The present study was carried out to evaluate how the friction stir spot welding (FSSW) process parameters affect the temperature distribution in the welding region, the welding forces and the mechanical properties of the joints. The experimental study was performed by means of a CNC machine tool obtaining FSSW lap joints on AA7050 aluminum alloy plates. Three thermocouples were inserted into the samples to measure the temperatures at different distance from the joint axis during the whole FSSW process. Experiments was repeated varying the process parameters, namely rotational speed, axial feed rate and plunging depth. Axial welding forces were measured during the tests using a piezoelectric load cell, while the mechanical properties of the joints were evaluated by executing shear tests on the specimens. The correlation found between process parameters and joints properties, allowed to identify the best technological window. The data collected during the experiments were used to validate a simulation model of the FSSW process, too. The model was set up using a 2D approach for the simulation of a 3D problem, in order to guarantee a very simple and practical solution for achieving results in a very short time. A specific external routine for the calculation of the thermal energy due to friction acting between pin and sheet was developed. An index for the prediction of the joint mechanical properties using the FEM simulations was finally presented and validated.
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