News & Views

Clean Energy & FSW

By James Cruz on Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010


Hey, I’m James…a frustrated sports broadcaster living a dream as a Welding Engineer. Prior to coming to EWI, I worked at Honda for ten years. At EWI, I am an Engineering Team Leader currently leading three teams: the Resistance & Solid-State Welding team; the Non-Destructive Evaluation team; and the Friction Stir Welding team. Between the three, I have the fortune of working with many of best and brightest experts in their respective fields

I am not an energy expert, but alternative energy is a personal passion of mine. No, I’m not one of those guys who composts or bikes to work year round (it is Ohio, after all). However, I am keenly aware of how dependent we are on foreign oil, and I look forward to the day when our energy is cleaner. Maybe it’s because of my kids, and what they’re learning at school. Or maybe it’s because energy is a topic of discussion at EWI (We opened two new energy centers recently. See EWI Energy Center, or The Nuclear Fabrication Consortium). At any rate, it’s worth talking about.

Depending on Google’s mood, articles you’ll find estimate that fossil fuel reserves will be depleted in 50 to 250 years. (Nice range, huh?) The key, and something most people agree on, is that the further into the future we go, the more difficult, costly, and dangerous (in terms of environmental impact) it will be to extract fossil fuels.

It’s wild to think that my children (ages 8 and 6) will likely see a time when fossil fuels are spoken of in the past tense. What sacrifices will they have to make? How will they adapt? What can we do now to help improve their future?

One cool angle we’re working on at EWI to curb the use of energy in joining processes is advancing the Friction Stir Welding (FSW) technology. FSW essentially uses a modified milling machine to stir two materials together. One possible application is in shipbuilding. Suppose you want to weld together two big, thick pieces of plate to form the ship’s hull. Conventional arc welding processes use several weld passes to join the plates – eating up tons of electrical energy with each pass. With FSW, we have developed parameters to weld very thick sections of aluminum in excess of an inch-thick section of steel in a SINGLE pass.

We are constantly pushing ourselves (and the technology) to do more – hoping to carve out areas where FSW – a “green” welding technology – can replace arc welding as the preferred joining technology.

Look, I’d never label myself an “environmentalist”. However, I am passionate about not screwing up our planet (anymore than we already have) for my kids – and for all generations to come. I’m proud that EWI is playing a small part to help make that a reality. For more info, check out the links below to see how EWI is active in energy matters, as well as some of interesting links I found on energy saving tips and tricks.

http://ewienergycenter.com
http://www.energysavers.gov
http://www.eere.energy.gov
http://www.energyempowers.gov/page/home-page.aspx

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