Robotic Friction Stir Welding for Flexible Production

University dissertation from Lund : Lund University

Abstract: Friction Stir Welding (FSW) is a modern welding process that joins materials by frictional heat, generated by a rotating tool. Unlike other welding processes, the material never melts, which is beneficial for the weld properties. FSW is already widely adopted in several industries but the applications are limited to simple geometries like straight lines or circular welds, mostly in aluminium. The welding operation is performed by rigid FSW machines, which deliver excellent welds but puts limitations on the system in terms of flexibility and joint geometries. Therefore, several research groups are working on the implementation of the FSW process on industrial robots. A robot allows welding of three-dimensional geometries and increases the flexibility of the whole system. The high process forces required for FSW, in combination with the limited stiffness of the robot brings some extra complexity to the system.  The limitations of the robot system are addressed in this licentiate thesis.One part of the thesis studies the effect of robot deflections on the weld quality. A sensor-based solution is presented that measures the path deviation and compensates this deviation by modifying the robot trajectory. The tool deviation is reduced to an acceptable tolerance and root defects in the weld are hereby eliminated. The sensor-based method provided better process understanding, leading to a new strategy that uses existing force-feedback for path compensations of the tool. This method avoids extra sensors and makes the system less complex. Another part of this work focuses on the extra complexity to maintain a stable welding process on more advanced geometries. A model is presented that allows control of the heat input in the process by control of the downforce. Finally, the robot’s limitations in terms of maximal hardness of the materials to be welded are investigated. Parameter tuning and implementation of preheating are proposed to allow robotic FSW of superalloys.

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