Friction Stir Additive Manufacturing, an area of exploration.


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Friction stir welding (FSW) is a welding technology that has revolutionized the industry since its invention and patenting by researchers at The Welding Institute (TWI) in the UK in 1991. Large corporations like Boeing and Hitachi have recognized its potential and have developed their own patents related to the process.

FSW is a solid-state welding technique that uses heat generated from friction between a non-consumable rotating tool and the workpieces to be welded. This friction, combined with adiabatic heat within the material and the mechanical mixing process, allows the workpieces to soften without melting. This innovative technique has made it possible to weld different materials such as alloys of aluminum, titanium, steel, magnesium, and nickel-base superalloy, as well as nonferrous metals.

Unlike traditional welding methods, FSW allows for the welding of dissimilar materials while maintaining a precise and clean weld with a reduced risk of porosity, defects, or distortion. This technology has also been successful in welding polymers in recent years.

To further explore and advance the science and technology of friction stir processing (FSP), the University of North Texas (UNT) has established the Center for Friction Stir Processing (CFSP). This center has become internationally recognized for its research on FSW and FSP, including their other variants. Their publications have covered various applications like manufacturing alloys and rare earth metals.

FSW has also found applications in additive manufacturing through a process known as Friction Stir Additive Manufacturing (FSAM). This process combines the principles of friction stir welding with layer-by-layer joining to create objects. Research conducted by UNT’s CFSP has shown that FSAM overcomes challenges faced by the metal-based additive manufacturing industry. It allows for the welding of thinner metal alloy sheets while producing high-performance parts with improved mechanical properties and reduced welding defects.

The advantages offered by FSW have led to its adoption in industries such as aerospace, where its strong weld properties eliminate the need for fasteners. The solid-state nature of the process minimizes thermal distortion and residual stresses, as it does not require melting. Additionally, the ability to weld dissimilar materials enables the creation of multi-material and functionally graded structures. The absence of high-temperature melt pools also results in reduced energy consumption and emissions, making the process more environmentally sustainable.

Companies involved in the development of new or improved products, processes, and software can take advantage of the Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit. 3D printing, which can be seamlessly integrated with FSW, can help boost a company’s eligibility for this credit. The wages of technical employees involved in creating, testing, and revising 3D printed prototypes, as well as the time spent integrating 3D printing hardware and software, can be included as eligible activities for the R&D Tax Credit. Additionally, the costs of filaments consumed during the development process can be recovered.

As material science, process improvement, and tooling continue to advance, FSAM has opened up new possibilities in manufacturing technology. Researchers and engineers are continuously exploring its capabilities and addressing its challenges, making it a significant player in shaping the future of advanced manufacturing.

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