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Welding is a fabrication or sculptural process that joins materials, usually metals or thermoplastics, by causing fusion, which is distinct from lower temperature metal-joining techniques such as brazing and soldering, which do not melt the base metal. In addition to melting the base metal, a filler material is typically added to the joint to form a pool of molten material (the weld pool) that cools to form a joint that is usually stronger than the base material. Pressure may also be used in conjunction with heat, or by itself, to produce a weld. Welding also requires a form of shield to protect the filler metals or melted metals from being contaminated or oxidized.

Although less common, there are also solid state welding processes such as friction welding in which metal does not melt.

Some of the best known welding methods include:

  • Oxy-fuel welding – also known as oxyacetylene welding or oxy welding, uses fuel gases and oxygen to weld and cut metals.
  • Shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) – also known as “stick welding or electric welding”, uses an electrode that has flux around it to protect the weld puddle. The electrode holder holds the electrode as it slowly melts away. Slag protects the weld puddle from atmospheric contamination.
  • Gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW) – also known as TIG (tungsten, inert gas), uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode to produce the weld. The weld area is protected from atmospheric contamination by an inert shielding gas such as argon or helium.
  • Gas metal arc welding (GMAW) – commonly termed MIG (metal, inert gas), uses a wire feeding gun that feeds wire at an adjustable speed and flows an argon-based shielding gas or a mix of argon and carbon dioxide (CO2) over the weld puddle to protect it from atmospheric contamination.
  • Flux-cored arc welding (FCAW) – almost identical to MIG welding except it uses a special tubular wire filled with flux; it can be used with or without shielding gas, depending on the filler.
  • Submerged arc welding (SAW) – uses an automatically fed consumable electrode and a blanket of granular fusible flux. The molten weld and the arc zone are protected from atmospheric contamination by being “submerged” under the flux blanket.
  • Electroslag welding (ESW) – a highly productive, single pass welding process for thicker materials between 1 inch (25 mm) and 12 inches (300 mm) in a vertical or close to vertical position.
  • Electric resistance welding (ERW) – a welding process that produces coalescence of laying surfaces where heat to form the weld is generated by the electrical resistance of the material. In general, an efficient method, but limited to relatively thin material.

Welding Process

These processes use a welding power supply to create and maintain an electric arc between an electrode and the base material to melt metals at the welding point. They can use either direct (DC) or alternating (AC) current, and consumable or non-consumable electrodes. The welding region is sometimes protected by some type of inert or semi-inert gas, known as a shielding gas, and filler material is sometimes used as well.

To supply the electrical power necessary for arc welding processes, a variety of different power supplies can be used. The most common welding power supplies are constant current power supplies and constant voltage power supplies. In arc welding, the length of the arc is directly related to the voltage, and the amount of heat input is related to the current. Constant current power supplies are most often used for manual welding processes such as gas tungsten arc welding and shielded metal arc welding, because they maintain a relatively constant current even as the voltage varies. This is important because in manual welding, it can be difficult to hold the electrode perfectly steady, and as a result, the arc length and thus voltage tend to fluctuate. Constant voltage power supplies hold the voltage constant and vary the current, and as a result, are most often used for automated welding processes such as gas metal arc welding, flux cored arc welding, and submerged arc welding. In these processes, arc length is kept constant, since any fluctuation in the distance between the wire and the base material is quickly rectified by a large change in current. For example, if the wire and the base material get too close, the current will rapidly increase, which in turn causes the heat to increase and the tip of the wire to melt, returning it to its original separation distance.[25]

The type of current used plays an important role in arc welding. Consumable electrode processes such as shielded metal arc welding and gas metal arc welding generally use direct current, but the electrode can be charged either positively or negatively. In welding, the positively charged anode will have a greater heat concentration, and as a result, changing the polarity of the electrode affects weld properties. If the electrode is positively charged, the base metal will be hotter, increasing weld penetration and welding speed. Alternatively, a negatively charged electrode results in more shallow welds.[26] Nonconsumable electrode processes, such as gas tungsten arc welding, can use either type of direct current, as well as alternating current. However, with direct current, because the electrode only creates the arc and does not provide filler material, a positively charged electrode causes shallow welds, while a negatively charged electrode makes deeper welds.[27] Alternating current rapidly moves between these two, resulting in medium-penetration welds. One disadvantage of AC, the fact that the arc must be re-ignited after every zero crossing, has been addressed with the invention of special power units that produce a square wave pattern instead of the normal sine wave, making rapid zero crossings possible and minimizing the effects of the problem.[28]

One of the most common types of arc welding is shielded metal arc welding (SMAW);[29] it is also known as manual metal arc welding (MMA) or stick welding. Electric current is used to strike an arc between the base material and consumable electrode rod, which is made of filler material (typically steel) and is covered with a flux that protects the weld area from oxidation and contamination by producing carbon dioxide (CO2) gas during the welding process. The electrode core itself acts as filler material, making a separate filler unnecessary.[29]

The process is versatile and can be performed with relatively inexpensive equipment, making it well suited to shop jobs and field work.[29][30] An operator can become reasonably proficient with a modest amount of training and can achieve mastery with experience. Weld times are rather slow, since the consumable electrodes must be frequently replaced and because slag, the residue from the flux, must be chipped away after welding.[29] Furthermore, the process is generally limited to welding ferrous materials, though special electrodes have made possible the welding of cast ironnickel, aluminum, copper, and other metals.[30]

Gas metal arc welding (GMAW), also known as metal inert gas or MIG welding, is a semi-automatic or automatic process that uses a continuous wire feed as an electrode and an inert or semi-inert gas mixture to protect the weld from contamination. Since the electrode is continuous, welding speeds are greater for GMAW than for SMAW.[31]

A related process, flux-cored arc welding (FCAW), uses similar equipment but uses wire consisting of a steel electrode surrounding a powder fill material. This cored wire is more expensive than the standard solid wire and can generate fumes and/or slag, but it permits even higher welding speed and greater metal penetration.[32]

Gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), or tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding, is a manual welding process that uses a nonconsumable tungsten electrode, an inert or semi-inert gas mixture, and a separate filler material.[33] Especially useful for welding thin materials, this method is characterized by a stable arc and high quality welds, but it requires significant operator skill and can only be accomplished at relatively low speeds.[33]

GTAW can be used on nearly all weldable metals, though it is most often applied to stainless steel and light metals. It is often used when quality welds are extremely important, such as in bicycle, aircraft and naval applications.[33] A related process, plasma arc welding, also uses a tungsten electrode but uses plasma gas to make the arc. The arc is more concentrated than the GTAW arc, making transverse control more critical and thus generally restricting the technique to a mechanized process. Because of its stable current, the method can be used on a wider range of material thicknesses than can the GTAW process and it is much faster. It can be applied to all of the same materials as GTAW except magnesium, and automated welding of stainless steel is one important application of the process. A variation of the process is plasma cutting, an efficient steel cutting process.[34]

Submerged arc welding (SAW) is a high-productivity welding method in which the arc is struck beneath a covering layer of flux. This increases arc quality, since contaminants in the atmosphere are blocked by the flux. The slag that forms on the weld generally comes off by itself, and combined with the use of a continuous wire feed, the weld deposition rate is high. Working conditions are much improved over other arc welding processes, since the flux hides the arc and almost no smoke is produced. The process is commonly used in industry, especially for large products and in the manufacture of welded pressure vessels.[35] Other arc welding processes include atomic hydrogen weldingelectroslag weldingelectrogas welding, and stud arc welding.[36]

Diagram of arc and weld area, in shielded metal arc welding.
1. Coating Flow
2. Rod
3. Shield Gas
4. Fusion
5. Base metal
6. Weld metal
7. Solidified Slag

Gas Welding

The most common gas welding process is oxyfuel welding,[13] also known as oxyacetylene welding. It is one of the oldest and most versatile welding processes, but in recent years it has become less popular in industrial applications. It is still widely used for welding pipes and tubes, as well as repair work.[13]

The equipment is relatively inexpensive and simple, generally employing the combustion of acetylene in oxygen to produce a welding flame temperature of about 3100 °C.[13] The flame, since it is less concentrated than an electric arc, causes slower weld cooling, which can lead to greater residual stresses and weld distortion, though it eases the welding of high alloy steels. A similar process, generally called oxyfuel cutting, is used to cut metals.[13]

Resistance Welding

Resistance welding involves the generation of heat by passing current through the resistance caused by the contact between two or more metal surfaces. Small pools of molten metal are formed at the weld area as high current (1000–100,000 A) is passed through the metal.[37] In general, resistance welding methods are efficient and cause little pollution, but their applications are somewhat limited and the equipment cost can be high.[37]

Spot welding is a popular resistance welding method used to join overlapping metal sheets of up to 3 mm thick.[37] Two electrodes are simultaneously used to clamp the metal sheets together and to pass current through the sheets. The advantages of the method include efficient energy use, limited workpiece deformation, high production rates, easy automation, and no required filler materials. Weld strength is significantly lower than with other welding methods, making the process suitable for only certain applications. It is used extensively in the automotive industry—ordinary cars can have several thousand spot welds made by industrial robots. A specialized process, called shot welding, can be used to spot weld stainless steel.[37]

Like spot welding, seam welding relies on two electrodes to apply pressure and current to join metal sheets. However, instead of pointed electrodes, wheel-shaped electrodes roll along and often feed the workpiece, making it possible to make long continuous welds. In the past, this process was used in the manufacture of beverage cans, but now its uses are more limited.[37] Other resistance welding methods include butt welding,[38] flash weldingprojection welding, and upset welding.[37]

Energy Beam

Energy beam welding methods, namely laser beam welding and electron beam welding, are relatively new processes that have become quite popular in high production applications. The two processes are quite similar, differing most notably in their source of power. Laser beam welding employs a highly focused laser beam, while electron beam welding is done in a vacuum and uses an electron beam. Both have a very high energy density, making deep weld penetration possible and minimizing the size of the weld area. Both processes are extremely fast, and are easily automated, making them highly productive. The primary disadvantages are their very high equipment costs (though these are decreasing) and a susceptibility to thermal cracking. Developments in this area include laser-hybrid welding, which uses principles from both laser beam welding and arc welding for even better weld properties, laser cladding, and x-ray welding.[39]

Solid State Welding

Like the first welding process, forge welding, some modern welding methods do not involve the melting of the materials being joined. One of the most popular, ultrasonic welding, is used to connect thin sheets or wires made of metal or thermoplastic by vibrating them at high frequency and under high pressure.[41] The equipment and methods involved are similar to that of resistance welding, but instead of electric current, vibration provides energy input. Welding metals with this process does not involve melting the materials; instead, the weld is formed by introducing mechanical vibrations horizontally under pressure. When welding plastics, the materials should have similar melting temperatures, and the vibrations are introduced vertically. Ultrasonic welding is commonly used for making electrical connections out of aluminum or copper, and it is also a very common polymer welding process.[41]

Another common process, explosion welding, involves the joining of materials by pushing them together under extremely high pressure. The energy from the impact plasticizes the materials, forming a weld, even though only a limited amount of heat is generated. The process is commonly used for welding dissimilar materials, such as the welding of aluminum with steel in ship hulls or compound plates.[41] Other solid-state welding processes include friction welding (including friction stir welding),[42] magnetic pulse welding,[43] co-extrusion welding, cold weldingdiffusion bondingexothermic weldinghigh frequency welding, hot pressure welding, induction welding, and roll welding.[41]

.

Geometry

Common welding joint types – (1) Square butt joint, (2) V butt joint, (3) Lap joint, (4) T-joint

Welds can be geometrically prepared in many different ways. The five basic types of weld joints are the butt joint, lap joint, corner joint, edge joint, and T-joint (a variant of this last is the cruciform joint). Other variations exist as well—for example, double-V preparation joints are characterized by the two pieces of material each tapering to a single center point at one-half their height. Single-U and double-U preparation joints are also fairly common—instead of having straight edges like the single-V and double-V preparation joints, they are curved, forming the shape of a U. Lap joints are also commonly more than two pieces thick—depending on the process used and the thickness of the material, many pieces can be welded together in a lap joint geometry.[44]

Many welding processes require the use of a particular joint design; for example, resistance spot welding, laser beam welding, and electron beam welding are most frequently performed on lap joints. Other welding methods, like shielded metal arc welding, are extremely versatile and can weld virtually any type of joint. Some processes can also be used to make multipass welds, in which one weld is allowed to cool, and then another weld is performed on top of it. This allows for the welding of thick sections arranged in a single-V preparation joint, for example.[45]

After welding, a number of distinct regions can be identified in the weld area. The weld itself is called the fusion zone—more specifically, it is where the filler metal was laid during the welding process. The properties of the fusion zone depend primarily on the filler metal used, and its compatibility with the base materials. It is surrounded by the heat-affected zone, the area that had its microstructure and properties altered by the weld. These properties depend on the base material’s behavior when subjected to heat. The metal in this area is often weaker than both the base material and the fusion zone, and is also where residual stresses are found.[46]

Quality

Many distinct factors influence the strength of welds and the material around them, including the welding method, the amount and concentration of energy input, the weldability of the base material, filler material, and flux material, the design of the joint, and the interactions between all these factors.[47] To test the quality of a weld, either destructive or nondestructive testing methods are commonly used to verify that welds are free of defects, have acceptable levels of residual stresses and distortion, and have acceptable heat-affected zone (HAZ) properties. Types of welding defects include cracks, distortion, gas inclusions (porosity), non-metallic inclusions, lack of fusion, incomplete penetration, lamellar tearing, and undercutting.

The metalworking industry has instituted specifications and codes to guide weldersweld inspectorsengineers, managers, and property owners in proper welding technique, design of welds, how to judge the quality of Welding Procedure Specification, how to judge the skill of the person performing the weld, and how to ensure the quality of a welding job.[47] Methods such as visual inspectionradiographyultrasonic testingphased-array ultrasonicsdye penetrant inspectionmagnetic particle inspection, or industrial computed tomography can help with detection and analysis of certain defects.

Heat-affected Zone

The heat-affected zone (HAZ) is a ring surrounding the weld in which the temperature of the welding process, combined with the stresses of uneven heating and cooling, alter the heat-treatment properties of the alloy. The effects of welding on the material surrounding the weld can be detrimental—depending on the materials used and the heat input of the welding process used, the HAZ can be of varying size and strength. The thermal diffusivity of the base material plays a large role—if the diffusivity is high, the material cooling rate is high and the HAZ is relatively small. Conversely, a low diffusivity leads to slower cooling and a larger HAZ. The amount of heat injected by the welding process plays an important role as well, as processes like oxyacetylene welding have an unconcentrated heat input and increase the size of the HAZ. Processes like laser beam welding give a highly concentrated, limited amount of heat, resulting in a small HAZ. Arc welding falls between these two extremes, with the individual processes varying somewhat in heat input.[48][49] To calculate the heat input for arc welding procedures, the following formula can be used:

{\displaystyle Q=\left({\frac {V\times I\times 60}{S\times 1000}}\right)\times {\mathit {Efficiency}}}Q=\left({\frac {V\times I\times 60}{S\times 1000}}\right)\times {\mathit {Efficiency}}

where Q = heat input (kJ/mm), V = voltage (V), I = current (A), and S = welding speed (mm/min). The efficiency is dependent on the welding process used, with shielded metal arc welding having a value of 0.75, gas metal arc welding and submerged arc welding, 0.9, and gas tungsten arc welding, 0.8.[50] Methods of alleviating the stresses and brittleness created in the HAZ include stress relieving and tempering.[51]

The blue area results from oxidation at a corresponding temperature of 600 °F (316 °C). This is an accurate way to identify temperature, but does not represent the HAZ width. The HAZ is the narrow area that immediately surrounds the welded base metal

Lifetime extension with after treatment methods

The durability and life of dynamically loaded, welded steel structures is determined in many cases by the welds, in particular the weld transitions. Through selective treatment of the transitions by grinding (abrasive cutting)shot peeningHigh Frequency Impact Treatment, etc. the durability of many designs increase significantly.

Metallurgy

Most solids used are engineering materials consisting of crystalline solids in which the atoms or ions are arranged in a repetitive geometric pattern which is known as a lattice structure. The only exception is material that is made from glass which is a combination of a supercooled liquid and polymers which are aggregates of large organic molecules.[52]

Crystalline solids cohesion is obtained by a metallic or chemical bond which is formed between the constituent atoms. Chemical bonds can be grouped into two types consisting of ionic and covalent. To form an ionic bond, either a valence or bonding electron separates from one atom and becomes attached to another atom to form oppositely charged ions. The bonding in the static position is when the ions occupy an equilibrium position where the resulting force between them is zero. When the ions are exerted in tension force, the inter-ionic spacing increases creating an electrostatic attractive force, while a repulsing force under compressive force between the atomic nuclei is dominant.[52]

Covalent bonding takes place when one of the constituent atoms loses one or more electrons, with the other atom gaining the electrons, resulting in an electron cloud that is shared by the molecule as a whole. In both ionic and covalent bonding the location of the ions and electrons are constrained relative to each other, thereby resulting in the bond being characteristically brittle.[52]

Metallic bonding can be classified as a type of covalent bonding for which the constituent atoms of the same type and do not combine with one another to form a chemical bond. Atoms will lose an electron(s) forming an array of positive ions. These electrons are shared by the lattice which makes the electron cluster mobile, as the electrons are free to move as well as the ions. For this, it gives metals their relatively high thermal and electrical conductivity as well as being characteristically ductile.[52]

Three of the most commonly used crystal lattice structures in metals are the body-centred cubicface-centred cubic and close-packed hexagonal. Ferritic steel has a body-centred cubic structure and austenitic steelnon-ferrous metals like aluminumcopper and nickel have the face-centred cubic structure.[52]

Ductility is an important factor in ensuring the integrity of structures by enabling them to sustain local stress concentrations without fracture. In addition, structures are required to be of an acceptable strength, which is related to a material’s yield strength. In general, as the yield strength of a material increases, there is a corresponding reduction in fracture toughness.[52]

A reduction in fracture toughness may also be attributed to the embrittlement effect of impurities, or for body-centred cubic metals, from a reduction in temperature. Metals and in particular steels have a transitional temperature range where above this range the metal has acceptable notch-ductility while below this range the material becomes brittle. Within the range, the materials behavior is unpredictable. The reduction in fracture toughness is accompanied by a change in the fracture appearance. When above the transition, the fracture is primarily due to micro-void coalescence, which results in the fracture appearing fibrous. When the temperatures falls the fracture will show signs of cleavage facets. These two appearances are visible by the naked eye. Brittle fracture in steel plates may appear as chevron markings under the microscope. These arrow-like ridges on the crack surface point towards the origin of the fracture.[52]

Fracture toughness is measured using a notched and pre-cracked rectangular specimen, of which the dimensions are specified in standards, for example ASTM E23. There are other means of estimating or measuring fracture toughness by the following: The Charpy impact test per ASTM A370; The crack-tip opening displacement (CTOD) test per BS 7448-1; The J integral test per ASTM E1820; The Pellini drop-weight test per ASTM E208.[52]

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