FSW Engineering

FSW Technology Experience

NTE began producing Friction Stir Welding equipment in 1996 in a contract for Boeing-Auburn. Since then we have provided FSW machines for many customers including NASA, Concurrent Technologies Corporation, Army Research Laboratories, Lockheed Martin, University of Missouri, General Dynamics, Noble Drilling Services and SpaceX Technologies. These machines are used for Armored Vehicle Manufacturing, Space Shuttle Fuel Tanks, Aerospace research, and other applications. The histories of these machines date back to 1996 and were some of the first FSW machines ever built. NTE is one of the few companies in the world that has over thirty years of combined experience in the Friction Stir Welding industry.

NTE Production Stirwelders

In 2005, NTE built the first production FSW machine in the Oil & Gas Industry for Noble Drilling Services. This machine was designed to weld aluminum riser piping for offshore drilling rigs. The machine is installed in Samara, Russia and has the capability of producing up to 20 complete aluminum riser joints per month. NTE is currently commissioning a production machine for Space Exploration Technologies located in El Segundo, California. This machined will be used for production welding of domes and shells for launch vehicles.

FSW Design Team

NTE has over 30 years of combined experience in the design, manufacturing, and commissioning of FSW equipment. We have key personnel acquired from the Nicholson M&T Group and MCE technologies who have been employees with NTE for the last three years. Some with FSW engineering involvement going back to 1998. We have technical experience in the form of electrical hardware, software and mechanical engineering in combination with personnel that have been responsible for manufacturing, assembly, and commissioning of ten FSW machines. Below is a listing of the key personnel who provide the depth, skill and experience for our FSW project team. These people have been, and continue to be, core developers of production stir welding technology as it matures today.

Aerospace Applications of FSW

Currently the aerospace industry is welding prototype and production parts by friction stir welding. Opportunities exist to weld skins to spars, ribs, and stringers for use in military and civilian aircraft. Approved for use on the Eclipse 500 by the FAA in May 2002, friction stir welding replaces riveting in the majority of the aircraft’s primary structure. FSW is approximately 10 times faster than manual riveting and provides a continuous joint for improved structural rigidity. The space industry has adopted and approved the use of FSW for longitudal seams in components of launch vehicles and fuel tanks. NASA uses FSW on the production of longitudal seams for the space shuttle external fuel tank. The Boeing Company and SpaceX Technologies currently use FSW for welding of launch rocket components.

Rail Applications of FSW

Modern passenger rail cars are increasingly produced from longitudinal aluminum extrusions with integrated stiffeners. Using this concept the whole body shell can be made from either single wall or hollow double skin extrusions. Because of its suitability for long seams and the other advantages of FSW already mentioned, the aluminum rail car construction industry has recognized the benefits of the process. A number of rail car fabricators, including Hitachi, are using the process for producing FSW panels into their commuter trains.

Automotive Applications of FSW

FSW is currently being used commercially for the transportation industry. A number of automotive companies have been developing FSW for various applications. FSW has been used successfully to create suspension components, crash boxes, and wheel rims. Both Ford and Mazda have used FSW in production of domestic cars.

Marine Applications of FSW

The shipbuilding and marine industries were two of the first industries to adopt FSW for commercial applications. Joining of extruded panels to form wider parts has been utilized since 1996. The inherent low distortion and high repeatability of FSW reduces shipbuilding costs by minimizing post weld manipulation of the fabricated components. Specific applications for the shipbuilding and marine industries include: Panels for decks, sides, bulkheads and floors. Hulls and superstructures. Helicopter landing platforms.

Military Applications

Military applications are typically some of the most demanding in terms of overall performance requirements and the consequences a of a critical joint failure. Operating in the air, marine and ground environments, military equipment is finding important advantages to FSW joining technology. Tests with FSW joined 2519=T97 aluminum armor plates on the USMC Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV) showed stronger and more ductile welds during ballistic tests. Fabrication times and reduced distortion were also significantly better than other joining methods. FSW joining improved the 2519 armor fabrication productivity over 400% on 1.0 inch thick plates compared to the original 2-pass fusion welding technique. The replacement of steel with aluminum alloys is providing significant overall performance improvements in many military applications and FSW is a key technology in this development.

The Future

The constant pressure in almost every industry to provide higher performance at lower cost is not new, and the use of lightweight materials is a key element in the quest. Aluminum is a primary player in this arena, and FSW is proving to be a superior production technique for joining a wide array of alloys across a broad spectrum of joint configurations. From the Space Shuttle and Eclipse Jet designs, to more mundane but hugely important automotive, rail and marine applications, FSW joined aluminum is solving problems and creating opportunities. No manufacturer can now ignore the benefits of this technology. Faster, cleaner and stronger FSW techniques are replacing many of the old arc welding, riveting and bonding methods for aluminum. We are proud to be leaders in production Friction Stir Welding technology. Give us a call today and see what FSW can do for your products, projects and profitability.