In today's modern world there are many different welding techniques to join metals. They range from the conventional oxyacetylene torch welding to laser welding. The two general categories in which all the types of welding can be divided is fusion welding and solid state welding.

The fusion welding process involves chemical bonding of the metal in the molten stage and may need a filler material such as a consumable electrode or a spool of wire of the filler material, the process may also need a inert ambience in order to avoid oxidation of the molten metal, this could be achieved by a flux material or a inert gas shield in the weld zone, there could be need for adequate surface preparations, examples of fusion welding are metal inert gas welding (MIG), tungsten inert gas welding (TIG) and laser welding. There are many disadvantages in the welding techniques where the metal is heated to its melting temperatures and let it solidify to form the joint. The melting and solidification causes the mechanical properties of the weld to deteriorate such as low tensile strength, fatigue strength and ductility. The disadvantages also include porosity, oxidation, microsegregation, hot cracking and other microstructural defects in the joint. The process also limits the combination of the metals that can be joined because of the different thermal coefficients of conductivity and expansion of different metals.

The solid state welding is the process where coalescence is produced at temperatures below the melting temperatures of the base metal with out any need for the filler material or any inert ambience because the metal does not reach its melting temperature for the oxidation to occur, examples of solid state welding are friction welding, explosion welding, forge welding, hot pressure welding and ultrasonic welding. The three important parameters time, temperature and pressure individually or in combinations produce the joint in the base metal. As the metal in solid state welding does not reach its melting temperatures so there are fewer defects caused due to the melting and solidification of the metal. In solid state welding the metals being joined retain their original properties as melting does not occur in the joint and the heat affected zone (HAZ) is also very small compared to fusion welding techniques where most of the deterioration of the strengths and ductility begins. Dissimilar metals can be joined with ease as the thermal expansion coefficients and the thermal conductivity coefficients are less important as compared to fusion welding.

Friction stir welding (FSW) is an upgraded version of friction welding. The conventional friction welding is done by moving the parts to be joined relative to each other along a common interface also applying compressive forces across the joint. The frictional heat generated at the interface due to rubbing softens the metal and the soft metal gets extruded due to the compressive forces and the joint forms in the clear material, the relative motion is stopped and compressive forces are increased to form a sound weld before the weld is allowed to cool.

Friction stir welding is also a solid state welding processes; this remarkable upgradation of friction welding was invented in 1991 in The Welding Institute (TWI) [4]. The process starts with clamping the plates to be welded to a backing plate so that the plates do not fly away during the welding process. A rotating wear resistant tool is plunged on the interface between the plates to a predetermined depth and moves forward in the interface between the plates to form the weld. The advantages of FSW technique is that it is environment friendly, energy efficient, there is no necessity for gas shielding for welding Al, mechanical properties as proven by fatigue, tensile tests are excellent, there is no fume, no porosity, no spatter and low shrinkage of the metal due to welding in the solid state of the metal and an excellent way of joining dissimilar and previously unweldable metals.


Aluminum is the most abundant metal available in the earths crust, steel was the most used metal in 19th century but Aluminium has become a strong competitor for steel in engineering applications. Aluminium has many attractive properties compared to steel it is economical and versatile to use that is the reason it is used a lot in the aerospace, automobile and other industries. The most attractive properties of aluminum and its alloys which make them suitable for a wide variety of applications are their light weight, appearance, frabricability, strength and corrosion resistance. The most important property of aluminum is its ability to change its properties in a very versatile manner; it is amazing how much the properties can change from the pure aluminum metal to its most complicate alloys. There are more then a couple of hundreds alloys of aluminum alloys and many are being modified form them internationally. Aluminium alloys have very low density compared to steel it has almost one thirds the density of steel. Properly treated alloys of aluminum can resist the oxidation process which steel can not resist; it can also resist corrosion by water, salt and other factors.

There are many different methods available for joining aluminum and its alloys. The selection of the method depends on many factors such as geometry and the material of the parts to be joined, required strength of the joint, permanent or dismountable joint, number of parts to be joined, the aesthetic appeal of the joint and the service conditions such as moisture, temperature, inert atmosphere and corrosion.

Welding is one of the most used methods for aluminum. Most alloys of aluminum are easily weldable. MIG and TIG are the welding processes which are used the most, but there are some problems associated with this welding process like porosity, lack of fusion due to oxide layers, incomplete penetration, cracks, inclusions and undercut, but they can be joined by other methods such as resistance welding, friction welding, stud welding and laser welding. When welding many physical and chemical changes occur such as oxide formation, dissolution of hydrogen in molten aluminum and lack of color change when heated.

The formation of oxides of aluminum is because of its strong affinity to oxygen, aluminum oxidizes very quickly after it has been exposed to oxygen. Aluminum oxide forms if the metal is joined using fusion welding processes, and aluminum oxide has a high melting point temperature than the metal and its alloys it self so it results in incomplete fusion if present when joined by fusion welding processes. Aluminum oxide is a electrical insulator if it is thick enough it is capable of preventing the arc which starts the welding process, so special methods such as inert gas welding, or use of fluxes is necessary if aluminum has to be welded using the fusion welding processes.

Hydrogen has high solubility in liquid aluminum when the weld pool is at high temperature and the metal is still in liquid state the metal absorbs lots of hydrogen which has very low solubility in the solid state of the metal. The trapped hydrogen can not escape and forms porosity in the weld. All the sources of hydrogen has to be eliminated in order to get sound welds such as lubricants on base metal or the filler material, moisture on the surface of base metal or condensations inside the welding equipment if it uses water cooling and moisture in the shielding inert gases. These precautions require considerable pretreatment of the workpiece to be welded and the welding equipment.

Hot cracking is also a problem of major concern when welding aluminum, it occurs due to the high thermal expansion of aluminum, large change in the volume of the metal upon melting and solidification and its wide range of solidification temperatures. The heat treatable alloys have greater amounts of alloying elements so the weld crack sensitivity is of concern. The thermal expansion of aluminum is twice that of steel, in fusion welding process the melting and cooling occurs very fast which is the reason for residual stress concentrations.

Weldability of some aluminum alloys is an issue with the fusion welding processes. The 2000 series, 5000 series, 6000 series and 7000 series of aluminum alloys have different weldabilities. The 2000 series of aluminum alloys have poor weldability generally because of the cooper content which causes hot cracking and poor solidification microstructure and porosity in the fusion zone so the fusion welding processes are not very suitable for these alloys. The 5000 series of aluminum alloys with more than 3% of Mg content is susceptible to cracking due to stress concentration in corrosive environments, so high Mg alloys of 5000 series of aluminum should not be exposed to corrosive environments at high temperatures to avoid stress corrosion cracking. All the 6000 series of aluminum are readily weldable but are some times susceptible to hot cracking under certain conditions. The 7000 series of aluminum are both weldable and non-weldable depending on the chemical composition of the alloy.

Alloys with low Zn-Mg and Cu content are readily weldable and they have the special ability of recovering the strength lost in the HAZ after some weeks of storage after the weld. Alloys with high Zn-Mg and Cu content have a high tendency to hot crack after welding. All the 7000 series of aluminum have the sensitivity to stress concentration cracking.

All these problems associated with the welding of these different alloys of aluminum has lead to the development of solid state welding processes like Friction Stir Welding technique which is an upgraded version of the friction welding processes. This process has many advantages associated with it, and it can weld many aluminum alloys such as 2000 and 7000 series which are difficult to weld by fusion welding processes. The advantages of the Friction Stir Welding processes are low distortion even in long welds, no fuse, no porosity, no spatter, low shrinkage, can operate in all positions, very energy efficient and excellent mechanical properties as proven by the fatigue, tension and bend tests.

1.3 Conventional Welding Processes of Aluminum

A brief description of the most common processes, their applications on aluminum and limitations are given below.

1.3.1 Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW):

In gas tungsten arc welding process the heat generated by an arc, which is maintained between the workpiece and a non-consumable tungsten, electrode is used to fuse the joint area. The arc is sustained in an inert gas, which serves to protect the weld pool and the electrode from atmospheric contamination as shown in Figure 2.3.

The process has the following features:

  • It is conducted in a chemically inert atmosphere;
  • The arc energy density is relatively high;
  • The process is very controllable;
  • Joint quality is usually high;
  • Deposition rates and joint completion rates are low.

The process may be applied to the joining of a wide range of engineering materials including stainless steel, aluminum alloys and reactive metals such as titanium. These features of the process lead to its widespread application in aerospace, nuclear reprocessing and power generation industries as well as in the fabrication of chemical process plant, food processing and brewing equipment.

1.3.2 Shielded metal arc welding (SMAW):

Shielded metal arc welding has for many years been one of the most common techniques applied to the fabrication of steels. The process uses an arc as the heat source but shielding is provided by gases generated by the decomposition of the electrode coating material and by the slag produced by the melting of mineral constituents of the coating. In addition to heating and melting the parent material the arc also melts the core of the electrode and thereby provides filler material for the joint. The electrode coating may also be used as source of alloying elements and additional filler material. The flux and electrode chemistry may be formulated to deposit wear- and corrosion-resistant layers for surface protection as shown in Figure 2.4.

Significant features of the process are:

  • Equipment requirement are simple;
  • A large range of consumables are available;
  • The process is extremely portable;
  • The operating efficiency is low;
  • It is labor intensive.

For these reasons the process has been traditionally used in structural steel fabrication, shipbuilding and heavy engineering as well as for small batch production and maintenance.

1.3.3 Plasma welding:

Plasma welding uses the heat generated by a constricted arc to fuse the joint area; the arc is formed between the tip of a non-consumable electrode and either the work piece or the constricting nozzle as shown in Figure 2.5. A wide range of shielding and cutting gases is used depending on the mode of operation and the application.

In the normal transferred arc mode the arc is maintained between the electrode and the work piece; the electrode is usually the cathode and the work piece is connected to the positive side of the power supply. In this mode a high energy density is achieved and the process may be used effectively for welding and cutting.

The features of the process depend on the operating mode and the current, but in summary the plasma process has the following characteristics:

  • Good low-current arc stability
  • Improved directionality compared with GTAW
  • Improved melting efficiency compared with GTAW
  • Possibility of keyhole welding

The keyhole technique is the high heat concentration can penetrate completely through the joint.

These features of the process make it suitable for a range of applications including the joining of very thin materials, the encapsulation of electronic components and sensors, and high- speed longitudinal welds on strip and pipe.

1.3.4 Laser welding

The laser may be used as an alternative heat source for fusion welding. The focused power density of the laser can reach 1010 or 1012 Wm-2 and welding is often carried out using the 'keyhole' technique.

Significant features of laser welding are:

  • Very confined heat source at low power
  • Deep penetration at high power
  • Reduced distortion and thermal damage
  • Out-of-vacuum technique
  • High equipment cost

These features have led to the application of leaders for micro joining of electronic components, but the process is also being applied to the fabrication of automotive components and precision machine tool parts in heavy section steel.

1.4 Weld Defects using Conventional Processes

Because of a history of thermal cycling and attendant micro structural changes, a welded joint may develop certain discontinuities. Welding discontinuities can also be caused by inadequate or careless application of established welding technologies or substandard operator training. The major discontinuities that affect weld quality are described below.

1.4.1 Porosity:

Trapped gases released during melting of the weld area and trapped during solidification, chemical reactions during welding, or contaminants, cause porosity in welds. Most welded joints contain some porosity, which is generally spherical in shape or in the form of elongated pockets. The distribution of porosity in the weld zone may be random, or it may be concentrated in a certain region. Porosity in welds can be reduced by the following methods:

  • Proper selection of electrodes and filler metals.
  • Improving welding techniques, such as preheating the weld area or increasing the rate of heat input.
  • Proper cleaning and preventing contaminants from entering the weld zone.
  • Slowing the welding speed to allow time for gas to escape.8

1.4.2 Slag inclusions:

Slag inclusions are compounds such as oxides, fluxes, and electrode-coating materials that are trapped in the weld zone. If shielding gases are not effective during welding, contamination from the environment may also contribute to such inclusions. Welding conditions are important, and with proper techniques the molten slag will float to the surface of the molten weld metal and not be entrapped. Slag inclusions may be prevented by:

  • Cleaning the weld-bead surface before the next layer is deposited by using a hand or power wire brush.
  • Providing adequate shielding gas.
  • Redesigning the joint to permit sufficient space for proper manipulation of the puddle of molten weld metal.

1.4.3. Incomplete fusion and penetration:

A better weld can be obtained by:

  • Raising the temperature of the base metal.
  • Cleaning the weld area prior to welding.
  • Changing the joint design and type of electrode.
  • Providing adequate shielding gas.

Incomplete occurs when the depth of the welded joint is insufficient. Penetration can be improved by:

  • Increasing the heat input.
  • Lowering travel speed during welding.
  • Changing the joint design.
  • Ensuring that surfaces to be joined fit properly.8

1.4.4 Weld profile:

Weld profile is important not only because of its effects on the strength and appearance of the weld, but also because it can indicate incomplete fusion or the presence of slag inclusions in multiple-layer welds. Under filling results when the joint is not filled with the proper amount of weld metal Figure 2.7. Undercutting results from melting away the base metal and subsequently generating a groove in the shape of recess or notch. Unless it is not deep or sharp, an undercut can act as a stress raiser and reduce the fatigue strength of the joint and may lead to premature failure. Overlap is a surface discontinuity generally caused by poor welding practice and selection of the wrong materials. A proper weld is shown in Figure 2.7c.5

1.4.5 Cracks:

Cracks may occur in various locations and direction in the weld area. The types of cracks are typically longitudinal, transverse, crater, and toe cracks Figure 2.8. These cracks generally result from a combination of the following factors:

  • Temperature gradients that cause thermal stresses in the weld zone.
  • Variations in the composition of the weld zone that cause different contractions.
  • Embitterment of grain boundaries by segregation of elements, such as sulfur, to the grain boundaries as the solid-liquid boundary moves when the weld metal begins to solidify.
  • Hydrogen embitterment.
  • Inability of the weld metal to contract during cooling is a situation similar to hot tears that develops in castings and related to excessive restraint of the work piece.

(a) crater cracks. (b)Various types of cracks in butt and T joints.8

Cracks are classified as hot or cold cracks. Hot cracks occur while the joint is still at elevated temperatures. Cold cracks develop after the weld metal has solidified. Some crack prevention measures are:

  1. Change the joint design to minimize stresses from shrinkage during cooling.
  2. Change welding-process parameters, procedures, and sequence.
  3. Preheat components being welded.
  4. Avoid rapid cooling of the components after welding.8

1.4.6 Lameller tears:

In describing the anisotropy of plastically deformed metals, we stated that because of the alignment of nonmetallic impurities and inclusions (stringers), the work piece is weaker when tested in its thickness direction. This condition is particularly evident in rolled plates and structural shapes. In welding such components, lamellar tears may develop because of shrinkage of the members in the members or by changing the joint design to make the weld bead penetrate the wearer member more deeply.8

1.4.7 Surface damage:

During welding, some of the metal may spatter and be deposited as small droplets on adjacent surfaces. In arc welding possess, the electrode may inadvertently contact the parts being welded at places not in the weld zone (arc strikes). Such surface discontinuities may be objectionable for reasons of appearance or subsequent use of the welded part. If severe, these discontinuities may adversely affect the properties of the welded structure, particularly for notch-sensitive metals. Using proper welding techniques and procedures is important in avoiding surface damage.8

1.5 Skill and Training requirements:

Many of the traditional welding processes required high levels of operator skill and dexterity, this can involve costly training programs, particularly when the procedural requirement described above need to be met. The newer processes can offer some reduction in the overall skill requirement but this unfortunately been replaced in some cases by more complex equipment and the time involved in establishing the process parameters has brought about a reduction in operating factor. Developments, which seek to simplify the operation of the equipment, will be described below but effective use of even the most advanced processes and equipment requires appropriate levels of operator and support staff training. The cost of this training will usually be recovered very quickly in improved productivity and quality.

1.6 Areas for development:

Advances in welding processes may be justified in:

  • Increased deposition rate;
  • Reduced cycle time;
  • Improved process control;
  • Reduced repair rate;
  • Reduced weld size;
  • Reduced joint preparation time;
  • Improved operating factor;
  • Reduction in post-weld operations;
  • Reduction in potential safety hazards;
  • Removal of the operator from hazardous area;
  • Simplified equipment setting.

Some or all these requirement have been met in many of the process developments which have occurred in the ten years; these will be described in detail in the following chapters but the current trends in the of this technology are examined below.

1.7 New processes:

The Primary incentive for welding process development is the need to improve the total cost effectiveness of joining operations in requirement for new processes. Recently, concern over the safety of the welding environment and the potential shortage of skilled technicians and operator in many countries have become important considerations.

Many of the traditional welding techniques described in this Chapter are regarded as costly and hazardous and it is possible to improve both of these aspects significantly by employing some of the advanced process developments described in the following chapters.

The use of new joining techniques such as Friction Stir Welding appears to be increasing since it does not involve melting. The application of these processes has in the past been restricted, but with the increased recognition of the benefits of automation and the requirement for high-integrity joints in newer materials it is envisaged that the use of these techniques will grow.

This is a new process originally intended for welding of aerospace alloys, especially aluminum extrusions. Whereas in conventional friction welding, heating of interfaces is achieved through friction by rubbing two surfaces, in the FSW process, a third body is rubbed against the two surfaces to be joined in the form of a small rotating non-consumable tool that is plunged into the joint. The contact pressure causes frictional heating. The probe at the tip of the rotating tool forces heating and mixing or stirring of the material in the joint.

1.8 Research objectives:

The objectives of our project are to:

  • Adopt FSW to a milling machine
  • Design the FSW tools, select its material and have it manufactured
  • Design the required clamping system
  • Apply FSW to plates of an alloy that is not readily weldable by conventional methods
  • Investigate FSW parameters (RPM, Feed Rate and Axial force)
  • Analyze conventionally welded and Friction Stir welded sections then compare their properties.

The objective of this research is to characterize the mechanical properties of friction stir welded joints and study the micro structure of the base metal and the weld nugget evolved during the friction stir welding of similar and dissimilar alloys of Aluminum.

Aluminum 2024 and 7075 are considered for this investigation. The mechanical properties such as ultimate tensile strength, yield strength, formability, ductility and vicker's hardness are measured and an effort is made to find out a relation between the process variables and properties of the weld. The optimal process parameters for the Friction-Stir welding of AA2024 and AA7075 will be defined based on the experimental results.

Having understood the significance of FSP, the main objective of this thesis is to investigate the effect of process parameters like rotational and translational speeds on the forces generated during FSP of aluminum alloys and relate these forces with the microstructure evolved in order to optimize the process.

The specific objectives of the work presented are:

  • Design and conduct FS processing experiments on aluminum alloy for different combinations of rotational and translation speeds.
  • Measuring the generated processing forces during FSP of aluminum alloys
  • Examine the microstructural of the processed sheets using transmission electron microscope (TEM).
  • Attempt to establish a correlation between these measured forces and the resulting microstructure.

Chapter 2 Review of Literature

2.1 General Idea of the Friction Stir Technology

This section gives an insight into the innovative technology called friction stir technology.

The action of rubbing two objects together causing friction to provide heat is one dating back many centuries as stated by Thomas [1]. The principles of this method now form the basis of many traditional and novel friction welding, surfacing and processing techniques. The friction process is an efficient and controllable method of plasticizing a specific area on a material, and thus removing contaminants in preparation for welding, surfacing/cladding or extrusion. The process is environmentally friendly as it does not require consumables (filler wire, flux or gas) and produces no fumes. In friction welding, heat is produced by rubbing components together under load. Once the required temperature and material deformation is reached, the action is terminated and the load is maintained or increased to create a solid phase bond. Friction is ideal for welding dissimilar metals with very different melting temperatures and physical properties. Some of the friction stir technologies are shown in the Fig.2-1.

Work carried out at TWI by Thomas [2,3] has demonstrated that several alternative techniques exist or are being developed to meet the requirement for consistent and reliable joining of mass production aluminum alloy vehicle bodies. Three of these techniques (mechanical fasteners, lasers and friction stir welding) are likely to make an impact in industrial processing over the next 5 years. FSW could be applied in the manufacture of straight-line welds in sheet and extrusions as a low cost alternative to arc welding (e.g. in the fabrication of truck floors or walls). The development of robotized friction stir welding heads could extend the range of applications into three dimensional components.

Mishra [4] extended the FSW innovation to process Al 7075 and Al 5083 in order to render them superplastic. They observed that the grains obtained were recrystallized, equiaxed and homogeneous with average grain sizes <5µm. They had high angles of misorientation ranging from 200 to 600. They had also performed high temperature tensile testing in order to understand the superplastic behavior of FSP aluminum sheets.

Metal matrix composites reinforced with ceramics exhibit high strength, high elastic modulus and improved resistance to wear, creep and fatigue compared to unreinforced metals. Mishra et al. [5] experimented and proved that surface composites could be fabricated by friction stir processing. Al¯SiC surface composites with different volume fractions of particles were successfully fabricated. The thickness of the surface composite layer ranged from 50 to 200µm. The SiC particles were uniformly distributed in the aluminum matrix. The surface composites have excellent bonding with the aluminum alloy substrate. The micro hardness of the surface composite reinforced with 27 volume % SiC of 0.7 µm average particle size was ~173 HV, almost double of the 5083Al alloy substrate (85 HV). The solid-state processing and very fine microstructure that results are also desirable for high performance surface composites.

Thomas et al. [6] presented a review of friction technologies for stainless steel, aluminum, and stainless steel to aluminum, which are receiving widespread interest. Friction hydro pillar processing, friction stir welding (FSW), friction plunge welding are some of these unique techniques. They observed that this technology made possible the welding of unweldable aluminum alloys and stainless steel feasible. Using this technology sheets up to 75mm thickness can also be easily welded.

2.2 Process parameters and properties during FSW

In order to optimize any process it is very essential to understand the effect of process parameters on the properties of the processed material. Hence this section gives an overview of such investigation in the field of friction stir welding process.

The effect of tool geometry and process parameters are very important factors to be considered for controlling friction stir welding process. Reynolds [20] made an attempt to study the effects of tool geometry and process parameters like rotational and translational speeds on the properties of welds by investigating x-axis force and power. The highest energy per unit weld length was observed in Al 6061 welds. It was also observed that the required x-axis force increased and the weld energy decreased with increasing welding speeds for all the Al alloys except for Al 6061alloy because of the relatively high thermal conductivity.

Kwon [21] studied the FS processed Al 1050 alloy. The hardness and tensile strength of the FS processed 1050 aluminum alloy were observed to increase significantly with decreased tool rotation speed. It was noted that, at 560 rpm, these characteristics seemed to increase as a result of grain refinement by up to 37% and 46% respectively compared to the starting material.

In order to demonstrate the FSW of the 2017-T351 aluminum alloy and determine optimum welding parameters, the relations between welding parameters and tensile properties of the joints have been studied by Liu [22]. The experimental results showed that the tensile properties and fracture locations of the joints are significantly affected by the welding process parameters. When the optimum revolutionary pitch is 0.07 mm/rev corresponding to the rotation speed of 1500 rpm and the welding speed of 100 mm/min, the maximum ultimate strength of the joints is equivalent to 82% that of the base material. Though the voids-free joints were fractured near or at the interface between the weld nugget and the thermo-mechanically affected zone (TMAZ) on the advancing side, the fracture occurs at the weld center when the void defects exist in the joints.

Lee [23] studied the joint characteristics of FSW A356 alloys, especially concerning the improvement of mechanical properties at the weld zone for various welding speeds. Sound joints were acquired below 187 mm min-1 welding speed when the tool rotating speed was fixed at 1600 rpm. The dendrite structures, which were characteristic in the BM, disappeared and showed the dispersed eutectic Si particles in the stirred zone (SZ). The eutectic Si particles were found to be distributed more homogeneously in the SZ at lower welding speeds. The hardness of the weld zone showed more homogeneous distribution in comparison with that of BM due to finer and homogeneously distributed Si particles. It was observed that the transverse ultimate and yield strength had similar values with the BM. All the specimens were fractured at the unaffected BM. The longitudinal ultimate tensile strength has over 178 MPa, which is 20% improvement of that of the BM, and the yield strength also shows higher value. The mechanical properties of the SZ were improved by the dispersed Si particles and the homogeneous microstructure compared with that of BM.

Lumsden [24] observed that the rapid thermal cycle generated during FSW produces a gradient of microstructures and precipitate distributions in the HAZ and TMAZ of the FS welded aluminum7050 and 7075 alloys. In their study the investigated the effect of pre and post weld heat treatments on the corrosion properties of the FS welds nuggets. They concluded that that FSW produced sensitized microstructure that rendered the materials susceptible to intergranular corrosion. While they also concluded that the thermal treatments can restore most of the SCC resistance to these alloys, this might degrade the strength and ductility of the materials.

Charit [25] presented preliminary superplasticity studies on various aluminum alloys. They presented new approaches to control the abnormal grain growth observed in few FSP aluminum alloy via improved process optimization and/or alloy designs and realize the full potential of FSP for high strain rate superplasticity. They presented the variation of grain size with tool rotation speed in a friction stir processed 2024 Al at a constant transverse speed of 25.4 mm/min. They have also presented the effect of process parameters on the average grain size obtained in various FSP aluminum alloy. At low traverse speed and for all rotational speeds >300 rpm no abnormal grain size was observed.

Friction stir processing of nanophase aluminum alloys led to high strength ~ 650 MPa with good ductility above 10% [Figure 2-4]. Improvements in ductility were due to a significantly improved homogenization of the microstructure during FSP. The FSP technique is very effective in producing ductile, very high specific strength aluminum alloys, such as the Al-Ti-Cu and Al-Ti-Ni as investigated by Beron et al. [26]. The authors investigated two processes: hot isostatic pressing (HIP) and friction stir process (FSP) and compared the microstructures and corresponding properties resulted from the respective processes on 7075 Al alloy. HIP results in a very high strength alloy with low ductility and inhomogeneous structure. But FSP results in comparatively low strength below 740Mpa but very high ductility at temperatures above 300°C at ~500°C. However the FS processing parameters can be optimized to lower both the operating temperature and time at the temperature in order to improve the strength further. Thus this paper concludes that FSP produces high strength Al alloys with significant ductility.

Sato et al. [27] investigated the effect of rotational speed on the microstructure and hardness during friction stir welding of Al 6063-T5. They concluded that the maximum temperature of the welding thermal cycle increased with increase in rotational speed. And also it is observed that the recrystallized grain size increased exponentially with the increasing maximum temperature. Thus they clearly indicated that there is an increase in grain size as the rotational speed increased.

Sato et al. investigated the precipitation sequence in friction stir weld of 6063 Al alloy during aging [28] and concluded that post weld annealing at 440K for 12hrs gives greater hardness in overall weld than in the as- received base material and also shifted the minimum hardness from as-welded minimum hardness region to the precipitated-coarsened region. They have also studied the micro-texture of the friction stir welded 6063-T5 Al alloy using orientation imaging microscopy [29].

Sato et al. [30] examined the dominant microstructural factors governing the global tensile properties of a FS welded joint of 6063 Al alloy by estimating the distribution of local tensile properties corresponding to local microstructure and hardness. They concluded that the minimum hardness determined global yield and ultimate tensile strengths of the weld joint. They stated that in a homogeneously hard joint, such as a solution heat treated and aged weld, a fracture was observed to be located in a region with a minimum average Taylor factor (M) which is equivalent to s/tc where s is the applied uniaxial stress and tc the shear stress working on active plane systems.

Lockwood et al. [31] studied the global and local mechanical response of FS welded AA2024 both experimentally and numerically. Transverse loaded tensile specimens via the digital image correlation technique obtained full field strain measurements. Assuming an iso-stress configuration, local constitutive data were determined for the various weld regions and were used as input for a 2D finite element model. The numerical results compared well with the experimental results in predicting the global mechanical response especially the strain levels. It was also observed that the global strain level was approximately 4% for both the model and experiment.

Mahoney et al. [32] conducted longitudinal and transverse (to the friction stir welded) tensile testing on AA 7075 alloy, which demonstrated that the weakest region associated with FSW was the low temperature location within the heat-affected zone about 7 to 8 mm from the edge of the weld nugget. The yield strength at this location was 45pct less than that of the base metal while; the ultimate tensile strength was 25pct less. Thus concluded that in weldable Al alloys typically, the weld zone would exhibits a 30 to 60 pct reduction in yield and ultimate strengths, hence the losses due to friction stir process were at the lower end of the range for Al alloys.

Mitchell et al. [33] performed FSW of ¼" thick AA6061 sheets for eight combinations of rotational and translational speeds. In their work they presented the forces generated especially the transverse and translation forces and also the temperatures. The temperature is measured using thermocouples. They observed that the transverse force was greater than translation force for all the combinations of speeds and feeds. Their work clearly showed that there exists a unique combination of shear and normal forces that produces a friction stir weld and have stated that the understanding of the contribution of two forces and the relationship to each other was important in modeling the FSW process.

Jata et al. [34] FS welded Al 7050-T7451 alloy to investigate the effects on the microstructure and mechanical properties. Results were discussed for the as-welded condition (as-FSW) and for a postweld heat-treated condition consisting of 121°C for 24 hours (as-FSW + T6) did not result in an improvement either in the strength or the ductility of the welded material. It was evident from TEM analysis that the FS welding process transformed the initial 1mm sized pancake-shaped grains in the parent material to fine 1to5µm dynamically recrystallized grains. Tensile specimens tested transverse to the weld showed that there was a 25 to 30 pct reduction in the strength level, a 60 pct reduction in the elongation in the as-FSW condition, and that the fracture path was observed in the HAZ. Comparison of fatigue-crack growth rates (FCGRs) between the parent T7451 material and the as-FSW + T6 condition, at a stress ratio of R = 0.33, showed that the FCG resistance of the weld-nugget region decreased, while that of the HAZ increased.

2.3 Studies on Tool and Tool Wear during FSW

The tool design plays a very crucial role in friction stir technology. Hence it becomes an important area of study to make the process more efficient. There have been few contributions in this area which can be jotted as follows.

The design of the tool is the key to the successful application of the process to a greater range of materials and over a wider range of thickness. A number of different high performance tool designs have been investigated. The investigations by Thomas et al. [35] describe the recent developments using these enhanced tools from the perspective of existing and potential applications. Aluminum alloy plates of thickness 1mm to 50mm have been successfully friction stir welded in one pass and a 75mm thick FSW weld in 6082 T6 aluminum alloy plate. Encouraging results and good performance have been achieved by using the MX TrifluteTM type tools to make single pass welds in a number of materials, from 6mm to 50mm in thickness. Typically, the WhorlTM reduced the displaced volume by about 60%, while the MX TrifluteTM reduced the displaced volume by about 70%.

Tool wear in a right-hand-threaded, carbon steel nib reached a maximum at 1000 rpm counter-clockwise rotation speed in the FSW of an aluminum 6061+20 vol. % Al2O3 MMC where the corresponding, effective wear rate was approximately 0.64%/cm as studied by Prado et al. [36]. Above 1000 rpm the wear rate declined. It was approximately 0.42% /cm at 1500 rpm and 0.56%/cm at 2000 rpm. There was no measurable wear and essentially zero wear rate for the same nib rotating at 1000rpm for the FSW of a commercially Al6061 alloy.

2.4 Microstructural studies on friction stirred alloys

A basic understanding of the evolution of microstructure in the dynamically recrystallized region of FS material and relation of this with the deformation process variables of strain, strain rate, temperature and process parameters is very essential. This section would give an insight into such studies.

Peel [7] reported the results of microstructural, mechanical property and residual stress investigations of four AA5083 FS welds produced under varying conditions. It was found that the weld properties were dominated by the thermal input (thermal excursion) rather than the mechanical deformation by the tool, resulting in a >30 mm wide zone of equiaxed grains around the weld line. Increasing the traverse speed and hence reducing the heat input narrowed the weld zone. It is observed that the recrystallization resulting in the weld zone had considerably lower hardness and yield strength than the parent AA5083. During tensile testing, almost all the plastic flow occurred within the recrystallized weld zone and the synchrotron residual stress analysis indicated that the weld zone is in tension in both the longitudinal and transverse directions. The peak longitudinal stresses increased as the traverse speed increases. This increase is probably due to steeper thermal gradients during welding and the reduced time for stress relaxation to occur. The tensile stresses appear to be limited to the softened weld zone resulting in a narrowing of the tensile region (and the peak stresses) as the traverse speed increased. Measurements of the unstrained lattice parameter (d0) indicated variations with distance from the weld line that would result in significant errors in the inferred residual stresses if a single value for d0 were used for diffraction based experiment.

The evolution of the fine-grained structure in friction-stir processed aluminum has been studied by Rhodes [8] using a rotating-tool plunge and extract technique. In these experiments, the rotating tool introduced severe deformation in the starting grain structure, including severe deformation of the pre-existing sub-grains. Extreme surface cooling was used to freeze in the starting structure. Heat generated by the rotating tool was indicated as a function of the rotation speed and the external cooling rate. At slower cooling rates and/or faster tool rotation speeds, recrystallization of the deformed aluminum was observed to occur. The initial sizes of the newly recrystallized grains were in the order of 25-100 nm, considerably smaller than the pre-existing sub-grains in the starting condition. Subsequent experiments revealed that the newly recrystallized grains grow to a size (2-5µm) equivalent to that found in friction-stir processed aluminum, after heating 1-4 min at 350-450 °C. It is postulated that the 2-5 µm grains found in friction-stir welded and friction-stir processed aluminum alloys arose as the result of nucleation and growth within a heavily deformed structure and not from the rotation of pre-existing sub-grains.

Sato [9] applied FSW to an accumulative roll-bonded (ARBed) Al alloy 1100. FSW resulted in reproduction of fine grains in the stir zone and small growth of the ultrafine grains of the ARBed material just outside the stir zone. FSW was reported to suppress large reductions of hardness in the ARBed material, although the stir zone and the TMAZ experienced small reductions of hardness due to dynamic recrystallization and recovery. Consequently, FSW effectively prevented the softening in the ARBed alloy which had an equivalent strain of 4.8.

The microstructure evolution of a joint of Al-Si-Mg alloys A6056-T4 and A6056-T6 was characterized using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) by Cabibbo [10]. Metallurgical investigations, hardness and mechanical tests were also performed to correlate the TEM investigations to the mechanical properties of the produced FSW butt joint. After FSW thermal treatment was carried out at 530 °C followed by ageing at 160 °C (T6). The base material (T4) and the heat-treated one (T6) were put in comparison showing a remarkable ductility reduction of the joint after T6 treatment i.e., it was 80-90% of that of the parent material.

The microstructure of a FSW Al-6.0Cu-0.75Mg-0.65Ag (wt.%) alloy in the peak-aged T6 temper was characterized by TEM by Lityska [11]. Strengthening precipitates found in the base alloys dissolved in the weld nugget, while it was observed that in the heat-affected zone Cu) and s (Althey were coarsened considerably, causing softening inside the weld region. Precipitates of the O (Al2Cu) phase, was considered as the main strengthening phase in base material, grew up to 200-300 nm in the heat-affected zone, but their density decreased. It was observed that they co-existed with F'(Al2Cu), S'(Al2CuMg), F(Al25Cu6Mg2) phases. The density of the F' and S' phases as well as their sizes increased in comparison to the base material. The high-resolution observation allowed them to compare the morphology of the O phase plates in the heat-affected zone and in the base material.

The grain structure, dislocation density and second phase particles in various regions including the dynamically recrystallized zone (DXZ), thermo-mechanically affected zone (TMAZ), and heat affected zone (HAZ) of a FSW aluminum alloy 7050-T651 were investigated and compared with the unaffected base metal by Su [12]. The various regions were studied in detail to better understand the microstructural evolution during FSW. They concluded that the microstructural development in each region was a strong function of the local thermo-mechanical cycle experienced during welding. Using the combination of structural characteristics observed in each weld region, a new dynamic recrystallization model was proposed. The precipitation phenomena in different weld regions were also discussed.

The laser beam and friction stir processes were applied to the ECA pressed Al alloy 1050 with the thickness of 1 mm by Sato [13]. The ECA pressed alloy after two passes through the die consisted of cell structure with cell size of about 0.58 µm, and the hardness value was approximately 46 Hv. The LBW produced as-cast coarse microstructure and coarse equiaxed grain structure at the fusion zone and the HAZ respectively, which led to the hardness reduction to <30 Hv in the LB weld. Where as the fine microstructures obtained in the FS weld by introducing the lower heat generation and the plastic strain simultaneously during the FSW. The grain and cell sizes of the weld zone and the transition region were lower than 1 µm. The microstructures led to the high hardness in the FS weld. Their study revealed that the FSW was one of the most effective welding processes for retention of the high strength and toughness of the fine-grained Al alloys.

Optical and TEM microstructures of friction stir welds of an Al-Li alloy were examined by Jata [14] to establish the mechanism of the evolution of microstructure in the dynamically recrystallized (DRX) region of FSW welds. The average grain diameter in the DRX region was 9 µm. Using orientation imaging microscopy, many of the grain boundary misorientations created in the DRX region were observed to be between 15 to 35°. It was concluded that recrystallized grains in the DRX region form by a continuous dynamic recrystallization mechanism. Using reasonable estimates of the strain rate and temperature in the FSW nugget, the dependence of the DRX grain size was found to have the same dependence on the Zener-Hollomon parameter as material deformed via conventional hot working process.

Bensavides et al. [15] studied and compared the grain sizes and microstructures of Al 2024 friction stir weld at room temperature (~30°C) and at low temperature (-30°C). There was an increase in the weld zone equiaxed grain size from the bottom to the top at room temperature, while in the low temperature weld there is a smaller difference from bottom to top. Furthermore, the grain size is considerably smaller in the low-temperature weld, and this observation is consistent with simple grain growth relations of the form D2 - Do2 = A exp (-Q/RT)(). It was observed that as the process reference temperature (T) decreased, the value of Dt2 - Do2 decreased, and if Do was assumed to represent a constant or threshold grain size produced by dynamic recrystallization to allow for superplastic deformation by grain boundary sliding, then the decrease was simply reflected in a decrease in D. The average grain sizes were measured to be 3 µm and 0.65 µm.

Rhodes et al. [16] studied the effects of FSW on the microstructure of Al7075. The critical issues dealt with included microstructure control and localized mechanical property variations. Their experiments revealed that microhardness variations are small from the base metal. There were three groups of strengthening precipitants studied in this work: 1) one group at 50-75nm, 2) second group at 10-20nm and 3) third group found at the grain boundaries at 30-40nm. Dislocation density was modest comprising of loose tangles. The average size of the recrystallized, fine equiaxed grains in the FS welded zone was found to be the order of 2-4 µm.

Liu et al. [17] have used light metallography (LM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to characterize the microstructure in FS weld zone and compared them with that of the original 6061-T6 Al. They measured the microhardness profiles extending from the work piece and through the weld zone. Their work concluded that residual hardness varies from 55 and 65VHN in weld zone in contrast to 85 and 100VHN in the work piece near top and bottom respectively. The weld zone grain size was 10µm as compared to 100µm in the work piece.

FSW of AA6061 and AA7075 alloys have been carried out at different welding parameters by Krishnan [18]. The appearance of onion rings have been attributed to a geometrical effect in that a section through a stack of semicylinders would appear like onion rings with ring spacing being wider at the centre and narrower towards the edge. It was concluded that the formation of the onion rings was due to the process of friction heating due to the rotation of the tool and the forward movement extrudes the metal around to the retreating side of the tool and the spacing of the rings was equal to the forward movement of the tool in one rotation.

Sutton [19] performed a series of micro-mechanical experiments to quantify how the FSW process affects the material response within the periodic bands that have been shown to be a common feature of FSW joints. Micro-mechanical studies employed sectioning of small samples and micro-tensile testing using digital image correlation to quantify the local stress-strain variations in the banded region. Results indicated that the two types of bands in 2024-T351 and 2524-T351 aluminum FSW joints (a) have different hardening rates with the particle-rich bands having the higher strain hardening exponent, (b) exhibit a periodic variation in micro-hardness across the bands and (c) the individual bands in each material have the same initial yield stress.

2.5 Potential of AA6082 for FSW

AA 5052 is relatively new alloy which has potential in automotive and aerospace industry because of this low density, high strength, corrosion resistance etc. It has gained importance with the observation that it has superplastic-like behavior even when it is coarse grained. Hence this alloy has greater potential in the forming industry (SFP), especially when the grain size is reduced by special process like FSP.

Chow [57] studied the cavitation behavior of commercially available AA5052 alloy under hot uniaxial and biaxial tension for the first time. They stated that the 194% elongation of commercially available coarse-grained AA 5052 shows its superplastic-like behavior and also its potential in SPF industry. The tensile specimens were strained to different strain levels at various initial strain rates and temperatures. A lower cavitation growth was observed for AA5052 alloy in comparison to that of superplastic alloy AA5083. It was also observed cavitation rate increased with increasing strain rate and the low hot formability of AA5052 alloy would not correlate with its cavitation behavior, but also its relatively low strain-rate sensitivity.

Chow [58] also investigated the effect of stress state on cavitation and deformation behavior of superplastic or superplastic-like material. A coarse-grained Al5052 alloy was deformed at its optimal temperature of 873K under different biaxial stress states. A superplastic gas forming tester with die aspect ratios of 1, 0.75, 0.5 and 0.375 was used. It was observed that the amount of cavities increased with increasing strain level.

2.6 Summary of literature review

From the above literature study it is evident that there is a potential for FSP in various fields. As this process is new there are many areas that need to be explored. There have been no data presented relating the forces generated during FSP with the microstructure evolved. Hence this makes the present chosen topic for the research significant. And also the literature clearly shows the potential of AA5052 as a superplastic alloy.

Chapter 3 Friction Stir Welding

This chapter deals with the FSW process, equipment, joint geometries, advantages, limitations, materials and thicknesses, weld quality and applications. The purpose of this chapter is to explain the FSW as a new welding technique and to highlight its advantages over the conventional welding processes.

3.1 Process analysis

In the process of FSW a tool proceeds along the area to be joined while rotating at high speed. The action between the tool and the metal creates frictional heat, which softens the metal but does not melt it. The plasticized material is then, in essence, consolidated to create one piece of metal where there were originally two. The weld is left in a fine-grained, hot worked condition with no entrapped oxides or gas porosity. The Detailed Process Description:

In Friction Stir Welding, a cylindrical shouldered tool with a profiled probe is rotated and slowly plunged into the joint line between two pieces of sheet or plate material, which are butted together as shown in Figure 3.1. The parts have to be firmly clamped onto the worktable in a manner that prevents the joint faces from being forced apart. Frictional heat is generated between the wear resistant welding tool and the material of the work piece. This heat causes the latter to soften without reaching the melting point and allows passing of the tool along the weld line. The plasticised material is transferred from the leading edge of the tool to the trailing edge of the tool probe and is forged by the intimate contact of the tool shoulder and the pin profile. It leaves a solid phase bond between the two pieces.9

3.2 Equipment

As the need for the FSW process has increased, it became a must to develop equipment that meets this need. This FSW system includes seven subcomponents: a base foundation unit (BFU), a hydraulically controlled elevation platform (EP), the hydraulically adjustable pin tool (HAPT), backplate tooling, fixturing, a roller mechanism, and the real-time adaptive computer numerical control (CNC) and process control system (APCS). 10 Together, these subcomponents allow the FSW to be used on the manufacturing floor as a complete welding system.

Several machines were developed by TWI (the leading company in this field). The major and most significant factor behind the variety in types of the equipment is the application for which it is desirable.

3.2.1 Large sections:

One machine that was developed by the company is the Modular machine FW22 shown in Figure 3.2. This machine is used to weld large size specimens. These large specimens include large sheets and to weld prototype structures. The modular construction of FW22 enables it to be easily enlarged for specimens with even larger dimensions.10 As this machines used for large specimens it requires relatively higher feed rate i.e. 1.2m/min.10 Its current maximum sheet size: 3.4m length x 4m width.10

3.2.2 Constant welding quality:

Another machine was developed by the same company is the Moving gantry machine FW2 see Figure 3.3. This machine uses a moving gantry; with which straight welds up to 2m long can be made. It was used to prove that welding conditions can be achieved which guarantee constant weld quality over the full length of long welds. The feed rate of this machine is up to 1.0m/min; the reason behind this relative low speed is the need for the constant weld quality. 10

As the need varies we will see new types of equipment. For example, we will need a machine to weld thicker sheets, very thin sheets. Besides the need for faster machines might rise up. Portable machines might be desirable for some purposes. For a small business the tool can be mounted on a CNC or manual lathe instead of having the whole thing manufactured see Figure3.4.

3.3 Joint Geometries

A friction stir weld (FSW) system for welding and weld repair can be used on the manufacturing floor, as well as in the laboratory environment. This FSW system can be used in a wide variety of welding and weld repair applications. It is capable of handling up to 6,000 pounds (26.7 kN) of axial load while operating within close tolerances.11

The FSW process has been used for the manufacturing of butt welds, overlap welds, T-sections, fillet, and corner welds. For each of these joint geometries specific tool designs are required which are being further developed and optimized. The FSW process can also cope with circumferential, annular, non-linear, and three-dimensional welds. Since gravity has no influence on the solid-phase welding process, it can be used in all positions such as, horizontal, vertical, overhead, and orbital.12

3.4 Advantages

FSW process has many advantages that result from the fact that the welding process occurs at the solid state. These advantages are:

  1. Low distortion even in long welds
  2. Excellent mechanical properties as proven by fatigue, tensile and bend tests
  3. No fume
  4. No porosity
  5. No spatter
  6. Low shrinkage
  7. Can operate in all positions.
  8. Energy efficient
  9. Non-consumable tool
  10. One tool can typically be used for up to 1000m of weld length in 6000 series aluminum alloys
  11. No filler wire
  12. No gas shielding for welding aluminum
  13. No welder certification required
  14. Some tolerance to imperfect weld preparations - thin oxide layers can be accepted
  15. No grinding, brushing or pickling required in mass production13

3.5 Limitations

  1. Welding speeds are moderately slower than those of some fusion welding processes (up to 750mm/min for welding 5mm thick 6000 series aluminum alloy on commercially available machines). (2)
  2. Work pieces must be rigidly clamped. (2)
  3. Backing bar required. (2)
  4. Keyhole at the end of each weld. (2)

3.6 Materials and Thicknesses

Friction stir welding can be used for joining many types of materials and material combinations, if tool materials and designs can be found which operate at the forging temperature of the work pieces. Up to the present day, TWI has concentrated most of its efforts to optimizing the process for the joining of aluminum and its alloys. A major Group Sponsored Project undertaken for TWI's Industrial Members demonstrated that the following aluminum alloys could be successfully welded to yield reproducible, high integrity welds within defined parametric tolerances. 15

  1. 2000 series aluminum (Al-Cu)
  2. 5000 series aluminum (Al-Mg)
  3. 6000 series aluminum (Al-Mg-Si)
  4. 7000 series aluminum (Al-Zn)
  5. 8000 series aluminum (Al-Li)15

This work primarily investigated welding of wrought and extruded alloys. However, subsequent studies have shown that cast to cast, and cast to extruded (wrought) combinations, in similar and dissimilar aluminum alloys are equally possible. 15

Continuing development of the FSW tool, its design and materials have allowed preliminary welds to be successfully produced in:

  1. Copper and its alloys
  2. Lead
  3. Titanium and its alloys
  4. Magnesium alloy, Magnesium to aluminum.
  5. Zinc.
  6. MMCs based on aluminum (metal matrix composites)
  7. Other aluminum alloys of the 1000 (commercially pure), 3000 (Al-Mn) and 4000 (Al-Si) series
  8. Plastics
  9. Mild steel 15

Single pass butt joints with aluminum alloys have been made in thicknesses ranging from 1.2mm to 50mm without the need for a weld preparation see Fig. 3.7 . Thicknesses of up to 100mm can be welded using two passes, one from each side, with 6082 aluminum alloy.

Parameters for butt-welding of most aluminum alloys have been optimized in a thickness range from 1.6mm to 10mm. Special lap joining tools have also been developed for aluminum with thicknesses of 1.2mm to 6.4mm. 15

3.7 Weld Quality

The repeatable quality of the solid-phase welds can improve existing products and lead to a number of new product designs previously not possible. Welds with the highest quality can be achieved by friction stir welding. The crushing, stirring and forging action of the FSW tool produces a weld with a finer microstructure than the parent material.16

The weld properties of fully hardened (cold worked or heat treated) alloys can be further improved by controlling the thermal cycle, in particular by reducing the annealing and over ageing effects in the thermo-mechanically affected zone, where the lowest hardness and strength are found after welding. For optimum properties, it would seem that, for the latter, a heat treatment after welding is the best choice, although it is recognized that this will not be a practical solution for many applications. Further studies are necessary and are currently being conducted to explain the complex micro structural aspects of friction stir welds and their corrosion properties14.

Fatigue tests on friction stir welds made from 6mm thick 5083-O and 2014-T6 were conducted in tension. The preliminary results are quite exceptional in that they show little scatter and are far better than those of fusion welding processes such as GTA and MIG. The fatigue performance of friction stir welds in alloy 5083-O is comparable to that of the parent material when tested using a stress ratio of 0:1. Despite the fact that the fatigue tested friction stir welds were single pass from one side, the results have substantially exceeded BS 8118 class 35 and the European design recommendation ECCS B3 for fusion welded joints14.

Microstructure Classification:

The first attempt at classifying microstructures was made by P L Threadgill (Bulletin, March 1997). This work was based solely on information available from aluminium alloys. However, it has become evident from work on other materials that the behavior of aluminum alloys is not typical of most metallic materials, and therefore the scheme cannot be broadened to encompass all materials. It is therefore proposed that the following revised scheme is used.

This has been developed at TWI, but has been discussed with a number of appropriate people in industry and academia, and has also been provisionally accepted by the Friction Stir Welding Licensees Association. The system divides the weld zone into distinct regions as follows in Fig.3.8:14

  • Unaffected material
  • Heat affected zone (HAZ)
  • Thermo-mechanically affected zone (TMAZ)

3.8 Applications

Friction stir welding has many applications in various industry sectors. These are classified as:

  • Shipbuilding and marine industries
  • Aerospace industry
  • Railway industry
  • Land transportation
  • Construction industry
  • Electrical industry
  • Other industry sectors17,18

3.8.1 Shipbuilding and marine industries:

The shipbuilding and marine industries are two of the first industry sectors that have adopted the process for commercial applications. The process is suitable for the following applications:

  • Panels for decks, sides, bulkheads and floors
  • Aluminum extrusions
  • Hulls and superstructures
  • Helicopter landing platforms
  • Housing units for offshore oil platforms
  • Casino vessels
  • Marine and transport structures
  • Masts and booms, e.g. for sailing boats
  • Refrigeration plant


Friction stir welding results in up to 20% lower Aluminum weight, which means:

  • Less operating cost
  • Higher speed
  • Higher payload
  • Lower fuel consumption
  • No Distortion
  • Substantially less postproduction cost (i.e. grinding / straightening)
  • Faster production time
  • Lower center of gravity for better stability


The process is approved by major classification societies with more than 400,000 feet of friction stir welded extrusions used on high speed vessels, cruise vessels, and oil platforms in the North Sea 17,18.

3.8.2 Aerospace industry:

Nowadays, the aerospace industry is welding prototype parts by friction stir welding. Opportunities exist to weld skins to spars, ribs, and stringers for use in military and civilian aircraft. This offers significant advantages compared to riveting and machining from solid, such as reduced manufacturing costs and weight savings. Longitudinal butt welds and circumferential lap welds of Aluminum alloy fuel tanks for space vehicles have been friction stir welded and successfully tested. The process could also be used to increase the size of commercially available sheets by welding them before forming. The friction stir welding process can therefore be considered for:

  • Wings, fuselages, empennages
  • Cryogenic fuel tanks for space vehicles
  • Aviation fuel tanks
  • External throw away tanks for military aircraft
  • Military and scientific rockets
  • Repair of faulty MIG welds 17,18

3.8.3 Railway industry:

The commercial production of high-speed trains made from aluminum extrusions that may be joined by friction stir welding has been published. Applications include:

  • High-speed trains
  • Rolling stock of railways, underground carriages, trams
  • Railway tankers and goods wagons
  • Container bodies17,18

3.8.4 Land transportation:

The friction stir welding process is currently being experimentally assessed by several automotive companies and suppliers to this industrial sector for its commercial application. A joint EWI / TWI Group Sponsored Project is investigating representative joint designs for automotive lightweight structures. Potential applications are:

  • Engine and chassis cradles
  • Wheel rims
  • Attachments to hydroformed tubes (e.g. at EWI)
  • Tailored blanks, e.g. welding of different sheet thicknesses (see FSW - Group Sponsored Projects)
  • Space frames, e.g. welding extruded tubes to cast nodes (see FSW - Group Sponsored Projects)
  • Truck bodies
  • Tail lifts for lorries
  • Mobile cranes
  • Armour plate vehicles
  • Fuel tankers
  • Caravans
  • Buses and airfield transportation vehicles
  • Motorcycle and bicycle frames
  • Articulated lifts and personnel bridges
  • Skips
  • Repair of aluminum cars
  • Magnesium and magnesium/aluminum joints


Friction stir welding created the potential for lighter weight cars. Lighter cars mean more products can be carried more efficiently and economically. Greater payload and longer car life mean more profit for the owner and operator. Friction Stir Welding is a machine process, and, as such, there is far less dependence upon manual labor. Machine processing significantly increases the consistency across the weld, thus eliminating costly postproduction rework. Friction Stir Welding has been accepted as an innovative, valuable, and highly effective new technology. The weld strength, when compared to traditional methods, is far superior.(17,18)

3.8.5 Construction industry:

The use of portable FSW equipment is possible for:

  • Aluminum bridges
  • Facade panels made from aluminum, copper or titanium
  • Window frames
  • Aluminum pipelines
  • Aluminum reactors for power plants and the chemical industry
  • Heat exchangers and air conditioners
  • Pipe fabrication 17,18

3.8.6 Electrical industry:

The electrical industry shows increasing interest in the application of friction stir welding for:

  • Electric motor housings
  • Busbars
  • Electrical connectors
  • Encapsulation of electronics17,18

3.8.7 Other industry sectors:

Friction stir welding can also be considered for:

    •Refrigeration panels •Cooking equipment and kitchens •White goods •Gas tanks and gas cylinders •Connecting of aluminum or copper coils in rolling mills •Furniture 17,18

3.9 Tool Design