Self-piercing riveting has been widely used in vehicle body manufacturing to join aluminum alloys or aluminum to steel. However, it is difficult to rivet ultra-high strength steel (UHSS) because of its resistance to piercing of the rivet. In this paper, a thermally assisted self-piercing riveting (TA-SPR) process was proposed to improve riveting of the UHSS, through locally preheating the UHSS sheet using an induction coil prior to the traditional self-piercing riveting (SPR) process. An experimental system consisting of inductive heating apparatus, conventional self-piercing riveting equipment and coupon transfer mechanism was established and the steps, e.g., preheating, coupons transfer and riveting, were automatically conducted at preset schedules. Based on experiments with this system, the effects of heating current, heating time and coil heating distance on riveting of AA6061-T6 and DP980 were examined systematically by metallurgical analyses and mechanical tests. It was found that an appropriate combination of heating current and heating time, e.g., 0.5s at 600A, could produce crack-free joints having 77.8% higher undercut and 24% higher lap-shear strength, compared to results obtained using a conventional SPR process.

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