The objective of this research is to develop a closed-loop control system for robotic friction stir welding (FSW) that simultaneously controls force and temperature in order to maintain weld quality under various process disturbances. FSW is a solid-state joining process enabling welds with excellent metallurgical and mechanical properties, as well as significant energy consumption and cost savings compared to traditional fusion welding processes.

During FSW, several process parameter and condition variations (thermal constraints, material properties, geometry, etc.) are present. The FSW process can be sensitive to these variations, which are commonly present in a production environment; hence, there is a significant need to control the process to assure high weld quality. Reliable FSW for a wide range of applications will require closed-loop control of certain process parameters.

A linear multi-input-multi-output process model has been developed that captures the dynamic relations between two process inputs (commanded spindle speed and commanded vertical tool position) and two process outputs (interface temperature and axial force).

A closed-loop controller was implemented that combines temperature and force control on an industrial robotic FSW system. The performance of the combined control system was demonstrated with successful command tracking and disturbance rejection. Within a certain range, desired axial forces and interface temperatures are achieved by automatically adjusting the spindle speed and the vertical tool position at the same time. The axial force and interface temperature is maintained during both thermal and geometric disturbances and thus weld quality can be maintained for a variety of conditions in which each control strategy applied independently could fail.

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