Practical use of FSW

FSW technology is being widely used in high-tech aerospace, maritime, automotive and railway industry and its users benefit mainly from the possibility of welding materials that cannot be welded by means of any other welding technology without compromising on the side of mechanical properties of the weld.

5.1      Typical machines and tools

There is several major FSW machinery producers throughout the world. The main ones are [73]:

-          ESAB

-          Crawford-Swift

-          Transformation Technologies

-          Friction Stir Link, Inc

All the manufacturers provide variety of highly customisable models of welding machines. Starting with basic models allowing only one axis welding tool movement to the six-axes FSW robots.

The situation with the commonly used tool is complicated by the fact that there is not much detailed information about produced tools available in open literature. TWI produces its series of tools Whorl, Triflute [74] and Trivex [75] but does not provide specifications needed for the appropriate welding parameters to its non-customers.

However, the basic parameters of a simple design tools are available [11, 13, 14, 76, 77]. For the FSW of aluminum alloys tool material of usual tool steel or W-Co steel is sufficient [78], so there is enough information available to produce customized design tool according to the manufacturer needs if needed.


5.2      Current large users of FSW technology

5.2.1     Boeing Co., USA

Boeing was one of the early adopters of FSW technology and has been utilizing its benefits mainly in their spacecraft division.

-          A longitudinal welding machine, plus handling equipment for welding of fuel tanks for the Delta II programme of space rockets. [69]

-          A complete plant designed for circumferential welding of fuel tanks, also including a friction plug welding unit. [69]

-          A complete plant designed for circumferential welding of fuel tanks, also including a friction plug welding unit. [69]

Attachment 1 provides photographs of the machinery.

5.2.2     Marine Aluminium, Norway

FSW technology has users also in non-aerospace industries.

-          A plant for production of flat panels, 16x6 meters, freezing blocks, coolers, railway wagon parts, H-beams, road signs and barriers, as well as the production of complex extrusions. [69]

5.2.3     EADS CRC/IS, France

EADS and its division Airbus are also early adopters of the technology and conduct a wide research in the area as well.

-          FSW welds on fuselage panels of Airbus A380 [79] saving on stringer-to-panel joint 0.18 kg per meter of weld and 0.8 kg per meter of weld on panel-to-panel joint [79].

5.2.4     Eclipse Aviation

Eclipse aviation is one of the first aircraft producers introducing the FSW technology on large scale into smaller aircraft design.

-          Welds of construction of Eclipse 500 airplane. [80]