Friction stir welding (FSW) is a solid-phase joining process in which a rotating, virtually wear-free welding pin is traversed along the weld path between the workpieces to be joined. The rotation of the tool in the firmly clamped parts to be joined generates frictional heat, which causes the material to plasticize. The subsequent advance motion, combined with continuing rotation of the tool, mixes the plasticized material in the joining area, resulting in a high-quality weld seam.
Friction stir welding is especially suitable for the welding of non-ferrous metals with low melting points, such as aluminum and brass. The process can also be used for copper, titanium, magnesium, zinc and lead.
Friction stir welding is a “mechanical” welding process which is easily automated and monitored. Automatic tool change, automated loading and unloading, and the possibility of extending the workspace by using coupled linear axes and/or component positioners represent clear advantages in the field of automation.
The flexibility of the robot not only makes it possible to realize 3D weld contours, but also to generate other tasks such as milling or positioning thanks to modular tool change. In this way, friction stir welding can be integrated into automated manufacturing operations.
Since FSW is performed at temperatures below the melting point of the parts being joined, negative microstructure changes and defects (such as pores and cracks) which are liable to occur during solidification of the weld pool are avoided. The comparatively low heat input allows high weld strengths to be achieved with minimal welding distortion.
Friction stir welding is an environmentally friendly process. The energy consumption is low in relation to other joining processes, and no chemical pretreatment of the material is necessary. A further advantage is low physical strain in the workplace environment due to the absence of an arc, vapors and high noise levels during welding. Furthermore, the process requires no filler materials or shielding gases. The friction stir welding process can thus also be described as a “green technology”.
Source: Kuka Robotics
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