Honda develops new welding tech for joining aluminum and steel

First application to the frame of 2013 Accord in North America.

TOKYO — Honda Motor Co. Ltd. has developed a technology for the continuous welding of steel and aluminum and has applied it for the first time to the subframe of a mass-production vehicle.

Honda says the technology will be used first on the North American version of the 2013 Accord and will expand application to other models.

The focus was on friction stir welding (FSW) of dissimilar metals to lower vehicle body weight and improve fuel economy. The technology moves a rotating tool on the top of the aluminum that is lapped over the steel with high pressure delivering equal or better strength to conventional metal inert gas (MIG) welding.

Vehicle body weight is reduced by 25%, but this welding method also reduces electricity use by 50%. It also allowed for a change in the structure of the subframe and the mounting point of suspension, which increased the rigidity of the mounting point by 20%, contributing to the vehicle’s dynamic performance.

Honda has also developed a new method to apply this technology to mass-production vehicles.

FSW has required use of large equipment, but Honda developed a FSW continuous welding system for a highly versatile industrial robot that will also handle aluminum-to-aluminum welding for a full-aluminum subframe.

Honda also developed a non-destructive inspection system using a highly sensitive infrared camera and laser beam for in-line inspection of the bonding location for every unit.