Material flow in friction stir welding is largely uncharacterized due to the difficulty in material flow measurement and visualization in metals. This study investigates plasticine for use as an analog for modeling material flow in friction stir welding (FSW) of metals. Qualitative comparisons between welded plasticine and metal sections exhibit many similarities. The transient temperature response of the plasticine also shows the same qualitative behavior as welds conducted in metal. To quantify its similarity to metal, the plasticine is further analyzed through compression tests to characterize its strain, strain-rate, and temperature sensitivities. A detailed analysis is presented which defines the criteria for rigorous mechanical and thermal similarity between metals and analog materials. The mechanical response of the plasticine is quantitatively similar to many aluminum and steel alloys. In addition to the mechanical properties of the plasticine, thermal properties are measured and thermal similarity is investigated. Generally, complete thermal similarity cannot be achieved in FSW. However, given the similarities between other critical parameters, and observed qualitatively similarity, it is possible to satisfy similarity approximately, such that information can be obtained from the physical model and extrapolated to metals. Using plasticine, material flow behavior in FSW is investigated under various operating conditions. The physical model permits visualization and characterization of material flow around a suspended welding tool. Depending on operating conditions, several material flow regimes are observed, including simple extrusion with substantial tool/material slip, defect formation, a region of rotating material adjacent to the tool, and vertical deformation. Material flow and frictional heating in FSW are also investigated using a three-dimensional numerical model. Two mechanical boundary conditions are investigated, including 1) a sticking constant velocity, and 2) a slipping variable shear stress model. The constant velocity model generally over-predicts the extent of material flow in the weld region. The variable shear model predicts simple extrusion of material around the tool, and substantial tool/material slip. Additionally, the variable shear model exhibits a region of diminishing shear stress, velocity, and pressure at the back advancing side of the pin, suggesting formation of an internal void. The limited deformation, low velocities, and indication of void formation agree well with flow visualization studies using plasticine under identical operating parameters.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





friction stir welding, plasticine, material flow, plasticity, viscoplasticity, FEA/FEM