Probably the best resource to learn about friction stir welding (FSW) comes from the entity that developed the technology. The Welding Institute (1) offers a thorough overview of FSW and its advantages over other types of welding. The University of Cambridge (2) maintains another informative Web site about FSW. This is a more visual resource, allowing the visitor to view images and video clips that show FSW equipment and how the process works. Three introductory slide presentations are also available. For those who are unfamiliar with other types of welding, the Joining Technologies company (3) has an online welding reference center. Of particular interest is the Weld Defects section, which describes many of the problems of conventional welding that FSW solves. The American Welding Society published this research paper (4) in the January 2003 issue of the Welding Journal. The nine-page document presents experimental results of FSW tests, showing that defect-free welds can be achieved with a material such as mild steel. Automobile design is a prime application area for FSW, as is noted in a fact sheet from the National Transportation Research Center (5). It states that while other welding methods are suitable for standard metals in automobiles, new lightweight materials cannot be effectively joined unless a technique like FSW is used. A research paper that will be presented at an international conference in July 2003 (6) discusses the residual stresses resulting from a weld created with the FSW process. While welds of this type are typically much stronger than others, it is important to note how the performance of a weld is degraded by such residual stresses. NASA has devised a new technique, called thermal stir welding, that improves upon FSW. This breakthrough is presented in a two-page summary (7) that briefly explains the differences between thermal stir welding and other advanced methods. A new friction stir welding center was announced in November 2002, and it will be used in the construction of a new jet airplane. FSW will replace over half of the rivets traditionally used to hold planes together. This development, and its importance for jet manufacturing, are outlined in a press release from Eclipse Aviation (8).
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