Feedback Control of Robotic Friction Stir Welding
Abstract: The Friction Stir Welding (FSW) process has been under constant developmentsince its invention, more than 20 years ago. Whereas most industrial applicationsuse a gantry machine to weld linear joints, there are applications which consistof complex three-dimensional joints, requiring more degrees of freedom fromthe machines. The use of industrial robots allows FSW of materials alongcomplex joint lines. There is however one major drawback when using robotsfor FSW: the robot compliance. This results in vibrations and insufficient pathaccuracy. For FSW, path accuracy is important as it can cause the welding toolto miss the joint line and thereby cause welding defects.The first part of this research is focused on understanding how welding forcesaffect the FSW robot accuracy. This was first studied by measuring pathdeviation post-welded and later by using a computer vision system and laserdistance sensor to measure deviations online. Based on that knowledge, a robotdeflection model has been developed. The model is able to estimate thedeviation of the tool from the programmed path during welding, based on thelocation and measured tool forces. This model can be used for online pathcompensation, improving path accuracy and reducing welding defects.A second challenge related to robotic FSW on complex geometries is thevariable heat dissipation in the workpiece, causing great variations in the weldingtemperature. Especially for force-controlled robots, this can lead to severewelding defects, fixture- and machine damage when the material overheats.First, a new temperature method was developed which measures thetemperature at the interface of the tool and the workpiece, based on the thermoelectriceffect. The temperature information is used as input to a closed-looptemperature controller. This modifies primarily the rotational speed of the tooland secondarily the axial force. The controller is able to maintain a stablewelding temperature and thereby improve the weld quality and allow joining ofgeometries which were impossible to weld without temperature control.Implementation of the deflection model and temperature controller are twoimportant additions to a FSW system, improving the process robustness,reducing the risk of welding defects and allowing FSW of parts with highlyvarying heat dissipation.
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