What is Friction Stir Welding?

Friction stir welding (FSW) is defined as a solid-state joining process that utilizes a non-consumable tool to join two workpieces without melting the workpiece material. Heat is generated by friction between the rotating tool and the workpiece material, which results in a softened region near the FSW tool. The tool is traversed along the joint line, mechanically intermixes the two pieces of metal, and forges the hot and softened metal by the mechanical pressure, which is applied by the tool.

The process seems similar to joining clay or dough. It is majorly utilized on wrought or extruded aluminium and particularly for structures that require high weld strength. FSW is capable of joining aluminium alloys, copper alloys, titanium alloys, mild steel, stainless steel, and magnesium alloys. The process is also utilized to weld polymers. Moreover, FSW is capable to join dissimilar metals such as aluminum and magnesium alloys. Applications of FSW can be found in modern shipbuilding, automobile, and aerospace industry.

Basic Principal of Operation

  • A rotating cylindrical tool that has a profiled probe is fed into a butt joint between two clamped workpieces. This is done until the shoulder, which has a larger diameter than the pin, touches the surface of the workpieces.
  • The probe is a bit shorter as compared to the required welding depth, with the tool shoulder placed atop the work surface. After a short period, the tool is moved forward along the joint line at the pre-set welding speed.
  • Frictional heat is generated between the wear-resistant tool and the work pieces. This heat generated by the mechanical mixing process and the adiabatic heat within the material, results in the stirred materials to soften without melting. As the tool is moved forward, a special profile on the probe forces plasticized material from the leading face to the rear, where the high forces help in a forged amalgamation of the weld.
  • This process of the tool traversing along the weld line in a plasticized tubular shaft of metal lead to severe solid-state deformation involving dynamic recrystallization of the base material.

Advantages of FSW over Conventional Fusion-welding Processes

Following are some of the merits of Friction Stir Welding:

  • It offers good mechanical properties as compared to its counterparts.
  • Improved safety due to the absence of toxic fumes or the spatter of molten material.
  • It does not include any consumable materials. A threaded pin made of conventional tool steel, such as hardened H13, can weld over 0.62 miles of aluminium, and no filler or gas shield is required for aluminium.
  • The process is highly automated on simple milling machines. It has lower setup costs and requires less training as compared to other processes.
  • Can operate in all positions (horizontal, vertical, etc.), as there is no weld pool.
  • It offers good weld appearance and generates minimal thickness under/over-matching, thus cutting the requirement for expensive machining after welding.
  • The process can work on thinner materials with same joint strength.
  • It has lower environmental impact as compared to other processes.
  • It leads to sound performance and cost benefits while switching from fusion to friction process.

Marketing Channels for Friction Stir Welding Equipment

Marketing channel decisions are considered to be vital as it impacts the prices of products. Consumers are becoming more demanding and they are familiar with the ways to fulfill their needs. If a consumer can’t get the product to them when, and how they want it, they will go for a competing product. Therefore, the ways by which companies sell has become as crucial. A company partners with distributors to actively promote and sell a product. Companies try to choose not only the best marketing channels but also the channel partners, as they depend on it to provide great products that fly off the shelves.

Companies are partnering with intermediaries not because they necessarily need; however, the intermediaries can help them sell the products better than the company would work alone. In other words, they have some sort of capabilities such as excess large pool of customers, marketing expertise, shipping and handling capabilities, and the ability to lend credit to consumers.

Intermediaries also foster efficiencies by streaming the number of transactions an organization must make, each of which takes time and costs money to perform. The marketing environment is changing drastically, thus a successful channel might become a non-lucrative channel partner in the coming years. Changes in technology, production techniques, and the customers’ needs results in continuous transforming market scenario. This factor results in the need for re-evaluation of marketing channels and the channel partners a company ally themselves with. Moreover, when a company creates a new product, they can’t assume the channels that were utilized in the past are the most lucrative ones.

Direct Marketing Channels

Direct marketing is one of the extensively used channels. Successful direct marketing consist of supply of safe and high-quality products that support the development of a trust relationship between supplier and customers.

Direct marketing for friction stir welding equipment can simplify transaction and offer more reliability to customers. The price goes up due to the presence of middle businesses. Every middle company has their own respective profit goals, which in turn, amplifies the price. Direct marketing is an on-premise channel system and it should know the requirements of the customers and carry on the innovation and reform on the basis of integrating market resources. Direct sales are projected to become a lucrative trend for the market growth.

Indirect Marketing Channels

The indirect marketing strategy aims at channels where there is no direct mode of communication with customers by the companies. Therefore, it is mainly utilized to retain customer, increase customers’ loyalty, and develop more business.

Global Market Scenario for Friction Stir Welding Equipment

According to a detailed scenario by Growth Market Reports (GMR), the global friction stir welding equipment market was valued at USD 186.4 million in 2019 and is projected to reach USD 330.1 million by 2027, expanding at a CAGR of 7.0% during the forecast period, 2020-2027.

Friction stir welding equipment products manufacturers are leveraging and depending on e-commerce network at international level to widen their geographical area of presence. Moreover, the leading manufacturers are maintaining their own sales by providing purchase option on respective websites. The sale of friction stir welding equipment products through e-commerce websites such as Amazon, Walmart, Flipkart, and others is projected to be rising due to increasing preference for these online channels from customers.

COVID-19 Impact on Friction Stir Welding Market

The coronavirus pandemic has led to havoc across the globe. It had pressurized the manufacturing industry to come at a halt. However, the market is slowly recovering. Manufacturers are including technologies to make the overall system less dependent on humans. Besides this, the industries are seeking for local players to meet their requirements.

The outlook of impact can be divided under the following possible scenarios:

  • According to the optimistic scenario, the global friction stir welding equipment market is anticipated to remain under the massive impact of COVID-19 in the first quarter of 2020, and from the second quarter, the demand is expected to rise.
  • Under the probabilistic scenario, the market is expected to remain under the strong influence of the crisis until the second quarter, and from the third quarter onwards, the situation is anticipated to alleviate.

Segmentation Analysis

Based on types, the global friction stir welding equipment market is segmented into desktop equipment, gantry equipment, and others. The desktop equipment segment holds major market share, while gantry equipment segment is expected to expand at substantial rate during the forecast period. In terms of applications, the market is fragmented into aerospace, automotive, shipbuilding, railways, and others. The automotive segment accounted for a major market share in 2019 and is anticipated to grow at considerable CAGR during forecast period.

Regional Perspective of the Market

Based on regions, the global friction stir welding equipment market has been divided into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, and Latin America. The friction stir welding equipment market in Asia Pacific is anticipated to expand at a significant CAGR during the forecast period. The market in India and Japan are also anticipated to expand at substantial pace during the forecast period. Increasing government and private sector investments in the region’s construction industry drives the aerial work platform market in the region.

The government of India is investing heavily on upgrading its public transport infrastructure, consisting of airports, railway stations, and metro stations, thus augmenting construction machinery adoption. The market in Latin America and Middle East & Africa is estimated to expand at a sluggish CAGR due to the implementation of environmental standards and legislation and less consumption of friction stir welding equipment.

Competitive Analysis and Development

Key players in the market include Concurrent Technologies Corp., FOOKE GmbH, Gatwick Technologies Ltd., HFW Solutions LLC, Hitachi High-Technologies Corp., and Others. They are considered as key manufacturers of the market based on their different varieties of product availability, regional presence, better supply chain management system, and the rising demand for the products.

The prominent players in the market are utilizing strategies such as product launches, mergers & acquisitions, and contracts & collaborations. These strategies are expected to deliver effective goods and high-performance goods, supporting market laws, and better client satisfaction.