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620 ASSEMBLY

10.6.2 Frictional Heat Welding Processes


Friction welding uses the heat of friction to cause fusion at the interface. One substrate
is rotated or rubbed very rapidly while in touch with the other substrate so that the sur-
face melts without damaging the part. The primary forms of frictional heat welding are
ultrasonic, spin, and vibration welding. The major advantage of frictional heat welding
methods is that the heating is concentrated at the interface area of the joint. In this way
the bulk of the substrates are not heated to high temperatures. Because the heating is
localized at the bonding surface, indirect heating processes are very energy efficient.

10.6.2.1 Ultrasonic Welding


During ultrasonic welding a high-frequency electrodynamic field is generated that
resonates a metal horn. The horn vibrates one substrate sufficiently fast relative to a
second fixed substrate to cause great heating at the interface. The frequency gener-
ally used in ultrasonic assembly is 20 to 40 kHz. With pressure and subsequent cool-
ing, a strong bond can be obtained between many thermoplastics. Weld times are
generally between 0.1 and 1 second.
The equipment that is used in ultrasonic welding is illustrated in Figure 10.16a.
The largest possible product that can be welded is physically limited by the princi-
ple of ultrasonic welding since the welding horn must expand and shrink during the
process. For amorphous materials, the maximum size is 6200 mm and for semi-
crystalline materials, it is 670 mm. With ultrasonic welding, the joint design is crit-
ical. Typical joint designs are shown in Figure 10.16b. The most common design is
a butt joint that uses an energy director. The energy director focuses the vibration
energy at a localized spot at the interface. It is the material within the energy direc-
tor that first melts and becomes the “adhesive” for the joint.
Amorphous polymers are easier than crystalline polymers to weld ultrasonically
because the molecules are randomly arranged and vibrations pass through the mate-
rial with little attenuation. Amorphous polymers are also less critical in joint design
and in placement of the ultrasonic welding horn. However, excellent results can also
be achieved with crystalline polymers if the following guidelines are followed:

• Use of high amplitudes on high-powered equipment is recommended.


• Horn contact should be close to and directly above the joint.
• Shear joints are recommended whenever practical.
• Use an oversized energy director when one is required.
• Rigidly clamp the part in the fixture to prevent loss of welding energy.

Rigid thermoplastics with a high modulus of elasticity are best. Excellent welds
are generally obtainable with polystyrene, styrene–acrylonitrile (SAN), ABS, poly-
carbonate, and acrylics. PVC and cellulose tend to attenuate the energy and degrade
the surfaces. Dissimilar plastics can be welded ultrasonically if they are chemically
compatible and have similar melt temperatures.
Because heat is generated very locally, the shrinkage stresses are higher with ultra-
sonic welding than they are with other welding processes. In general, the techniques
HEAT WELDING 621

Starting
Expansion Compression
point

0 Generator

0 Booster
Compression Expansion

0 Sonotroder
Amplitude Expansion Compression Oscillation amplitude
(double amplitude)

Product

(a)

Energy director h = 0.3 − 1.0 mm


 = 60° − 90°
(b)

FIGURE 10.16 Ultrasonic welding process: (a) ultrasonic welding equipment; (b) common
ultrasonic joint designs.

employing lower heat generation give high weld strength. Ultrasonics can also be
used to stake plastics mechanically to other substrates and for inserting metal parts.
Ultrasonic welding is clean and fast. It usually results in a joint that is as strong as the
parent plastic material. Because of the power requirements, it is usually applied more
to smaller parts. Large parts are generally too massive to be joined with one continu-
ous bond; however, spot welding can be accomplished with the same equipment.