Ultrasonic Welding Process

- Jan 29, 2021-

For joining complex injection molded thermoplastic parts, ultrasonic welding equipment can be easily customized to fit the exact specifications of the parts being welded. The parts are sandwiched between a fixed shaped nest (anvil) and a sonotrode (horn) connected to a transducer, and a ~20 kHz low-amplitude acoustic vibration is emitted. (Note: Common frequencies used in ultrasonic welding of thermoplastics are 15 kHz, 20 kHz, 30 kHz, 35 kHz, 40 kHz and 70 kHz). When welding plastics, the interface of the two parts is specially designed to concentrate the melting process. One of the materials usually has a spiked or rounded energy director which contacts the second plastic part. The ultrasonic energy melts the point contact between the parts, creating a joint. This process is a good automated alternative to glue, screws or snap-fit designs. It is typically used with small parts (e.g. cell phones, consumer electronics, disposable medical tools, toys, etc.) but it can be used on parts as large as a small automotive instrument cluster. Ultrasonics can also be used to weld metals, but are typically limited to small welds of thin, malleable metals, e.g. aluminum, copper, nickel. Ultrasonics would not be used in welding the chassis of an automobile or in welding pieces of a bicycle together, due to the power levels required.

Ultrasonic welding of thermoplastics causes local melting of the plastic due to absorption of vibrational energy along the joint to be welded. In metals, welding occurs due to high-pressure dispersion of surface oxides and local motion of the materials. Although there is heating, it is not enough to melt the base materials.

Ultrasonic welding can be used for both hard and soft plastics, such as semicrystalline plastics, and metals. The understanding of ultrasonic welding has increased with research and testing. The invention of more sophisticated and inexpensive equipment and increased demand for plastic and electronic components has led to a growing knowledge of the fundamental process.[3] However, many aspects of ultrasonic welding still require more study, such as relating weld quality to process parameters. Ultrasonic welding continues to be a rapidly developing field.

Scientists from the Institute of Materials Science and Engineering (WKK) of University of Kaiserslautern, with the support from the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft), have succeeded in proving that using ultrasonic welding processes can lead to highly durable bonds between light metals and carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP) sheets

The benefits of ultrasonic welding are that it is much faster than conventional adhesives or solvents. The drying time is very quick, and the pieces do not need to remain in a fixture for long periods of time waiting for the joint to dry or cure. The welding can easily be automated, making clean and precise joints; the site of the weld is very clean and rarely requires any touch-up work. The low thermal impact on the materials involved enables a greater number of materials to be welded together.