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A Study into the effects of residual stresses and the hot dip galvanizing process.

A means of preventing unwanted distortion. By JS Hornsey B.Sc of VSR (Africa )cc.

November 2008

Hot dip galvanizing is an effective method of protecting steel fabrications and other structural components
against corrosion, its usage can be traced back almost one hundred years. A disadvantage of the galvanizing
process however, is that the large temperature gradients that are generated in fabrications, coupled with the
release of internal stresses during the galvanizing process, can often cause severe distortion during the
galvanizing operation. This paper looks at the causes of the distortion and the usage of a system known as
Vibratory Stress Relieving (VSR) as a means of either preventing or greatly minimising this distortion. The VSR
system is already being used in many parts of the world with a very high success rate on components prior to
them being galvanized, and thereby minimising the distortion, or as in many cases, completely eliminating the

Distortion of a component following hot dip galvanizing is a problem that is encountered by Galvanizers
worldwide. Although unacceptable distortion only occurs in a very small percentage of the tens of
thousands of components that are galvanized daily, it is this very small percentage that often casts doubt
and mistrust upon the galvanizing process and can thus further lead to fabricators often seeking other less
efficient means of protective coatings.
Fabrications often contain a myriad of locked in stresses, these stresses are often caused through the cold
working of the metal, hole punching, and through the joining processes involved. Poor design, and in many
cases poor engineering practices coupled with a lack of education as to the galvanizing process on the part
of the fabricator can account for another source of unacceptably high stresses in the component.
The temperatures as used in the HDG process will bring about a reduction of anything up to 50% in the
yield strength of most materials. Although this reduction is only temporary, as the yield strength will revert
back to its normal strength upon the cooling of the material; this reduction combined with an uncontrolled
release of stresses when immersed into the galvanizing bath will often bring about the unwanted and often
damaging distortion.
Zinc temperatures of 450-460ºC will induce additional thermal gradients and stresses into the product
being galvanized. These stresses may often be relieved at the galvanizing temperatures by conversion to
plastic strains, possibly accompanied by various forms of buckling distortion. The magnitude of the
distortion is often a complex function of component geometry and dipping practice. Following removal
from the zinc bath, the item may either be allowed to cool on the shop floor or it may be quenched by
dipping into a bath of water. As with heating, the changes in temperature during cooling can generate
thermal stresses.
Structural beams form a significant percentage of the wide product range that is suitable for hot dip
galvanizing. Large fabricated beams are costly items and, owing to their size and strength, they may not be
easily straightened once having distorted.
The principle source of the distortion in large beams is a
variation in the longitudinal stresses over the cross sections
of the beams. Longitudinal stresses run parallel to the
length of the beam and there are three common types of
distortion that can result from the variation in these
stresses. These are detailed in Fig.1
The more complex distortion such as twisting is a result of
a combination of longitudinal, transverse and sheer
stresses. Other minor influences upon the degree of
distortion are sometimes caused by the liquid drag forces
incurred as the beam is withdrawn from the zinc bath. This
will also depend upon the position of the support points as
the effect will be maximised when the beam is being
withdrawn as the yield strength of the steel will have been
reduced and the beam will be lacking the buoyancy effect
from the molten zinc.
Fig 1 Typical distortion in beams
A structural beam following galvanizing should always be allowed to cool while resting upon a flat surface as any
beam at 450ºC with the corresponding reduction in yield strength while resting upon supports will experience
additional forces due to the effects of gravity which will produce bending moments and further bending stresses in
the beam. These stresses will reduce naturally over time, the reduction can be also accelerated by the bumping
during loading and whilst in transit and this then compounds the distortion, causing further problems on arrival at the
work site.
A particularly severe problem of beam distortion following galvanizing was noted by our associate company VSR
(UK). The galvanizers were Hereford Galvanizing who at the time was contracted for the galvanizing of a large
quantity of fabricated beams for Forth Engineering Ltd, contractors to the Ministry of Defence. The beams ranged in
length from 8m to 12m and all having additional braces welded to the webs, some of the beams would distort up to
22 mm following the galvanizing. Initially the UK Welding Institute was called upon to assist and they suggested
various welding solutions, none of which worked. The Welding Institute then recommended that they try adding the
VSR process whilst at the fabricators prior to the galvanizing. An on site study into the galvanizing process was
carried out and it was established that initially the beam was bending in its elastic state, reaching its peak deflection
at total submergence which would correspond to the maximum temperature differential between the upper and lower
flanges. Plastic (permanent) deformation commences following this as the beam heats up and the yield point of the
steel decreases. Further temperature increases result in continuing plastic deformation with the first, the lower and
hottest flange yielding resulting in a permanent bending of the beam, with the top flange yielding to provide stress
relief and a reduction of the beam distortion. This is clearly detailed in Fig 2, amazingly this distortion occurred
within 3, 5 mins of total submergence!

During the removal process, the top flange cools slightly

more rapidly, thereby increasing the stress over the rest of
the beam. With the lower portion of the web and the bottom
flange being hotter, it yields even more resulting in a small
increase in the plastic (permanent) distortion.

Fig 2 Time estimates of distortion during dipping and removal

A photograph of one of the beams undergoing a VSR treatment is detailed in fig. 3. Fig 4 shows beam and
galvanizing details

Beam dimensions Steel properties @ 30ºC

Height ±1050mm Modulus of elasticity 200GNmˉ2

Width 390mm Coefficient of expansion 1.2x10ˉ5Kˉ1
Length 6-12m Thermal Conductivity 45Wmˉˡ Kˉˡ
Web Thickness 16mm Yield Point 277Nm m²
Flange Thickness 30mm

Galvanizing conditions

Bath temperature ±455 ºC

Dipping angle 30º to horizontal with webs vertical
Dipping velocity average 500mm / min
Removal velocity average 1m / min

Fig 3 Beam VSR treated prior to galvanizing. Fig 4 Beam and galvanizing details.

Initially the first beam received a frequency scan which was recorded upon a graphic print out for further reference
purposes. The beams were basically identical and as their natural frequencies are in part determined by size, shape
and mass, it was assumed that the other beams would be very similar in their modal response. The trial beams were
then treated at their 1st bending mode in each plane for 8 minutes, a total of just 24 minutes treatment per beam.
Following the galvanizing process the beams maintained a tolerance of within 7mm, well within the specified
tolerance of 10 mm rendering them all fit for service with no further rework after galvanizing. The procedure was
then adopted to include VSR on all beams prior to galvanizing.
In South Africa, Rosati Industries a well known company based in Isithebe Natal has been contracted to manufacture
a large quantity of mobile pull out seating stands, the individual components of which are to be galvanized, refer Fig
5 which shows one of the sections undergoing VSR treatment.
The first batch of the seating decks that was sent for galvanizing distorted so badly it rendered them fit for scrap
purposes only refer Fig 6.

Fig 5. Seating platform prior to galvanizing VSR treated Fig 6. Items scrapped following galvanizing.

As can be seen in the photographs the components do not present an ideal shape for galvanizing owing to the thin
material, combined with numerous right angle bends, stiffeners and excessive stitch welding.
VSR (KZN) was subsequently approached with a view to trialing the VSR process on the thin fabricated sections
prior to the galvanizing operation. The first item was treated at very low frequencies in both the bending and
torsional modes for a total of nine minutes. This item was then sent for hot dip galvanizing, and on completion of
galvanizing it remained perfectly flat and required no rework, saving an immense amount of time and money in
wasted material and galvanizing costs. Tests are now underway with the manufacturing of a jig thereby allowing the
VSR operator to treat up to 21 components in one batch.

Fig 7. VSR treated plate following galvanizing Fig 8. Test jig for treating batches of 21 plates

There is still considerable testing to be carried out regarding batch treatment on these plates in order for the VSR
operator to establish the correct frequencies and forces that are required to treat multiple plates, as each plate must be
allowed to resonate freely in order to effect stress reduction.
Further components that were treated individually exhibited either minimal or no distortion. Owing to the large
volume of items that would require galvanizing the components can also be treated in pairs using a splitter box and
two exciters which would then enable two plates to be treated in less than ten minutes. The success rate to date has
been such that Rosati Industries are now enquiring about purchasing their own VSR system for their in house work.
Components which are currently being treated in the UK prior to hot dip galvanizing include the long complex
fabrications shown in fig 9 which are used as jigs in the manufacture of aircraft wings by Airbus Industries of
Broughton North Wales.

Fig 9.
Various bases being VSR treated at Airbus Industries North
Wales UK before the Hot Dip Galvanizing process. The
galvanized sections are visible in this photograph.

Owing to the extremely tight tolerances that are specified

during the manufacture and the post machining of these jigs
the only way that stability could be assured was to remove all
of the “locked in” stresses prior to galvanizing. The nearest
furnace for thermal stress relief would have involved a return
trip of over 250kms and with the complex geometry of these
components it was likely that further thermal distortion would
have occurred.
The easiest and the most cost effective solution was the use of
the on-site services of VSR (UK).

Of the hundreds of components that are treated daily in South Africa by using the on-site VSR service it is unknown
what percentage requires the services of the hot dip galvanizers as no survey has ever been carried out.
What is known is that where stress relief or component stability is required VSR can match that of thermal stress
relief a fact which is proven by the thousands of different users of the service on hundreds of different components
ranging from fan impellors, machine and pump base plates, through to heavy fabrications. A detailed listing of users
is available if required.

Vibratory Stress Relieving can be found in all major centers of South Africa. The process is quick, and it is clean
with no scaling or discoloration to the component, most importantly it is fully portable, running off a 220v single
phase supply. Treatment capacity ranges from less than 1 kg to in excess of 150,000 kg, the process can be carried
out either at the fabricator or at the galvanizing plant.

Further information if required is available upon our website or the author can be
contacted at

PO Box 12272
Tel 013 6500702 / 013 6500287