Friction stir welding is a preferred solid state welding process for Al/Fe joints, and in friction stir lap welding, the plunge depth is the most critical parameter for joint strength. We compared three plunge depth control methods, namely conventional position control, offset position control, and deflection compensation control in the friction stir lap welding of 3 mm-thick Al 5083-O alloy over 1.2 mm-thick DP 590 steel. The desired plunge depth was 0.2 mm into the steel sheet. However, the pin did not reach the steel surface under conventional position control due to deflection of the vertical axis of the welding system. In offset position control, an additional offset of 0.35 mm could achieve the desired plunge depth with considerable accuracy. Nevertheless, a gradual increase of the plunge depth along the longitudinal direction was unavoidable, due to an in-situ decrease of the material yield strengths. In deflection compensation control, the deflection is estimated by the coaxially measured plunging force and the force-deflection relationship, and then corrected by feedback control. Thus, the plunge depth is stabilized along the longitudinal direction and is precisely controlled with a 3.3-μm standard deviation of error during the tool traverse phase. There is also a consistent bias of 32 μm caused by the resolution of the measuring system, and it can be easily calibrated in the feedback control system.
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