The objective of the current study was to butt-weld 6 mm-thick polyethylene (PE) plates by friction stir welding (FSW) using a non-conventional stationary shoulder tool. The welds were performed with an unheated shoulder and with a shoulder temperature of 85 °C. Additionally, rotational speeds of 870, 1140 and 1500 rpm; welding speeds of 60 and 120 mm/min; and plunge depths of 5.5 and 5.7 mm were used. The influence of these parameters on morphology, hardness, ultimate tensile strength, elongation at break and fracture modes was evaluated. Shoulder heating proved to be crucial for the optimization of PE joints by FSW, as it clearly improved joint efficiency. Furthermore, shoulder heating promoted the reduction in internal and external defects, such as porosity and surface burning. Defect-free weld seams were obtained with higher rotational speeds and a lower welding speed. A maximum joint efficiency of about 97% was achieved with a shoulder temperature of 85 °C, a rotational speed of 1500 rpm, a welding speed of 60 mm/min and a plunge depth of 5.7 mm. A weld with the average joint efficiency of 92% was produced at 120 mm/min, which based on the literature found is the highest welding speed reported that achieved a joint efficiency above 90%.
Keywords: friction stir welding; heated tool; joint efficiency; polyethylene; stationary shoulder; weld defects.