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by R.M. Rani, K.S. Suresh, K. Prakasan, and R. Rudramoorthy


typical ultrasonic welding (USW) process starts when a power supply changes 50 Hz of electrical energy into high ultrasonic frequency of 2040 kHz. To transform this electrical energy into mechanical energy, a converter, a lead zirconate titanate electrostrictive element, expands and contracts at the resonant frequency. The converter is coupled to the mechanical impedance transformer called a horn. The horn transmits the energy to the joint area where frictional heat is produced to melt the plastic momentarily, causing it to fuse together. A pneumatically-activated press applies pressure to the part to be welded. Figure 1 shows the USW process.

an interference type of joint. Figure 3 shows the two types of joints practiced by the industry. Chuah et al.3 studied three different types of energy directortriangular, rectangular, and an innovative semicircular geometry using far-field samples of ABS and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) types of thermoplastic samples. They concluded that the shape of the energy director affected the welding efficiency significantly under the same welding conditions. The semicircular energy director was found to have the maximum welding efficiency and the triangular shape the lowest. In a study by Van Wijk et al.,4 to optimize the USW process in series and mass production, a quantitative test method for measuring product quality by a design of experiments was required. They found no correlation between weld qualities and weld time measurements under uniform energy control. In an article by Devine,5 a number of joints have been discussed. These include the butt joint, step joint, and tongue and groove joint. It has been suggested that the 908 energy director is suitable for most of the amorphous resins, but 608 energy director is preferred for polycarbonate, acrylics, and semicrystalline materials. Crystalline materials may receive incomplete fusion when an energy director is used because material displaced from the energy director may solidify before it ows across the joint to form a seal. For this reason, a shear joint is suggested for welding crystalline polymers. This has been conrmed by the present study. Frantz6 studied factors such as material, joint design, and equipment options to determine the most appropriate method for joining crystalline polymers. He suggested a continuous energy director joint such as saw tooth, which can give an air-tight or liquid-tight seal. But no comparative study has been taken up so far. Kenney7 studied the USW of semicrystalline polymers. He suggested an alternate to the shear joint. This method involves molded-in texturing of the welding surface opposite an energy director. The textured surface consists of peaks and valleys about 36 mm deep. During welding, the textured surface produces more compact melt face and better heat transfer across the joint face. According to Kenney, this process can produce joints three times stronger than those with nontextured surfaces but are not as strong as the shear welds. His work is patented.

The distance between the sonotrodeworkpiece interface and the joint interface affects the weld process and weld quality. Ultrasonic joints are therefore classied into two categories, near-eld welding and far-eld welding. In near-eld welding, also known as contact sealing, the vibrating tool or horn/sonotrode is less than 6 mm from the joint area. In far-eld welding or remote welding, the joint is placed at a distance of more than 6 mm from the horn. It is obvious that the energy requirements to affect fusion become less as the tool contact with the part approaches the sealing area. It is therefore desirable to design the part so that the seal area will be as accessible as possible to the tool for the ultrasonic energy to be utilized and to prevent energy losses within the part itself. Industrial applications do not always lend themselves to near-eld welding; it then becomes imperative to go in for far-eld welding. Figure 2 shows the near-eld and far-eld conguration. Benetar et al.1 investigated the near-eld welding of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polystyrene (amorphous), polyethylene, and polypropylene (semicrystalline) polymers. The estimated moduli were entered into a lumped parameter model to predict heating rates and energy dissipation. Experimental results showed that variations in weld pressure had little effect on energy dissipation or strength of joint. Benetar and Cheng2 also studied the far-eld welding of amorphous and semicrystalline polymers. They reported that weld strength improved substantially with increasing amplitude of vibration at the joint interface. Increasing the weld time or pressure also resulted in increased weld strengths. If the contact area at the seal is reduced, the amount of ultrasonic energy available there becomes concentrated, producing an immediate fusion. One way of concentrating the energy is by converging it to a point by molding a V-bead on the part called an energy director. Industry uses a triangular-shaped energy director for simplicity of production. The other type of joint mostly used by the industry is the shear joint, which is

As discussed in the literature review, studies were carried out by the researchers on the inuence of parameters in achieving desired levels of performance of the joint. But the factors considered are limited in number. A comprehensive study of the USW process with the design of experiment considering all these variables (weld pressure, weld time, hold time, material type, joint type, and eld type) was carried out in the present study. Factors like amplitude (60 mm) and frequency (20 kHz) could not be studied as it is a restriction of the machinery. A 26 2 2 fractional factorial design was chosen to study the

R.M. Rani (principal investigator [DST-WOS]), K.S. Suresh (research scholar), K. Prakasan (professor), and R. Rudramoorthy (professor and principal) are afliated with the Department of Production Engineering, PSG College of Technology, Peelameedu, Coimbatore, India.
doi: 10.1111/j.1747-1567.2007.00182.x 2007, Society for Experimental Mechanics



Fig. 1: USW system for joining thermoplastics

individual effect of the welding variables and also some of the interaction effects of these variables on the welding results. The response variables were energy consumed and ultimate tensile strength (UTS) of the joint formed.

In the present study, a commercial ultrasonic plastic welding machine (20 kHz and 1500 W) manufactured by National Indosonic, Bangalore, India, was used. Horns made of aluminum titanium alloy were used for studying the near-eld and fareld effects. The parameters investigated are shown in Table 1. Variations in the experimental levels (Table 1) have been based on the literature survey and initial experiments conducted by the authors. Below this experimental range, there was no welding, and above this range, there was overwelding

(excess of ash). Based on these observations, the experimental range for parameters X1, X2, and X3 has been selected. As the experimental range has to cover both amorphous and semicrystalline polymers, there is a big difference in levels for parameters X1, X2, and X3. Amorphous plasticABS and semicrystalline plasticHDPE specimens were made as per the specication of the ZVEI or Philips test parts as in Fig. 4 (Benetar et al.1). The Philips test part can be used both in near-eld and in the far-eld welding with an energy director for shear joints. A semicircular energy director (Chuah et al.3) found to have maximum welding efciency was chosen for the present study. The specimens were made by injection molding at Sugi Plastics, Coimbatore, India. Figure 5 shows the welded and unwelded specimens. The energy consumed by the specimen during welding was obtained by reading the energy meter provided in the control

Fig. 2: Near- and far-eld congurations

Fig. 3: Energy director and shear joint practiced by the industry




Table 1Welding parameters and their levels

Notation Parameter Level (2) Level (1)

X1 X2 X3 X4 X5 X6

Weld pressure Weld time Hold time Material type Joint type Field type

2 bar 0.2 s 0.5 s ABS Shear joint Near eld (,6 mm)

5 bar 1.0 s 2.5 s HDPE Energy director joint (semicircular) Far eld (.6 mm)

Fig. 5: Test specimens: unwelded, welded using shear joint, and welded using energy director joint

panel of the machine, which indicates the energy spent at the welding zone as a percentage of the input energy. The ultimate tensile strength of the welded joints was measured as per ASTM standard D638-97 (standard test methods for tensile properties of plastics). The joints were examined by radiography (X-rays) to understand the soundness of the joints formed under different experimental conditions.

runs chosen satises the requirements for statistical validity of results as well as economy of experimental efforts. The design is summarized in Table 2, where the 1 and 2 signs denote the highest and the lowest levels for each parameter, respectively.


The statistical models for the energy consumed and the tensile strength, based on the test results, were established using statistical software SYSTAT 10 (San Jose, CA)8 Only those terms that are statistically signicant are included in the model. The coefcient of multiple determination R2 for the two models are 90.7 and 75%, respectively. Some of the experimental conditions had no welding; these have been reported as 0 for statistical analysis of UTS. Hence, the value of multiple determination R2 for Eq. 2 is only 75%.

To study the simultaneous effects of a large number of welding parameters on the welding results, a fractional factorial design requiring only 16 runs for six parameters was chosen. The experiments were repeated in a random sequence so as to eliminate any systematic bias in the resulting data due to environmental factors. The energy was read from the output meter of the machine, and the UTS values were determined with tensile tests for every experiment. The number of test

Fig. 4: Specications of ZVEI or Philips test part, Benetar et al.1 All dimensions in mm



Table 2Experimental settings

No. X1 X2 X3 X4 X5 X6

Table 3Details of F test for adequacy of the model

No. Source Eq. 1 Eq. 2

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1

2 2 1 1 2 2 1 1 2 2 1 1 2 2 1 1

2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1

2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

2 2 1 1 1 1 2 2 1 1 2 2 2 2 1 1

1 2 1 2 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 1 2 1 2

1 2 3 4

Regression mean square (Reg) Residual mean square (Res) Fishers ratio F(exp) 5 Reg/Res F(tab) ratio tabulated at 1% level of signicance and at 9, 6 degrees of freedom* Observation Adequacy of model

0.041 0.006 6.519 7.98

6.075 3.032 2.004 7.98

5 6

F(exp) , F(tab) Yes

F(exp) , F(tab) Yes

Value of F(tab) taken from Johnson.9

the presence of air gaps and hence the reduction in energy losses. Hold time does not contribute signicantly to the welding results. Of the two materials studied, HDPE absorbs more energy than ABS under the same experimental conditions. This could be due to the energy required for breaking the crystalline structure in HDPE. Also, shear joints absorb more energy than energy director joints. This can be attributed to the contact area, which is more in the case of shear joint. Neareld welding consumed more energy than far-eld welding possibly due to better transfer of the ultrasonic energy over a short distance. In fareld welding, some of the energy is dissipated while traveling through the part and less amount of energy is available at the interface for joint formation. The interaction effect of weld pressure, weld time, and material is not signicant. Practically, it was seen that increasing the weld time and weld pressure at the same time resulted in overwelding (excess of ash and part marking at the horn/part interface). Similarly, from Eq. 2, it can be seen that weld pressure is more signicant for UTS than weld time and hold time. ABS was found to weld with low pressure, whereas HDPE needed high pressure to weld owing to its crystalline structure. The type of material being welded (ABS, HDPE) is a very signicant factor in determining the UTS of the joint. Strength of the joint for a specimen made of ABS is more than that of HDPE under similar weld conditions. Near-eld joints had more strength compared to far-eld welding. Among the interactions, the effect of weld time and weld pressure was found to be signicant for strength of the joint. Figure 6 shows the details of the soundness of the joint with the help of X-ray radiography. A few of the experimental conditions resulted in no welding; for example, in the experimental setting 1, there was no welding of the components. This could be attributed to low pressure and low weld time. Experimental setting 9 reported no welding as HDPE being a crystalline polymer needs more weld pressure and weld time for joining. HDPE could not be welded in the far-eld region by an energy director joint even with high pressure (experimental

The regression equations are: Y 5 0:153 1 0:090X1 1 0:694X2 1 0:009X3 1 0:079X4 2 0:037X5 2 0:016X6 2 0:113X1 X2 2 0:015X1 X4 2 0:101X1 X2 X2 X4 1for energy consumed

Y 5 2 0:048 1 0:218X1 1 0:047X2 1 0:069X3 2 0:979X4 1 0:314X5 2 0:516X6 1 0:534X1 X2 2 0:089X1 X4 2 0:004X1 X2 X4 2forUTS Where Y is the response variable. For Eq. 1, it is the energy consumed as percent of welding energy, and for Eq. 2, it is the UTS given in MPa. The independent variables on the righthand side of the equation are the weld parameters given in Table 2. The parameters X4, X5, and X6 take the values 11 and 21 for the 1 and 2 levels of experimental setting. To check the model for adequacy, F test was carried out, and it was found to be adequate at 1% level of signicance.7 Table 3 gives the details of the F test. The effects of the variables can be inferred from the coefcients of the above equations. From Eq. 1, it is clear that weld time is a signicant factor for energy utilized. The interaction effect of weld pressure and weld time is considerable for energy utilized for welding. The application of weld pressure for a sufcient time inuences the joint formation and the energy utilized as pressure is responsible for keeping the surfaces to be joined in intimate contact and generating heat by friction. The intimate contact eliminates




the other joints probably due to good mixing and homogeneity of the polymer at the weld region. Hence, we may conclude that X-ray radiographic studies can be carried out to ascertain the quality of ultrasonic welded joint successfully.

From this study, based on a fractional factorial design, the following salient inferences can be highlighted. 1. Weld time has a signicant effect on the welding results followed by weld pressure. The interaction effect of these two parameters is also signicant. Hold time does not contribute signicantly to the welding results. This is because the pressure is essential in developing an intimate contact between the surfaces to be joined for a specic duration (weld time) to achieve sound joint. 2. Specimens made of ABS are found to be easier to weld ultrasonically with better levels of energy utilization than HDPE. This is attributed to the amorphous structure of ABS. HDPE is crystalline. 3. Energy director joint is suitable for ABS (can be welded even with low pressure and low weld time), although it can be welded using a shear joint. HDPE can be welded by an energy director joint in the neareld conguration, only with high pressure and high weld time. 4. ABS can be welded both in the near-eld and in the fareld region, whereas HDPE can be welded in the fareld region using a shear joint only. 5. Strength of the joints for specimens of ABS was found to be more than that of components of HDPE for the same experimental conditions. 6. Radiographic studies with X-rays correlated well with UTS of the welded components explaining the quality of welds for different weld conditions. These observations will be useful when designing a new product for manufacture by USW and can provide the researcher with initial data.

Fig. 6: X-ray radiographs of specimens for weld conditions 28, 11, 12, 14, and 16 (from top to bottom)

setting 10) as the crystalline polymer solidies before a weld is achieved. Far-eld welding with shear joint and weld pressure of 2 bar did not weld HDPE (experimental setting 13), owing to low weld pressure. It is clear that HDPE is a difcult polymer to weld, and can be ultrasonically welded, only with high weld pressure and weld time preferably with a shear joint and in the near-eld congurations. On the other hand, ABS, an amorphous polymer, is an ideal candidate for USW; it can be welded in both near- and far-eld regions, preferably with an energy director joint (although it can be welded using a shear joint in the near-eld region) even with low weld pressure and weld time. Experimental setting 8, which reported high UTS, is found to have bright regions at the weld area in the X-ray photograph (Fig. 6), denoting a good welded joint. Radiographic studies are one of the useful nondestructive tests carried out by the industry. The principal concept is that radiation will penetrate light materials better than denser materials. Heavier, denser materials offer greater resistance to radiation penetration because they absorb more of the energy. The difference in absorption of the X-rays by various portions of the exposed area is recorded on an X-ray lm and can be subsequently viewed once the lm has been developed. The resulting image is basically a type of shadow of the material/component in the path of the X-rays. Regions that appear bright are denser than the dark regions in the X-ray photograph. In Fig. 6, the X-ray radiograph shows bright regions at the welded zone for experimental settings 7, 8, and 2. These welded joints also reported high UTS values in comparison to

The authors express sincere gratitude to the Department of Science and Technology, New Delhi, for funding this project (No-SR/WOS-A/ET-20/2003). Thanks are due to the management and the principal, PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore, for providing the basic infrastructure to set up the laboratory with Department of Production Engineering. Authors are thankful to the help and cooperation of Sugi Plastics, Coimbatore, in making the test specimen, xtures, and tooling for tensile testing. The support extended by the Department of Civil Engineering, for the tensile testing of specimens, is gratefully acknowledged.

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3. Chuah, Y.K., Chien, L.-H., Chang, B.C., and Liu, S.-J., Effects of the Shape of the Energy Director on Far-eld Ultrasonic Welding of Thermoplastics, Polymer Engineering and Science 40(1):157167 (2000). 4. Van Wijk, H., Luiten, G.A., and Van Engen, P.G., Process Optimization of Ultrasonic Welding, Polymer Engineering and Science 36(9):11651176 (mid-May 1996). 5. Devine, J., Ultrasonic Plastic Welding Basics, Welding Journal: 2933 (2001).

6. Frantz, J., Joining Plastics the Sound Way, Machine Design 69(7):6165 (1997). 7. Kenney, W.E., Designing Plastic Parts for Ultrasonic Assembly, Machine Design 64(10):6568 (1992). 8. Systat 10.2, Statistics I, Systat Software, San Jose, CA (2001). 9. Johnson, R.A., Miller and Freunds Probability and Statistics for Engineers, 5th ed., Prentice Hall of India Private Limited, New Delhi (1995). n