Honda develops technology to weld steel and aluminium together

Looking to reduce vehicle weight and improve fuel economy, automotive giant Honda has developed a new technology for the continuous welding of steel and aluminum.

The novel method is based on a solid-state joining process called Friction Stir Welding (FSW), in which two metals can be intermixed via mechanical pressure. It works by generating a new and stable metallic bonding between steel and aluminium by moving a rotating tool on the top of the aluminium, which is lapped over the steel with high pressure. As a result, the welding strength becomes equal to or beyond conventional Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding. Honda claims the technology contributes to an improvement in fuel economy by reducing body weight by 25% compared to a conventional steel sub-frame. In addition, electricity consumption during the welding process is said to be reduced by 50%, while the rigidity of the mounting point is increased by 20%. The company has also established a new method to apply the technology to mass-production vehicles. Conventionally, FSW requires use of large equipment, but Honda has developed an FSW continuous welding system applied to a highly versatile industrial robot. This system, it says, can also be used for aluminum-to-aluminum welding and thus, the welding system with the same specifications can be used for production of a full-aluminum sub-frame. Honda plans to adopt the technology first to the North American version of its all-new 2013 Accord before expanding it to other models.