Welding the Aluminum Space Frame

When our team was formed, sponsorships were nascent and fabrication ability came solely from personal experience of the team. Despite this, our founding members managed to weld a robust steel frame. It’s performed well over the years, but it’s heavy. For SR2, we opted for 6061-T6 aluminum tubes in our design, bringing our frame weight down.

Josh Preissle is GTSR's frame team lead and designed SR2's frame.

Josh Preissle is GTSR’s frame team lead and designed SR2’s frame.

But welding aluminum is hard. There’s so much to learn to do it right. Two weeks ago, we were incredibly fortunate to have two men from Alcoa visit our shop. Kyle and Justin Williams hung out with us for a couple days, teaching us the chemistry of the process as well as hands-on techniques to make the strongest welds possible.

In designing the frame, Josh put special thought into fabricability. To eliminate the necessity for a full 3-dimensional jig, Josh broke up the frame into multiple 2-dimensional planes. Lindsey and I worked with Kyle and Justin to fabricate two of these 2-D segments.

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Weld tacks hold the frame together so that it can be permanently welded.

Josh and I assembled 2-D jigs for each segment. Into these, we placed the pre-cut tubes (laser-coped by Tie Down Engineering). Then we do a few weld tacks to hold everything in place.

Then we finish the welds. Since I’m right-handed and Lindsey is a lefty, we trade off, welding the spots more comfortable for each of us.

There’s much more to do!

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Lindsay Berger prepares to weld