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New welding technology set to revolutionise transport and construction

A new welding technology is set to revolutionise transport and construction. A new form of friction welding that mixes together the materials to be joined without melting them is set to revolutionise metal joining in applications such as transport and construction. Known as 'Friction Stir Welding' the technology literally stirs the two metals.
New welding technology set to revolutionise transport and construction
A special rotating tool heats the joint by friction and moves through it stirring the two metals, which can be dissimilar, together into a high-strength solid-phase joint. The benefits include the ability to join materials that are difficult to weld with traditional heat fusion, plus low distortion, better mechanical properties and a cleaner process, which can easily be automated using existing machine tools.

Protected by world-wide patents, the technology is available for non-exclusive licence, and more than 40 such licences have so far been negotiated. Two Scandinavian companies are already using the technology in production, for joining aluminium alloys.

There are many potential applications for friction stir welding. The shipbuilding and marine industries are two of the first to adopt the process for commercial applications. The aerospace industry is already using the technique to make prototype parts. Further opportunities exist to weld skins to spars, ribs, and stringers for use in military and civilian aircraft. Longitudinal butt welds and circumferential lap welds of Aluminium alloy fuel tanks for space vehicles have been successfully welded and tested. The commercial production of high-speed trains made from aluminium extrusions which may be joined by friction stir welding is also being investigated, as are applications in the automotive sector for lightweight structures. The process can also be used by the metal industries to increase the size of commercially available sheets by welding them before forming.

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