FSW and FSSW in the Automotive Industry

Friction Stir Welding and Friction Stir Spot Welding are used in the automotive industry by many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and their suppliers.


One of the earliest developments in this sector addressed friction stir welding of 'Tailor Welded Blanks' in 1999 (see video).

Rührreibschweißen von Tailor Welded Blanks

2:42 min, © TWI Ltd, 13 February 2013


Tailor Welded Blanks are flat metal sheets, which first welded from dissimilar materials or varying thicknesses, and subsequently deep-formed to make automotive body panels. In a Group Sponsored Project at EWI in Columbus, Ohio, and TWI in Cambridge, UK, the companies BMW, DaimlerChrysler, GM, Ford, Rover, Tower Automotive and Volvo investigated 1999 friction stir welding for making blanks by welding thin Sheets to thick sheets. 


Sheets of 1.5 mm and 3.0mm thickness were clamped side by side onto an jig, which was tilted by 9°. They were welded by a rotating tool, of which the axis was also tilted by 9°. With the large, modular FSW machine FW22 at TWI the door inner panels of car doors were welded in a laboratory environment. These were subsequently deepformed at BMW. They were 1,5 kg or 30 % lighter than those made from conventional steel.


Applications to passenger cars:

  • Boot lids and doors in Japanese cars
  • Wheel rims in Australia, China and Norway
  • Battery tubs in French and German electric car

In lorries: 

  • Tippers and tail gates
  • Telescopic cranes and ladders of fire engines
  • Tanks of articulated silo trailers 

Published Industrial Applications of FSW in the Automotive Industry

Friction stir welded aluminium panel by Riftec and HAI for the Mercedes SL - R231

Friction stir welded aluminium panel by Riftec and HAI for the Mercedes SL - R231

© AluStir, 2018


The following applictions of using friction stir welding or friction stir spot welding in the automotive industry have been published:

  • 2020 Tesla Model Y (Octovalve and battery box)[9][10]
  • 2020 Rapid Technic AG for Designwerk AG (battery cooling plates for E-trucks)[28]
  • 2018 Morgan Aero 8 (Complex HFQ® panel with variable tailored thickness of 3-2-3mm)[5][6]
  • 2017 TWB Company (tailor welded blanks for Ford door panel inner)
  • 2017 Ningde Tianming New Energy Auto Parts (battery pack box and case)[22]
  • 2015 Acura TLX (cast-aluminum and steel 'hybrid' front subframe)[35]
  • 2013 Honda Accord (front subframe)[1][4]
  • 2012 Mercedes SL - R231 (tailor welded blank and three box profiled floor sections on each side of the transmission tunnel)[4][7][27]
  • 2012 Land Rover L405 (subframe mounts)[4]
  • 2012 Benteler (Battery tray for Renault Zoé)[17][18]
  • 2011 McLaren 12 C (structural part)[2]
  • 2010 Toyota Prius (rear hatch)[1]
  • 2008 Delphi Automotive (sealed enclosures and heat exchangers for BMW and Chrysler)[14]
  • 2008 Fundo Wheels (aluminium wheels for Volvo XC 90)
  • 2007 Riftec for Audi (B-pillar of Audi R8 Spyder)[1][15]
  • 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata (trunk and hood)[1][23][24][25]
  • 2005 Ford GT (part of space frame)[1]
  • 2005 Pierburg (EGR cooler)[11]
  • ca 2005 Showa Denko (suspension arms)[19]
  • ca 2004 Simmons Wheels and UT Alloy works (aluminium wheels)[20]
  • 2004 Mazda RX-8 (rear doors and hood)[1][8][23][24][25]
  • 2003 Panoz Esperante (structural part)[3]
  • 2003 Lincoln Town Car L (suspension components)[1][21]
  • 2001 Volvo V70 (rear seat frame)[1]

FSW Development Studies in the Automotive Sector

Lotus Engineering Inc: 2020 Model-Year, Mass-Reduced Crossover Vehicle, 2012

Lotus Engineering Inc. created in 2012 a theoretical model and analyzed the structural and impact performance of a low-mass vehicle body-in-white on behalf and under a contract with the California Air Resources Board (ARB) in a study on 'Evaluating the Structure and Crashworthiness of a 2020 Model-Year, Mass-Reduced Crossover Vehicle Using FEA Modeling'.[34]


Lotus Engineering  developed a vehicle comparable to the 2009 Toyota Venza; this model had equivalent dimensions, utility objectives, and passenger and interior volume. The projected mass reduction for the 2020 model year was 38 % less mass for all systems except powertrain.[34]


Benchmark: 2009-2011 Toyota Venza

Courtesy of IFCAR, public domain


Lotus created the body of this vehicle model using the exterior styling and other non-body components from the 2010 Lotus High Development vehicle. This was derived from the baseline Toyota Venza, for which low-volume tooling was used due to the Toyota Venza volume of 60,000 units per year.


Friction spot joining (FSJ) was used to join the majority of the aluminum components using a ‘Friction Stir Unit’ that had been developed by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Key advantages are cost (1/20th of a resistance spot weld), weight (in comparison with rivets or fasteners) and no degradation of the parent material properties (in comparison with fusion welding). The estimated FSJ cycle times are given in the timing sheets of this report, e.g. in Station SA70 (pages A 14 and A37):[34]

Robot Process[34] Timing Timing
Robot SA70R10

Drop end effector to storage

and pick Friction Stir Unit

16 sec  
Robot SA70R10 Friction Stir join 10 locations   10 sec
Robot SA70R10 Friction Stir join 12 locations   12 sec
Robot SA70R10 Friction Stir join 6 locations   6 sec
Robot SA70R10

Drop Friction Stir Unit

and pick up end effector

16 sec  
Robot SA70R20

Drop end effector to storage

and pick Friction Stir Unit

15 sec  
Robot SA70R20 Friction Stir 10 locations in station SA70-40   8 sec
Robot SA70R20 Friction Stir 25 locations in station SA70-40   30 sec
Robot SA70R20

Drop Friction Stir Unit

and pick up resistance spot welding gun)[TBC ?]

15 sec   



Excluding materials handling time 62 sec   66 sec

Keio University: Eliica  (Electric Lithium-Ion battery Car), 2003

2003 Eliica  (Electric Lithium-Ion battery Car) by Keio University 

© AnetodeCC BY-SA 3.0


  1. K.C. Colwell: Two Metals Enter, One Leaves: The Miracle of Friction Stir Welding. Expect to see more of this technique used in vehicle construction moving forward. 15 May 2013.
  2. Kuka: Component, Cell, Solution & Service from one Single Source.
  3. C.B. Smith, J.F. Heinrichs, W. A. Crusan (Friction Stir Link) and J. Levereett (Panoz Auto Development): FSW stirs up welding process competition. 2003. 
  4. Friction Stir Welding new technology and repairability. Thatcham Insight - Automotive insight for Members, No.5,  January 2013 (more quickly retrievable on DocPlayer).
  5. TWI combines heritage with innovation for the Morgan Motor Company. 17 July 2018.
  6. HFQ® Friction Stir Welded (FSW) Cross Member.
  7. Amarilys Ben Attar: FSW Generalities and activities at Institut de Soudure.
  8. John Sprovieri: Friction Stir Spot Welding. Assembly Mag, 7 April 2016 (siehe auch pdf-Datei). 
  9. Munro Live: Model Y, E(pisode) 23 - Octovalve Manufacturing Processes, HVAC Summary, 3D Printing, Patreon Giveaway.
  10. Lynn Brown: Dismantling and Analysis of Vehicles to Develop Optimal Applications. 25 February 2019.
  11. Success Story, 3D friction stir welding and deburring of complex aluminium die-cast components, Pierburg AG.   
  12. Uwe Krawinkel & Oliver Thomer: Friction stir welded exhaust gas recirculation coolers. ATZproduktion worldwide, volume 2, 2019, p14–17.
  13. Mazda Develops World's First Steel and Aluminum Joining Technology Using Friction Heat. 2 June 2005.
  14. Welding method yields leakproof joints - Delphi Automotive. Automotive News, 14 October 2013, p. 34.
  15. Axel Meyer: Lightweighting Technology Selection Based on a Material and Process Benchmark - An Aluminium Extrusion Case Study Successfullly Transferred into Series Production. Automotive Lightweight Procurement Symposium, 5-7 October 2014 in Düsseldorf.
  16. A. F. von Strombeck, Rührreibschweißen von Hohlkammerprofilen. Lightweight Design 6,  2012, p. 44–47. 
  17. TRA-C industrie devient leader européen dans la définition, la réalisation et la mise en place de solutions intégrées de soudage FSW. Soudage et techniques connexes, Vol 67, N° 95/06, May/June 2013.
  18. TRA-C Industrie devient leader Europeen dans la definition, la realisation et la mise en place de  solutions integrees du soudage par friction. Dossier de presse 2013.
  19. Wayne M. Thomas, Stephan W. Kallee, David G. Staines and Peter J. Oakley: Friction Stir Welding - Process Variants and Developments in the Automotive Industry. 2006 SAE World Congress, 3-7 April 2006, Cobo Center, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
  20. Stephan W. Kallee: Friction Stir Welding in Series Production. Translation of German article published in 'Automobil Produktion', December 2004.
  21. Stephan W. Kallee, John M. Kell, Wayne M. Thomas und Christoph S. Wiesner: Development and Implementation of Innovative Joining Processes in the Automotive Industry.  DVS Annual Welding Conference 'Große Schweißtechnische Tagung', Essen, Germany, 12-14 September 2005.
  22. Company profile of Topmaths Electronic Technology Co Ltd.
  23. Mazda Develops World’s First Steel and Aluminum Joining Technology Using Friction Heat. 2 June 2005
  24. Friction Heat Welding - Mazda has developed the world's first direct spot joining technology to join steel and aluminum.
  25. Mazda Develops Steel and Aluminum Joining Technology Using Friction Heat. 1 June 2005.   
  26. Applications of friction stir welding. American Welding Society. 8 November 2019.
  27. 2012 International Aluminum Extrusion Design Competition: Grand Prize: Floor Panel Structure for Mercedes Benz SL by Harald Heinemann from Martinrea Honsel GmbH and Günther Johanntokrax from Mercedes Benz AG.
  28. Rapid Technic AG: E-LKW mit Rapid Kühlplatte - Wir gratulieren unserem langjährigen Kunden Designwerk für den nationalen Prix Watt d'Or! 10. Januar 2020.
  29. TRA-C Industrie mise sur le soudage FSW. Soudage et techniques connexes, Sept/Oct 2017, Vol 71, Nr. 09/10, ISSN 0246-0963.
  30. Michael W. Danyo (Ford), Dawn Stubleski (TWB Company) and Beck Oiness (Ford): Aluminum Linear Friction Stir Welded Blanks
  31. Kunkel, G.A. and Y. Hovanski, From the Lab to Your Driveway: Aluminum Tailor-Welded Blanks. Welding Journal, 2016. 95(8): p. 36-39.  (images of GM door inner panel)
  32. Hovanski, Y., et al., High-Speed Friction-Stir Welding to Enable Aluminum Tailor-Welded Blanks. Jom, 2015. 67(5): p. 1045-1053.  (development for GM door inner panel)
  33. Hovanski, Y.L., T.; Marshall, D.; Upadhyay, P., High Volume Production Validation of Aluminum Tailor-Welded Blanks, in 5th International Conference on Scientific and Technical Advances on Friction Stir Welding & Processing. 2017: Metz, France.   (Ford Expedition rear door supports.
  34. Lotus Engineering Inc: Evaluating the Structure and Crashworthiness of a 2020 Model-Year, Mass-Reduced Crossover Vehicle Using FEA Modeling. 31. August 2012. S. 36.
  35. Honda Media Newsroom: 2015 Acura TLX - Chassis. 4 August 2014.