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Researchers from PNNL evaluate a lightweight aluminum door inner panel that was produced from a tailor-welded blank joined with high speed friction stir welding. PNNL and its partners applied the well-known technique of friction stir welding in a new way: for joining varying thicknesses of lightweight aluminum for the automotive industry. Friction stir welding overcomes the challenges of traditional laser welding, enabling vehicle manufacturers to use more lightweight materials in more vehicle components, thus improving fuel efficiency. The technology transfer, involving General Motors and other commercial companies in the entire supply chain, won an Outstanding Partnership Award in the 2015 Federal Laboratory Consortium Far West Region Awards.

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Document Title: Friction stir welding—aluminum door panel
Category: Materials Science
Media Type: Photos
Date of Image/Photo: June 26, 2015
Background: The automotive industry has historically used a heavy material, steel, in the high-volume production of vehicles. In order to significantly reduce the weight of today’s vehicle fleet to achieve greater fuel efficiency and fewer emissions—while also maintaining vehicle integrity and passenger safety—a lighter-weight material such as aluminum must be incorporated in components such as doors and other body panels. However, traditional laser welding technologies used by the automotive industry have resulted in porosity and other defects in aluminum alloys, which significantly limits the formability of the material in subsequent metal working operations such as stamping, where two dies come together to “smash” materials into one form (e.g., a door panel). To address the need for more effective and successful distribution of lightweight materials in vehicle production, a team of government, national laboratory, and industry experts joined forces to develop and deploy a friction stir welding technology for automotive use. This solid-state welding technology enables joining of aluminum sheets without melting the material, which ultimately enables the stamping of high-quality car components, or “tailor-welded blanks,” made of varying thicknesses of aluminum alloy. At the American Energy and Manufacturing Competitiveness Summit in September 2014 in Washington, D.C., the team demonstrated the difference between a production Buick Regal door weighing more than 40 lb and a new aluminum prototype door weighing approximately 25 lb. Partners were PNNL, General Motors (GM), component supplier TWB Company LLC, and material supplier Alcoa, supported by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy-Vehicle Technologies Office. The technology transfer won an Outstanding Partnership Award in the 2015 Federal Laboratory Consortium Far West Region Awards. A video about the friction stir welding process and technology transfer effort is located at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUyLHQxRHKo. The PNNL news release is here: http://www.pnnl.gov/news/release.aspx?id=4200.
URL of this page: http://picturethis.pnl.gov/picturet.nsf/by+id/DRAE-,2L_N5

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