Diamonds Are a Friction Stir Welder’s Best Friend for Aluminum

POSTED ON 3/18/2020 – Modern aluminum alloys are used everywhere in world around us, from car bodies to aerospace launch vehicles and from high-speed rail cars to cruise ships. Thanks to the addition of various other metals, including copper, magnesium, silicon and zinc, among others, lightweight aluminum excels in tough environments and at high temperatures, making it perfect for increasing fuel efficiency across virtually every type of transportation. And to take full advantage of the characteristics of these materials, Friction Stir Welding (FSW) takes weight reduction even further with perfect welds that require no filler wire. However, the process is extremely tough on FSW tooling.

Standard FSW tools perform relatively well in most aluminum alloys; in AA 2024 and 6061, a standard tool steel pin will offer a few kilometers of acceptable welding performance, for example. But, for tougher alloys – such as METAMIC™, a key neutron-shielding material for storing nuclear fuel, and AA 5083, a corrosion-resistant alloy ideal for shipbuilding – standard tools fall short. To address these tool life concerns, Mazak MegaStir has developed a new line of extremely wear-resistant diamond-tipped FSW tools that are ideally suited for these challenging applications.

The new line of patented diamond FSW tools are thermocouple-ready for temperature monitoring, and in addition to the standard range of tooling, custom pins are available for unique applications. Perhaps most importantly, however, these tools dramatically increase tool life – in some cases by several orders of magnitude. In AA 2024, 5083 and 6061, the ultra-hard diamond tools offer up to 30 kilometers of welding, and even in METAMIC, these tools can offer a few kilometers of tool life where mere meters were previously possible.

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