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Friction Stir Welding Equipment
Friction-stir welding (FSW) is a solid-state joining process, meaning that unlike fusion methods of joining, the metal is not melted during the process. Its main advantage is for applications where the original metal characteristics must remain as unchanged as possible, as well as being able to join materials that are either very difficult or impossible to join using normal fusion joining methods. It was invented and experimentally proven by Wayne Thomas and a team of his colleagues at The Welding Institute UK in December 1991.
There are many different tools designed for friction stir welding and machines developed to hold them. AEM-C is currently using a 1950s vintage Brown & Sharpe No. 2 Vertical Milling Machine with a 5 HP, 60 cycle motor. It is fairly typical of vertical mills of its vintage, featuring a drive motor for feed rate of the knee and table, as well as a pump for coolant. There are plans in place to modify this mill for a CNC system in order to make welds more precise and repeatable, as well as instrumentation to measure the forces placed on the samples being joined during the process.