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Welding Design


Aspects of Welding Design


Types of joints and welds

Joint selection - AWS Structural Welding Codes
Fatigue design
Residual stress and distortion


The field of welding design encompasses many subject areas, which may be broadly
grouped into such topics as joint design, mechanics, and structures.
Joint design includes the various types of grooves and welds as well as tolerance
requirements and welding symbols on drawings. Factors such as material thickness and
welding process influence the selection of a particular joint design.
Mechanics deals with the stress and strain experienced by a welded joint. Moments of
inertia and minimum weld size to support a given load are typical calculations. Fracture
mechanics and fitness-for-service quantify the performance of a welded joint that contains
flaws or discontinuities.
The structures include the different types of construction and their behavior under
various types of loading. Examples of types of construction are box, cellular, and skin on
frame. Many steel and lightweight constructions are not subjected to dynamic loading and
are designed simply for static loads. Bridges and cranes are examples of welded structures
that are subjected to dynamic loads. Boilers, pipelines and pressure vessels can be
subjected to thermodynamic loading.

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Welding Design

Joint Design

Joint Types

Butt joint

Tee joint

Flanges or stiffeners

Lap joint

Continuity of section

No joint preparation

Corner joint
Edge joint

Two or more parallel, or

nearly parallel members

Butt joints are noted for their continuity of section, with the two welded members lying
in the same plane. For a plate thickness above approximately 3/8-inch, the joint is typically
grooved to ensure complete penetration.
Fillet welds are often made on T-joints.
Lap joints do not require edge preparation. Unlike the butt weld, the load does not
transfer directly across the joint. For this reason, lap joints are not preferred for fatigue
service. Overlap of five times the material thickness is recommended for double fillet
welds in order to limit rotation under load. Resistance spot and resistance seam welding
require lap joints.
Corner joints are often arc-welded with fillet, J-groove or V-grooves.
Two essentially parallel plates come together at an edge joint. It may be possible to
weld this joint without additional filler material.

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Welding Design

Joint Design

Weld Types

Fillet weld

Approximately triangular
No joint preparation
Most common weld in
structural work

Square (Butt) weld


Penetration difficult from

one side; double-sided joint
used to ensure strength
Sometimes root is opened
and a backing bar is used

Single fillet welds should not be used when an in-service bending moment loads the root
of the weld in tension due to the stress concentration at the weld root. The use of single
fillet welds should be limited in fatigue service.
Double fillet welds limit the rotation of T-joints and corner joints during service and
thereby reduce stress at the weld root.
Penetration is a major concern with the square weld. As such, a double weld is often
used to ensure full penetration. If a root gap is used, a backing bar will keep the molten
weld metal in place.

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Welding Design

Joint Design

Weld Types

Bevel groove


Single bevel is widely used

Double preferred if metal
thickness >3/4 - K joint
Both members beveled
Butt joints for plate thickness
greater than 1/4 inch

Double welds reduce

distortion and require 1/2
the weld metal for a given
plate thickness

Only one member is beveled in a bevel-groove. The bevel angle is measured between
the beveled edge and a plane perpendicular to the surface of the non-beveled member.
Joint preparation for beveled welds are easily prepared and work well with corner-joints
and T-joints. Double-bevel welds should be used when plate thickness is greater than 3/4inch, if welding can be accomplished from both sides. The double bevel produces less
distortion because the stresses on opposite sides of the plate offset each other. Also, the
double bevel uses approximately half the weld metal of a single bevel for a given angle.
Both members are beveled in a V-groove. The groove angle is measured from one
beveled surface to the other. Joint preparation is relatively easy, as in the bevel-groove
weld. Double V-groove welds enjoy the same advantages as double-bevel groove welds,
including less weld metal and reduced distortion. Full penetration is required to ensure the
strength of the joint.

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Welding Design

Joint Design

Weld Types


Single well suited for butted

corner and T joints
Machined or carbon arc
gouged preparation


Rounded base allows larger

electrodes for narrower groove
Machined or carbon arc
gouged preparation


The J-groove weld is well suited for butted corner joints and T-joints. It requires a
minimum of 1/8-inch root face and 1/4-inch root radius. Therefore, the plate material must
be greater than 3/8-inch thick.
Joint preparation for the J-groove weld is more complicated than for the bevel-groove
or V-groove. The edge must be machined, and this increases cost. The double J-groove has
the same advantages as other double welds.
The U-groove comes into play in the welding of thicker plates. It allows access to the
weld root while using less weld metal than a V-groove. As with the J-groove, plate
thickness must be greater than 3/8-inch.
Edge preparation costs are higher than the bevel-groove or V-groove. The edges may be
machined or arc gouged. The double U-groove enjoys the advantages of all double grooved

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Welding Design

Joint Design

Weld Joint Nomenclature






1 - groove angle
2 - bevel angle
3 - root face (land)
4 - root opening (root gap)
5 - groove face


1 - throat
2 - weld face
3 - depth of fusion
4 - root
5 - fillet leg length
6 - weld toe

A proper welding procedure specification calls out details such as root opening, groove
angle and root face. For the design of a fillet weld, the stress calculation will involve the
throat thickness and fillet length. The weld toe is the region where the weld metal meets the
surface of the base plate. The weld toe is often discussed in terms of hardness variations
and discontinuities, such as undercut, which are associated with this region.

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Welding Design

Joint Design

Welding Positions


1 - flat
2 - horizontal
3 - vertical
4 - overhead
F - fillet weld
G - groove weld



A welding position is designated by a letter-number combination. G1 refers to a

groove weld in the flat position. Welding in the flat position whenever practical can help to
improve productivity. The horizontal position is also preferred to overhead and vertical
welding; horizontal welding is, however, more prone to overlap and undercut defects than in
the flat position.
In pipe welds, these letter-number combinations indicate welding positions unique to
pipes. Pipe welds are designated with the letter G because they normally involve groove
welds. The 1G position specifies the pipe axis to be approximately horizontal; welding is
done in the flat position as the pipe is rotated under the arc. The 2G position indicates that
the pipe axis is in a vertical position. The 3G and 4G positions do not exist for pipes. The
5G is also referred to as multiple position; the pipe axis is flat and stationary while the
welder moves the arc around the pipe. For the 6G position, the axis of the pipe is near 45,
and the welder welds around the stationary pipe. The pipe axis can vary 45 for the G1,
G2 and G5 pipe welding positions but only 5 for 6G. A 6G restricted position is often
used for qualification. This position, designated 6GR has a restricting ring placed around
the pipe near the weld.

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Welding Design

Welding Codes

Welding Codes and Specifications


A wide variety of codes and specifications have been

developed to guide material and process selection,
design, and qualification

Technical Societies

American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC)

American Petroleum Institute (API)
Military (MIL) specifications
American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
American Welding Society (AWS)

International Standards

There are many codes and specifications that cover welding design, material
selection, and postweld heat treatment and inspection. Codes have been developed
by industry groups and technical societies.
The ASME and AWS codes are the most widely used in the US for general

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Welding Design

Welding Codes

American Welding Society (AWS) Standards


There are over 125 AWS standards that cover materials,

processes, design, and qualification
Some examples

AWS A5.16 - Spec. for Ti and Ti-alloy Welding Electrodes

AWS B2.1 - Welding Procedure and Performance Qualification
AWS B4.0M - Standard Methods for Mechanical Testing of Welds
AWS D1.1 - Structural Welding Code - Steel
AWS D1.6 - Structural Welding Code - Stainless Steel
AWS D1.2 - Structural Welding Code - Aluminum
AWS C7.3 - Process Specification for Electron Beam Welding


The standards developed by the American Welding Society (AWS) address

materials, processes, design, inspection and qualification. For example, there are
very specific standards for qualifying both welding personnel and the welds they will
be making. To qualify a weld for a specific application, it is first necessary to
establish a Procedure Qualification Record (PQR) and then a Welding Procedure
Specification (WPS).
The AWS D1.1 standard for structural steel welding is widely used for general
construction. It is updated every 2-3 years.

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Welding Design

Welding Codes

AWS Structural Welding Codes


Guidelines for design of welded joints, pre-qualified joint



Statically loaded structures

Dynamically loaded structures
Tubular sections

Details the processes used with particular joints

How to qualify welding procedures and personnel
Outlines quality and inspection in welded construction


ANSI/AWS D1.1 is An American National Standard published by the American Welding

Society and accepted by the American National Standards Institute. The abstract to the
1996 version of the standard states that,
This code covers the welding requirements for any type of welded structure made from the
commonly used carbon and low-alloy constructional steels. Sections 1 through 8 constitute
a body of rules for the regulation of welding in steel construction.
Section outline
1. General requirements
2. Design of welded connections: common requirements of nontubular and tubular
connections; specific requirements for nontubular connections (statically or cyclically
loaded); specific requirements for cyclically loaded nontubular connections; specific
requirements for tubular connections
3. Prequalification of WPSs
4. Qualification: general requirements; welding procedure specification (WPS);
performance qualification
5. Fabrication:
6. Inspection: general requirements; contractor responsibilities; acceptance criteria;
nondestructive testing procedures; radiographic testing; ultrasonic testing of groove welds;
other examination methods

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Welding Design

Welding Codes

Pre-qualified Joint Geometry


7. Stud welding
8. Strengthening and repairing existing structures
12 Mandatory annexes: e.g., effective throat, requirements for impact testing, flatness of
girder webs, guideline on alternate method for determining preheat
12 Nonmandatory annexes: e.g., guide for specification writers, sample welding forms,
contents of prequalified WPS, safe practices
ANSI/AWS D1.1 provides pre-qualified joint designs (example above), as well as filler
metal and preheat selection guidelines. Pre-qualified joints, as given in Section 3 of D1.1,
are exempt from the WPS testing required under Section 4 of the code, provided the written
WPS conforms to all provision of Section 3 of the code. This exemption can save
considerable time in the structural design. However, the engineer should still evaluate the
appropriateness of the joint selection. The welders that use pre-qualified joints are required
to be qualified themselves in conformance with Section 4, Part C.

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Welding Design


Effect of Discontinuities on Properties


Discontinuities in a
welded joint can influence
mechanical properties
Codes establish size
limits for acceptable
unacceptable by a given
code are called defects
and are subject to repair

Stress applied to a material is magnified by flaws in the material, e.g., cracks. A stress
intensity factor quantifies this magnification of the applied stress. The fracture toughness of
a material is the critical value of this stress intensity factor that causes fracture.
The term Engineering Critical Assessment is used for the analysis of a structure that has
flaws (cracks) and will be subjected to stress. Several factors must be considered in order
to make a realistic prediction of the likelihood of catastrophic (brittle) failure of such a
structure: temperature, crack geometry, magnitude of the stress, strain rate, and yield
strength of the material.

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Welding Design


Nondestructive Evaluation

Magnetic particle
Fluorescent penetrant
Dye penetrant




Ultrasonic signal over flaw

A - top surface
B - flaw
C - bottom surface



Welded joints can contain discontinuities such as undercut and trapped slag inclusions.
Welding codes, such as ANSI/AWS D1.1 set size and frequency limitations on the
occurrence of these discontinuities. Discontinuities which exceed these limitations are
referred to as defects and must be repaired. Discontinuity and defect are legal terms and
should be used properly when reporting weld inspections for code compliance.
Four basic types of nondestructive testing (NDT) are used to evaluate welded joints. A
radiograph is an x-ray of the weld and can show internal discontinuities that cannot be
detected by visual methods. Ultrasonic testing uses a transducer to push sound waves into a
material. Echoes of the sound from the top and bottom surface of the plate appear as blips
on the screen of the oscilloscope used in the procedure. Internal discontinuities appear as
additional blips between the blips that indicate the top and bottom surface of the plates.
Discontinuities that penetrate the surface of welded joint can be located by magnetic
particle, fluorescent penetrant, and dye penetrant methods. In magnetic particle testing, a
region of the joint is magnetized by passing current through it. Magnetized particles are
poured onto the surface; discontinuities disrupt the regularity of the magnetic field and are
outlined by the magnetic particles. In the dye and fluorescent methods, penetrant liquids are
applied to the surface of the joint and soak into the surface discontinuities. The remaining
penetrant is wiped away. Ultraviolet light is used to locate the discontinuities in the
fluorescent particle method. For dye penetrant, a white developer is sprayed over the
cleaned surface; the dye (usually red) leaches through the white coating to reveal the
location of the discontinuity.

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Welding Design

Fatigue Design


Tension - Tension

Fatigue is material failure

due to cyclic loading
Cyclic rather than static

Tension - compression
Tension - tension

Occurs at stress levels

below the tensile strength

Tension - Compression

The fatigue life of non-welded material is generally divided into two phases: crack
initiation and crack growth. First the cyclic nature of the stress initiates a crack. Once the
crack is initiated, it acts as a stress concentrator. The amplified stress at the crack tip causes
the crack to propagate. Failure occurs when the structure can no longer support the applied
stress. In terms of the overall fatigue life of a material, the crack initiation stage can be as
high as 90%. In other words, it takes a long time for the crack to develop. Once the crack
does initiate, it grows quickly and causes failure. Structural designs that include sharp
corners or notches are prone to fatigue failure. The corners and notches act as initial stress
concentrators, which help to initiate fatigue cracks.
Welded joints have essentially no crack initiation phase; subsequently they can have
10% of the fatigue life of a non-welded material.

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Welding Design

Fatigue Design

Factors Affecting Fatigue



Welds have pre-existing

stress risers or initiation
sites from which fatigue
cracks can grow
Slag intrusions
z Weld toe radius
Other factors
z Butt joints vs. lap joints
z Sharp corners, notches

Smooth weld toe



Welds are associated with having pre-existing discontinuities that act as initiation sites
for fatigue. These weld discontinuities include slag intrusions, undercut, and lack of
penetration (among others). With these fatigue crack initiation sites already present in the
structure, crack growth can begin almost immediately.
Fatigue is often noted to start at the weld toe due to the presence of the aforementioned
slag intrusions as well as the geometry of the weld toe (angle, radius and undercut), both of
which act as stress concentrators. Grinding, peening, or dressing of the weld toe with a final
GTAW pass can act to reduce the incidence of discontinuities.
General design factors, such as the avoidance of lap joints in favor of butt joints, can
also increase the fatigue life of welded structures.

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Welding Design

Fatigue Design

Fatigue Appearance

Distinct fracture surface

has a characteristic

Concentric line pattern

Smooth portion referred to
as clamshell texture

multiple initiation sites


The surface of a fatigue fracture has a characteristic appearance. A concentric line

pattern is noted to grow outward from an initiation point. In welding, this initiation point
could be associated with a slag intrusion, undercut, or other discontinuity associated with
the welding process.
The concentric line pattern provides a visual record of the accumulated crack growth
from the initiation site with continued cyclic loading. The fracture surface near the
initiation site is generally smooth and is noted to have a clamshell-like texture. If more than
one initiation site is present, the fatigue cracks, often growing on different planes, will link
up to form a unified crack front.
When the cross section of the material is no longer able to support the load, failure
(sometimes sudden, catastrophic) occurs. In these instances, the ends of the fatigue crack
can spontaneously start to run at high speeds due to the stress concentration. In cases of
brittle fracture in pipelines, longitudinal cracks have been know to run several hundreds of
yards before stopping.

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Welding Design

Fatigue Design

AWS Structural Code - Fatigue Design

Class B

Class F - weld metal

Class E - base metal at ends of weld

AWS structural code provides fatigue design guidelines

for different weld types and loading configurations

ANSI/AWS D1.1 provides fatigue design lines for six stress categories. General fatigue
guidelines include the following:
1) Partial penetration groove welds loaded in tension transverse to the longitudinal axis of
the weld cannot be used where design criteria indicate that cyclic loading could produce
2) Groove welds made from one side only cannot be used if the welds are made with
backing (other than steel) that has not been qualified to Section 4. There are exceptions for
secondary or non-stress carrying members, and for corner joints meeting certain criteria.
3) Intermittent groove welds are prohibited.
4) Intermittent fillet welds are prohibited, with a given exception.
5) Bevel grooves and J-grooves in butt joints for other than the horizontal position are
6) Plug and slot welds on primary tension members are prohibited.
7) Fillet welds < 3/16-inch are prohibited.

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Welding Design

Fatigue Design

AWS D1.1 Fatigue Design Lines


The weld stress category is determined by matching the weld to a series of examples
given in ANSI/AWS D1.1. The stress range is determined by subtracting the minimum
design stress from the maximum design stress. The fatigue life of a welded joint is located
by matching the stress range to the stress category and then reading the cycle life value for
that point. The design curves reflect a safety factor below the mean as determined through
fatigue testing.
Example 1: A category D weld joint, designed for a stress range of 5 ksi has a fatigue
life of 7 million cycles.
Example 2: A category B weld joint, designed for a stress range of 10 ksi should not fail
in fatigue. This assumes a properly qualified weld with no defects.
An important note on weld design
Welds are generally designed to ensure that the strength of the metal across a given
throat thickness can support the maximum stress. Fatigue, however, occurs independent of
metal strength. Changing the base metal to a higher strength will not result in longer
fatigue life. Fatigue is often noted to occur at the toe of the weld, although it can still
occur through the throat of the weld. In fact, there are different stress categories for stress
on the weld metal as opposed to stress on the base metal at the weld toe, as was pointed out
on the previous page.

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Welding Design

Residual Stress and Distortion

Residual Stress & Distortion


Heat flows from the weld area and causing the joint area
to expand
Thermal expansion and contraction from welding result
in permanent stress and distortion
Higher heat input welds are more prone to residual
stress and distortion


The heat produced by welding produces thermal expansion in the surrounding material.
The stresses associated with this expansion continue to change until the joint returns to
ambient temperature. A pattern of permanent stress may be left in the joint; this is referred
to as residual stress. Permanent strain left in the joint is referred to as distortion.
High energy input welding processes, such as the submerged arc process, are more
likely to produce residual stress and distortion. Laser and electron beam welds, with their
overall low heat input, tend not to produce residual stress or distortion problems.

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Welding Design

Residual Stress and Distortion


Transverse Shrinkage Longitudinal Shrinkage

Rotational Distortion

Longitudinal Bending

Angular Change


Transverse shrinkage results in a decreased plate width after welding.

Longitudinal shrinkage causes the plate to bow inward in the vicinity of the ends of the
Angular distortion changes the alignment of the plates from their original placement
prior to welding. In the example above, the previously flat base of the fillet weld has
rotated towards the vertical member.
Rotational distortion becomes a factor when a long section has to be welded. In this
case, tack welds are generally used to hold a section in place. For a cylindrical weld, e.g., a
pipe or storage tank, block welding is used. Welding is accomplished in sections,
alternating from one side to another to balance distortion.
Longitudinal bending results in the bowing of the flat base plate of a long fillet weld.
Buckling is perhaps the most difficult type of distortion to correct. Essentially, the
material adopts a sinusoidal wave pattern in response to welding stress. This distortion is
most often seen in the welding of thin plate or panel material.

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Welding Design

Residual Stress and Distortion

Eliminating Distortion

Angular distortion after welding

Preset members to
counteract distortion
Fixtures to clamp
workpiece in place

Restraint reduces distortion

but increases residual

Stress-relief heat

Preset members before welding


In order to reduce distortion, the piece being joined may clamped into position. This
method will reduce distortion, but may increase the residual stress in the joint after welding.
Another method of reducing distortion is to weld the plates with a preset. If two plates
typically distort upwards by 5 after they are welded, then position the plates with a 5
downward preset before welding.
Heat treatment after welding can be used to relieve residual stress. In steels, stress relief
is accomplished in the 1100-1200F temperature range.

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Welding Design

Residual Stress and Distortion

Residual Stress Pattern




Residual stress is present

across an unrestrained
butt weld after cooling
Tension near weld bead
Compression away from
the weld bead
Restraint can affect this
stress state


As a weld cools, it attempts to contract more than the base metal, since the base metal
was not heated to as high a temperature. As the weld shrinks, it is restrained by the
surrounding base metal. Thus, after welding, a state of residual tension is produced in the
weld. The base metal near the weld is in compression, which balances out the tension to
yield a net force of zero on an unrestrained plate. The presence of restraint can affect this
stress pattern.

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