Modelling of friction stir spot welding
Friction stir spot welding (FSSW) is a solid-state welding process which is especially useful for joining precipitation-hardened aluminium alloys that undergo adverse property changes during fusion welding. It also has potential as an effective method for solid-state joining of dissimilar alloys. In FSSW, heat generation and plastic flow are strongly linked, and the scale of the process in time and space is such that it is difficult to separate and control the influence of all the relevant input parameters. The use of modelling is well-established in the field of welding research, and this thesis presents an analysis of the thermal and mechanical aspects of FSSW, principally using the finite element (FE) technique. Firstly, a thermal FE model is shown, which is subsequently validated by reference to experimental temperature data in both aluminium-to-aluminium and aluminium-to-steel welds. Correlations between high-quality welds and temperature fields are established, and predictions are made for peak temperatures reached under novel welding conditions. Deformation and heating are strongly linked in FSSW, but existing modelling tools are poorly suited to modelling flow processes in the conditions extant in FSSW. This thesis discusses the development and optimisation of two novel techniques to overcome the limitations of current approaches. The first of these uses greatly simplified constitutive behaviour to convert the problem into one defined purely by kinematics. In doing so, the boundary conditions reduce to a small number of assumptions about the contact conditions between weld material and tool, and the model calculation time is very rapid. This model is used to investigate changes in the slip condition at the tool to workpiece interface without an explicit statement of the friction law. Marker experiments are presented which use dissimilar composition but similar strength alloys to visualise flow patterns. The layering behaviour and surface patterns observed in the model agree well with observations from these experiments. The second approach extends the FE method to include deformation behaviour without the need for a fully-coupled approach, guided by the kinematic model. This is achieved using an innovative sequential small-strain analysis method in which thermal and deformation analyses alternate, with each running at a very different timescale. This technique avoids the requirement to either remesh the model domain at high strains or to use an explicit integration scheme, both of which impose penalties in calculation time and model complexity. The method is used to relate the purely thermal analysis developed in the work on thermal modelling to welding parameters such as tool speed. The model enables predictions of the spatial and temporal evolution of heat generation to be made directly from the constitutive behaviour of the alloy and the assumed velocity profile at the tool-workpiece interface. Predictions of the resulting temperature history are matched to experimental data and novel conditions are simulated, and these predictions correlate accurately with experimental results. Hence, the model is used to predict welding outcomes for situations for which no experimental data exists, and process charts are produced to describe optimum welding parameters. The methods and results presented in this thesis have significant implications for modelling friction stir spot welding, from optimising process conditions, to integration with microstructural models (to predict softening in the heat-affected zone, or the formation of intermetallics at the interface in dissimilar welds). The technique developed for sequential small strain finite element analysis could also be investigated for use in other kinematically constrained solid-state friction joining processes.