Eclipse Aviation Corp. (Albuquerque, NM) is using MTS Systems Corp.’s (Eden Prairie, MN) Eclipse 500 friction stir welding system to assemble the lower cabin of the Eclipse 500, a six-person, twin-engine jet. The 33-foot plane features a 36-foot wingspan.

Eclipse Aviation awarded the contract to MTS Systems for its friction stir welding system. This is the first time this technology has been used to fabricate aircraft structures.

"The benefits of friction stir welding are numerous," says Oliver Masefield, vice president of engineering. "It eliminates the need for thousands of rivets. This results in reduced assembly costs, better joining quality, and stronger and lighter joints. Because this process is significantly faster than other structural joining processes, we can drastically reduce the cycle time in production."

Friction stir welding will be used in place of rivets in most major assemblies of the Eclipse 500, including the cabin, aft fuselage, wings and engine mounts. MTS used a multiaxis control capability that allows the precision joining of curved surfaces.

Friction stir welding was developed by The Welding Institute (Cambridge, UK) in 1991. With this process, a rotating pin is pressed into the interface of the components to be joined. Frictional heat causes the material to soften without reaching the melting point. The material extrudes around the pin as it traverses the joint and is forged by downward pressure from the pin’s shoulder.

With friction stir welding, the process is fast and repeatable. And because the joints are of high quality, structures can be lighter.

Eclipse Aviation is working closely with FAA certification representatives on the certification of this technology. Successful joining of these first components is a major step in the validation and certification of friction stir welding in the assembly of the Eclipse 500 jet.

For more information on friction stir welding, call 952-937-4000 or visit