Increasing awareness of global warming and strict government regulations have required the automotive industry to pursue lightweighting as an avenue towards increased vehicle efficiency. Lightweight designs typically rely heavily on multi-material use, which enables selective strengthening of critical areas without additional, unnecessary mass. Joining these materials during manufacturing has proven to be a challenging endeavor.
Friction element welding (FEW) is one process that is capable of joining aluminum to steel. This two-sided joining technique utilizes a fastener to secure the aluminum sheet by creating a friction weld with the steel sheet. While this process is extremely robust for most materials, the FEW process can result in the extrusion of material from underneath the head of the fastener, termed chipping, which leads to corrosion and aesthetic issues. This behavior is typically seen in high strength aluminum alloys, such as 7075. A solution to chipping is implemented herein, which utilizes a modified downholder to conductively heat the aluminum sheet prior to the FEW process. This heating method was explored experimentally and through various numerical analyses. This method was found to be a viable option for relieving chipping. While the process time was only increased by a maximum of 2.5 seconds, faster, more localized heating should be targeted for future work.