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Development of Hollow Titanium Connecting Rod

Sadami MINATO*

Ken MIZOGAWA*

ABSTRACT
It is necessary to reduce the reciprocating mass in order to increase the engine speed and power of Formula One
engines. The project discussed in this paper therefore set out to increase the section modulus of the shaft of the
connecting rod while maintaining its rigidity and achieving weight savings. To this end, the diffusion bonding method
was optimized, and a process of manufacturing a hollow connecting rod was developed. The developed connecting
rod is lighter in weight and higher in rigidity than a rod with a conventional I-type section produced by forging, and
has contributed to enabling engines to be increased in speed.

1. Introduction
As one of the main kinetic components enabling the
operation of high-speed and high-power Formula One
engines, connecting rods (conrods) are the subject of a
constant quest for weight reductions and increases in
strength and rigidity. For this reason, titanium alloys
displaying high specific strength were applied in their
manufacture. In 2000, weight savings were achieved
through the use of a β-rich α+β titanium alloy, SP-700(1),
which possesses 25% higher fatigue strength than that
of the formerly used 6A14V titanium alloy. However,
responding to demands for further weight savings
exclusively by means of increasing strength was bringing
materials close to the limit of rigidity design, a situation
which necessitated a new technological breakthrough.
The potential for the use of a hollow conrod structure
as a means of achieving weight savings while
maintaining a geometrical rigidity was therefore studied.

phase, and therefore does not affect the base material by
heating. In addition, titanium displays a high oxygen
solubility limit, so oxide layers easily diffuse and
disappear on titanium surfaces. Diffusion bonding was
therefore focused on, and manufacturing methods for the
component were studied on this basis.
2.2. Mechanism of Diffusion Bonding
Diffusion bonding is a bonding method in which the
temperature of the materials to be bonded is maintained
at 0.7 Tm (Tm = melting point) or more in a vacuum
or reductive gas environment, and pressure is applied in
order to promote diffusion. Figure 1 shows a model of
the diffusion process(2). In the initial stage of the process,
the asperities on the surface to be bonded are deformed
and their close adherence promoted by increasing
pressure and heat. Next, diffusion causes the grain
boundaries at the interface between the materials to
migrate and vacancies to disappear. In the final stage of
the process, the remaining vacancies disappear through

2. Developed Technology
2.1. Study of Method for Hollowing Conrod
A variety of potential methods of realizing a hollow
conrod structure were studied. One suggested method
was to form a hollow shaft extending from the big end
by means of electrochemical or mechanical machining,
which would then be cover-welded using electron beam
welding (EBW), thus forming a hollow structure.
However, this method was unable to resolve the issue
of the strength of the joints. Issues of reduced strength
also arose in the cases of casting and wax soldering.
Diffusion bonding, as employed in the manufacture
of aircraft turbines, involves the diffusion of a solid
* Automobile R&D Center
– 251 –

Fig. 1

Model of diffusion bonding process

Development of Hollow Titanium Connecting Rod

Developed
(hollow)

Rolled plate
(t19)

Blanking
(water Jet)

T-joint piece

Diffusion bonded tensile test piece

1200

60

1000

50

800

40

600

30

400

20

200

10

0

Hot forging

0.2%YS-T
0.2%YS-L
UTS-T
UTS-L
EL-T
EL-L
RA-T
RA-L

0
DB-Rt 1.6

DB-Rt 6.3

• 0.2%YS : 0.2% yield strength
• UTS : Ultimate tensile strength
• EL : Elongation
• RA : Reduction area

Microstructure of diffusion bonded area of
connecting rod

Cut

L-joint piece

EL / RA [%]

Fig. 4

25 µm

Round bar
( 50)

10

45

Base (no-DB)

Conventional
(solid)

M6

17

10

Diffusion bonded area

Fig. 2

2.5

0
R1

2.3. Conrod Bonding Process
Because the conrod is solution-aged at a temperature
lower than the β transformation temperature (870 °C) in
order to obtain a predetermined level of strength, the
bonding temperature was set at 830 °C, equivalent to the
solution treatment temperature. The maximum pressure
was set at 4.0 MPa, and the diffusion time kept for 5.0
hr. A hot press vacuum furnace owned by Kinzoku
Giken Co., Ltd., capable of independent load control in
16 axes, was employed in the diffusion bonding.
Figure 3 shows the process of manufacture of the
hollow conrod. A rolled sheet is roughly blanked using
a water jet, after which it is machined into a half blank,
forming a hollow shaft. These half blanks are
superimposed and diffusion bonded.
The use of dowels positioned at the big and small
ends controls relative displacement during bonding to
within 0.13 mm at the upper limit of standard deviation.
The amount of crushing in the direction of thickness was
set at 4% of the initial thickness of the material, based
on the height of the carbon stopper plates during hot
pressing.

The level of roughness and cleanliness of the bonding
surface affects the mechanical properties of the bonded
section. Tests were therefore conducted to determine the
effects of these factors using tensile test pieces bonded
by means of two joint types (Fig. 4). Figure 5 shows
tensile properties for different levels of bonded surface
roughness. The level of surface roughness had a
particular effect on the elongation and reduction area of
the T-joint, and was therefore set at Rt1.6 or below in
order to obtain tensile properties equivalent to those of
the base material.

0.2%YS / UTS [MPa]

volume diffusion, and bonding is completed. Figure 2
shows the bonded microstructure realized in the conrod
in this project. A continuous metallic microstructure with
no remaining asperities at the bonding interface has been
obtained.

Fig. 5

Heat treatment
(STA)

Half-blank machining
(dowel at S/B end)

Machining

Acid
cleaning

Effect of surface roughness on tensile
properties of diffusion bonded test piece

Surface treatment

Diffusion bonding
(hot pressing)

Finished product

Work

Stopper plate

Fig. 3

Developed process of manufacture of hollow connecting rod

– 252 –

Honda R&D Technical Review 2009

F1 Special (The Third Era Activities)

3. Achieved Performance
A hollow structure in which diffusion bonding is
employed in the central section of the conrod thickness
has been developed, as shown in Fig. 6. This has
increased the modulus section of the shaft of the conrod
while enabling thickness to be minimized. Compared to
a conventional I-type section, an 8% reduction in weight,
2.5 times increase in the rigidity of the shaft, and 18%
increase in the rigidity of the circulation of the big end
have also been achieved. In addition, as a result of the
reduction in the load on the conrod bearings, the
potential for a 250 rpm increase in engine speed has
been demonstrated in durability tests in a real engine.

Diffusion
bonded area

Conventional

Fig. 6

Hollow shape

Comparison of conventional and hollow conrod

4. Conclusion
A method of manufacture of a hollow conrod using
diffusion bonding has been developed. The weight
savings achieved enabled engines to be increased in
speed and power, and the technology was introduced to
race engines in 2003.

References
(1) Ouchi, C., Minakawa, K., Takahashi, K., Ogawa, A.,
Ishikawa, M.: Development of β-rich α+β Titanium
Alloy SP-700, NKK Technical Review, No. 65, p. 6167 (1992)
(2) Owczarski, W. A., Paulonis, D. F.: Application of
Diffusion Welding in the USA, Welding Journal, Vol.
60, No. 2, p. 22-33 (1981)

Author

Sadami MINATO

– 253 –

Ken MIZOGAWA


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