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ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Numerical and experimental investigations of extensible


die clinching
Xiaocong He & Fulong Liu & Baoying Xing &
Huiyan Yang & Yuqi Wang & Fengshou Gu & Andrew Ball
Received: 19 December 2013 / Accepted: 16 June 2014
#Springer-Verlag London 2014
Abstract With an increasing application of clinching in differ-
ent industrial fields, the demand for knowledge of static and
dynamic characteristics of clinching is increased. In the present
work, the extensible die clinching process was numerically
investigated using finite element method. To validate the com-
putational simulation of the extensible die clinching process,
experimental tests on extensible die clinched specimens have
been carried out. Good agreement is achieved between the
predictions and the experimental results. Monotonic tensile tests
were carried out to measure the ultimate tensile strengths of the
extensible die clinching joints and clinching-bonded hybrid
joints. Deformation and failure of the extensible die clinched
joints under monotonic tensile loading were studied. The normal
hypothesis tests were performed to examine the rationality of the
test data. This work was also aimed at evaluating experimentally
and comparing the strength and energy absorption of the exten-
sible die clinched joints and clinching-bonded hybrid joints.
Keywords Extensible die clinching
.
Process simulation
.
Finite element method
.
Load-bearing capacity
.
Energy
absorption
1 Introduction
Some relative new joining techniques have drawn more atten-
tion in recent years because they can join advanced sheet
materials that are dissimilar, coated and hard to weld with
conventional spot welding [15].
Many efforts have also been spent to develop hybrid join-
ing techniques and alternatives for application into light-
weight structures. Mucha et als paper [6] presented the
pressed joint technology using forming process with or with-
out additional fastener. The capabilities for increasing the
load-carrying ability of mechanical joints by applying special
rivets and dies were presented. The joint forming was per-
formed with the solid round die and rectangular split die for
riveted joint forming. The effect of joint forming process on
jointed material strain was compared by measuring the micro-
hardness of the joints. Mucha and Witkowski [7] analyzed the
shearing strength of double joints made of various joining
techniques. The capabilities of S350 GD sheet metal joining
using the ClinchRivet technique were presented. The results
achieved for joints arranged in parallel and perpendicular to
the load for specified joint spacing were discussed. The as-
sessment of joint effectiveness was performed for both ho-
mogenous double joints and for various combinations of these
joints. Neugebauer et al.s paper [8] showed the advantages of
the two-piece dies especially in solid punch riveting of differ-
ent materials with distinct differences in strength. The use of
these dies effects convenient technological conditions and an
extended range of application for solid punch riveting.
The use of clinching is of interest to different industries
such as aerospace, automotive, packaging and domestic ap-
pliance. This, together with increasing use of light-weight
materials, has produced a significant increase in the use
of clinching in light-weight structures in recent years
[912].
In industrial applications of the clinched structures, knowl-
edge of the mechanical characteristics of clinched joints is
very important. The static and dynamic behaviour of clinched
joints has been the subject of a great amount of numerical and
experimental studies. Previous publications mostly focussed
X. He (*)
:
F. Liu
:
B. Xing
:
H. Yang
:
Y. Wang
Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre, Kunming University of
Science and Technology, Kunming 650093,
Peoples Republic of China
e-mail: hhxxcc@yahoo.co.uk
F. Gu
:
A. Ball
Centre for Efficiency and Performance Engineering, University of
Huddersfield, Queensgate, Huddersfield, HD1 3DH, UK
Int J Adv Manuf Technol
DOI 10.1007/s00170-014-6078-y
on clinching with fixed grooved dies. An investigation on
clinching mechanism has been conducted by Gao and Budde
[13]. Some elementary terms were used to establish a basic
theory for analyzing the clinching mechanism. The influence
of the clinching process parameters on the join-ability of high-
strength steel was studied by Mucha [14] using finite element
(FE) method. The results showed that some parameters, such
as die radius, die depth and die groove shape were mainly
affected on the join-ability. Markowski et al. [15] presented
the results of FE analysis for clinching joint machines C-
frame. Several versions of frame geometry were accounted for
when analyzing the straining of material, including the mass
reduction. The purpose of this FE simulation was to determine
the effect of mass reducing material recess on the structure
rigidity. The suitability and economics of clinching processes
were studied by Varis [16, 17].
A dieless clinching process has been proposed by
Neugebauer et al. [18]. Using the dieless clinching, it is
possible to produce a one-sided flat connection, which is not
producible with any other joining technology. Addition-
ally, it is possible to enlarge the application potential of
mechanical joining technologies as for example semi-
finished parts made of magnesium can be partially heat-
ed and directly joined without an increase in process
time or a reduction in the process stability. The tools costs,
the necessary tolerances and the tool wear are significantly
reduced.
Another clinching configuration has been developed
involving an extensible die for improving the mechani-
cal behaviour of clinched joints. The use of extensible
die clinching has increased in recent years. But a liter-
ature survey on the extensible die clinching has shown
a very limited number of publications. In Zheng et al.s
paper [19], the extensible die clinching process has been
simulated by FE method. The material flowing patterns
have been compared between the fixed grooved die clinching
and the extensible die clinching. The influence of process
parameters in extensible die clinching has been systematically
investigated by Lambiase and colleagues [20, 21]. The exten-
sible die clinched joints were produced under different
forming loads for evaluating the evolution of the joints profile
experimentally.
In the present study, the extensible die clinching process
has been computationally studied using FE analysis software.
A two dimensional (2D) axisymmetric model was generated
based on the Cowper-Symonds material models. An implicit
technique with Lagrange method and r-self-adaptivity was
used. To validate the computational simulation of the exten-
sible die clinching process, experimental tests on specimens
Upper sheet
Lower sheet
20
20
110
110
20
Fig. 1 A single lap clinched joint
(a) Fixed die clinching tools
(b) Bottom view of fixed die
clinched joint
(c) Extensible die clinching tools (d) Bottom view of extensible
die clinched joint
Fig. 2 Comparison of tools and
bottom views between fixed die
clinching and extensible die
clinching
Int J Adv Manuf Technol
made of aluminium alloy Al5754 were carried out. The struc-
tural analysis has also been performed for comparing the
strength and energy absorption ability of the extensible
die clinched joints and clinching-bonded joints.
(a) Extensible die clinching Machine
Sliding sectors
Die anvil
Fixed die
Rubber spring
(b) Schemac of extensible die
(c) Geometrical dimensions (d) FE model
Punch Blank holder
Upper sheet
Lower sheet
Rubber spring
Sliding sectors
Fixed die
(e) Radial displacement of sliding sector in FE simulaon
s=0 mm s=0 mm s=0.2 mm s=0.8 mm
Fig. 3 FE simulation of
extensible die clinching process
Int J Adv Manuf Technol
2 Extensible die clinching process simulation
The single lap clinched joint comprises an upper sheet, lower
sheet as shown in Fig. 1. The sheet materials tested were
Al5754 aluminium alloy plates of dimensions 110 mm
length20 mm width2 mm thickness and were clinched in
the central part of lap section. The mechanical properties of
the aluminium alloy Al5754 were as follow: Youngs modu-
lus, E=70 GPa; Poissons ratio, v=0.33.
Comparison of tools and bottom views between fixed die
clinching and extensible die clinching is shown in Fig. 2. In
the fixed die clinching process, the interlock is produced by
driving the material towards the die groove. The extensible die
is composed of a series of sliding sectors. In the extensible die
clinching, material is spread radially rather than towards the
die groove, resulting in a better interlock than in the fixed die
clinching process. The extensible die clinched joints are char-
acterized by different geometrical and mechanical properties
as compared with fixed die clinched joints. In order to achieve
designed durability, the punch, blank holder, sliding sectors
and fixed die were made of high-strength steel materials. The
rubber spring must be replaced at regular intervals.
Figure 3a, b show extensible die clinching machine and sche-
matic of extensible die. Figure 3c shows the basic geometry of
the extensible die clinching model.
A 2Daxisymmetric extensible die clinching process model
was generated, as shown in Fig. 3d, using the commercial FE
software LS-Dyna. The model was meshed using the plane
element 2D Solid162, involving 5,427 elements with 5,905
nodes in the model. The extensible die clinching process
Fig. 4 Cross-section comparison between simulations and tests of ex-
tensible die clinching processes
(a) Monotonic tensile process of the clinched joints
(b) Monotonic tensile process of the clinch
(c) Failure mode of clinched and clinch-bonded hybrid joints
-bonded hybrid joints
Fig. 5 Monotonic tensile process
and failure mode of the clinched
and clinch-bonded hybrid joints
Int J Adv Manuf Technol
involves a large deformation with high local plastic strains in
sheets, resulting in severe local mesh distortions. The ALE
adaptive technique in ANSYS/LS-DYNA was used. ASS2D
single contact function was conducted to judge the contacts
between the surfaces.
The punch, blank holder and die were modelled as rigid
bodies, whilst the sheets were modelled as elasto-plastic ma-
terials. The piecewise-linear plasticity material model which
adopts the Cowper-Symbols model to consider the influence
of strain rate was used. The relationship between the Cowper-
Symbols model and yield stress is shown in the following
equation:

y
1

t
C
!
1
p
2
4
3
5

0
f
P
eff

1
where
0
is the yield stress in constant strain rate,
t
is the
effective strain rate and C and P are the parameters of strain
rate; f (
eff
P
) is the hardening coefficient which is based on the
effective plastic strain. Mooney-Rivlin elastic rubber model
was used for the rubber spring.
Some criteria such as the von Mises yield criterion, the
piecewise-linear isotropic strain-hardening rule and the asso-
ciated flow rule were adopted in simulations. The friction
between different parts in the model has an effect on the
profile of the extensible die clinched joints. In the lack of
experimental data, tentative values of the Coulomb friction
coefficient between different parts in the extensible die
clinching process model were assumed as follows: f=0.25
punch-upper sheet, f =0.15 upper sheet-blank holder, f =
0.15 upper sheet-lower sheet and f =0.25 lower sheet-
die. These values were kept constant for the simulations
in this study.
To save simulation time, start the analysis at the moment
when the punch was very close to the top surface of the upper
sheet and apply a specified initial velocity to simulate the
extensible die clinching process. The extensible die clinching
process is modelled by applying a downward initial velocity
to every node within the punch. Figure 3e shows the radial
displacement of sliding sector in the extensible die clinching
process FE simulation.
3 Extensible die clinching process tests
A clinching equipment RIVCLINCH 1106 P50 system was
employed as clinching machine as shown in Fig. 3a. All
clinching joints were made with constant pre-clamp (4 kN)
and setting load (50 kN). As shown in Fig. 3c, the diameter of
the punch is 5 mm and all clinching joints were formed for the
Fig. 6 Force-displacement curves and tensile strengths normal probability density distributions of clinched joints and clinch-bonded hybrid joints
Int J Adv Manuf Technol
same depth sensor. The average value of the bottom thickness
is 1.4 mm. The cross-section comparison between simulations
and tests of extensible die clinching processes is shown in
Fig. 4. It is clear that the result obtained from tests agree fairly
well with the computational simulation. The results show the
capability of the FE model for simulating the extensible die
clinching process for different geometries and work
conditions.
4 Deformation and failure of clinched joints
Clinching has found applications in heavy-duty situation, such
as car bodies. Load-bearing capacity and energy absorption
(EA) are the two most important features in structural analysis
of clinched joints. During the clinching process, the upper
sheet undergoes a significant thinning near the punch corner
radius. The strength of an extensible die clinched joint de-
pends on the joint profile and particularly on the neck thick-
ness and the magnitude of the produced undercut.
In order to improve the mechanical properties of the
clinched joints, it is also important for clinching to benefit
from the advantages of other fastening techniques, for exam-
ple adhesive bonding [22]. Adhesives are used to increase the
rigidity and tightness of the structure [23, 24]. It is commonly
understood that the addition of adhesive in clinched joints is
beneficial but it is not clear if there are negative effects on
mechanical properties of clinched joints. Deformation and
failure of homogeneous clinched joints under tensile loading
were investigated for validating the load-bearing capacity and
EA of clinched joints and clinch-bonded hybrid joints.
The clinch-bonded hybrid joints were produced following
exactly the same procedure as the respective clinched joints.
The adhesive used in the present study was two components
acryloid cement. The mechanical properties of the adhesive
investigated were Youngs modulus 2 GPa and Poissons ratio
0.30 which had been proved as an excellent adhesive property
[25]. The adhesive was applied on degreased surfaces and the
two sheets were pressed together in order to squeeze sufficient
adhesive out to avoid undue quilting of the finished clinch-
bonded hybrid joints. The flow of the adhesive was removed.
The clinching processes were then produced before adhesive
curing. The thickness of the adhesive layer was controlled by
the clinching process. The average values of the bottom
thickness of the clinch-bonded hybrid joints is 1.5 mm thus
the thickness of the adhesive layer is estimated to be 0.1 mm.
Thereafter, the adhesive was cured at room temperature for at
least 24 h. After curing, the adhesive layer can give strong
adhesive forces between sheets. Figure 5 shows the clinched
joints and clinch-bonded hybrid joints.
A servo-hydraulic testing machine was used for the mono-
tonic tensile tests of the clinched joints and clinch-bonded
hybrid joints. For each test, six samples were mechanically
tested. The distance between two grips was about 100 mm.
The tests were performed with a constant displacement rate of
1 mm/min and terminated when the sheets were separated or
the force drops to 20 % of the peak force value. Continuous
records of the applied force-displacement curves were obtain-
ed during each test. Figure 5a, b show the monotonic tensile
process and failed joints separately. It is clear from Fig. 5a, b
that the failure modes of the clinched joints and clinch-bonded
hybrid joints were neck fracture mode, as shown in Fig. 5c.
Fig. 7 Energy absorption normal probability density distributions of clinched joints and clinch-bonded hybrid joints
Maximum Force
[kN]
EA
[J]
Fig. 8 Intercepts of strength and EA for clinched joints and clinch-
bonded hybrid joints
Int J Adv Manuf Technol
Such failure of the clinched joints and clinch-bonded hybrid
joints could be attributed to a too small clearance of the tools
diameters or a too deep die.
Under the tensile-shear load, the neck of the upper sheet
bear a main shear load by geometrical interlocking. When the
shear stress reaches the yield criterion of aluminium alloy
Al5754, a crack is initiated from the interfacial surface of the
upper sheet and grows into the upper sheet thickness. After
rowing into the upper sheet, crack kinks towards the button
centre and then propagates along the circumference of the
button neck of the upper sheet. Finally, the inner button is
sheared off at the neck. In Fig. 5a, sheets were separated for
five samples and not completely separated for one sample.
Figure 6 shows the force-displacement curves of the
clinched joints and clinch-bonded hybrid joints. In the case
of the clinched joints, after the peak, the force decreases
gradually. In the cases of the clinch-bonded hybrid joints,
however, after the peak, the force suddenly drops. It is clear
from Fig. 6 that the load-bearing capacity of clinch-bonded
hybrid joint is higher than that of the clinched joint. It is also
clear from Figs. 5 and 6 that the repeatability of the clinched
joints and clinch-bonded hybrid joints are big though the
repeatability of the adhesive joints was not very big [5].
To examine the rationality of the test data, the normal
hypothesis tests were performed using MATLAB 7.0. The
results indicated that the tensile strengths of all the clinched
joints and clinch-bonded hybrid joints follow normal distribu-
tions. The mean values () and standard deviations () have
the following numerical values: for the clinched joints
C
=
1,895.30 N,
C
=43.81; for the clinch-bonded hybrid joints

CB
=2,022.50 N,
CB
=49.41. All test data fitting the region
was estimated by the degree of confidence of 95 %. The
tensile strengths normal probability density distributions of
the clinched joints and clinch-bonded hybrid joints are also
shown in Fig. 6.
5 EA of clinched joints and clinch-bonded hybrid joints
The normal hypothesis tests were performed to examine the
rationality of the EAvalues of the clinched joints and clinch-
bonded hybrid joints. The results show that the EA values of
all the clinched joints and clinch-bonded hybrid joints follow
normal distributions. For the clinched joints
EAC
=1.28 J,

EAC
=0.04; for clinch-bonded hybrid joints
EACB
=1.37 J,

EACB
=0.16. All test data fitting the region was estimated by
the degree of confidence of 95 %. The EA values normal
probability density distributions of the clinched joints and
clinch-bonded hybrid joints are shown in Fig. 7.
Fig. 8 shows the intercept for load-bearing capacity and EA
of the clinched joints and clinch-bonded hybrid joints. It is
clear that both the maximumload and EAvalues of the clinch-
bonded hybrid joints are higher than that of the clinched joint.
This means that the addition of adhesive resulted in an in-
crease in both the load-bearing and the energy absorption
capacities of the clinched joints.
6 Summary
The extensible die clinching process has been computationally
investigated in this paper using the commercial FE software
LS-Dyna. Experimental tests on the extensible die clinched
joints made of aluminium alloy Al5754 have been carried out
to validate the numerical simulation of the extensible die
clinching process. The result obtained from tests agreed fairly
well with the computational simulation.
Deformation and failure of homogeneous clinched joints
under tensile loading were investigated for validating the load-
bearing capacity and EA of the clinched joints and clinch-
bonded hybrid joints.
As mentioned above, the clinched joints were produced
before adhesive curing. In the extensible die clinching pro-
cess, adhesive layer can be fully sandwiched between two
sheets. After curing, the adhesive layer can increase the
strength of the clinched joints due to the adhesion mechanism.
However, after the peak load, the failure of adhesive layer
occurs in a brittle manner. In this case, though the clinch still
keeps the sheets connected, the joint can only bear low load,
resulting in some more elongation.
Acknowledgments Financial support of the National Natural Science
Foundation of China (Grant No. 50965009) is gratefully acknowledged.
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