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Friction stir welding, and how is it used to manufacture liquid cold plates?

Views: 9     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2023-09-16      Origin: Site


Friction stir welding (FSW) is an innovative joining process that has revolutionized the manufacturing industry. It offers numerous advantages over traditional welding methods, such as improved mechanical properties, enhanced productivity, and reduced defects. In recent years, FSW has found its application in the manufacturing of liquid cold plates, which are crucial components in the cooling systems of various electronic devices. This blog post aims to understand friction stir welding comprehensively and how it is utilized to manufacture liquid cold plates.

Copper liquid cold plateCustomized liquid cold plate

What is Friction Stir Welding?

Invented and developed by The Welding Institute (TWI) in the 1990s, Friction Stir Welding (FSW) is a solid state welding process. Unlike conventional welding techniques that involve melting the workpieces, FSW achieves a solid-state bond using a specially designed tool to generate frictional heat and mechanically stir the materials together.

The FSW process involves several key components and steps:

Components of Friction Stir Welding

1. Tool: The FSW tool is a specially designed rotating cylindrical probe made from a rigid material, typically tungsten carbide or polycrystalline cubic boron nitride (PCBN). It consists of a shoulder and a search, with the latter having a unique geometry that facilitates material movement.

2. Workpieces: The joined materials, such as metals or thermoplastics, are called workpieces. These can be in the form of sheets, plates, or even pipes.

3. Fixture: A fixture is used to securely hold the workpieces in place during welding, ensuring proper alignment and minimizing distortion.

4. Clamping System: A clamping system applies the necessary force to hold the workpieces against the fixture and prevent movement during welding.

Steps of Friction Stir Welding

1. Setup: The workpieces are prepared by cleaning debris and applying clamping fixtures to hold them in place.

2. Tool Insertion: The FSW tool is inserted into a pre-drilled hole or placed on the joint's surface.

3. Rotation and Traverse: The tool is rotated and traversed along the joint line at a controlled speed and pressure. As the tool moves, it generates frictional heat, softens the material, and creates a plasticized region.

4. Material Stirring: The rotating probe of the tool mechanically stirs and mixes the softened material from both workpieces, forming a solid-state bond.

5. Cooling: After the tool passes, the joint cools and solidifies, resulting in a solid and defect-free weld.

The Advantages of Friction Stir Welding

Friction stir welding offers several advantages over traditional welding methods, making it a preferred choice for many applications. Let's explore some of the key benefits:

  1.  Improved Mechanical Properties

FSW produces joints with excellent mechanical properties due to the unique solid-state nature of the process. The absence of melting and rapid cooling associated with conventional welding methods minimizes the formation of defects, such as porosity, cracks, and solidification microstructures. As a result, FSW joints exhibit enhanced strength, fatigue resistance, and elongation properties.

2. Reduced Distortion

Conventional welding often causes significant distortion due to the high heat applied and cooling required. In FSW, the heat generation is localized, and the relatively low temperature of the process minimizes distortion. This characteristic is particularly advantageous for thin-walled structures, such as liquid cold plates, where dimensional stability is crucial.

3. Increased Productivity

FSW is a highly efficient process that offers increased productivity compared to traditional welding methods. Since the materials are not melted, there is no need for consumables like filler materials or shielding gases. Additionally, FSW can be conducted at high speeds, enabling rapid production rates and reducing manufacturing lead times.

4. Versatility

One of FSW's outstanding features is that it can join many different materials, including aluminium, copper, stainless steel and even dissimilar metals. This versatility makes it ideal for various industries, from automotive and aerospace to electronics and renewable energy. The ability to weld different materials is particularly relevant in manufacturing liquid cold plates, where the cooling channels are typically made of copper, and the baseplate is often aluminum.

5. Environmental Benefits

The solid-state nature of FSW eliminates the need for potentially harmful shielding gases, fluxes, or filler materials. This aspect makes FSW an environmentally friendly welding process, reducing the generation of hazardous fumes and decreasing the overall carbon footprint.

Friction Stir Welding in Liquid Cold Plate Manufacturing

Liquid cold plates are essential components in the cooling systems of electronic devices, where they efficiently transfer heat generated by high-power members to a cooling liquid, such as water or coolant. Friction stir welding has emerged as a preferred method for manufacturing liquid cold plates due to its unique advantages and suitability for joining dissimilar materials. Let's dive deeper into the FSW process as applied to liquid cold plate manufacturing:

Design and Material Selection

The first step in manufacturing a liquid cold plate using FSW is determining the design and selecting suitable materials. The design should consider factors such as thermal performance requirements, pressure drop limitations, and compatibility with the cooling liquid. Aluminum is commonly used for the baseplate due to its excellent thermal conductivity and lightweight properties. Copper is often selected for the cooling channels due to its superior heat transfer capabilities.

Preparing the Workpieces

Once the design and material selection are finalized, the baseplate and cooling channels are prepared for the FSW process. The joint surfaces must be cleaned and free from contaminants to ensure a high-quality weld. Pre-drilled holes may be necessary to facilitate the FSW tool insertion, depending on the material thickness and design.

Fixturing and Clamping

Fixturing and clamping systems are employed to ensure proper alignment and minimize distortion during the welding process. These fixtures securely hold the workpieces and apply the necessary force to maintain appropriate contact between the FSW tool and the joint line.

Friction Stir Welding Process

With the workpieces properly prepared and fixtured, the FSW process can begin. IF REQUIRED, the FSW tool is positioned on the joint line and inserted into any pre-drilled holes. The tool is then rotated, and the traverse speed is controlled to achieve the desired dwell time in each standard section.

As the FSW tool moves along the joint line, it generates frictional heat through the rotation and applies downward pressure to soften the material. The tool also mechanically stirs the cushioned material from both workpieces, creating a defect-free weld.

Post-Welding Inspection and Finishing

After the FSW process, the liquid cold plate undergoes post-welding inspection and finishing steps. This includes visual inspection for defects, such as incomplete bonding, cracks, or surface imperfections. Non-destructive testing techniques, such as ultrasonic or X-ray inspection, may also be employed to ensure the integrity of the weld.

Once the weld quality is verified, any excess material or rough edges are removed, and the liquid cold plate is prepared for further integration into the cooling system.

The Contribution of Reliable FSW Liquid Cold Plate Manufacturers

Reliable FSW liquid cold plate manufacturers play a crucial role in advancing the manufacturing of liquid cooling systems for various industries. These manufacturers bring significant contributions to the FSW fluid cold plate manufacturing process, including:

Expertise and Experience

Established FSW liquid cold plate manufacturers have extensive expertise and experience in the design and manufacture of high quality cooling solutions. They have a deep understanding of the FSW process, material characteristics, and thermal management requirements, enabling them to create optimized designs that meet the specific needs of their clients.

Customization and Application-Specific Designs

Reliable FSW liquid cold plate manufacturers recognize that different applications have unique cooling requirements. To ensure optimum thermal performance, pressure drop and form factor compatibility, they work closely with customers to develop custom fluid cold plate designs tailored to specific applications.

Quality Assurance and Testing

To guarantee the quality and reliability of their products, reputable FSW liquid cold plate manufacturers implement stringent quality assurance processes throughout the manufacturing cycle. This includes rigorous material selection, in-process inspections, and comprehensive post-production testing. Adhering to industry standards and utilizing advanced testing techniques ensures that each liquid cold plate meets or exceeds the required performance parameters.

Continuous Research and Development

Leading FSW liquid cold plate manufacturers continuously invest in research and development to improve their products and stay up-to-date with technological advancements. They collaborate with industry experts, invest in state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment, and explore innovative materials and manufacturing techniques. This commitment to innovation allows them to provide cutting-edge liquid cooling solutions for emerging industries and applications.


Friction stir welding (FSW) has emerged as a game-changing joining process in the manufacturing industry. Its unique ability to create solid-state bonds with enhanced mechanical properties, reduced distortion, and increased productivity has made it a preferred choice for various applications. FSW offers distinct advantages in liquid cold plate manufacturing by enabling the reliable joining of dissimilar materials such as aluminum and copper. Reliable FSW liquid cold plate manufacturers, leverage their expertise, customization capabilities, quality assurance processes, and dedication to research and development to push the boundaries of thermal management technology. As the demand for efficient cooling solutions grows, FSW liquid cold plate manufacturing remains at the forefront of innovation, delivering reliable and high-performance solutions for an increasingly diverse range of industries and applications.


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