Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Robert L. Norton, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

John M. Sullivan, Jr., Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Diana A. Lados, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Richard D. Sisson, Jr., Committee Member




Friction Stir Welding (FSW) is a new solid-state welding process that shows great promise for use in the aerospace and transportation industries. One of the primary benefits of this process is that mechanical properties of the base material are not as severely degraded as they are with conventional fusion welding. However, fatigue crack initiation and growth properties of the resulting weld nugget are not fully understood at this time. The primary goal of this project is to characterize the fatigue crack growth properties of friction stir welds in 6061-T6 aluminum as relates to the microstructural evolution of the weld. This was accomplished by producing friction stir welds and testing fatigue crack growth response in different crack orientations with respect to the weld. In addition, residual stress measurements were conducted for all cases, using both the crack compliance and contour methods. The results from the methods were compared in order to evaluate the accuracy of each method. Being an immature technology, the potential for discovery of new applications for the FSW process exist. With this in mind, novel applications of the FSW process, including the addition of particles during welding were explored. The first step was the investigation of property changes that occur when secondary cast phases are refined using the FSW process. The FSW process successfully refined all secondary phases in A380 and A356, producing an increase in hardness. Next, methods for the creation of particle metal matrix composites using FSW will be investigated. Nano-scale alumina particles were successfully added to the matrix and homogenously distributed. Using multiple weld passes through the composite was found to increase the uniformity of particle distribution. However, the alumina particle composite failed to provide any statistically significant hardness increase over the base material. The FSW process was also evaluated for weldability of traditionally difficult alloy systems. FSW was found to show very good weldability for dissimilar cast and wrought alloys, as well as for high-pressure die castings. Lastly, the feasibility of friction stir welding/processing in repairing crack defects in complex structural members in combination with cold-spray technology was determined. Friction Stir processing was used on a cold spray 6061-T6 block, resulting in significant increases in hardness over the base material, as well as a reduction in porosity. In addition, FSP was shown to eliminate crack-type defects in cold spray materials, a finding that has important applications in part repair. The deliverables of this work include an understanding of the fatigue crack growth response of FSW/FSP 6061-T6, as well as a feasibility study exploring novel uses for the FSW/FSP process. In addition, the deliverables include CNC code, fixtures, procedures, and analytical code for the creation and analysis of FSW/FSP joints. This will be important for the continuation of FSW/FSP work at WPI.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Mechanical Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted



Restricted-WPI community only


Residual Stress Measurement, 6061-T6, Friction Stir Welding, Fatigue crack growth

Available for download on Saturday, January 26, 2041