The requirement of increased fuel economy standards has forced automakers to incorporate multi-materials into their current steel dominant vehicles in order to lightweight their fleets. Technologies such as Self Piercing Rivets and Flow Drill Screws are currently implemented for joining aluminum to high-strength steels but only one-technology is viable for joining aluminum to ultra-high-strength steels without pre-holes, namely Friction Element Welding. This study is aimed at investigating how variations in the cleaning and welding steps of the Friction Element Welding process influence joint quality. A design of experiment was conducted to understand the influence of key process parameters (endload, spindle RPM, and relative distance) during these steps on the pre-defined joint quality metrics of head height, weld zone diameter, under-head fill area, temperature, and microhardness. It is found that cleaning step parameters have the greatest influence on process time and energy consumption, while welding step parameters greatly influence maximum torque on the element, head height, and underhead fill, with both cleaning force and weld force influencing weld diameter, all parameters influence temperature.

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