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Aluminum-to-Steel Weld Successful Using Custom Parts as Robotic Welding Head

photo of FANUC robot mounted VFAW system welding aluminum and steelOhio State's proprietary VFAW technology successfully welds aluminum to steel with the FANUC S-430i F robotic arm donated by Honda R&D and retrofitted with a custom-designed spot welding gun on November 22, 2017.

Over the past several months, CDME has been working to develop a robotic welding head capable of utilizing Ohio State’s proprietary VFAW technology, which is capable of creating full metallurgical welds between dissimilar metals.

The Players

Alec Gonos (Industrial Design and Biology dual degree, 2019), an Undergraduate Research Assistant, has spearheaded much of the effort under the guidance of Dr. Ryan Brune, a Lead Engineer in CDME's Materials and Welding Group. During his time as a graduate student at Ohio State, Dr. Brune performed research under the direction of Professor Glenn Daehn and Dr. Anupam Vivek, the researchers credited with inventing and refining Vaporizing Foil Actuator Welding (VFAW). As a result, Dr. Brune is extremely knowledgeable on the mechanisms of VFAW, and was able to guide Mr. Gonos towards creating a successful design.

photo of Dr. Ryan BruneDr. Brune holds the successfully welded material - aluminum to steelphoto of Alec Gonos and Dr. Ryan BruneAlec Gonos (left) and Dr. Ryan Brune (right) with the welded aluminum and steel.

Industry Collaboration

This project was made possible by Honda R&D, who donated a FANUC S-430i F robotic arm and spot welding gun to CDME for research purposes.

The Process

Upon installing this robot in the manufacturing bay, CDME staff began the task of retrofitting the Honda spot welding gun with newly designed parts, in hopes of using the existing aluminum jaws to perform multiple VFAW welds in quick succession. Using some preliminary designs by Dr. Brune and associates as inspiration, Mr. Gonos began to sketch out ideas for what a retrofitted design could look like, eventually moving to Solidworks to create an accurate CAD model of the modified VFAW mechanism. The design includes a backing block to distribute even pressure on the foil vaporization site and spring-loaded, height-adjustable electrodes to provide uniform clamping on the foil terminals. A number of additional considerations were made to account for strength, rigidity, and ease-of-manufacturing.

Successfully welding steel to aluminum

A finished concept was presented in late August, and given the green light for

"After two successive tests, we are happy to say that a successful weld between the aluminum and steel sheets was created, representing a major leap forward for the commercialization of VFAW technology."

- Alec Gonos, Industrial Design and Biology Dual Major, 2019 

production. In mid-November, the design was ready to be tested. Mr. Gonos and Dr. Brune were on hand to conduct the initial test, hoping to create a successful weld between steel and aluminum sheets. The two researchers maneuvered the robotic arm into position, hooked the electrodes up to the capacitor bank, and fired.

After two successive tests, we are happy to say that a successful weld between the aluminum and steel sheets was created, representing a major leap forward for the commercialization of VFAW technology. In the coming months, our research team will focus on developing a way to feed the foils into the positioning cartridge, automating the process a step further. While there is still much to do in order to fully realize the commercial potential of VFAW technology, we are extremely happy with the results we have achieved so far, and look forward to continued advancements in this realm.

CAD model of the modified VFAW mechanism created by Alec Gonos