The Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) at the University of Strathclyde in the UK is exploring innovative ways to reduce materials wastage and production time using rotary friction welding.

A welding process that benefits from enhanced integrity of materials, rotary friction welding is fast and highly energy-efficient. It’s currently used across niche manufacturing areas within the aerospace and oil & gas sectors. The AFRC, however, is seeking to change this and explore wider opportunities for rotary friction welding across various applications, with big implications for industry.

The AFRC recently acquired two rotary friction welding machines, and the centre’s engineers and technicians are integrating this new capability with other advanced manufacturing techniques. The 125 and 300-ton machines will provide efficient, low-cost solutions for firms requiring high-integrity manufacturing processes in sectors, such as aerospace, automotive and oil and gas. The AFRC has already received significant interest in its new rotary friction welding capability from within its network.

One of the initial projects using the new equipment will see rotary friction welding used alongside other capabilities at the centre to develop a high-performance, high-integrity component for aerospace applications. This combination of highly efficient manufacturing techniques will significantly reduce materials wastage and production time.

Dr Laurie da Silva, Research Associate at the AFRC, who is leading the development of this new capability, explains: “Welding is often regarded in the manufacturing industry as an easy place for a material to fail. This, however, isn’t the case for rotary friction welding, instead it generates a very strong, high-integrity joint for metallic materials. We’re working with our members and partners on an industrial research program that will demonstrate the considerable potential of this technology.

“Combining it with manufacturing techniques, such as flow forming, rotary forging and radial forging, we’re aiming to create new hybrid near net shape manufacturing processes for similar and dissimilar alloys. The process is generating lots of interest among our members and partners and presents significant opportunities for our customers.”