposed and tested for specific applications as documented in investigation reports.

The following document may provide useful information on the subject:

ANSI/AWS D17.3/D17.3M:2010
Specification for Friction Stir Welding of Aluminum Alloys for Aerospace Applications
Edition: 1st
American Welding Society / 01-Jul-2009 / 56 pages

The following TWI page links to downloadable publications proposed for further reading.

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An Article on Fundamentals of Friction Stir Welding was published (7) in Issue 101 of Practical Welding Letter for January 2012.
Click on PWL#101 to see it.

An Article on New Aluminum Solid State Welding was published (7) in Issue 102 of Practical Welding Letter for February 2012.
Click on PWL#102 to see it.

An Article on Friction Stir Spot Welding and Refill was published (7) in Issue 110 of Practical Welding Letter for October 2012.
Click on PWL#110 to see it.

An Article on Welding Progress at NASA MSFC (including FSW Progress) was published (2) in Issue 130 of Practical Welding Letter for June 2014.
Click on PWL#130 to see it.

An Article on From Lab to Production Line was published (2) in Issue 157 of Practical Welding Letter for September 2016.
Click on PWL#157.

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Friction Stir Welding Demonstration

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