Customer Support

How much will it cost you to weld your part by FSW?

Friction Stir Welding costs compared with other processes

In the quest of more efficient and cost-effective manufacturing solutions, FSW stands out as a revolutionary alternative to traditional welding techniques. As industries continually seek methods to reduce production costs while maintaining high-quality standards, the importance of innovative welding approaches becomes paramount. FSW offers distinct economic advantages over conventional methods such as TIG, MIG, brazing or Electron Beam Welding (EBW). This article explores how FSW not enhances the quality of welds but also significantly reduces costs associated with the welding of challenging alloys and complex applications. By analyzing the direct and indirect cost benefits of FSW, we can understand its growing preference in industrial settings where efficiency and cost reduction are critical.

what is the most cost effective welding process?

FSW process: how does it work?

Friction Stir Welding (FSW) is a solid state-joining process that has revolutionized the way engineers and manufacturers join metals. Unlike traditional welding techniques, FSW does note involves melting the material, thereby offering unique advantages in terms of strength and integrity of the joint.

Developed by The Welding Institute (TWI) in the UK in 1991, FSW has found extensive applications in aerospace, automotive, and shipbuilding industries.

The process of Friction Stir Welding (FSW)

Friction Stir welding employs a non-consumable rotating tool to join materials without melting them. The rotation of the tool generates heat through friction, softening the material into a plastic-like state that allows it to be mixed at the joint. As the tool moves along the joint line, it stirs the material, facilitating a solid-state bond as the material cools and re-solidifies behind the tool.

Advantages of Friction Stir Welding

FSW offers several benefits over traditional welding techniques. It results in joints with enhanced mechanical properties such as strength and ductility, produces less distortion due to its solid-state nature, and can join dissimilar materials. Additionally, it is environmentally friendly as it does not emit gases and does not require flux.

Applications of Friction Stir Welding

This innovative welding technique is widely used in industries where material integrity is crucial, such as aerospace for joining aluminium in aircraft structures, and automotive for assembling lightweight alloy components. The ability of the FSW to maintain the properties of the base materials while providing a strong joint makes it valuable for manufacturing light and efficient structures: die cast, cold plate, stiffened panel, aluminium tank, flange builder, vacuum chamber, mounting bracket, battery tray, etc.

Comparing FSW to traditional welding techniques

Friction Stir Welding vs. TIG welding

Friction Stir Welding (FSW) significantly surpasses TIG welding, particularly when working with aluminium alloys. Unlike TIG welding, FSW does not involve the melting of the material, thus preventing the common defects associated with the molten pool, such as porosity and thermal distortion. This feature helps in preserving the intrinsic properties of aluminium alloys, ensuring the integrity and strength of the joint. Furthermore, FSW is a more ecological option since it does not require fille materials or emit harmful gases. This combination of advantages makes FSW a more reliable and suitable choice for high-strength applications where precision and durability are crucial.

Friction Stir Welding vs. MIG welding

FSW offers a superior alternative to MIG welding by eliminating the need to melt the material during the joining process. This characteristic not only minimizes common welding defects like porosities and cracking but also preserves the original properties of the alloys being joined. As a result, FSW provides a more economical and eco-friendly solution, reducing waste and avoiding the use of additional gases and materials. This makes FSW particularly advantageous for modern industrial challenges, where cost-efficiency and environmental sustainability are increasingly important alongside reliable and robust welding performance.

tig welding cost per inch

Friction Stir Welding vs. Brazing

Friction Stir Welding significantly outshines brazing in many aspects of industrial applications, especially when dealing with challenging alloys. FSW minimizes thermal distortion and stress, typically associated with the high temperature of brazing. This process creates stronger and purer joints by mixing the materials directly without melting them and without the need for any consumables such as filler metals or fluxes. As a result, FSW emerges as a cost-effective and eco-friendly choice, eliminating the environmental load and reducing material costs, making it highly suitable for high precision and high-strength welding in industrial settings.

Friction Stir Welding vs. EBW

FSW offers distinct advantages over Electron Beam Welding (EBW) across several key areas of industrial fabrication. Unlike EBW, FSW does not require vacuum conditions and can be performed in open air, making it simpler and less costly in terms of equipment and operation. FSW facilitates the joining of thicker materials more easily and is inherently safer, as it does not involve X-ray emissions, a notable concern with EBW. Additionally, FSW supports a wider range of materials and ensures clean, high-quality welds without the risk of contamination. These attributes establish FSW as a superior choice in industrial welding, where versatility, safety, and cost-effectiveness are paramount.

EBW welding cost

Economic insights: how much does welding cost?

Investment cost: FSW vs. MIG, TIG, EBW and vacuum brazing

FSW head for CNC machineIncorporating a FSW head into CNC cost less than €100,000; significantly cutting costs versus dedicated machines, with FSW tools as the sole consumable and guaranteed quality eliminating non-conformity expenses.
TIG/MIG equipmentPrices range from €2,500 to over €15,000, with higher consumable costs and defect risks, leading to significant non-quality expenses.
Electron Beam Welding (EBW)Small to medium EBW systems cost €300,000 to €500,000 for research or limited production, with high-volume industrial setups exceeding €1 million.
Vacuum brazing furnaceThe purchase of a vacuum brazing furnace can range from €200,000 for simpler, smaller models to over €1,000,000 for large-capacity or specialized equipment.

Operational costs: FSW vs. MIG, TIG, EBW and vacuum brazing

friction stir welding operational costs

Operational costs of Friction Stir Welding

Friction Stir Welding (FSW) offers several operational cost advantages that make it a compelling choice for efficient manufacturing processes:

  • FSW tools: the tools used in FSW are not only affordable but also durable, capable of welding between 800 to 1500 meters of material with a single tool, depending on the type of material being welded.
  • Quality control: the high-quality joints produced by FSW significantly reduce the need for rework and repairs further driving down operational costs.
  • Energy consumption: FSW is characterized by its low energy consumption, which translates to minimal operational costs, although these costs are still notable and should be considered in the overall efficiency analysis.
TIG MIG operational costs

Operational MIG and TIG welding costs

TIG and MIG welding are popular manufacturing process, each with its own set of operational costs that impact overall efficiency:

  • Shielding gas: both TIG and MIG welding require inert gases, such as argon or an argon-helium mix, which can be costly. These costs vary depending on the amount of gas consumed, which is directly influenced by the duration of welding.
  • Tungsten electrodes (TIG): in TIG welding, tungsten electrodes are essential, but they wear out over time and must be frequently replaced, adding to the operational costs.
  • Energy consumption: TIG and MIG welding are energy-intensive techniques. The high electricity consumption required for these processes translates into significant energy costs.
  • Filler materials: both techniques require additional materials, such as welding wire of rods, to form the weld joint. These filler materials represent a recurring expense that contributes to the total cost of operations.
EBW operational cost

Operational costs of EBW – Electron Beam Welding

Electron Beam Welding (EBW) is a sophisticated process that, while effective, incurs specific operational costs crucial for its performance:

  • Chamber vacuum: EBW requires a high vacuum within the welding chamber, maintained by energy-consuming vacuum pumps. These systems not only require substantial energy to operate but also need regular maintenance to ensure proper functionality.
  • Equipment maintenance: the maintenance of vacuum systems, electron sources, and control systems in EBW is complex and requires interventions by specialized technicians, adding to the operational expenses.
  • Energy consumption: the process of generating a focused electron beam for welding is highly energy-intensive, significantly contribution to the overall energy costs of operation.
  • Quality and inspection: EBW demands rigorous quality inspections and testing, such as radiography and ultrasound, to ensure weld integrity. These quality control measures are crucial but come with high costs, impacting the total operational expenditure.
vacuum operational cost

Vacuum brazing: operational costs

Vacuum brazing is controlled and precise joining technique that, while offering high-quality results, involves several operational costs that must be carefully managed:

  • Vacuum system maintenance: the process relies on vacuum pumps and control systems, which require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance and prevent system failures. This maintenance is crucial for sustaining the necessary vacuum conditions.
  • Brazing materials: the costs for brazing materials can vary significantly depending on the type of metal and the complexity of the assembly. These materials may include sheets, pastes, or specially formulated alloy performs, each contributing to the overall cost.
  • Quality control: ensuring the integrity of the brazed joints necessitates extensive inspections and tests. This rigorous quality control process is essential but adds to the operational expenditures.
  • Energy consumption: the furnaces used in vacuum brazing require substantial energy to achieve and maintain the high temperatures necessary for effective brazing, leading to significant energy costs.
  • Part preparation: the preparation process, including the cleaning and precise positioning of parts and brazing materials, is labor-intensive and costly. This stage is critical to achieving the desired joint quality and alignment in the final product.

Clamping system cost: FSW vs. MIG, TIG, EBW and vacuum brazing

FSW head for CNC machineIt highly depends on part complexity and can go from standard elements to fully automated dedicated clamping device. It must include backing if the part is not self-supported, to take over Z load, and mechanical stops to prevent it from moving.
TIG/MIGVery simple clamping system with standard elements, as no mechanical loads involved.
Dedicated clamping system can sometimes be involved.
Electron Beam Welding (EBW)The gap requirement is very tight. Then apart from the part preparation process, it needs an effective clamping system to keep the gap bridging low.
Vacuum brazingThe gap requirement is very tight. Then apart from the part preparation process, it needs an effective clamping system to keep the gap bridging low.

Case study: cold plate in aerospace sector

Cold plate manufacturing for one plane (12 units) – Financial analysis:

how much should i expect to pay to weld aluminum

Stirweld is ~10x less expensive compared to conventional techniques.

Cold plate manufacturing for one plane (12 units) – Environmental analysis:

welding environmental analysis

FSW reduces carbon footprint by 1,000x compared to vacuum brazing. Stirweld solution generates less CO2 emissions and emits no fume or toxic gas than traditional welding methods, contributing to a more environmentally friendly welding process.

While each welding and brazing technique presents its own set of advantages and applications, the operational costs associated with these methods can significantly influence their suitability and efficiency in industrial applications. Friction Stir Welding (FSW) emerges as a particularly cost-effective option due to its minimal consumable use and low energy requirements. In contrast, techniques like TIG, MIG, and Electron Bean Welding, although widely used, tend to incur higher operational costs due to their need for expensive consumables, high energy consumption, and intensive maintenance. Vacuum brazing also shows a high-cost factor, especially in terms of energy use and part preparation. Ultimately, the choice of welding or brazing technology should be guided by a comprehensive understanding of both the technical requirements and the cost implications, ensuring that the selected method aligns with the overall goals of quality, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness in manufacturing processes.

Welding process cost comparison

What are the costs of welding?

Gain Deeper Insights into Friction Stir Welding Costs

Interested in a deeper dive into the costs associated with Friction Stir Welding compared to other welding techniques? Watch our comprehensive webinar titled “How much will it cost you to weld your part by FSW? Comparing to other welding techniques” for expert insights and detailed cost analysis.

Watch the replay now