US Army Research Lab in partnership to develop large-scale Friction Stir Additive Manufacturing

November 18, 2021

The friction stir AM machine is said to be able to maintain constant forge force, processing temperatures and tool tilt relative to complex weld paths (Courtesy Solvus Global)

The US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) has partnered with Solvus Global, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), and Bond Technologies to develop a new capability in large-scale Additive Manufacturing, in an effort to ensure supply chain security and military readiness in the production of metal parts with reduced costs and lower scrap rates. It was announced that Dr Victor K Champagne, ARL, will provide technical direction.

Friction Stir Additive Manufacturing (FSAM) is expected to provide cost-effective, rapid turn-around on large parts greater than 0.03 m3 (1 ft3) in volume. FSAM technology is said to compete favourably with traditional forging and casting practices due to its ease in joining large, geometrically critical complex parts. Fabrication of titanium castings with FSAM reportedly allows for high-performance, low-volume production of crucial armour components for use by the US Department of Defense (DOD).

Technology solutions provider Solvus Global is equipped with the platform to support the transition to advanced manufacturing across industry and government sectors. Development of FSAM technology at the Solvus Global Center for Scaled Innovations in Manufacturing has created a Friction Stir Welding system in combination of five selected AM techniques:

  1. Friction Stir Assembly
  2. Additive Friction Stir
  3. Plate Stacking
  4. Hybrid Friction Stir
  5. Friction Stir Surfacing

Ken Ross from PNNL provided technical insight into FSAM machine designs and specifications. PNNL torque-based temperature control technology is integrated into the machine to enable control of processing temperature which, in turn, may enable improved properties and processes robustness.

This machine is said to be able to maintain constant forge force, processing temperatures and tool tilt relative to complex weld paths, reportedly leading to unprecedented control and repeatability for the technology.

“With our partnerships, we have the ability to deliver solutions for an increasing variety of manufacturing applications,” says Richard Eberheim, Automation Engineer at Solvus Global. Friction Stir AM allows the possibility of customized metal castings at low-waste, low-cost for use in aerospace, marine, or automotive commercial entities.

Bond Technologies has brought equipment concepts to fruition with the development of the Friction Stir Welding system. The GL7 solid-state manufacturing centre is reportedly capable of high-rate AM friction stir deposition using controls and motion control systems. The technology incorporated into this machine allows for high flexibility and capability, giving Solvus Global a tool with which to work. The system is capable of operating with metals including aluminium, Inconel, steels, and titanium.

“This machine advances the state of the art for Friction Stir Additive Manufacturing, a technology that is certain to have a significant impact not only in the field of advanced manufacturing but on the readiness and capabilities of our military. Bond is proud to work with Solvus, PNNL, and the Army to shape the future of additive manufacturing,” says Tim Haynie, CEO of Bond Technologies.

In the latest issue of Metal AM magazine

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