A tool that would be useable in both conventional and self-reacting friction stir welding (FSW) has been proposed. The tool would embody both a prior tooling concept for self-reacting FSW and an auto-adjustable pin-tool (APT) capability developed previously as an augmentation for conventional FSW.

Some definitions of terms are prerequisite to a meaningful description of the proposed tool. In conventional FSW, depicted in Figure 1, one uses a tool that includes (1) a rotating shoulder on top (or front) of the workpiece and (2) a rotating pin that protrudes from the shoulder into the depth of the workpiece. The main axial force exerted by the tool on the workpiece is reacted through a ridged backing anvil under (behind) the workpiece. When conventional FSW is augmented with an APT capability, the depth of penetration of the pin into the workpiece is varied in real time by a position- or force-control system that extends or retracts the pin as needed to obtain the desired effect.

ImageIn self-reacting (also known as selfreacted) friction stir welding (SR-FSW), there are two rotating shoulders: one on top (or front) and one on the bottom (or back) of the workpiece. In this case, a threaded shaft protrudes from the tip of the pin to beyond the back surface of the workpiece. The back shoulder is held axially in place against tension by a nut on the threaded shaft. The main axial force exerted on the workpiece by the tool and front shoulder is reacted through the back shoulder and the threaded shaft, back into the FSW machine head, so that a backing anvil is no longer needed. A key transmits torque between the bottom shoulder and the threaded shaft, so that the bottom shoulder rotates with the shaft. A tool for SR-FSW embodying this concept was reported in "Mechanism for Self-Reacted Friction Stir Welding" (MFS- 31914), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 28, No. 10 (October 2004), page 53.

ImageIn its outward appearance, the proposed tool (see Figure 2) would fit the above description of an SR-FSW tool. In this case, the FSW machine would have an APT capability and the pin would be modified to accept a bottom shoulder. The APT capability could be used to vary the distance between the front and back shoulders in real time to accommodate process and workpiece-thickness variations. The tool could readily be converted to a conventional FSW tool, with or without APT capability, by simply replacing the modified pin with a conventional FSW pin.

This work was done by Robert Carter of Marshall Space Flight Center. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Manufacturing & Prototyping category.

This invention has been patented by NASA (U.S. Patent No. 6,758,382). Inquiries concerning nonexclusive or exclusive license for its commercial development should be addressed to Sammy Nabors, MSFC Commercialization Assistance Lead, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Refer to MFS-31647-1.