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Friction Stir Welding: a key technology for the future of e-mobility

In an ever-evolving world, where the pursuit of sustainable solutions has become the cornerstone of innovation, Friction Stir Welding (FSW) is increasingly establishing itself within the e-mobility industry. This technology, both revolutionary and subtle, is reshaping the manufacturing and assembly paradigms of electric vehicles, offering tangible solutions to the challenges of our time. FSW, a technique where heat generated by friction and mechanical stirring joins metals without melting them, opens up new paths for the production of components that are lighter, stronger, and more eco-friendly. It is not just a welding method; it’s a technological breakthrough that enables the creation of electric vehicles that are more efficient, safer, and environmentally friendly.

But why is this so crucial today? And how does this technique fit into the grand journey of e-mobility? This article takes you through the intricacies of Friction Stir Welding, exploring its transformative impact on electric vehicle industry and revealing why this technology could very well be the missing link to a more sustainable future.


E-mobility and its current challenges

E-mobility, or electric mobility, refers to the use of vehicles powered by electric engines, primarily fueled by rechargeable batteries, as an alternative to traditional internal combustion vehicles. The main goal of e-mobility is to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, reduce air pollution in urban areas, and lessen our dependence on fossil fuels.  

The current state of the e-mobility market

The e-mobility market has seen exponential growth over the past decade, driven by significant technological advancements, decreasing battery costs, and increased government support through subsidies, tax incentives, and regulations favoring low-emission vehicles. Major markets, such as Europe, China, and the United States, have experienced a rapid increase in the number of electric vehicles on the road, alongside the development of charging infrastructure and a growing consumer awareness of environmental issues. The range of available electric vehicles has significantly expanded, with every major automobile manufacturer now having at least one electric model in their lineup.  

Future Outlook

The future outlook for e-mobility appears promising and is characterized by several key trends: accelerated adoption of electric vehicles, expansion of charging infrastructure, technological innovations (improved battery capacity, increased range), and environmental regulations.

Manufacturing and assembly challenges in e-mobility

The manufacturing and assembly challenges in e-mobility are crucial for the successful development and marketing of electric vehicles (EVs) that meet the growing expectations for performance, durability, and environmental impact. Here are the main challenges:

panel stiffener for thin panels

Vehicle lightweighting

  • Weight reduction: Lightness is crucial for improving the energy efficiency of EVs and maximizing their range. This requires the use of lightweight materials such as aluminium, which, however, can be challenging to assemble and weld compared to traditionally used steel.
  • Component integration: Efficiently integrating batteries, electric motors, and other systems into the structure of the vehicle without compromising interior space or safety is major challenge.
panel stiffener for thin panels

Material durability

  • Durability and reliability: The materials used must withstand varied operating conditions, including extreme temperatures, without degrading. This is particularly important for batteries and electrical systems.
  • Assembly of heterogeneous materials: The assembly of different materials (for example, steel with aluminium) can introduce challenges in terms of chemical and physical compatibility, necessitating innovative assembly methods such as friction stir welding.
panel stiffener for thin panels

Energy efficiency

  • Design optimization: The aerodynamic shape of the vehicle and the efficiency of components including the propulsion system and battery thermal management, play a crucial role in energy efficiency.
  • Thermal management: Thermal management systems must be designed to keep batteries at their optimal operating temperature, which is essential for performance and battery lifespan but complicates the design and assembly of the vehicle.
panel stiffener for thin panels

Other challenges

  • Standardization and modularity: Developing standardized and modular components can help reduce costs and simplify manufacturing but requires increased coordination and cooperation among manufacturers.
  • Recyclability and environmental sustainability: Designing for recyclability, especially for batteries and composite materials, is crucial to minimize the environmental impact of EVs at the end of their life cycle.

To meet these challenges, the e-mobility industry is investing in research and development of new manufacturing technologies, advanced materials, and innovative assembly processes. Friction Stir Welding offers significant advantage lightweight and heterogeneous materials, contributing to both lightness and strength of electric vehicles.

The impact of Friction Stir Welding on e-mobility

How does Friction Stir Welding (FSW) meet the challenges of e-mobility?

Friction Stir Welding (FSW) is an innovative welding technology that is particularly well-suited to the e-mobility industry, offering solutions to several key challenges related to the manufacturing and assembly of electric vehicles (EVs). Here is how FSW specifically addresses these challenges:

Vehicle weight reduction

  • Use of lightweight materials: FSW is particularly effective in joining lightweight materials such as aluminium and its alloys, which are widely used in the manufacturing of electric vehicles to reduce their weight. Unlike traditional welding methods, FSW does not melt the materials, which reduces distortions, residual stresses, and welding defects, allowing for lightweight, high-quality assemblies.
  • Superior quality joints: joints made by FSW exhibit excellent mechanical strength without porosity, contributing to the lightness of vehicles compromising its structural integrity.

Enhancing energy efficiency

  • Design optimization: FSW allows for more flexible design of EV components and structures. By reducing weight and improving the quality of assemblies, it directly contributes to the better efficiency of the vehicle. Lighter vehicles require less energy to move, which increases their range and reduces energy consumption.

Increased safety and durability of components

  • High-quality joints: The joints produced by FSW are uniform, strong, and durable, reducing the risk of failure of critical components under stress or in the event of an accident. This increased reliability is essential for the structural components of EVs, such as the chassis and battery compartment.
  • Improved thermal management: The superior quality of FSW joints also enhances the thermal management of EV batteries by ensuring efficient thermal conductivity across assemblies, which is crucial for maintaining battery performance and lifespan.
  • Reduced maintenance: The durability of FSW weld joints decreases the need for maintenance and repairs over the life of the vehicle, thereby contributing to better overall safety and long-term cost savings.

In summary, Friction Stir Welding effectively meets the challenges of e-mobility by facilitating the production of vehicles that are lighter, more energy-efficient, safer, and more durable. This technology represents a significant advancement in the field of electric vehicles, offering substantial benefits for component manufacturing.

Concrete examples of FSW application in e-mobility

Stiffened panels

Stiffened panels play a crucial rôle in the construction of vehicle floors and battery compartment structures. Given that they are subject to significant mechanical stresses, it’s viral that their assembly is both robust and durable. Friction Stir Welding (FSW) stands out particularly in the assembly of large panels. This technique allows overcoming size constraints, especially for aluminium profiles that must be less than 400 mm in width. With FSW, these profiles can be efficiently welded end to end, thus breaking traditional limitations.

Beyond overcoming these dimensional limits, FSW gives the panels increased lightness since this process does not require the addition of extra material to achieve the weld. This characteristic is particularly beneficial for electric and hybrid vehicles, whose reduced weight results in lower energy consumption.

aluminum panel stiffener

Heat exchangers in cast aluminium

Heat exchangers, crucial for cooling electronic components in electric and hybrid vehicles, are made from cast aluminium parts. Their assembly requires special attention to ensure perfect sealing, optimal mechanical strength, and low manufacturing costs. FSW stands out for its excellent ability to create hermetic and resistant joints, successfully passing leak tests. Thanks to the superior quality of the welds produced by FSW, the need for screws in the assembly of components is reduced, thus offering significant time and cost savings for manufacturers during the production process.

heat exchanger in cast aluminium

Battery trays

Battery trays, crucial elements for holding and securing the batteries in electric vehicles, require optimal electric conductivity. FSW is particularly suited to preserving this essential characteristic during the assembly of battery trays; This efficiency is due to the high quality of the welded joints and the fact that the melting point of the material is not reached. Moreover, as a cold-welding technique, FSW avoids damaging electrical components during the process, thus preserving their integrity and functionality.  

battery tray for e-mobility

Engine blocks

FSW is also used in the production of engine blocks for electric vehicles. Like battery trays, these are made from aluminium and steel alloys. FSW proves to be the most suitable technique for efficiently assembling these materials. Another advantageous feature of FSW is its versatility, allowing for welding in various configurations. This makes it particularly suitable for creating components with complex geometry, like engine blocks, which often need to adopt unique shapes to integrate different elements.

Chargers for electric vehicles

The production of chargers is a critical issue for vehicle manufacturers. Friction Stir Welding offers the ability to precisely adjust every aspect of the welding process. This allows operators to refine and closely examine the quality of the welded joints, thus ensuring the reliability and efficiency of the manufactured chargers.

Future prospects of FSW in e-mobility

Innovations in the field of FSW

FSW spindle for robots

FSW spindle for robots

The integration of FSW spindles for robots in the FSW process opens up the way for greater flexibility and precision in welding. This allows for complex welds on three-dimensional shapes, ideal for electric vehicle components with specific geometries, such as battery trays or vehicle frames.

Controlled temperature FSW

The development of controlled temperature FSW techniques, such as our Smart Head equipped with an intelligent tool holder, enables better management of joint quality by precisely adjusting the temperature during welding. This proves especially beneficial for heat-sensitive materials, thus ensuring the reliability and performance of EV components.

Controlled temperature FSW
Automatic FSW welding operations

Automatic FSW welding operations

Thanks to equipment like the automatic FSW head changer, a machining center transforms into a true hybrid machine that integrates both welding and machining operations. This will significantly boost the productivity of the machine through quick and seamless transitions between these two operations, considerably reducing downtime.

Multi-material FSW welding

The advancement in FSW techniques for joining different material combinations (for example, aluminium to steel) without compromising the joint quality opens new possibilities for using optimized materials in EV manufacturing, thereby contributing to the lightness and the energy efficiency of vehicles.  

Multi-material FSW welding

Growth potential of FSW in the e-mobility sector

The growth potential of FSW in the e-mobility sector is significant and looks promising for several reasons. This technology provides unique advantages that directly address the needs and challenges of manufacturing electric and hybrid vehicles. Here are the key factors contributing to its growth potential:

  • Technological advantages and quality assemblies: FSW enables the creation of high-quality welds, with strong and reliable joints, crucial for the safety and durability of critical EV components such as battery trays and body structures. The ability of FSW to join different materials and work with lightweight alloys is particularly well-suited to the requirements for lightness and energy efficiency in EVs.
  • Production cost reduction: By reducing the need for filler materials and minimizing the distortions and residual stresses often associated with traditional welding methods, FSW can contribute to lower production costs for EV manufacturers. Additionally, the increased durability of FSW joints can reduce maintenance and warranty costs.
  • Contribution to energy efficiency and sustainability: FSW supports the design of lighter EVs, which directly translates into better energy efficiency and grater vehicle range. This technology aligns with the automotive sector’s sustainability goals and efforts to reduce carbon footprint.
  • Continuous developments and innovations: Ongoing innovations in the field of FSW expand its potential applications in e-mobility and increase its attractiveness to manufacturers.
  • Growing demand for EVs: With the acceleration of the shift towards electromobility, driven by environmental regulations and consumer demand for cleaner alternatives, EV production is rapidly increasing. This trend boosts the demand for advanced manufacturing technologies like FSW, capable of meeting the specific challenges of this sector.

FSW is well-positioned to play a role in the future development of the e-mobility sector, offering innovative solutions for the manufacturing of lighter, more efficient, and more durable vehicles. Its growth potential is closely linked to the evolving market needs and the continuation of innovation in manufacturing processes.

In summary, Friction Stir Welding (FSW) emerges as a revolutionary technology, ready to meet the unique challenges posed by the rapidly expanding e-mobility sector. Thanks to its ability to produce high-quality joints, its versatility in processing various materials, and its significant contribution as a key pillar in the quest for more sustainable mobility.

Beyond its technical and economic advantages, the adoption of FSW demonstrates the commitment of manufacturers to innovation and sustainability, aligning their production processes with the increasing expectations of consumers and global ecological imperatives. As the e-mobility sector continues to grow, FSW is not only ready to meet this demand but also drive the industry towards new horizons of efficiency and environmental respect.

Lead with Innovation in E-Mobility

Take the first step towards the future, today. Contact us to explore together the infinite possibilities offered by FSW. Your leadership in e-mobility starts here and now.