Modelling of friction stir welding
This thesis investigates the modelling of friction stir welding (FSW). FSW is a relatively new welding process where a rotating non-consumable tool is used to join two materials through high temperature deformation. The aim of the thesis is the development of a numerical model to improve process understanding and to assist in the design of new tools. The early part of the thesis describes the process, defines the modelling problem and describes why a computational fluid dynamics package (FLUENT) was selected for the subsequent work. A systematic series of friction stir welding experiments in 7075 aluminium alloy, used to provide validation data for a numerical model of the process, are described in chapter 2. The trials examined how the welding conditions and tool type affected the weld temperature and heat input. From this data a thermal model of the welds was developed that included the convective heat flow due to material mixing. Chapters 3 to 6 describe the model development, from a preliminary model of a standard tool, to a detailed analysis of 2 dimensional profiles incorporating a novel slip boundary condition, and finally to a full 3 dimensional model of a new tool design, including material slip. The preliminary model with a standard tool assumed that the material stuck to the tool surface and included features such as the tool tilt, heat generation and heat flow. The model captured many of the real process characteristics, but gave poor predictions of the welding forces and heat generation. This identified the need for a more complex treatment of the tool-material interface that allowed material slip. The slip model was first implemented in a 2 dimensional study of flow around profiled tooling (chapter 4). This enabled a first order visualisation of the flow and the quantitative comparison of different 2 dimensional pin profiles. In chapter 5 an optimised 2 dimensional pin profile was determined by selecting the shape that minimised the traversing force. Two prototype tools based on this profile were manufactured: the plain 'Trivex™' and the threaded 'MX-Trivex™'. These were tested against a conventional 'MX-Triflute™' tool with the results showing that the traversing force was reduced by 18-25%. Chapter 6 describes 3 dimensional models of the 'Trivex™' and 'Triflute™' tools, which extended the slip model to 3 dimensions. The model correctly predicted that the Trivex™ tool had lower traversing and down forces than its Triflute™ counterpart, as observed experimentally. The thesis successfully demonstrates the application of fluid dynamics modelling to friction stir welding, enhancing visualisation of the flow, and guiding the development of new tooling.