Friction Stir Welding Applications & Uses

Since the invention of Friction Stir Welding (FSW) by The Welding Institute in 1991, this technology has been widely adopted in many branches of manufacturing and engineering.  FSW offers manufacturers many benefits over conventional welding methods including lower levels of defects, improved aesthetics in the appearance of the weld and lower set-up and operational costs after the initial investment. This post covers a range of friction stir welding applications from consumer electronics to high speed public transportation.

Apple’s Next Generation iMac

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Apple utilised friction stir welding to seamlessly join the aluminium surfaces of their next generation iMac. The engineers at Apple faced a major challenge with the design of the iMac – how to join the front and back sections. Traditional welding methods such as spot welding would have resulted in inaccurate and unsightly welds across the exterior of the computer. Friction stir welding allowed Apple to create strong reliable joints that are invisible to the end user.

The Ford GT

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Ford applied friction stir welding to the centre tunnel of their 2005 GT model. The FSW-reinforced centre tunnel serves two functions, firstly it provides structural rigidity and secondly it provides space for the fuel tank which is best located in the central hub of the vehicle to avoid damage from collisions. Friction stir welding has provided a cost-effective, automated method to meet the welding demands of today’s automotive producers.

China’s High Speed Railway Carriages

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Friction stir welding is used in the production of railway carriages worldwide. The Chinese High Speed Rail Network uses PTG’s Powerstir FSW technology to weld the 30 metre long carriage panels used for the body of the train carriages. China boasts the longest rail network in the world at around 5,800 miles of serviced routes and has plans to increase this to a 16,000 mile network by 2020.

Nasa’s Orion Spacecraft

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The two sections of the crew module in Nasa’s Orion Spacecraft were fused together with a 425 inch friction stir weld. FSW allowed Nasa to create high strength welds with an ultra-lightweight aluminium alloy which would not have been possible using conventional welding methods. The friction stir weld provides ultimate structural rigidity, able to withstand the harsh environments experienced during space flight.

The Super Liner Ogasawara
The FSW process has been utilized extensively in the construction of marine vessels. Commercial liners in particular utilise the technology to weld alluminium hull pannels.  The Super Liner Ogasaware, built by Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding in Japan is reported to be the largest ship constructed through friction stir welding. The ship can reach speeds of 42.8 knots and can transport up to 740 passengers and 210 tonnes of freight.

The adoption of FSW in such a wide variety of industries and applications demonstrates the versatility of this innovative method of welding. The Welding Institute reported that there are over 3000 patents and patent applications globally that involve the FSW process indicating that both industry and academia are actively developing new areas where the technology can be applied.

The Powerstir FSW machine developed and manufactured by PTG Heavy Industries:

For information on the key features and technical specifications of PTG’s Powerstir range of FSW machines please visit our Friction Stir Welding Page.


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