For any welding process it is, in general, desirable to increase the travel speed and minimise the heat input as this will increase productivity and possibly reduce the impact of welding on the mechanical properties of the weld. At the same time it is necessary to ensure that the temperature around the tool is sufficiently high to permit adequate material flow and prevent flaws or tool damage.
When the traverse speed is increased, for a given heat input, there is less time for heat to conduct ahead of the tool and the thermal gradients are larger. At some point the speed will be so high that the material ahead of the tool will be too cold, and the flow stress too high, to permit adequate material movement, resulting in flaws or tool fracture. If the "hot zone" is too large then there is scope to increase the traverse speed and hence productivity.
The welding cycle can be split into several stages during which the heat flow and thermal profile will be different:
Dwell. The material is preheated by a stationary, rotating tool to achieve a sufficient temperature ahead of the tool to allow the traverse. This period may also include the plunge of the tool into the workpiece.
Transient heating. When the tool begins to move there will be a transient period where the heat production and temperature around the tool will alter in a complex manner until an essentially steady-state is reached.
Pseudo steady-state. Although fluctuations in heat generation will occur the thermal field around the tool remains effectively constant, at least on the macroscopic scale.
Post steady-state. Near the end of the weld heat may "reflect" from the end of the plate leading to additional heating around the tool.
Heat generation during friction-stir welding arises from two main sources: friction at the surface of the tool and the deformation of the material around the tool.The heat generation is often assumed to occur predominantly under the shoulder, due to its greater surface area, and to be equal to the power required to overcome the contact forces between the tool and the workpiece. The contact condition under the shoulder can be described by sliding friction, using a friction coefficient and interfacial pressure P, or sticking friction, based on the interfacial shear strength at an appropriate temperature and strain rate. Mathematical approximations for the total heat generated by the tool shoulder have been developed using both sliding and sticking friction models:
where is the angular velocity of the tools the radius of the tool shoulder and that of the pin. Several other equations have been proposed to account for factors such as the pin but the general approach remains the same.