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Welding and joining processes

Process terminology
The European standard, BS EN ISO 4063:2000 Welding and allied processes Nomenclature of processes and reference numbers, assigns a unique number to the main welding processes. These are grouped as follows:

Arc welding Resistance welding Gas welding Forge welding Other welding processes Brazing, soldering and braze welding

Each process is identified within the group by a numerical index or reference number. For example, the MIG welding process has a reference number of 131 which is derived as follows:

1 - Arc welding 3 - Gas-shielded metal arc welding 1 - Metal arc inert gas welding

The main arc welding process reference numbers are:

111 MMA with covered electrodes 114 Flux cored wire (self-shielded) 112 Submerged arc 131 MIG (inert gas) 135 MAG (CO 2, active gas) 141 TIG 15 Plasma welding

The reference numbers are used as a convenient way of identifying the welding process in documentation such as welding procedure (EN 288) and welder qualification (EN 287) records.

Process options
Factors which must be taken into account when choosing a suitable welding or joining process are:

material type plate or tubular quality and strength requirements

degree of mechanization capital cost

Although consideration of these factors will identify the most suitable welding process, the choice within a company may be restricted by the cost of implementing a new process, availability of plant or current workforce skill. Welding and joining processes available to the welding engineer can be separated into the following generic types:

Fusion arc gas power beam resistance Thermomechanical o friction o flash o explosive Mechanical o fasteners Solid state o adhesive o soldering o brazing
o o o o

The suitability of the processes for welding and joining materials, joint types and components are shown in Table 1.

Process Arc Gas Laser Friction Brazing Fasteners

Index Steel Stainless Al no. 1 3 52 42 9 none Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Butt joint Yes

Lap Plate Tube joint Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes

Portability Manual Yes Yes No No Possible Yes Yes Yes No Yes No Yes Yes Yes

Mechanised Site Automated Yes No Yes Yes Yes Possible Yes Possible Yes Yes No No No Yes Yes Yes

Possible Possible Yes Possible Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No

Resistance 2

Possible Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Possible Possible Possible Yes

Adhesives none

In selecting a suitable process, consideration must also be given to the type of application, for example, the portability of equipment, whether it can be used on site, whether it is manual or mechanized, and the overall cost of the welding plant.

Fusion welding processes

When welding using a fusion process, the edges of a component are melted together to form weld metal. Parent Deposition Process Heat source Shield metal rate Kg/hr thickness mm Arc MMA MIG TIG SAW ES/EG Stud Gas Oxyfuel Laser EB Resistance Spot/Seam Arc Thermit Thermit Chemical Gas 10-100 0.2-10 Flame Radiation Electrogas Gas Gas 0.6-10 0.2-100 1-2 Power beam Vacuum 0.2-100 Arc Arc Arc Arc Arc Gas/flux 1-100 Gas Gas Flux 0.5-100 0.1-100 5-100 4-20 1-2 1-8 1-4 5-20 -

Resistance/arc Gas/flux 5-100

Table 2 shows heat source, mode of shielding, thickness range and metal deposition rates for a range of fusion processes. Although fusion welding is one of the simplest joining techniques, problems likely to occur include porosity in the weld metal, and cracking in either the weld or heat affected zone (HAZ). Porosity is avoided by ensuring adequate shielding of the weld pool and, for materials such as aluminum, the addition of filler wire. Consideration of the joint design and the chemistry of the weld metal will prevent weld metal cracking. HAZ cracking which might be caused by hydrogen, is avoided by using low hydrogen consumables (MMA) and controlling the heat input and the rate of cooling of the parent metal.

The Manual Metal Arc process

Manual metal arc welding was first invented in Russia in 1888. It involved a bare metal rod with no flux coating to give a protective gas shield. The development of coated electrodes did not occur until the early 1900s when the Kjellberg process was invented in Sweden and the Quasi-arc method was introduced in the UK. It is worth noting that coated electrodes were slow to be adopted because of their high cost. However, it was inevitable that as the demand for sound welds grew, manual metal arc became synonymous with coated electrodes. When an arc is struck between the metal rod (electrode) and the work piece, both the rod and work piece surface melt to form a weld pool. Simultaneous melting of the flux coating on the rod will form gas and slag which protects the weld pool from the surrounding atmosphere. The slag will solidify and cool and must be chipped off the weld bead once the weld run is complete (or before the next weld pass is deposited). The process allows only short lengths of weld to be produced before a new electrode needs to be inserted in the holder. Weld penetration is low and the quality of the weld deposit is highly dependent on the skill of the welder.

Types of flux/electrodes
Arc stability, depth of penetration, metal deposition rate and positional capability are greatly influenced by the chemical composition of the flux coating on the electrode. Electrodes can be divided into three main groups:

Cellulosic Rutile Basic

Cellulosic electrodes contain a high proportion of cellulose in the coating and are characterized by a deeply penetrating arc and a rapid burn-off rate giving high welding speeds. Weld deposit can be coarse and with fluid slag, deslagging can be difficult. These electrodes are easy to use in any position and are noted for their use in the 'stovepipe' welding technique. Features:

deep penetration in all positions suitability for vertical down welding reasonably good mechanical properties

high level of hydrogen generated - risk of cracking in the heat affected zone (HAZ)

Rutile electrodes contain a high proportion of titanium oxide (rutile) in the coating. Titanium oxide promotes easy arc ignition, smooth arc operation and low spatter. These electrodes are general purpose electrodes with good welding properties. They can be used with AC and DC power sources and in all positions. The electrodes are especially suitable for welding fillet joints in the horizontal/vertical (H/V) position. Features:

moderate weld metal mechanical properties good bead profile produced through the viscous slag positional welding possible with a fluid slag (containing fluoride) easily removable slag

Basic electrodes contain a high proportion of calcium carbonate (limestone) and calcium fluoride (fluorspar) in the coating. This makes their slag coating more fluid than rutile coatings - this is also fast-freezing which assists welding in the vertical and overhead position. These electrodes are used for welding medium and heavy section fabrications where higher weld quality, good mechanical properties and resistance to cracking (due to high restraint) are required. Features:

low hydrogen weld metal requires high welding currents/speeds poor bead profile (convex and coarse surface profile) slag removal difficult

Metal powder electrodes contain an addition of metal powder to the flux coating to increase the maximum permissible welding current level. Thus, for a given electrode size, the metal deposition rate and efficiency (percentage of the metal deposited) are increased compared with an electrode containing no iron powder in the coating. The slag is normally easily removed. Iron powder electrodes are mainly used in the flat and H/V positions to take advantage of the higher deposition rates. Efficiencies as high as 130 to 140% can be achieved for rutile and basic electrodes without marked deterioration of the arcing characteristics but the arc tends to be less forceful which reduces bead penetration.

Power source
Electrodes can be operated with AC and DC power supplies. Not all DC electrodes can be operated on AC power sources, however AC electrodes are normally used on DC.

Welding current
Welding current level is determined by the size of electrode - the normal operating range and current are recommended by manufacturers. Typical operating ranges for a selection of electrode sizes are illustrated in the table. As a rule of thumb when selecting a suitable current level, an electrode will require about 40A per millimeter (diameter). Therefore, the preferred current level for a 4mm diameter electrode would be 160A, but the acceptable operating range is 140 to 180A.

What's new
Transistor (inverter) technology is now enabling very small and comparatively low weight power sources to be produced. These power sources are finding increasing use for site welding where they can be readily transported from job to job. As they are electronically controlled, add-on units are available for TIG and MIG welding which increase the flexibility. Electrodes are now available in hermetically sealed containers. These vacuum packs obviate the need for baking the electrodes immediately prior to use. However, if a container has been opened or damaged, it is essential that the electrodes are redried according to the manufacturer's instructions.

The oxyacetylene process

Process features
Oxyacetylene welding, commonly referred to as gas welding, is a process which relies on combustion of oxygen and acetylene. When mixed together in correct proportions within a hand-held torch or blowpipe, a relatively hot flame is produced with a temperature of about 3,200 deg.C. The chemical action of the oxyacetylene flame can be adjusted by changing the ratio of the volume of oxygen to acetylene. Three distinct flame settings are used, neutral, oxidizing and carburising.

Neutral flame

Oxidising flame Carburising flame Welding is generally carried out using the neutral flame setting which has equal quantities of oxygen and acetylene. The oxidising flame is obtained by increasing just the oxygen flow rate while the carburising flame is achieved by increasing acetylene flow in relation to oxygen flow. Because steel melts at a temperature above 1,500 deg.C, the mixture of oxygen and acetylene is used as it is the only gas combination with enough heat to weld steel. However, other gases such as propane, hydrogen and coal gas can be used for joining lower melting point non-ferrous metals, and for brazing and silver soldering.

Oxyacetylene equipment is portable and easy to use. It comprises oxygen and acetylene gases stored under pressure in steel cylinders. The cylinders are fitted with regulators and flexible hoses which lead to the blowpipe. Specially designed safety devices such as flame traps are fitted between the hoses and the cylinder regulators. The flame trap prevents flames generated by a 'flashback' from reaching the cylinders; principal causes of flashbacks are the failure to purge the hoses and overheating of the blowpipe nozzle. When welding, the operator must wear protective clothing and tinted coloured goggles. As the flame is less intense than an arc and very little UV is emitted, general-purpose tinted goggles provide sufficient protection.

Operating characteristics

The action of the oxyacetylene flame on the surface of the material to be welded can be adjusted to produce a soft, harsh or violent reaction by varying the gas flows. There are of course practical limits as to the type of flame which can be used for welding. A harsh forceful flame will cause the molten weld pool to be blown away, while too soft a flame will not be stable near the point of application. The blowpipe is therefore designed to accommodate different sizes of 'swan neck copper nozzle which allows the correct intensity of flame to be used. The relationship between material thickness, blowpipe nozzle size and welding speed, is shown in the chart. When carrying out fusion welding the addition of filler metal in the form of a rod can be made when required. The principal techniques employed in oxyacetylene welding are leftward, rightward and all-positional rightward. The former is used almost exclusively and is ideally suited for welding butt, fillet and lap joints in sheet thicknesses up to approximately 5mm. The rightward technique finds application on plate thicknesses above 5mm for welding in the flat and horizontal-vertical position. The all-positional rightward method is a modification of the rightward technique and is ideally suited for welding steel plate and in particular pipework where positional welding, (vertical and overhead) has to be carried out. The rightward and all- positional rightward techniques enable the welder to obtain a uniform penetration bead with added control over the molten weldpool and weld metal. Moreover, the welder has a clear view of the weldpool and can work in complete freedom of movement. These techniques are very highly skilled and are less frequently used than the conventional leftward technique.

Solid wire MIG welding

Metal inert gas (MIG) welding was first patented in the USA in 1949 for welding aluminium. The arc and weld pool formed using a bare wire electrode was protected by helium gas, readily available at that time. From about 1952 the process became popular in the UK for welding aluminium using argon as the shielding gas, and for carbon steels using CO . CO and argon-CO mixtures are known as metal active gas (MAG) processes. MIG is an attractive alternative to MMA, offering high deposition rates and high productivity.
2 2 2

Process characteristics

MIG is similar to MMA in that heat for welding is produced by forming an arc between a metal electrode and the workpiece; the electrode melts to form the weld bead. The main differences are that the metal electrode is a small diameter wire fed from a spool and an externally supplied shielding gas is necessary. As the wire is continuously fed, the process is often referred to as semi-automatic welding. Metal transfer mode The manner, or mode, in which the metal transfers from the electrode to the weld pool largely determines the operating features of the process. There are three principal metal transfer modes:

Short circuiting Droplet / spray Pulsed

Short-circuiting and pulsed metal transfer are used for low current operation while spray metal transfer is only used with high welding currents. In short-circuiting or'dip' transfer, the molten metal forming on the tip of the wire is transferred by the wire dipping into the weld pool. This is achieved by setting a low voltage; for a 1.2mm diameter wire, arc voltage varies from about 17V (100A) to 22V (200A). Care in setting the voltage and the inductance in relation to the wire feed speed is essential to minimise spatter. Inductance is used to control the surge in current which occurs when the wire dips into the weld pool. For droplet or spray transfer, a much higher voltage is necessary to ensure that the wire does not make contact i.e.short-circuit, with the weld pool; for a 1.2mm diameter wire, the arc voltage varies from approximately 27V (250A) to 35V (400A). The molten metal at the tip of the wire transfers to the weld pool in the form of a spray of small droplets (about the diameter of the wire and smaller). However, there is a minimum current level, threshold, below which droplets are not forcibly projected across the arc. If an open arc technique is attempted much below the threshold current level, the low arc forces would be insufficient to prevent large droplets forming at the tip of the wire. These droplets would transfer erratically across the arc under normal gravitational forces. The pulsed mode was developed as a means of stabilising the open arc at low current levels i.e. below the threshold level, to avoid shortcircuiting and spatter. Metal transfer is achieved by applying pulses of current, each pulse having sufficient force to detach a droplet. Synergic pulsed MIG refers to a special type of controller which enables the power source to be tuned (pulse parameters) for the wire composition and diameter, and the pulse frequency to be set according to the wire feed speed.

Shielding gas
In addition to general shielding of the arc and the weld pool, the shielding gas performs a number of important functions:

forms the arc plasma stabilises the arc roots on the material surface ensures smooth transfer of molten droplets from the wire to the weld pool

Thus, the shielding gas will have a substantial effect on the stability of the arc and metal transfer and the behaviour of the weld pool, in particular, its penetration. General purpose shielding gases for MIG welding are mixtures of argon, oxygen and CO , and special gas mixtures may contain helium. The gases which are normally used for the various materials are:

steels CO argon +2 to 5% oxygen argon +5 to 25% CO non-ferrous o argon o argon / helium

o o o
2 2 2

Argon based gases, compared with CO , are generally more tolerant to parameter settings and generate lower spatter levels with the dip transfer mode. However, there is a greater risk of lack of fusion defects because these gases are colder. As CO cannot be used in the open arc (pulsed or spray transfer) modes due to high back-plasma forces, argon based gases containing oxygen or CO are normally employed.
2 2

MIG is widely used in most industry sectors and accounts for more than 50% of all weld metal deposited. Compared to MMA, MIG has the advantage in terms of flexibility, deposition rates and suitability for mechanisation. However, it should be noted that while MIG is ideal for 'squirting' metal, a high degree of manipulative skill is demanded of the welder.

Submerged-arc Welding

The first patent on the submerged-arc welding (SAW) process was taken out in 1935 and covered an electric arc beneath a bed of granulated flux. Developed by the E O Paton Electric Welding Institute, Russia, during the Second World War, SAW's most famous application was on the T34 tank.

Process features
Similar to MIG welding, SAW involves formation of an arc between a continuously-fed bare wire electrode and the workpiece. The process uses a flux to generate protective gases and slag, and to add alloying elements to the weld pool. A shielding gas is not required. Prior to welding, a thin layer of flux powder is placed on the workpiece surface. The arc moves along the joint line and as it does so, excess flux is recycled via a hopper. Remaining fused slag layers can be easily removed after welding. As the arc is completely covered by the flux layer, heat loss is extremely low. This produces a thermal efficiency as high as 60% (compared with 25% for manual metal arc). There is no visible arc light, welding is spatter-free and there is no need for fume extraction.

Operating characteristics


SAW is usually operated as a fully-mechanised or automatic process, but it can be semiautomatic. Welding parameters: current, arc voltage and travel speed all affect bead shape, depth of penetration and chemical composition of the deposited weld metal. Because the operator cannot see the weld pool, greater reliance must be placed on parameter settings.

Process variants
According to material thickness, joint type and size of component, varying the following can increase deposition rate and improve bead shape. Wire SAW is normally operated with a single wire on either AC or DC current. Common variants are:

twin wire triple wire single wire with hot wire addition metal powder addition

All contribute to improved productivity through a marked increase in weld metal deposition rates and/or travel speeds. Flux Fluxes used in SAW are granular fusible minerals containing oxides of manganese, silicon, titanium, aluminium, calcium, zirconium, magnesium and other compounds such as calcium fluoride. The flux is specially formulated to be compatible with a given electrode wire type so that the combination of flux and wire yields desired mechanical properties. All fluxes react with the weld pool to produce the weld metal chemical composition and mechanical properties. It is common practice to refer to fluxes as 'active' if they add manganese and silicon to the weld, the amount of manganese and silicon added is influenced by the arc voltage and the welding current level. The the main types of flux for SAW are:

Bonded fluxes - produced by drying the ingredients, then bonding them with a low melting point compound such as a sodium silicate. Most bonded fluxes contain metallic deoxidisers which help to prevent weld porosity. These fluxes are effective over rust and mill scale. Fused fluxes - produced by mixing the ingredients, then melting them in an electric furnace to form a chemically homogeneous product, cooled and ground to the required particle size. Smooth stable arcs, with welding currents up to 2000A and consistent weld metal properties, are the main attraction of these fluxes.


SAW is ideally suited for longitudinal and circumferential butt and fillet welds. However, because of high fluidity of the weld pool, molten slag and loose flux layer, welding is generally carried out on butt joints in the flat position and fillet joints in both the flat and horizontal-vertical positions. For circumferential joints, the workpiece is rotated under a fixed welding head with welding taking place in the flat position. Depending on material thickness, either single-pass, twopass or multipass weld procedures can be carried out. There is virtually no restriction on the material thickness, provided a suitable joint preparation is adopted. Most commonly welded materials are carbon-manganese steels, low alloy steels and stainless steels, although the process is capable of welding some non-ferrous materials with judicious choice of electrode filler wire and flux combinations.

TIG Welding
Tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding became an overnight success in the 1940s for joining magnesium and aluminium. Using an inert gas shield instead of a slag to protect the weldpool, the process was a highly attractive replacement for gas and manual metal arc welding. TIG has played a major role in the acceptance of aluminium for high quality welding and structural applications.

Process characteristics
In the TIG process the arc is formed between a pointed tungsten electrode and the workpiece in an inert atmosphere of argon or helium. The small intense arc provided by the pointed electrode is ideal for high quality and precision welding. Because the electrode is not consumed during welding, the welder does not have to balance the heat input from the arc as the metal is deposited from the melting electrode. When filler metal is required, it must be added separately to the weldpool.

Power source
TIG must be operated with a drooping, constant current power source - either DC or AC. A constant current power source is essential to avoid excessively high currents being drawn when the electrode is short-circuited on to the workpiece surface. This could happen either deliberately during arc starting or inadvertently during welding. If, as in MIG welding, a flat characteristic power source is used, any contact with the workpiece surface would damage the electrode tip or fuse the electrode to the workpiece surface. In DC, because arc heat is distributed approximately one-third at the cathode (negative) and two-thirds at the anode (positive), the electrode is always negative polarity to prevent overheating and melting. However, the alternative power source connection of DC


electrode positive polarity has the advantage in that when the cathode is on the workpiece, the surface is cleaned of oxide contamination. For this reason, AC is used when welding materials with a tenacious surface oxide film, such as aluminium.

Arc starting
The welding arc can be started by scratching the surface, forming a short-circuit. It is only when the short-circuit is broken that the main welding current will flow. However, there is a risk that the electrode may stick to the surface and cause a tungsten inclusion in the weld. This risk can be minimised using the 'lift arc' technique where the short-circuit is formed at a very low current level. The most common way of starting the TIG arc is to use HF (High Frequency). HF consists of high voltage sparks of several thousand volts which last for a few microseconds. The HF sparks will cause the electrode - workpiece gap to break down or ionise. Once an electron/ion cloud is formed, current can flow from the power source. Note: As HF generates abnormally high electromagnetic emission (EM), welders should be aware that its use can cause interference especially in electronic equipment. As EM emission can be airborne, like radio waves, or transmitted along power cables, care must be taken to avoid interference with control systems and instruments in the vicinity of welding. HF is also important in stabilising the AC arc; in AC, electrode polarity is reversed at a frequency of about 50 times per second, causing the arc to be extinguished at each polarity change. To ensure that the arc is reignited at each reversal of polarity, HF sparks are generated across the electrode/workpiece gap to coincide with the beginning of each half-cycle.

Electrodes for DC welding are normally pure tungsten with 1 to 4% thoria to improve arc ignition. Alternative additives are lanthanum oxide and cerium oxide which are claimed to give superior performance (arc starting and lower electrode consumption). It is important to select the correct electrode diameter and tip angle for the level of welding current. As a rule, the lower the current the smaller the electrode diameter and tip angle. In AC welding, as the electrode will be operating at a much higher temperature, tungsten with a zirconia addition is used to reduce electrode erosion. It should be noted that because of the large amount of heat generated at the electrode, it is difficult to maintain a pointed tip and the end of the electrode assumes a spherical or 'ball' profile.

Shielding gas
Shielding gas is selected according to the material being welded. The following guidelines may help:


Argon - the most commonly-used shielding gas which can be used for welding a wide range of materials including steels, stainless steel, aluminium and titanium. Argon + 2 to 5% H2 - the addition of hydrogen to argon will make the gas slightly reducing, assisting the production of cleaner-looking welds without surface oxidation. As the arc is hotter and more constricted, it permits higher welding speeds. Disadvantages include risk of hydrogen cracking in carbon steels and weld metal porosity in aluminium alloys. Helium and helium/argon mixtures - adding helium to argon will raise the temperature of the arc. This promotes higher welding speeds and deeper weld penetration. Disadvantages of using helium or a helium/argon mixture is the high cost of gas and difficulty in starting the arc.

TIG is applied in all industrial sectors but is especially suitable for high quality welding. In manual welding, the relatively small arc is ideal for thin sheet material or controlled penetration (in the root run of pipe welds). Because deposition rate can be quite low (using a separate filler rod) MMA or MIG may be preferable for thicker material and for fill passes in thick-wall pipe welds. TIG is also widely applied in mechanised systems either autogenously or with filler wire. However, several 'off the shelf' systems are available for orbital welding of pipes, used in the manufacture of chemical plant or boilers. The systems require no manipulative skill, but the operator must be well trained. Because the welder has less control over arc and weldpool behaviour, careful attention must be paid to edge preparation (machined rather than hand-prepared), joint fit-up and control of welding parameters.

Plasma Welding
Process characteristics
Plasma welding is very similar to TIG as the arc is formed between a pointed tungsten electrode and the workpiece. However, by positioning the electrode within the body of the torch, the plasma arc can be separated from the shielding gas envelope. Plasma is then forced through a fine-bore copper nozzle which constricts the arc. Three operating modes can be produced by varying bore diameter and plasma gas flow rate:


Microplasma: 0.1 to 15A. The microplasma arc can be operated at very low welding currents. The columnar arc is stable even when arc length is varied up to 20mm. Medium current: 15 to 200A. At higher currents, from 15 to 200A, the process characteristics of the plasma arc are similar to the TIG arc, but because the plasma is constricted, the arc is stiffer. Although the plasma gas flow rate can be increased to improve weld pool penetration, there is a risk of air and shielding gas entrainment through excessive turbulence in the gas shield. Keyhole plasma: over 100A. By increasing welding current and plasma gas flow, a very powerful plasma beam is created which can achieve full penetration in a material, as in laser or electron beam welding. During welding, the hole progressively cuts through the metal with the molten weld pool flowing behind to form the weld bead under surface tension forces. This process can be used to weld thicker material (up to 10mm of stainless steel) in a single pass.

Power source
The plasma arc is normally operated with a DC, drooping characteristic power source. Because its unique operating features are derived from the special torch arrangement and separate plasma and shielding gas flows, a plasma control console can be added on to a conventional TIG power source. Purpose-built plasma systems are also available. The plasma arc is not readily stabilised with sine wave AC. Arc reignition is difficult when there is a long electrode to workpiece distance and the plasma is constricted, Moreover, excessive heating of the electrode during the positive half-cycle causes balling of the tip which can disturb arc stability. Special-purpose switched DC power sources are available. By imbalancing the waveform to reduce the duration of electrode positive polarity, the electrode is kept sufficiently cool to maintain a pointed tip and achieve arc stability.

Arc starting
Although the arc is initiated using HF, it is first formed between the electrode and plasma nozzle. This 'pilot' arc is held within the body of the torch until required for welding then it is transferred to the workpiece. The pilot arc system ensures reliable arc starting and, as the pilot arc is maintained between welds, it obviates the need for HF which may cause electrical interference.

The electrode used for the plasma process is tungsten-2%thoria and the plasma nozzle is copper. The electrode tip diameter is not as critical as for TIG and should be maintained


at around 30-60 degrees. The plasma nozzle bore diameter is critical and too small a bore diameter for the current level and plasma gas flow rate will lead to excessive nozzle erosion or even melting. It is prudent to use the largest bore diameter for the operating current level. Note: too large a bore diameter, may give problems with arc stability and maintaining a keyhole.

Plasma and shielding gases

The normal combination of gases is argon for the plasma gas, with argon plus 2 to 5% hydrogen for the shielding gas. Helium can be used for plasma gas but because it is hotter this reduces the current rating of the nozzle. Helium's lower mass can also make the keyhole mode more difficult.

Microplasma welding Microplasma was traditionally used for welding thin sheets (down to 0.1 mm thickness), and wire and mesh sections. The needle-like stiff arc minimises arc wander and distortion. Although the equivalent TIG arc is more diffuse, the newer transistorised (TIG) power sources can produce a very stable arc at low current levels. Medium current welding When used in the melt mode this is an alternative to conventional TIG. The advantages are deeper penetration (from higher plasma gas flow), and greater tolerance to surface contamination including coatings (the electrode is within the body of the torch). The major disadvantage lies in the bulkiness of the torch, making manual welding more difficult. In mechanised welding, greater attention must be paid to maintenance of the torch to ensure consistent performance. Keyhole welding This has several advantages which can be exploited: deep penetration and high welding speeds. Compared with the TIG arc, it can penetrate plate thicknesses up to l0mm, but when welding using a single pass technique, it is more usual to limit the thickness to 6mm. The normal methods is to use the keyhole mode with filler to ensure smooth weld bead profile (with no undercut). For thicknesses up to 15mm, a vee joint preparation is used with a 6mm root face. A two-pass technique is employed and here, the first pass is autogenous with the second pass being made in melt mode with filler wire addition. As the welding parameters, plasma gas flow rate and filler wire addition (into the keyhole) must be carefully balanced to maintain the keyhole and weld pool stability, this technique is only suitable for mechanised welding. Although it can be used for positional welding, usually with current pulsing, it is normally applied in high speed welding of


thicker sheet material (over 3 mm) in the flat position. When pipe welding, the slope-out of current and plasma gas flow must be carefully controlled to close the keyhole without leaving a hole.

Thermal Gouging
Thermal gouging is an essential part of welding fabrication. Used for rapid removal of unwanted metal, the material is locally heated and molten metal ejected - usually by blowing it away. Normal oxyfuel gas or arc processes can be used to produce rapid melting and metal removal. However, to produce a groove of specific dimensions, particularly regarding depth and width, the welder must exercise careful control of the gouging operation. If this does not happen, an erratic and badly-serrated groove will result. Thermal processes, operations and metals which may be gouged or otherwise shaped:

Thermal process Oxyfuel gas flame Manual metal arc

Process operations Primary Secondary


Low carbon steels, carbon manganese steels Grooving (structural), pressure vessel steels (carbon not over Gouging Washing 0.35%), low alloy steels (less than 5%Cr) cast iron (if Chamfering preheated to 400-450 deg.C) Gouging Low carbon steels carbon manganese steels Grooving (structural), pressure vessel steels, low alloy steels, Chamfering stainless steels, cast iron, nickel-based alloys

Low carbon steels carbon manganese steels Air carbon Grooving (structural), pressure vessel steels, low and high alloy Gouging arc Chamfering steels, cast iron, nickel-based alloys, copper and copper alloys, copper/nickel alloys, aluminium Chamfering Plasma arc Gouging Grooving Aluminium, stainless steels Washing Note: All processes are capable of cutting/severing operations. Preheat may or may not be required on some metals prior to gouging

It should be emphasised that because gouging relies on molten metal being forcibly ejected, often over quite large distances, the welder must take appropriate precautions to protect himself, other workers and his equipment. Sensible precautions include protective


clothing for the welder, shielding inside a specially-enclosed booth or screens, adequate fume extraction, and removal of all combustible material from the immediate area.

Industrial applications
Thermal gouging was developed primarily for removal of metal from the reverse side of welded joints, removal of tack welds, temporary welds, and weld imperfections. Figure 1 illustrates the value of typical back-gouging applications carried out on arc welded joints., while Fig. 2 shows imperfection removal in preparation for weld repair.

Fig.1 Typical back-gouging applications carried out on arc welded joints

Fig. 2 Imperfection removal in preparation for weld repair The gouging process has proved to be so successful that it is used for a wide spectrum of applications in engineering industries:

repair and maintenance of structures - bridges, earth-moving equipment, mining machinery, railway rolling stock, ships, offshore rigs, piping and storage tanks removal of cracks and imperfections - blow holes and sand traps in both ferrous and non-ferrous forgings and castings preparation of plate edges for welding removal of surplus metal - riser pads and fins on castings, excess weld bead profiles, temporary backing strips, rivet washing and shaping operations, demolition of welded and unwelded structures - site work


Thermal gouging is also suitable for efficient removal of temporary welded attachments such as brackets, strongbacks, lifting lugs and redundant tack welds, during various stages of fabrication and construction work.

Gouging processes
Gouging operations can be carried out using the following thermal processes:

oxyfuel gas flame manual metal arc air carbon arc plasma arc

Oxy-fuel Gouging
Oxy-fuel or flame gouging offers fabricators a quick and efficient method of removing metal. It can be at least four times quicker than cold chipping operations. The process is particularly attractive because of its low noise, ease of handling, and ability to be used in all positions.

Process description
Flame gouging is a variant of conventional oxyfuel gas welding. Oxygen and a fuel gas are used to produce a high temperature flame for melting the steel. When gouging, the steel is locally heated to a temperature above the 'ignition' temperature (typically 900deg.C) and a jet of oxygen is used to melt the metal - a chemical reaction between pure oxygen and hot metal. This jet is also used to blow away molten metal and slag. It should be noted that compared with oxyfuel cutting, slag is not blown through the material, but remains on the top surface of the workpiece. The gouging nozzle is designed to supply a relatively large volume of oxygen through the gouging jet. This can be as much as 300 litre/min through a 6mm orifice nozzle. In oxyacetylene gouging, equal quantities of oxygen and acetylene are used to set a nearneutral preheating flame. The oxygen jet flow rate determines the depth and width of the gouge. Typical operating parameters (gas pressures and flow rates) for achieving a range of gouge sizes (depth and width) can be seen in the Table.

Typical operating data for manual oxyacetylene flame gouging 20

Gouge Nozzle dimensions orifice dia.(mm) Width Depth (mm) (mm) 3 6-8 3-9 5 8-10 6-12 6.5 10-13 10-13

Gas pressure Acetylene (Bar) 0.48 0.48 0.55 Oxygen (Bar) 4.2 5.2 5.5

Gas consumption Acetylene (Litre/min) 15 29 36 Preheat (Litre/min) 22 31 43

Oxygen (Litre/min) 62 600 158 1000 276 1200

Travel speed (mm/min)

When the preheating flame and oxygen jet are correctly set, the gouge has a uniform profile and its surfaces are smooth with a dull blue colour.

Operating techniques
The depth of the gouge is determined principally by the speed and angle of the torch. To cut a deep groove the angle of the torch is stepped up (this increases the impingement angle of the oxygen jet) and gouging speed is reduced. To produce a shallow groove, the torch is less steeply angled, see above, and speed is increased. Wide grooves can be produced by weaving the torch. The contour of the groove is dependent upon the size of the nozzle and the operating parameters. If the cutting oxygen pressure is too low, gouging progresses with a washing action, leaving smooth ripples in the bottom of the groove. If the cutting oxygen pressure is too high, the cut advances ahead of the molten pool - this will disrupt the gouging operation especially when making shallow grooves. There are four basic flame gouging techniques which are used in the following types of application. Progressive gouging This technique is used to produce uniform grooves. Gouging is conducted in either a continuous or progressive manner. Applications include removal of an unfused root area on the reverse side of a welded joint, part-shaping a steel forging, complete removal of a weld deposit and preparing plate edges for welding. Spot gouging Spot gouging produces a deep narrow U-shaped groove over a relatively short length. The process is ideally suited to removal of localised areas such as isolated weld imperfections. Experienced operators are able to observe any imperfections during gouging. These appear as dark or light spots/streaks within the molten pool (reaction zone). Back-step gouging


Once the material has reached ignition temperature, the oxygen stream is introduced and the torch moved in a backward movement for a distance of 15-20mm. The oxygen is shut off and the torch moved forward a distance of 25-30mm before restarting the gouging operation. This technique is favoured for removal of local imperfections which may be deeply embedded in the base plate. Deep gouging It is sometimes necessary to produce a long deep gouge. Such operations are completed using the deep gouging technique, which is basically a combination of progressive and spot gouging.

Manual Metal Arc Gouging

The main advantage of manual metal arc (MMA) gouging is that the same power source can be used for welding, gouging, or cutting, simply by changing the type of electrode.

Process description
As in conventional MMA welding, the arc is formed between the tip of the electrode and the workpiece. MMA gouging differs because it requires special purpose electrodes with thick flux coatings to generate a strong arc force and gas stream. Unlike MMA welding where a stable weld pool must be maintained, this process forces the molten metal away from the arc zone to leave a clean cut surface. The gouging process is characterised by the large amount of gas which is generated to eject the molten metal. However, because the arc/gas stream is not as powerful as a gas or a separate air jet, the surface of the gouge is not as smooth as an oxyfuel gouge or air carbon arc gouge.

According to the size of gouge specified, there is a wide range of electrode diameters available to choose from. These grooving electrodes are also not just restricted to steels, and the same electrode composition may be used for gouging stainless steel and nonferrous alloys.

Power source


MMA gouging can be carried out using conventional DC and AC power sources. In DC gouging, electrode polarity is normally negative but electrode manufacturers may well recommend electrode polarity for their brand of electrodes and for gouging specific materials. When using an AC power source, a minimum of 70V open circuit (OCV) is required to stabilise the arc. Although most MMA welding power sources can be used for gouging, the current rating and OCV must be capable of accommodating current surges and longer arc lengths.

Typical operating data for MMA gouging Electrode (mm) 3.2 4.0 4.8 diameter Current (A) 210 300 350 Gouging dimensions Depth (mm) 2 3 4 Width (mm) 6 8 10 Gouging (mm/min) 1200 1000 800 speed

Operational characteristics
The arc is struck with an electrode which is held at a normal angle to the workpiece (15 degrees backwards from the vertical plane in line with proposed direction of gouging). Once the arc is established, the electrode is immediately inclined in one smooth and continuous movement to an angle of around 15-20 degrees to the plate surface. With the arc pointing in the direction of travel, the electrode is pushed forward slightly to melt the metal. It should then be pulled back to allow the gas jet to displace the molten metal and slag. This forward and backward motion is repeated as the electrode is guided along the line to complete the gouge. To produce a consistent depth and width of gouge, a uniform rate of travel must be maintained, together with the angle of electrode: 10-20 degrees. If the electrode angle becomes too steep, in excess of about 20 degrees, the amount of slag and molten metal will increase. This is a result of the arc penetrating too deeply. Digging the electrode into the metal causes problems in controlling the gouging operation and will produce a rough surface profile. For gouging in positions other than vertical, the electrode is always pushed forward. With vertical surfaces, the electrode is directed and pushed vertically downwards.

MMA gouging is used for localised gouging operations, removal of defects for example, and where it is more convenient to switch from a welding electrode to a gouging 23

electrode rather than use specialised equipment. Compared with alternative gouging processes, metal removal rates are low and the quality of the gouged surface is inferior. When correctly applied, MMA gouging can produce relatively clean gouged surfaces. For general applications, welding can be carried out without the need to dress by grinding. However when gouging stainless steel, a thin layer of higher carbon content material will be produced - this should be removed by grinding.

Plasma Arc Gouging

The use of the plasma arc as a gouging tool dates back to the 1960s when the process was developed for welding. Compared with the alternative oxyfuel and MMA gouging techniques, plasma arc has a needle-like jet which can produce a very precise groove, suitable for application on almost all ferrous and non- ferrous materials.

Process description
Plasma arc gouging is a variant of the plasma arc process. The arc is formed between a refractory (usually tungsten) electrode and the workpiece. Intense plasma is achieved by constricting the arc using a fine bore copper nozzle. By locating the electrode behind the nozzle, the plasma-forming gas can be separated from the general gas supply used to cool the torch/assist the plasma gas to blow away molten metal (dross) from the groove. The temperature and force of the constricted plasma arc is determined by the current level and plasma gas flow rate. Thus, the plasma can be varied to produce a hot gas stream or a high power, deeply penetrating jet. This ability to control quite precisely the size and shape of a groove is very useful for removing unwanted defects from a workpiece surface. Whilst gouging, normal precautions should be taken to protect the operator and other workers in the immediate area from the effects of intense arc light and hot metal spray. Unlike the oxyfuel and MMA processes, the plasma arc's high velocity jet will propel fume and hot metal dross some considerable distance from the operator. When using a deeply penetrating arc, noise protection is an essential requirement.

The power source for sustaining this gouging arc must have a high open circuit voltage, usually well in excess of 100V. The torch is connected to the negative polarity of the power source and the workpiece must be connected to the positive. The plasma torch is


the same as the one used for cutting; it will be either gas or water cooled and have the facility for single and dual gas operation. Electrodes are normally tungsten for argon and argon-based gases. However, when using air as the plasma gas, special purpose, for example hafnium tipped copper, electrodes must be used to withstand the more aggressive, oxidising arc.

Plasma and cooling gases

Plasma gas can be argon, helium, argon - H , nitrogen or air. Argon - 35%H is normally recommended as a general- purpose plasma gas for cutting most materials. Alternative plasma gases are argon and helium. Argon, a colder gas, will reduce metal removal rates. Helium, which generates a hot but less intense arc than argon - H , can produce a wider and shallower groove. Nitrogen and air are also used as plasma gases, especially for gouging C-Mn steels. Although gas costs will be substantially reduced, the groove surface profile will be inferior to that which can be achieved with argon - H gas. Air is not recommended for gouging aluminium as this requires an inert or reducing gas. Argon, nitrogen or air are all used as cooling gases. Use of argon will normally produce the best quality of gouge, but nitrogen or air will reduce operating costs.
2 2 2 2

Operating techniques
Gouging is effected by moving the torch forward at a steady controlled rate. It is carried out in a progressive manner to remove metal over a distance of 200 to 250mm. The jet can then be repositioned, either to deepen or widen the groove, or to continue gouging for a further 200 to 250mm. Principal process parameters are current level, gas flow rate, and speed of gouging. These settings determine groove size and metal removal rate. In a typical gouging operation on C-Mn steel, metal is removed at about 100 kg/hr at a speed of 0.5 m/min, and groove size will be around 12mm wide and 5mm deep. The torch stand-off and its angle to the surface of the workpiece have a major influence on speed of travel, groove profile and quality of surface. The torch is normally held at a distance of 20mm from the workpiece and inclined backwards to the direction of gouging at an angle of 40 to 45 degrees. Gouging will remove up to approximately 6mm depth of metal in a single pass. The torch stand-off should not be reduced to less than 12mm, to avoid spatter build-up on the nozzle from the molten particles ejected from the groove. At standoff distances greater than 25mm, arc/gas forces are reduced and this lessens the depth of penetration of the jet. By reducing the torch angle to the workpiece surface, the plasma jet can be encouraged to 'skate' along the surface of the workpiece; this produces a shallower and wider groove. By increasing the angle of the torch the plasma jet is directed into the workpiece surface, resulting in a deeper and narrower groove.


Air Carbon Arc Gouging

The main difference between this gouging technique and the others is that a separate air jet is used to eject molten metal to form the groove.

Process description
Air carbon arc gouging works as follows. An electric arc is generated between the tip of a carbon electrode and the workpiece. The metal becomes molten and a high velocity air jet streams down the electrode to blow it away, thus leaving a clean groove. The process is simple to apply (using the same equipment as MMA welding), has a high metal removal rate, and gouge profile can be closely controlled. Disadvantages are that the air jet causes the molten metal to be ejected over quite a large distance and, because of high currents (up to 2000A) and high air pressures (80 to 100 psi), it can be very noisy.

As air carbon arc gouging does not rely on oxidation it can be applied to a wide range of metals. DC (electrode positive) is normally preferred for steel and stainless steel but AC is more effective for cast iron, copper and nickel alloys. Typical applications include back gouging, removal of surface and internal defects, removal of excess weld metal and preparation of bevel edges for welding.

The electrode is a non-consumable graphite (carbon) rod which has a copper coating to reduce electrode erosion. Electrode diameter is selected according to required depth and width of gouge. Cutting can be precisely controlled and molten metal/dross is kept to a minimum.

Power source
A DC power supply with electrode positive polarity is most suitable. AC power sources which are also constant 26

current can be used but with special AC type electrodes. The power source must have a constant current output characteristic. If it does not, inadvertant touching of the electrode to the workpiece will cause a high current surge sufficient to 'explode' the electrode tip. This will disrupt the operation and cause carbon pick-up. As arc voltage can be quite high (up to 50V), open circuit voltage of the power source should be over 60V.

Air supply
The gouging torch is normally operated with either a compressed air line or seperate bottled gas supply. Air supply pressure will be up to 100psi from the air line but restricted to about 35psi from a bottled supply. Providing there is sufficient air flow to remove molten metal, there are no advantages in using higher pressure and flow rates.

Carbon pickup
Although carbon is picked up by the molten metal, the air stream will remove carbon-rich metal from the groove to leave only minimal contamination of the sidewalls. Poor gouging technique or insufficient air flow will result in carbon pick-up with the risk of metallurgical problems, e.g high hardness and even cracking. Typical operating data for air carbon arc gouging:

Electrode diameter (mm) 6.4 Manual 8.0 9.5 8.0 Automatic 9.5

Gouging Current A dimensions Note: DC Depth Width electrode (mm) (mm) 275 350 425 300-400 500 6-7 7-8 9-10 12-13 2-9 3-12 3-15 3-19 9-10 10-11 12-13 18-19 3-8 3-10 3-13 3-16

Carbon electrode Gouging speed consumed (mm/min) (mm/min) 120 114 100 76 100 142 82 63 609 711 660 508 1650-840 1650-635 1830-610 1830-710

13.0 550

13.0 850 16.0 1250

Gouging is commenced by striking the electrode tip on to the workpiece surface to initiate the arc. Unlike manual metal arc (MMA) welding the electrode tip is not 27

withdrawn to establish arc length. Molten metal directly under the electrode tip (arc) is immediately blown away by the air stream. For effective metal removal, it is important that the air stream is directed at the arc from behind the electrode and sweeps under the tip of the electrode. The width of groove is determined by the diameter of electrode, but depth is dictated by the angle of electrode to the workpiece and rate of travel. Relatively high travel speeds are possible when a low electrode angle is used. This produces a shallow groove: a steep angle results in a deep groove and requires slower travel speed. Note, a steeply angled electrode may give rise to carbon contamination. Oscillating the electrode in a circular or restricted weave motion during gouging can greatly increase gouging width. This is useful for removal of a weld or plate imperfection that is wider than the electrode itself. It is important, however, that weave width should not exceed four times the diameter of the electrode.The groove surface should be relatively free of oxidised metal and can be considered ready for welding without further preparation. Dressing by grinding the side-walls of the gouge should be carried out if a carbon rich layer has been formed. Also, dressing by grinding or another approved method will be necessary if working on crack-sensitive material such as high strength, low alloy steel.

Equipment for Oxyacetylene Welding

Essential equipment components
Torch The basic oxyacetylene torch comprises:

torch body (or handle) two separate gas tubes (through the handle connected to the hoses) separate control valves mixer chamber flame tube welding tip

NB The cutting torch requires two oxygen supplies to the nozzle, one mixed with fuel gas for preheating and a separate oxygen flow for cutting. Hoses Hoses are colour-coded red for acetylene and blue (UK) or green (US) for oxygen. Oxygen fittings on the hose have a right-hand thread while acetylene is left-handed. Gas regulators


The primary function of a gas regulator is to control gas pressure. It reduces the high pressure of the bottle-stored gas to the working pressure of the torch, and this will be maintained during welding. The regulator has two separate gauges: a high pressure gauge for gas in the cylinder and a low pressure gauge for pressure of gas fed to the torch. The amount of gas remaining in the cylinder can be judged from the high pressure gauge. The regulator, which has a pressure adjusting screw, is used to control gas flow rate to the torch by setting the outlet gas pressure. Note Acetylene is supplied in cylinders under a pressure of about 15 bars psi but welding is carried out with torch gas pressures typically up to 2 bars. Flame traps Flame traps (also called flashback arresters) must be fitted into both oxygen and acetylene gas lines to prevent a flashback flame from reaching the regulators. Non-return spring-loaded valves can be fitted in the hoses to detect/stop reverse gas flow. Thus, the valves can be used to prevent conditions leading to flashback, but should always be used in conjunction with flashback arresters. A flashback is where the flame burns in the torch body, accompanied by a whistling sound. It will occur when flame speed exceeds gas flow rate and the flame can pass back through the mixing chamber into the hoses. Most likely causes are: incorrect gas pressures giving too low a gas velocity, hose leaks, loose connections, or welder techniques which disturb gas flow.

Identification of gas cylinders

An oxygen cylinder is colour-coded black and the acetylene cylinder is maroon. Oxygen and acetylene are stored in cylinders at high pressure. Oxygen pressure can be as high as 230 bars. Acetylene, which is dissolved in acetone contained in a porous material, is stored at a much lower pressure, approximately 15 bars. The appropriate regulator must be fitted to the cylinders to accommodate cylinder pressures. To avoid confusion, oxygen cylinders and regulators have right-hand threads and acetylene cylinders and regulators have left-hand ones. Typical gas pressures and flow rates for C-Mn steel:

Steel thickness Nozzle (mm) size 0.90 1.20 1 2

Acetylene Pressure (bar) 0.14 0.14 Consumption (l/min) 0.50 0.90

Oxygen Pressure (bar) 0.14 0.14 Consumption (l/min) 0.50 0.90 29

2.00 2.60 3.20 4.00 5.00 6.50 8.20 10.00 13.00 25.00

3 5 7 10 13 18 25 35 45 90

0.14 0.14 0.14 0.21 0.28 0.28 0.42 0.63 0.35 0.63

1.40 2.40 3.30 4.70 6.00 8.50 12.00 17.00 22.00 42.00

0.14 0.14 0.14 0.21 0.28 0.28 0.42 0.63 0.35 0.63

1.40 2.40 3.30 4.70 6.00 8.50 12.00 17.00 22.00 42.00

Selection of correct nozzles

Welding torches are generally rated according to thickness of material to be welded. They range from light duty (for sheet steel up to 2mm in thickness) to heavy duty (for steel plate greater than 25mm in thickness). Each torch can be fitted with a range of nozzles with a bore diameter selected according to material thickness. Gas pressures are set to give correct flow rate for nozzle bore diameter. Proportions of oxygen and acetylene in the mixture can be adjusted to give a neutral, oxidising or carburising flame. (See the description of oxyacetylene processes) Welding is normally carried out using a neutral flame with equal quantities of oxygen and acetylene.

Equipment safety checks

Before commencing welding it is wise to inspect the condition and operation of all equipment. As well as normal equipment and workplace safety checks, there are specific procedures for oxyacetylene. Operators should verify that:

flashback arresters are present in each gas line hoses are the correct colour, with no sign of wear, as short as possible and not taped together regulators are the correct type for the gas a bottle key is in each bottle (unless the bottle has an adjusting screw)

It is recommended that oxyacetylene equipment is checked at least annually - regulators should be taken out of service after five years. Flashback arresters should be checked regularly according to manufacturer's instructions and, with specific designs, it may be necessary to replace if flashback has occurred. For more detailed information the following legislation and codes of practice should be consulted:


UK Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 Pressure Systems and Transportable Gas Containers Regulations British Compressed Gases Association, Codes of Practice BOC Handbook

Equipment for MMA Welding

Although the manual metal arc (MMA) process has relatively basic equipment requirements, it is important that the welder has a knowledge of operating features and performance to comply with welding procedures for the job and, of course, for safety reasons.

Essential equipment
The main components of the equipment required for welding are:

power source electrode holder and cables welder protection fume extraction

Tools required include: a wire brush to clean the joint area adjacent to the weld (and the weld itself after slag removal); a chipping hammer to remove slag from the weld deposit; and, when removing slag, a pair of clear lens goggles or a face shield to protect the eyes (lenses should be shatter-proof and noninflammable).

Power source
The primary function of a welding power source is to provide sufficient power to melt the joint. However with MMA the power source must also provide current for melting the end of the electrode to produce weld metal, and it must have a sufficiently high voltage to stabilise the arc. MMA electrodes are designed to be operated with alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) power sources. Although AC electrodes can be used on DC, not all DC electrodes can be used with AC power sources. As MMA requires a high current (50-30OA) but a relatively low voltage (10-50V), high voltage mains supply (240 or 440V) must be reduced by a transformer. To produce DC, the output from the transformer must be further rectified. To reduce the hazard of electrical shock, the power source must function with a maximum no-load voltage, that


is, when the external (output) circuit is open (power leads connected and live) but no arc is present. The no-load voltage rating of the power source is as defined in BS 638 and must be in accordance with the type of welding environment or hazard of electrical shock. The power source may have an internal or external hazard reducing device to reduce the no-load voltage; the main welding current is delivered as soon as the electrode touches the workpiece. For welding in confined spaces, you should use a low voltage safety device to limit the voltage available at the holder to approximately 25V. There are four basic types of power source:

AC transformer DC rectifier AC/DC transformer-rectifier DC generator

AC electrodes are frequently operated with the simple, single phase transformer with current adjusted by means of tappings or sliding core control. DC rectifiers and AC/DC transformer-rectifiers are controlled electronically, for example by thyristors. A new generation of power sources called inverters is available. These use transistors to convert mains AC (50Hz) to a high frequency AC (over 500 Hz) before transforming down to a voltage suitable for welding and then rectifying to DC. Because high frequency transformers can be relatively small, principal advantages of inverter power sources are undoubtedly their size and weight when the source must be portable.

Electrode holder and cables

The electrode holder clamps the end of the electrode with copper contact shoes built into its head. The shoes are actuated by either a twist grip or spring-loaded mechanism. The clamping mechanism allows for quick release of the stub end. For efficiency the electrode has to be firmly clamped into the holder, otherwise poor electrical contact may cause arc instability through voltage fluctuations. Welding cable connecting the holder to the power source is mechanically crimped or soldered. It is essential that good electrical connections are maintained between electrode, holder and cable. With poor connections, resistance heating and, in severe cases, minor arcing with the torch body will cause the holder to overheat. Two cables are connected to the output of the power source, the welding lead goes to the electrode holder and the current return lead is clamped to the workpiece. The latter is often wrongly referred to as the earthlead. A separate earth lead is normally required to provide protection from faults in the power source. The earth cable should therefore be capable of carrying the maximum output current of the power source. Cables are covered in a smooth and hard-wearing protective rubberised flexible sheath. This oil and water resistant coating provides electrical insulation at voltages to earth not exceeding 100V DC and AC (rms value). Cable diameter is generally selected on the basis of welding current level, As these electrode types are When welding, the welder air


movement should be from duty cycle and distance of the work from the power source. The higher the current and duty cycle, the larger the diameter of the cable to ensure that it does not overheat (see BS 638 Pt 4). If welding is carried out some distance from the power source, it may be necessary to increase cable diameter to reduce voltage drop.

Care of electrodes
The quality of weld relies upon consistent performance of the electrode. The flux coating should not be chipped, cracked or, more importantly, allowed to become damp. Storage Electrodes should always be kept in a dry and well-ventilated store. It is good practice to stack packets of electrodes on wooden pallets or racks well clear of the floor. Also, all unused electrodes which are to be returned should be stored so they are not exposed to damp conditions to regain moisture. Good storage conditions are 10 degrees C above external air temperature. As the storage conditions are to prevent moisture from condensing on the electrodes, the electrode stores should be dry rather that warm. Under these conditions and in original packaging, electrode storage time is practically unlimited. It should be noted that electrodes are now available in hermetically sealed packs which obviate the need for drying. However, if necessary, any unused electrodes must be redried according to manufacturer's instructions. Drying of electrodes Drying is usually carried out following the manufacturer's recommendations and requirements will be determined by the type of electrode. Cellulosic coatings As these electrode coatings are designed to operate with a definite amount of moisture in the coating, they are less sensitive to moisture pick-up and do not generally require a drying operation. However, in cases where ambient relative humidity has been very high, drying may be necessary. Rutile coatings These can tolerate a limited amount of moisture and coatings may deteriorate if they are overdried. Particular brands may need to be dried before use. Basic and basic/rutile coatings Because of the greater need for hydrogen control, moisture pick-up is rapid on exposure to air. These electrodes should be thoroughly dried in a controlled temperature drying oven. Typical drying time is one hour at a temperature of approximately 150 to 300 degrees C but instructions should be adhered to.


After controlled drying, basic and basic/rutile electrodes must be held at a temperature between 100 and 150 degrees C to help protect them from re-absorbing moisture into the coating. These conditions can be obtained by transferring the electrodes from the main drying oven to a holding oven or a heated quiver at the workplace.

Protective clothing
When welding, the welder must be protected from heat and light radiation emitted from the arc, spatter ejected from the weld pool, and from welding fume. Hand and head shield For most operations a hand-held or head shield constructed of lightweight insulating and non-reflecting material is used. The shield is fitted with a protective filter glass, sufficiently dark in colour and capable of absorbmg the harmful infrared and ultraviolet rays. The filter glasses conform to the strict requirements of BS 679 and are graded according to a shade number which specifies the amount of visible light allowed to pass through - the lower the number, the lighter the filter. The correct shade number must be used according to the welding current level, for example:

Shade 9 - up to 40A Shade 10 - 40 to 80A Shade 11 - 80 to 175A Shade 12 - 175 to 300A Shade 13 - 300 to 500A

Clothing For protection against sparks, hot spatter, slag and burns, a leather apron and leather gloves should be worn. Various types of leather gloves are available, such as short or elbow length, full fingered or part mitten. Fume extraction When welding within a welding shop, ventilation must dispose harmlessly of the welding fume. Particular attention should be paid to ventilation when welding in a confined space such as inside a boiler, tank or compartment of a ship. Fume removal should be by some form of mechanical ventilation which will produce a current of fresh air in the immediate area. Direction of the air movement should be from the welder's face towards the work. This is best achieved by localised exhaust ventilation using a suitably designed hood near to the welding area.


Equipment for MIG Welding

The MIG process is a versatile welding technique which is suitable for both thin sheet and thick section components. It is capable of high productivity but the quality of welds can be called into question. To achieve satisfactory welds, welders must have a good knowledge of equipment requirements and should also recognise fully the importance of setting up and maintaining component parts correctly.

Essential equipment
In MIG the arc is formed between the end of a small diameter wire electrode fed from a spool, and the workpiece. Main equipment components are:

power source wire feed system conduit gun

The arc and weldpool are protected from the atmosphere by a gas shield. This enables bare wire to be used without a flux coating (required by MMA). However, the absence of flux to 'mop up' surface oxide places greater demand on the welder to ensure that the joint area is cleaned immediately before welding. This can be done using either a wire brush for relatively clean parts, or a hand grinder to remove rust and scale. The other essential piece of equipment is a wire cutter to trim the end of the electrode wire.

Power source
MIG is operated exclusively with a DC power source. The source is termed a flat, or constant current, characteristic power source, which refers to the voltage/welding current relationship. In MIG, welding current is determined by wire feed speed, and arc length is determined by power source voltage level (open circuit voltage). Wire burn-off rate is automatically adjusted for any slight variation in the gun to workpiece distance, wire feed speed, or current pick-up in the contact tip. For example, if the arc momentarily shortens, arc voltage will decrease and welding current will be momentarily increased to burn back the wire and maintain pre-set arc length. The reverse will occur to counteract a momentary lengthening of the arc. There is a wide range of power sources available, mode of metal transfer can be:

dip spray



A low welding current is used for thin-section material, or welding in the vertical position. The molten metal is transferred to the workpiece by the wire dipping into the weldpool. As welding parameters will vary from around 100A \ 17V to 200A \ 22V (for a 1.2mm diameter wire), power sources normally have a current rating of up to 350A. Circuit inductance is used to control the surge in current when the wire dips into the weldpool (this is the main cause of spatter). Modern electronic power sources automatically set the inductance to give a smooth arc and metal transfer. In spray metal transfer, metal transfers as a spray of fine droplets without the wire touching the weldpool. The welding current level needed to maintain the non shortcircuiting arc must be above a minimum threshold level; the arc voltage is higher to ensure that the wire tip does not touch the weldpool. Typical welding parameters for a 1.2mm diameter wire are within 250A \ 28V to 400A \ 35V. For high deposition rates the power source must have a much higher current capacity: up to 500A. The pulsed mode provides a means of achieving a spray type metal transfer at current levels below threshold level. High current pulses between 25 and 100Hz are used to detach droplets as an alternative to dip transfer. As control of the arc and metal transfer requires careful setting of pulse and background parameters, a more sophisticated power source is required. Synergic pulsed MIG power sources, which are advanced transistorcontrolled power sources, are preprogrammed so that the correct pulse parameters are delivered automatically as the welder varies wire feed speed. Welding current and arc voltage ranges for selected wire diameters operating with dip and spray metal transfer:

Wire diameter (mm) 0.6 0.8 1.0 1.2 1.6

Dip transfer 30 - 80 45 - 180 70 - 180 100 - 200 120 - 200 15 - 18 16 - 21 17 - 22 17 - 22 18 - 22

Spray transfer

Current (A) Voltage (V) Current (A) Voltage (V) 150 - 250 230 - 300 250 - 400 250 - 500 25 - 33 26 - 35 27 - 35 30 - 40

Wire feed system

The performance of the wire feed system can be crucial to the stability and reproducibility of MIG welding. As the system must be capable of feeding the wire


smoothly, attention should be paid to the feed rolls and liners. There are three types of feeding systems:

pinch rolls push-pull spool on gun

The conventional wire feeding system normally has a set of rolls where one is grooved and the other has a flat surface. Roll pressure must not be too high otherwise the wire will deform and cause poor current pick up in the contact tip. With copper coated wires, too high a roll pressure or use of knurled rolls increases the risk of flaking of the coating (resulting in copper build up in the contact tip). For feeding soft wires such as aluminium dual-drive systems should be used to avoid deforming the soft wire. Small diameter aluminium wires, 1mm and smaller, are more reliably fed using a pushpull system. Here, a second set of rolls is located in the welding gun - this greatly assists in drawing the wire through the conduit. The disadvantage of this system is increased size of gun. Small wires can also be fed using a small spool mounted directly on the gun. The disadvantages with this are increased size, awkwardness of the gun, and higher wire cost.

The conduit can measure up to 5m in length, and to facilitate feeding, should be kept as short and straight as possible. (For longer lengths of conduit, an intermediate push-pull system can be inserted). It has an internal liner made either of spirally-wound steel for hard wires (steel, stainless steel, titanium, nickel) or PTFE for soft wires (aluminium, copper).

In addition to directing the wire to the joint, the welding gun fulfils two important functions - it transfers the welding current to the wire and provides the gas for shielding the arc and weldpool. There are two types of welding guns: 'air' cooled and water cooled. The 'air' cooled guns rely on the shielding gas passing through the body to cool the nozzle and have a limited current-carrying capacity. These are suited to light duty work. Although 'air' cooled guns are available with current ratings up to 500A, water cooled guns are preferred for high current levels, especially at high duty cycles. Welding current is transferred to the wire through the contact tip whose bore is slightly greater than the wire diameter. The contact tip bore diameter for a 1.2mm diameter wire is between 1.4 andt 1.5mm. As too large a bore diameter affects current pick up, tips must be inspected regularly and changed as soon as excessive wear is noted. Copper alloy (chromium and zirconium additions) contact tips, harder than pure copper, have a longer life, especially when using spray and pulsed modes.


Gas flow rate is set according to nozzle diameter and gun to workpiece distance, but is typically between 10 and 30 l/min. The nozzle must be cleaned regularly to prevent excessive spatter build-up which creates porosity. Anti-spatter spray can be particularly effective in automatic and robotic welding to limit the amount of spatter adhering to the nozzle.

Protective equipment
A darker glass than that used for MMA welding at the same current level should be used in hand or head shields. Recommended shade number of filter for MIG/MAG welding:

Shade number 10 11 12 13 14 15

Welding current A MIG Heavy metal MIG Light metal MAG under 100 1001 - 175 175 - 300 300 - 500 over 500 under 100 100 - 175 175 - 250 250 - 350 350 - 500 over 500 under 80 80 - 125 125 - 175 175 - 300 300 - 500 over 450

Equipment for Submerged-arc Welding

The submerged-arc welding(SAW) process is similar to MIG where the arc is formed between a continuously-fed wire electrode and the workpiece, and the weld is formed by the arc melting the workpiece and the wire. However, in SAW a shielding gas is not required as the layer of flux generates the gases and slag to protect the weld pool and hot weld metal from contamination. Flux plays an additional role in adding alloying elements to the weld pool.

Essential equipment
Essential equipment components for SAW are:

power source wire gun flux handling 38

protective equipment

As SAW is a high current welding process, the equipment is designed to produce high deposition rates.

Power source
SAW can be operated using either a DC or an AC power source. DC is supplied by a transformer-rectifier and AC is supplied by a transformer. Current for a single wire ranges from as low as 200A (1.6mm diameter wire) to as high as 1000A (6.0mm diameter wire). In practice, most welding is carried out on thick plate where a single wire (4.0mm diameter) is normally used over a more limited range of 600 to 900A, with a twin wire system operating between 800 and 1200A. In DC operation, the electrode is normally connected to the positive terminal. Electrode negative (DCEN) polarity can be used to increase deposition rate but depth of penetration is reduced by between 20 and 25%. For this reason, DCEN is used for surfacing applications where parent metal dilution is important. The DC power source has a 'constant voltage' output characteristic which produces a self-regulating arc. For a given diameter of wire, welding current is controlled by wire feed speed and arc length is determined by voltage setting. AC power sources usually have a constant-current output characteristic and are therefore not self-regulating. The arc with this type of power source is controlled by sensing the arc voltage and using the signal to control wire feed speed. In practice, for a given welding current level, arc length is determined by wire burnoff rate, i.e. the balance between the welding current setting and wire feed speed which is under feedback control. Square wave AC square wave power sources have a constant voltage output current characteristic. Advantages are easier arc ignition and constant wire feed speed control.

Welding gun
SAW can be carried out using both manual and mechanised techniques. Mechanised welding, which can exploit the potential for extremely high deposition rates, accounts for the majority of applications. Manual welding For manual welding, the welding gun is similar to a MIG gun, with the flux which is fed concentrically around the electrode, replacing the shielding gas. Flux is fed by air pressure through the handle of the gun or from a small hopper mounted on the gun. The equipment is relatively portable and, as the operator guides the gun along the joint, little manipulative skill is required. However, because the operator has limited control over the welding operation (apart from adjusting travel speed to maintain the bead profile) it is best used for short runs and simple filling operations.


Mechanised welding - single wire

As SAW is often used for welding large components, the gun, wire feeder and flux delivery feed can be mounted on a rail, tractor or boom manipulator. Single wire welding is mostly practised using DCEP even though AC will produce a higher deposition rate for the same welding current. AC is used to overcome problems with arc blow, caused by residual magnetism in the workpiece, jigging or welding machine. Wire stickout, or electrode extension - the distance the wire protrudes from the end of the contact tip - is an important control parameter in SAW. As the current flowing between the contact tip and the arc will preheat the wire, wire burnoff rate will increase with increase in wire stickout. For example, the deposition rate for a 4mm diameter wire at a welding current of 700A can be increased from approximately 9 kg/hr at the normal 32mm stickout, to 14 kg/hr at a stickout length of 178mm. In practice, because of the reduction in penetration and greater risk of arc wander, a long stickout is normally only used in cladding and surfacing applications where there is greater emphasis on deposition rate and control of penetration, rather than accurate positioning of the wire. For most applications, electrode stickout is set so that the contact tube is slightly proud of the flux layer. The depth of flux is normally just sufficient to cover the arc whose light can be seen through the flux. Recommended and maximum stickout lengths:

Wire diameter mm Current range A

Wire stickout 40

0.8 1.2 1.6 2.0 3.2 4.0 4.75

100 to 200 150 to 300 200 to 500 250 to 600 350 to 800 400 to 900 450 to 1000

12 20 20 25 30 32 35

63 76 128 165

Mechanised welding - twin wire

Tandem arc connections

SAW can be operated with more than one wire. Although up to five wires are used for high deposition rates, e.g. in pipe mills, the most common multi-wire systems have two wires in a tandem arrangement. The leading wire is run on DCEP to produce deep penetration. The trailing wire is operated on AC which spreads the weld pool, which is ideal for filling the joint. AC also minimises: interaction between the arcs, and the risk of lack of fusion defects and porosity through the deflection of the arcs (arc blow). The wires are normally spaced 20mm apart so that the second wire feeds into the rear of the weld pool.

Gun angle
In manual welding, the gun is operated with a trailing angle, i.e. with the gun at an angle of 45 degrees (backwards) from the vertical. In single wire mechanised welding operations, the gun is perpendicular to the workpiece. However, in twin wire operations the leading gun is normal to the workpiece, with the trailing gun angled slightly forwards between an angle of 60 and 80 degrees. This reduces disturbance of the weld pool and produces a smooth weld bead profile.

Flux handling
Flux should be stored in unopened packages under dry conditions. Open packages should be stored in a humidity-controlled store. While flux from a newly-opened package is ready for immediate use, flux which has been opened and held in a store should first be dried according to manufacturer's instructions. In small welding systems, flux is usually held in a small hopper above the welding gun. It is fed automatically (by gravity or mechanised feed) ahead of the arc. In larger installations the flux is stored in large hoppers and is fed with compressed air. Unused flux is collected using a vacuum hose and returned to the hopper.


Note: Care must be taken in recycling unused flux, particularly regarding the removal of slag and metal dust particles. The presence of slag will change the composition of the flux which, together with the wire, determines the composition of the weld metal. The presence of fine particles can cause blockages in the feeding system.

Protective equipment
Unlike other arc welding processes, SAW is a clean process which produces minimum fume and spatter when welding steels. (Some noxious emissions can be produced when welding special materials.) For normal applications, general workshop extraction should be adequate. Protective equipment such as a head shield and a leather apron are not necessary. Normal protective equipment (goggles, heavy gloves and protective shoes) are required for ancillary operations such as slag removal by chipping or grinding. Special precautions should be taken when handling flux - a dust respirator and gloves are needed when loading the storage hoppers.

Equipment for TIG Welding

Job Knowledge for Welders No. 6 describes the TIG welding process. Using an inert gas shield instead of a slag to protect the weldpool, this technology is a highly attractive alternative to gas and manual metal arc welding and has played a major role in the acceptance of high quality welding in critical applications.

Essential equipment
In TIG, the arc is formed between the end of a small diameter tungsten electrode and the workpiece. The main equipment components are:

power source torch backing system protective equipment

Power source
The power source for TIG welding can be either DC or AC but in both the output is termed a drooping, or constant current, characteristic; the arc voltage / welding current relationship delivers a constant current for a given power source setting. If the arc voltage is slightly increased or decreased, there will be very little change in welding current. In manual welding, it can accommodate the welder's natural variations 42

in arc length and, in the event of the electrode touching the work, an excessively high current will not be drawn which could fuse the electrode to the workpiece. The arc is usually started by HF (High Frequency) sparks which ionise the gap between the electrode and the workpiece. HF generates airborne and line transmitted interference, so care must be taken to avoid interference with control systems and instruments near welding equipment. When welding is carried out in sensitive areas, a non-HF technique, touch starting or 'lift arc', can be used. The electrode can be short circuited to the workpiece, but the current will only flow when the electrode is lifted off the surface. There is, therefore, little risk of the electrode fusing to the workpiece surface and forming tungsten inclusions in the weld metal. For high quality applications, using HF is preferred. DC power source DC power produces a concentrated arc with most of the heat in the workpiece, so this power source is generally used for welding. However, the arc with its cathode roots on the electrode (DC electrode negative polarity), results in little cleaning of the workpiece surface. Care must be taken to clean the surface prior to welding and to ensure that there is an efficient gas shield. Transistor and inverter power sources are being used increasingly for TIG welding. The advantages are:

the smaller size makes them easily transported arc ignition is easier special operating features, e.g. current pulsing, are readily included the output can be pre-programmed for mechanised operations

The greater stability of these power sources allows very low currents to be used particularly for micro-TIG welding and largely replaced the plasma process for micro-welding operations. AC power source For materials such as aluminium, which has a tenacious oxide film on the surface, AC power must be employed. By switching between positive and negative polarity, the periods of electrode positive will remove the oxide and clean the surface. The figure shows current and voltage waveforms for (sine wave) AC TIG welding.


Disadvantages of conventional, sine wave AC compared with DC are:

the arc is more diffuse HF is required to reignite the arc at each current reversal excessive heating of the electrode makes it impossible to maintain a tapered point and the end becomes balled

Square wave AC, or switched DC, power sources are particularly attractive for welding aluminium. By switching between polarities, arc reignition is made easier so that the HF can be reduced or eliminated. The ability to imbalance the waveform to vary the proportion of positive to negative polarity is important by determining the relative amount of heat generated in the workpiece and the electrode. To weld the root run, the power source is operated with the greater amount of positive polarity to put the maximum heat into the workpiece. For filler runs a greater proportion of negative polarity should be used to minimise heating of the electrode. By using 90% negative polarity, it is possible to maintain a pointed electrode. A balanced position (50% electrode positive and negative polarities) is preferable for welding heavily oxidised aluminium.

There is a wide range of torch designs for welding, according to the application. Designs which have the on/off switch and current control in the handle are often preferred to foot controls. Specialised torches are available for mechanised applications, e.g. orbital and bore welding of pipes.

For DC current, the electrode is tungsten with between 2 and 5% thoria to aid arc initiation. The electrode tip is ground to an angle of 600 to 900 for manual welding, irrespective of the electrode diameter. For mechanised applications as the tip angle determines the shape of the arc and influences the penetration profile of the weld pool, attention must be paid to consistency in grinding the tip and checking its condition between welds. For AC current, the electrode is either pure tungsten or tungsten with a small amount (up to 0.5%) of zirconia to aid arc reignition and to reduce electrode erosion. The tip normally assumes a spherical profile due to the heat generated in the electrode during the electrode positive half cycle.

Gas shielding


A gas lens should be fitted within the torch nozzle, to ensure laminar gas flow. This will improve gas protection for sensitive welding operations like welding vertical, corner and edge joints and on curved surfaces.

Backing system
When welding high integrity components, a shielding gas is used to protect the underside of the weld pool and weld bead from oxidation. To reduce the amount of gas consumed, a localised gas shroud for sheet, dams or plugs for tubular components is used. As little as 5% air can result in a poor weld bead profile and may reduce corrosion resistance in materials like stainless steel. With gas backing systems in pipe welding, pre-weld purge time depends on the diameter and length of the pipe. The flow rate/purge time is set to ensure at least five volume changes before welding. Stick on tapes and ceramic backing bars are also used to protect and support the weld bead. In manual stainless steel welding, a flux-cored wire instead of a solid wire can be used in the root run. This protects the underbead from oxidation without the need for gas backing. Inserts A pre-placed insert can be used to improve the uniformity of the root penetration. Its main use is to prevent suck-back in an autogenous weld, especially in the overhead position. The use of an insert does not make welding any easier and skill is still required to avoid problems of incomplete root fusion and uneven root penetration.

Protective equipment
A slightly darker glass should be used in the head or hand shield than that used for MMA welding. Recommended shade number of filter for TIG welding:

Shade number Welding current A 9 10 11 12 13 14 less than 20 20 to 40 40 to 100 100 to 175 175 to 250 250 to 400


Equipment for Plasma Welding

Plasma welding derives its unique operating characteristics from the torch design. As in TIG welding, the arc is formed between the end of a small diameter tungsten electrode and the workpiece. However, in the plasma torch, the electrode is positioned behind a fine bore copper nozzle. By forcing the arc to pass through the nozzle, the characteristic columnar jet, or plasma, is formed. As described in Job Knowledge for Welders, No 7, three different operating modes can be produced by the choice of the nozzle bore diameter, current level and plasma gas flow rate:

Microplasma (0.1 to 15A) is equivalent to microTIG but the columnar arc allows the welder to operate with a much longer arc length. The arc is stable at low welding current levels producing a 'pencil-like' beam which is suitable for welding very thin section material. Medium current plasma (15 to 100A) similar to conventional TIG, is also used for precision welding operations and when a high level of weld quality is demanded. Keyhole plasma (over 100A) produced by increasing the current level and the plasma gas flow. It generates a very powerful arc plasma, similar to a laser beam. During welding, the plasma arc slices through the metal producing a keyhole, with the molten weld pool flowing around the keyhole to form the weld. Deep penetration and high welding speeds can be achieved with this operating mode.

As the plasma arc is generated by the special torch arrangement and system controller, the equipment can be obtained as an add-on unit to conventional TIG equipment to provide additional pilot arc and separate plasma and shielding gases. Alternatively, purpose-built plasma equipment is available. Despite similarities in plasma and TIG equipment, there are several important differences in the following components:

power source torch backing system protective equipment

Power source


The power source for plasma welding is almost exclusively DC and, as in TIG, the drooping, or constant current, output characteristic will deliver essentially constant current for a given power source setting. The power source is ideal for mechanised welding as it maintains the current setting even when arc length varies and, in manual welding, it can accommodate the natural variations of the welder. The plasma process is normally operated with electrode negative polarity to minimise heat produced in the electrode (approximately 1/3rd of the heat generated by the arc is produced at the cathode with 2/3rds at the anode). Special torches are available, however, for operating with electrode positive polarity which rely on efficient cooling to prevent melting of the electrode. The positive electrode torch is used for welding aluminium which requires the cathode to be on the material to remove the oxide film. AC is not normally used in the plasma process because it is difficult to stabilise the AC arc. Problems in reigniting the arc are associated with constriction by the nozzle, the long electrode to workpiece distance and balling of the electrode caused by the alternate periods of electrode positive polarity. The square wave AC (inverter, switched DC) power source, with an efficiently cooled torch, makes the use of the AC plasma process easier; rapid current switching promotes arc reignition and, by operating with very short periods of electrode positive polarity, electrode heating is reduced so a pointed electrode can be maintained. The plasma system has a unique arc starting system in which HF is only used to ignite a pilot arc held within the body of the torch. The pilot arc formed between the electrode and copper nozzle is automatically transferred to the workpiece when it is required for welding. This starting system is very reliable and eliminates the risk of electrical interference through HF.

The torch for the plasma process is considerably more complex than the TIG torch and attention must be paid, not only to initial set up, but also to inspection and maintenance during production. Nozzle In the conventional torch arrangement, the electrode is positioned behind the water cooled copper nozzle. As the power of the plasma arc is determined by the degree of nozzle constriction, consideration must be given to the choice of bore diameter in relation to the current level and plasma gas flow rate. For a 'soft' plasma, normally used for micro and medium current operating modes, a relatively large diameter bore is recommended to minimise nozzle erosion. In high current keyhole plasma mode, the nozzle bore diameter, plasma gas flow rate and current level are selected to produce a highly constricted arc which has sufficient power to cut through the material. The plasma gas flow rate is crucial in generating the deeply


penetrating plasma arc and in preventing nozzle erosion; too low a gas flow rate for the bore diameter and current level will result in double arcing in the torch and the nozzle melting. The suggested starting point for setting the plasma gas flow rate and the current level for a range of the bore diameters and the various operating modes is given.

Electrode The electrode is tungsten with an addition of between 2 and 5% thoria to aid arc initiation. Normally, the electrode tip is ground to an angle of 15 degrees for microplasma welding. The tip angle increases with current level and for high current, keyhole plasma welding, an angle of 60 degrees to 90 degrees is recommended. For high current levels, the tip is also blunted to approximately 1mm diameter. The tip angle is not usually critical for manual welding. However, for mechanised applications, the condition of the tip and the nozzle will determine the shape of the arc and penetration profile of the weld pool penetration, so particular attention must be paid to grinding the tip. It is also necessary to check periodically the condition of the tip and nozzle and, for critical components, it is recommended the torch condition is checked between welds. Electrode set-back To ensure consistency, it is important to maintain a constant electrode position behind the nozzle; guidance on electrode set-back and a special tool is provided by the torch manufacturer. The maximum current rating of each nozzle has been established for the maximum electrode set-back position and the maximum plasma gas flow rate. Lower plasma gas flow rates can be used to soften the plasma arc with the maximum current rating of the nozzle providing electrode set-back distance is reduced.

Plasma and shielding gas

The usual gas combination is argon for the plasma gas and argon-2 to 8% H2 for the shielding gas. Irrespective of the material being welded, using argon for the plasma gas produces the lowest rate of electrode and nozzle erosion. Argon - H2 gas mixture for


shielding produces a slightly reducing atmosphere and cleaner welds. Helium gives a hotter arc; however, its use for the plasma gas reduces the current carrying capacity of the nozzle and makes formation of the keyhole more difficult. Helium - argon mixtures, e.g. 75% helium - 25% argon, are used as the shielding gas for materials such as copper. Plasma gas flow rate must be set accurately as it controls the penetration of the weld pool but the shielding gas flow rate is not critical.

Backing system
The normal TIG range of backing bar designs or shielding gas techniques can be employed when using micro and medium current techniques. When applying the keyhole mode a grooved backing bar must be used, with or without gas shielding or total shielding of the underside of the joint. Because the efflux plasma normally extends about 10mm below the back face of the joint, the groove must be deep enough to avoid disturbance of the arc jet; if the efflux plasma hits the backing bar, arc instability will disturb the weld pool, causing porosity.

Protective equipment
Protective equipment for plasma welding is as described for TIG in Job Knowledge for Welders No 17. Regarding protection from arc light, a similar Shade number to TIG at the same welding current level should be used in head or hand shield. The glass will be slightly darker than that used for MMA welding at the same current level. Recommended shade number of filter for plasma welding:

Shade Nunber 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Welding Current, A Micro Plasma Plasma 0.5 to 1 1 to 2.5 2.5 to 5 5 to 10 10 to 15 15 to 30 30 to 60 60 to 125 125 to 225 225 to 450 less than 150 150 to 250 above 250


Weldability of materials

In arc welding, as the weld metal needs mechanical properties to match the parent metal, the welder must avoid forming defects in the weld. Imperfections are principally caused by:

poor welder technique; insufficient measures to accommodate the material or welding process; high stress in the component.

Techniques to avoid imperfections such as lack of fusion and slag inclusions, which result from poor welder techniques, are relatively well known. However, the welder should be aware that the material itself may be susceptible to formation of imperfections caused by the welding process. In the materials section of the Job Knowledge for Welders, guidelines are given on material weldability and precautions to be taken to avoid defects.

Material types
In terms of weldability, commonly used materials can be divided into the following types:

Steels Stainless steels Aluminium and its alloys Nickel and its alloys Copper and its alloys Titanium and its alloys Cast iron

Fusion welding processes can be used to weld most alloys of these materials, in a wide range of thickness. When imperfections are formed, they will be located in either the weld metal or the parent material immediately adjacent to the weld, called the heat affected zone (HAZ). As chemical composition of the weld metal determines the risk of imperfections, the choice of filler metal may be crucial not only in achieving adequate mechanical properties and corrosion resistance but also in producing a sound weld. However, HAZ imperfections are caused by the adverse effect of the heat generated during welding and can only be avoided by strict adherence to the welding procedure. 50

This part of the materials section of Job Knowledge for Welders considers the weldability of carbon-manganese (C-Mn) steels and low alloy steels.

Imperfections in welds
Commonly used steels are considered to be readily welded. However, these materials can be at risk from the following types of imperfection:

porosity; solidification cracking; hydrogen cracking; reheat cracking.

Other fabrication imperfections are lamellar tearing and liquation cracking but using modern steels and consumables, these types of defects are less likely to arise. In discussing the main causes of imperfections, guidance is given on procedure and welder techniques for reducing the risk in arc welding.

Porosity is formed by entrapment of discrete pockets of gas in the solidifying weld pool. The gas may originate from poor gas shielding, surface contaminants such as rust or grease, or insufficient deoxidants in the parent metal (autogenous weld), electrode or filler wire. A particularly severe form of porosity is 'wormholes', caused by gross surface contamination or welding with damp electrodes. The presence of manganese and silicon in the parent metal, electrode and filler wire is beneficial as they act as deoxidants combining with entrapped air in the weld pool to form slag. Rimming steels with a high oxygen content, can only be welded satisfactorily with a consumable which adds aluminium to the weld pool. To obtain sound porosity-free welds, the joint area should be cleaned and degreased before welding. Primer coatings should be removed unless considered suitable for welding by that particular process and procedure. When using gas shielded processes, the material surface demands more rigorous cleaning, such as by degreasing, grinding or machining, followed by final degreasing, and the arc must be protected from draughts.

Solidification cracking
Solidification cracks occur longitudinally as a result of the weld bead having insufficient strength to withstand the contraction stresses within the weld metal. Sulphur, phosphorus, and carbon pick up from the parent metal at high dilution increase the risk of weld metal (solidification) cracking especially in thick section and highly restrained joints. When welding high carbon and sulphur content steels, thin weld beads will be more susceptible to solidification cracking. However, a weld with a large depth to width ratio can also be 51

susceptible. In this case, the centre of the weld, the last part to solidify, will have a high concentration of impurities increasing the risk of cracking. Solidification cracking is best avoided by careful attention to the choice of consumable, welding parameters and welder technique. To minimise the risk, consumables with low carbon and impurity levels and relatively high manganese and silicon contents are preferred. High current density processes such as submerged-arc and CO , are more likely to induce cracking. The welding parameters must produce an adequate depth to width ratio in butt welds, or throat thickness in fillet welds. High welding speeds also increase the risk as the amount of segregation and weld stresses will increase. The welder should ensure that there is a good joint fit-up so as to avoid bridging wide gaps. Surface contaminants, such as cutting oils, should be removed before welding.

Hydrogen cracking
A characteristic feature of high carbon and low alloy steels is that the HAZ immediately adjacent to the weld hardens on welding with an attendant risk of cold (hydrogen) cracking. Although the risk of cracking is determined by the level of hydrogen produced by the welding process, susceptibility will also depend upon several contributory factors:

material composition (carbon equivalent); section thickness; arc energy (heat) input; degree of restraint.

The amount of hydrogen generated is determined by the electrode type and the process. Basic electrodes generate less hydrogen than rutile electrodes (MMA) and the gas shielded processes (MIG and TIG) produce only a small amount of hydrogen in the weld pool. Steel composition and cooling rate determines the HAZ hardness. Chemical composition determines material hardenability, and the higher the carbon and alloy content of the material, the greater the HAZ hardness. Section thickness and arc energy influences the cooling rate and hence, the hardness of the HAZ. For a given situation therefore, material composition, thickness, joint type, electrode composition and arc energy input, HAZ cracking is prevented by heating the material. Using preheat which reduces the cooling rate, promotes escape of hydrogen and reduces HAZ hardness so preventing a crack-sensitive structure being formed; the recommended levels of preheat for various practical situations are detailed in the appropriate standards e.g. BS EN1011-2:2001. As cracking only occurs at temperatures slightly above ambient, maintaining the temperature of the weld area above the recommended level during fabrication is especially important. If the material is allowed to cool too quickly, cracking can occur up to several hours after welding, often termed 'delayed hydrogen cracking'. After welding, therefore, it is beneficial to maintain the heating for a given period (hold time), depending on the steel thickness, to enable the hydrogen to diffuse from the weld area.


When welding C-Mn structural and pressure vessel steels, the measures which are taken to prevent HAZ cracking will also be adequate to avoid hydrogen cracking in the weld metal. However, with increasing alloying of the weld metal e.g. when welding alloyed or quenched and tempered steels, more stringent precautions may be necessary. The risk of HAZ cracking is reduced by using a low hydrogen process, low hydrogen electrodes and high arc energy, and by reducing the level of restraint. Practical precautions to avoid hydrogen cracking include drying the electrodes and cleaning the joint faces. When using a gas shielded process, a significant amount of hydrogen can be generated from contaminants on the surface of the components and filler wire so preheat and arc energy requirements should be maintained even for tack welds.

Reheat cracking
Reheat or stress relaxation cracking may occur in the HAZ of thick section components, usually of greater than 50mm thickness, Fig. 4. The more likely cause of cracking is embrittlement of the HAZ during high temperature service or stress relief heat treatment. As a coarse grained HAZ is more susceptible to cracking, low arc energy input welding procedures reduce the risk. Although reheat cracking occurs in sensitive materials, avoidance of high stresses during welding and elimination of local points of stress concentration, e.g. by dressing the weld toes, can reduce the risk.

Weldability of steel groups

PD CR ISO 15608:2000 identifies a number of steels groups which have similar metallurgical and welding characteristics. The main risks in welding these groups are: Group 1. Low carbon unalloyed steels, no specific processing requirements, specified minimum yield strength R 460N/mm .
eH 2

For thin section, unalloyed materials, these are normally readily weldable. However, when welding thicker sections with a flux process, there is a risk of HAZ hydrogen cracking, which will need increased hydrogen control of the consumables or the use of preheat. Group 2. Thermomechanically treated fine grain steels and cast steels with a specified miniumum yield strength R > 360N/mm .
eH 2

For a given strength level, a thermomechanically processed (TMCP) steel will have a lower alloy content than a normalised steel, and thus will be more readily weldable with regard to avoidance of HAZ hydrogen cracking and the achievement of maximum hardness limits. However, there is always some degree of softening in the HAZ after welding TMCP steels, and a restriction on the heat input used, so as not to degrade the properties of the joint zone (e.g. 2.5kJ/mm limits for 15mm plate).


Group 3. Quenched and tempered steels and precipitation hardened steels (except stainless steels), R > 360N/mm
eH 2

These are weldable, but care must be taken to adhere to established procedures, as these often have high carbon contents, and thus high hardenability, leading to a hard HAZ susceptibility to cracking. As with TMCP steels, there may be a restriction on heat input or preheat to avoid degradation of the steel properties. Groups 4, 5 and 6. Chromium-molybdenum and chromium-molybdenum-vanadium creep resisting steels. These are susceptible to hydrogen cracking, but with appropriate preheat and low hydrogen consumables, with temper bead techniques to minimise cracking, the steels are fairly weldable. Postweld heat treatment is used to improve HAZ toughness in these steels. Group 7. Ferritic, martensitic or precipitation hardened stainless steels. When using a filler to produce matching weld metal strength, preheat is needed to avoid HAZ cracking. Postweld heat treatment is essential to restore HAZ toughness. Group 8. Austenitic stainless steels. These steels do not generally need preheat, but in order to avoid problems with solidification or liquation cracking upon welding, the consumables should be selected to give weld metal with a low impurity content, or if appropriate, residual ferrite in the weld metal. Group 9. Nickel alloy steels, Ni 10%. These have a similar weldability to Groups 4, 5 & 6. Group 10. Austenitic ferritic stainless steels (duplex). In welding these steels, maintaining phase balance in the weld metal and in the HAZ requires careful selection of consumables, the absence of preheat and control of maximum interpass temperature, along with minimum heat input levels, as slow cooling encourages austenite formation in the HAZ. Group 11. High carbon steels. These steels will be less weldable owing to their increased carbon content with respect to Group 1. It is likely that care over the choice of consumables and the use of high preheat levels would be needed.


It is important to obtain advice before welding any steels that you do not have experience in.

1. BS EN 1011-2:2001 'Welding - receommendations for welding of metallic materials - part 2: Arc welding of ferritic steels' British Standards Institution, March 2001. 2. PD CR ISO 15608:2000 'Welding - guidelines for a metallic material grouping system' British Standards Institution, June 2000.

Weldability of materials

Stainless steel
Stainless steels are chosen because of their enhanced corrosion resistance, high temperature oxidation resistance or their strength. The various types of stainless steel are identified and guidance given on welding processes and techniques which can be employed in fabricating stainless steel components without impairing the corrosion, oxidation and mechanical properties of the material or introducing defects into the weld.

Material types
The unique properties of the stainless steels are derived from the addition of alloying elements, principally chromium and nickel, to steel. Typically, more than 10% chromium is required to produce a stainless iron. The four grades of stainless steel have been classified according to their material properties and welding requirements:

Austenitic Ferritic Martensitic Austenitic-ferritic (duplex)

The alloy groups are designated largely according to their microstructure. The first three consist of a single phase but the fourth group contains both ferrite and austenite in the microstructure. As nickel (plus carbon, manganese and nitrogen) promotes austenite and chromium (plus silicon, molybdenum and niobium) encourages ferrite formation, the structure of welds in commercially available stainless steels can be largely predicted on the basis of their


chemical composition. The predicted weld metal structure is shown in the Schaeffler diagram in which austenite and ferrite promoting elements are plotted in terms of the nickel and chromium equivalents. Because of the different microstructures, the alloy groups have both different welding characteristics and susceptibility to defects.

Austenitic stainless steel

Austenitic stainless steels typically have a composition within the range 16-26% chromium (Cr) and 8-22% nickel (Ni). A commonly used alloy for welded fabrications is Type 304 which contains approximately 18%Cr and 10%Ni. These alloys can be readily welded using any of the arc welding processes (TIG, MIG, MMA and SA). As they are non-hardenable on cooling, they exhibit good toughness and there is no need for pre- or post-weld heat treatment. Avoiding weld imperfections Although austenitic stainless steel is readily welded, weld metal and HAZ cracking can occur. Weld metal solidification cracking is more likely in fully austenitic structures which are more crack sensitive than those containing a small amount of ferrite. The beneficial effect of ferrite has been attributed largely to its capacity to dissolve harmful impurities which would otherwise form low melting point segregates and interdendritic cracks. As the presence of 5-10% ferrite in the microstructure is extremely beneficial, the choice of filler material composition is crucial in suppressing the risk of cracking. An indication of the ferrite-austenite balance for different compositions is provided by the Schaeffler diagram. For example, when welding Type 304 stainless steel, a Type 308 filler material which has a slightly different alloy content, is used.

Ferritic stainless steel

Ferritic stainless steels have a Cr content typically within the range 11-28%. Commonly used alloys include the 430 grade, having 16-18% Cr and 407 grade having 10-12% Cr. As these alloys can be considered to be predominantly single phase and non-hardenable, they can be readily fusion welded. However, a coarse grained HAZ will have poor toughness. Avoiding weld imperfections The main problem when welding this type of stainless steel is poor HAZ toughness. Excessive grain coarsening can lead to cracking in highly restrained joints and thick section material. When welding thin section material, (less than 6mm) no special precautions are necessary.


In thicker material, it is necessary to employ a low heat input to minimise the width of the grain coarsened zone and an austenitic filler to produce a tougher weld metal. Although preheating will not reduce the grain size, it will reduce the HAZ cooling rate, maintain the weld metal above the ductile-brittle transition temperature and may reduce residual stresses. Preheat temperature should be within the range 50-250 deg.C depending on material composition.

Martensitic stainless steel

The most common martensitic alloys e.g. type 410, have a moderate chromium content, 12-18% Cr, with low Ni but more importantly have a relatively high carbon content. The principal difference compared with welding the austenitic and ferritic grades of stainless steel is the potentially hard HAZ martensitic structure and the matching composition weld metal. The material can be successfully welded providing precautions are taken to avoid cracking in the HAZ, especially in thick section components and highly restrained joints. Avoiding weld imperfections High hardness in the HAZ makes this type of stainless steel very prone to hydrogen cracking. The risk of cracking generally increases with the carbon content. Precautions which must be taken to minimise the risk, include:

using low hydrogen process (TIG or MIG) and ensure the flux or flux coated consumable are dried (MMA and SAW) according to the manufacturer's instructions; preheating to around 200 to 300 deg.C. Actual temperature will depend on welding procedure, chemical composition (especially Cr and C content), section thickness and the amount of hydrogen entering the weld metal; maintaining the recommended minimum interpass temperature. carrying out post-weld heat treatment, e.g. at 650-750 deg.C. The time and temperature will be determined by chemical composition.

Thin section, low carbon material, typically less than 3mm, can often be welded without preheat, providing that a low hydrogen process is used, the joints have low restraint and attention is paid to cleaning the joint area. Thicker section and higher carbon (> 0.1%) material will probably need preheat and post-weld heat treatment. The post-weld heat treatment should be carried out immediately after welding not only to temper (toughen) the structure but also to enable the hydrogen to diffuse away from the weld metal and HAZ.

Duplex stainless steels

Duplex stainless steels have a two phase structure of almost equal proportions of austenite and ferrite. The composition of the most common duplex steels lies within the range 22-26% Cr, 4-7% Ni and 0-3% Mo normally with a small amount of nitrogen (0.1-


0.3%) to stabilise the austenite. Modern duplex steels are readily weldable but the procedure, especially maintaining the heat input range, must be strictly followed to obtain the correct weld metal structure. Avoiding weld imperfections Although most welding processes can be used, low heat input welding procedures are usually avoided. Preheat is not normally required and the maximum interpass temperature must be controlled. Choice of filler is important as it is designed to produce a weld metal structure with a ferrite-austenite balance to match the parent metal. To compensate for nitrogen loss, the filler may be overalloyed with nitrogen or the shielding gas itself may contain a small amount of nitrogen.

Weldability of materials

Aluminium alloys
Aluminium and its alloys are used in fabrications because of their low weight, good corrosion resistance and weldability. Although normally low strength, some of the more complex alloys can have mechanical properties equivalent to steels. The various types of aluminium alloy are identified and guidance is given on fabricating components without impairing corrosion and mechanical properties of the material or introducing imperfections into the weld.

Material types
As pure aluminium is relatively soft, small amounts of alloying elements are added to produce a range of mechanical properties. The alloys are grouped according to the principal alloying elements, Specific commercial alloys have a four-digit designation according to the international specifications for wrought alloys or the ISO alpha - numeric system. The alloys can be further classified according to the means by which the alloying elements develop mechanical properties, non-heat-treatable or heat-treatable alloys.

Non-heat-treatable alloys
Material strength depends on the effect of work hardening and solid solution hardening of alloy elements such as magnesium, and manganese; the alloying elements are mainly found in the 1xxx, 3xxx and 5xxx series of alloys. When welded, these alloys may lose the effects of work hardening which results in softening of the HAZ adjacent to the weld. 58

Heat-treatable alloys
Material hardness and strength depend on alloy composition and heat treatment (solution heat treatment and quenching followed by either natural or artificial ageing produces a fine dispersion of the alloying constituents). Principal alloying elements are defined in the 2xxx, 6xxx and 7xxx series. Fusion welding redistributes the hardening constituents in the HAZ which locally reduces material strength. Most of the wrought grades in the 1xxx, 3xxx, 5xxx, 6xxx and medium strength 7xxx (e.g. 7020) series can be fusion welded using TIG, MIG and oxyfuel processes. The 5xxx series alloys, in particular, have excellent weldability. High strength alloys (e.g. 7010 and 7050) and most of the 2xxx series are not recommended for fusion welding because they are prone to liquation and solidification cracking. The technique of Friction Stir Welding is particularly suited to aluminium alloys. It is capable of producing sound welds in many alloys, including those heat treatable alloys which are prone to hot cracking during fusion welding.

Filler alloys
Filler metal composition is determined by:

weldability of the parent metal minimum mechanical properties of the weld metal corrosion resistance anodic coating requirements

Nominally matching filler metals are often employed for non-heat-treatable alloys. However, for alloy-lean materials and heat-treatable alloys, non-matching fillers are used to prevent solidification cracking. The choice of filler metal composition for the various weldable alloys is specified in BS EN 1011 Pt 4:2000 for TIG and MIG welding; recommended filler metal compositions for the more commonly used alloys are given in the Table.

Alloy Designation EN AW-1080A EN AW-3103

Chemical Designation EN AW-Al 99.8(A) EN AW-Al Mn1

Classification Filler NHT NHT R1080A R-3103

Application Chemical plant Buildings, exchangers heat


EN AW-4043A EN AW-5083 EN AW-5251 EN AW-5356 EN AW-5556A EN AW-6061

EN AW-Al Si5(A)

R5556A R-5356 R4043A R-5356 R5556A

Filler wire/rod Ships, rail bridges wagons,

EN AW-Al NHT Mg4.5Mn0.7 EN AW-Al NHT Mg2Mn0.3 EN Mg5Cr(A) AW-Al -

Road vehicles, marine Filler wire/rod Filer wire/rod Structural, pipes

EN AW-Al Mg5Mn EN Mg1SiCu EN Zn4.5Mg1 AW-Al HT

EN AW-7020


Structural, transport

HT = Heat treatable, NHT = Non Heat treatable

Imperfections in welds
Aluminium and its alloys can be readily welded providing appropriate precautions are taken. The most likely imperfections in fusion welds are:

porosity cracking poor weld bead profile

Porosity is often regarded as an inherent feature of MIG welds; typical appearance of finely distributed porosity in a TIG weld is shown in the photograph. The main cause of porosity is absorption of hydrogen in the weld pool which forms discrete pores in the solidifying weld metal. The most common sources of hydrogen are hydrocarbons and moisture from contaminants on the parent material and filler wire surfaces, and water vapour from the shielding gas atmosphere. Even trace levels of hydrogen may exceed the threshold concentration required to nucleate bubbles in the weld pool, aluminium being one of the metals most susceptible to porosity.


To minimise the risk, rigorous cleaning of material surface and filler wire should be carried out. Three cleaning techniques are suitable; mechanical cleaning, solvent degreasing and chemical etch cleaning. Mechanical cleaning Wire brushing (stainless steel bristles), scraping or filing can be used to remove surface oxide and contaminants. Degreasing should be carried out before mechanical cleaning. Solvents Dipping, spraying or wiping with organic solvents can be used to remove grease, oil, dirt and loose particles. Chemical etching A solution of 5% sodium hydroxide can be used for batch cleaning but this should be followed by rinsing in HNO and water to remove reaction products on the surface.

In gas shielded welding, air entrainment should be avoided by making sure there is an efficient gas shield and the arc is protected from draughts. Precautions should also be taken to avoid water vapour pickup from gas lines and welding equipment; it is recommended that the welding system is purged for about an hour before use.

Solidification cracks
Cracking occurs in aluminium alloys because of high stresses generated across the weld due to the high thermal expansion ( twice that of steel) and the substantial contraction on solidification typically 5 % more than in equivalent steel welds. Solidification cracks form in the centre of the weld,, usually extending along the centreline during solidification. Solidification cracks also occur in the weld crater at the end of the welding operation. The main causes of solidification cracks are as follows:

incorrect filler wire/parent metal combination incorrect weld geometry welding under high restraint conditions

The cracking risk can be reduced by using a non-matching, crack-resistant filler (usually from the 4xxx and 5xxx series alloys). The disadvantage is that the resulting weld metal may have a lower strength than the parent metal and not respond to a subsequent heat treatment. The weld bead must be thick enough to withstand contraction stresses. Also,


the degree of restraint on the weld can be minimised by using correct edge preparation, accurate joint set up and correct weld sequence.

Liquation cracking
Liquation cracking occurs in the HAZ, when low melting point films are formed at the grain boundaries. These cannot withstand the contraction stresses generated when the weld metal solidifies and cools. Heat treatable alloys, particularly 6xxx and 7xxx series alloys, are more susceptible to this type of cracking. The risk can be reduced by using a filler metal with a lower melting temperature than the parent metal, for example the 6xxx series alloys are welded with a 4xxx filler metal. However, 4xxx filler metal should not be used to weld high magnesium alloys (such as 5083) as excessive magnesium-silicide may form at the fusion boundary decreasing ductility and increasing crack sensitivity.

Poor weld bead profile

Incorrect welding parameter settings or poor welder technique can introduce weld profile imperfections such as lack of fusion, lack of penetration and undercut. The high thermal conductivity of aluminium and the rapidly solidifying weld pool make these alloys particularly susceptible to profile imperfections.

Weldability of materials

Nickel and nickel alloys


Nickel and nickel alloys are chosen because of their:

corrosion resistance heat resistance and high temperature properties low temperature properties

Types of nickel alloys are identified and guidance is given on welding processes and techniques which can be used in fabricating nickel alloy components without impairing their corrosion or mechanical properties or introducing defects into the weld.

Material types
The alloys can be grouped according to the principal alloying elements. Although there are National and International designations for the alloys, trade names such as Inconel and Hastelloy are more commonly used. In terms of their weldability, these alloys can be classified according to the means by which the alloying elements develop the mechanical properties, namely solid solution alloys and precipitation hardened alloys. A distinguishing feature of precipitation hardened alloys is that mechanical properties are developed by heat treatment (solution treatment plus ageing) to produce a fine distribution of hard particles in a nickel rich matrix.

Solid solution alloys

Solid solution alloys are Nickel 200, Monel alloy 400 series, Inconel alloy 600 series, Incoloy alloy 800 series, Hastelloys and some Nimonic alloys (such as 75, and PE13). These alloys are readily fusion welded, normally in the annealed condition. As the heat 63

affected zone (HAZ) does not harden, heat treatment is not usually required after welding.

Precipitation hardening alloys

Precipitation hardened alloys are the Monel alloy 500 series, Inconel alloy 700 series, Incoloy alloy 900 series and most of the Nimonic alloys (such as 80,90,263 and PE16). These alloys may susceptible to post-weld heat treatment cracking.

Most nickel alloys can be fusion welded using gas shielded processes like TIG or MIG. Of the flux processes, MMA is frequently used but the SAW process is restricted to solid solution alloys (Nickel 200, Inconel alloy 600 series and Monel alloy 400 series) and is less widely used. Solid solution alloys are normally welded in the annealed condition and precipitation hardened alloys in the solution treated condition. Preheating is not necessary unless there is a risk of porosity from moisture condensation. It is recommended that material containing residual stresses be solution-treated before welding to relieve the stresses. Post-weld heat treatment is not usually needed to restore corrosion resistance but thermal treatment may be required for precipitation hardening or stress relieving purposes to avoid stress corrosion cracking.

Filler alloys
Filler composition normally matches the parent metal. However, most fillers contain a small mount of titanium, aluminium and/or niobium to help minimise the risk of porosity and cracking. Filler metals for gas shielded processes are covered in BS EN 18274:2004 and in the USA by AWS A5.14. Recommended fillers for selected alloys are given in the table.

Table 1: Filler selection for nickel alloys Filler designations BS EN ISO Trade Alloy 18274 AWS A5.14 names Pure nickel Nickel 200 Ni 2061 ERNi-1 Nickel 61

Comments Matching filler contains 3%Ti metal normally


Nickel Copper Monel 400

Ni 4060 ERNiCu-7

Monel 400 Matching filler metal contains additions of Mn, Ti and Al

Nickel Chromium Brightray S Ni 6076 NC 80/20 Ni-Cr and Ni-Cr-Fe filler metals Nimonic 75 Ni 6076 NC 80/20 may be used NickelChromium-Iron Alloy 800 Ni 6625 ERNiCrMo- Inconel 625 Usually welded with Ni-Cr-X alloys, 3 but more nearly matching Thermanit consumables are available which 21/33 contain higher C and also Nb Alloy 600 Ni 6082 ERNiCr-3 Inconel 82 Matching filler metal contains Nb addition Alloy 718 Ni 7718 ERNiFeCr-2 Inconel 718 Matching filler metal can be used but Inconel 625 is an alternative consumable offering increased crack resistance NickelChromiumMolybdenum Alloy 625 Ni 6625 ERNiCrMo- Inconel 625 Matching filler metal is also used 3 widely (for cladding and dissimilar welds) Hastelloy C-22 Ni 6022 ERNiCrMo- Hastelloy 10 C-22 NickelMolybdenum Hastelloy B-2 Ni 1066 ERNiMo-7 Hastelloy Corrosion resistant alloys require B-2 matching fillers High Ni 6002 ERNiCrMo- Hastelloy Mechanical properties required in Temperature 2 X, joints dictate whether matching Alloys Waspaloy precipitation hardening fillers or solid solution alloys such as Inconel 625 are used

Imperfections and degradation


Nickel and its alloys are readily welded but it is essential that the surface is cleaned immediately before welding. The normal method of cleaning is to degrease the surface, remove all surface oxide by machining, grinding or scratch brushing and finally degrease. Common imperfections found on welding are:

porosity oxide inclusions and lack of inter-run fusion weld metal solidification cracking microfissuring

Additionally, precautions should be taken against post-welding imperfections such as:

post-weld heat treatment cracking stress corrosion cracking

Porosity can be caused by oxygen and nitrogen from air entrainment and surface oxide or by hydrogen from surface contamination. Careful cleaning of component surfaces and using a filler material containing deoxidants (aluminium and titanium) will reduce the risk. When using argon in TIG and MIG welding, attention must be paid to shielding efficiency of the weld pool including the use of a gas backing system. In TIG welding, argon-H 2 gas mixtures which provide a slightly reducing atmosphere are particularly effective.

Oxide inclusions and lack of inter-run fusion

As the oxide on the surface of nickel alloys has a much higher melting temperature than the base metal, it may remain solid during welding. Oxide trapped in the weld pool will form inclusions. In multi-run welds, oxide or slag on the surface of the weld bead will not be consumed in the subsequent run and will cause lack of fusion imperfections. Before welding, surface oxide, particularly if it has been formed at a high temperature, must be removed by machining or abrasive grinding; it is not sufficient to wire brush the surface as this serve only to polish the oxide. During welding, surface oxide and slag must be removed between runs.

Weld metal solidification cracking

Weld metal or hot cracking results from contaminants concentrating at the centreline and an unfavourable weld pool profile. Too high a welding speed produces a shallow weld pool which encourages impurities to concentrate at the centreline and, on solidification, generates sufficiently large transverse stresses to form cracks. 66

This risk can be reduced by careful cleaning of the joint area and avoiding high welding speeds.

Similar to austenitic stainless steel, nickel alloys are susceptible to formation of liquation cracks in reheated weld metal regions or parent metal HAZ. This type of cracking is controlled by factors outside the control of the welder such as grain size or impurity content. Some alloys are more sensitive than others. For example, the extensively studied Alloy 718 is now less sensitive than some cast superalloys which are difficult to weld without inducing liquation cracks.

Post-weld heat treatment cracking

This is also known as strain-age or reheat cracking. It is likely to occur during post-weld ageing of precipitation hardening alloys but can be minimised by pre-weld heat treatment. Solution annealing is commonly used but overageing gives the most resistant condition. Inconel 718 alloy was specifically developed to be resistant to this type of cracking.

Stress corrosion cracking

Welding does not normally make most nickel alloys susceptible to weld metal or HAZ corrosion. However, when the material will be in contact with caustic soda, fluosilicates or HF acid, stress corrosion cracking is possible. After welding, the component or weld area must be given a stress-relieving heat treatment to prevent stress corrosion cracking.

Weldability of materials

Copper and copper alloys

Copper and copper alloys are chosen because of their corrosion resistance and electrical and thermal conductivity. The various types of copper alloys are identified and guidance is given on processes and techniques which can be used in fabricating copper alloy components without impairing their corrosion or mechanical properties or introducing defects into the weld.


Material types
The alloys are grouped according to the principal alloying elements. Although there are UK standards (BS 2780-2875) for the alloy designations, the alloys are more commonly known by the generic type:

C Pure copper CH Copper with small alloy additions CZ Brasses such as copper-zinc (Cu-Zn) NS Nickel silvers such as copper-zinc-nickel (Cu-Zn-Ni) PB Bronzes such as copper-tin (Cu-Sn) (phosphor bronze alloys also contain phosphorus) G Gunmetals such as copper-tin-zinc (Cu-Sn-Zn) (some alloys may contain lead) CA Aluminium bronze such as copper-aluminium (Cu-Al) (most alloys also contain iron and many nickel) CN Cupro-nickels such as copper-nickel (Cu-Ni)

A number of popular alloys are listed in the Table together with the recommended filler metal (compositions of TIG and MIG filler wires are given in BS2901 Part 3). Typical alloys and recommended filler for inert gas welding Alloy group Typical alloys Recommended filler Coppers Tough pitch C7, C8 Phosphorus deoxidised C7, C8 Brasses Low zinc, up to 30% Zn C9, C13 High zinc, 40% Zn Not Recommended Nickel Silvers 20% Zn / 15% Ni C9, C13 45% Zn / 10% Ni Not Recommended Silicon Bronze 3% Si C9 Phosphor Bronze 4.5% to 6% Sn / 0.4% P C10 Aluminium Bronze < 7.8% Al C12, C12 Fe > 7.8% Al C13, C20 6% Al / 2% Si C23 Gunmetal Low lead C10, C9, C13 Leaded Not Recommended Cupro - Nickel 10%Ni C16, C18 30% Ni C18 68

In terms of weldability, alloys have quite different welding characteristics. Copper, because of its high thermal conductivity, needs substantial preheat to counteract the very high heat sink. However, some of the alloys which have a thermal conductivity similar to low carbon steel, such as cupro-nickel alloys, can normally be fusion welded without a preheat.

Copper is normally supplied in the form of

oxygen bearing, tough pitch copper phosphorus deoxidised copper oxygen-free copper

Tough pitch copper contains stringers of copper oxide (<0.1% oxygen as Cu O) which does not impair the mechanical properties of wrought material and has high electrical conductivity. Oxygen-free and phosphorus deoxidised copper are more easily welded. TIG and MIG are the preferred welding processes but oxyacetylene and MMA welding can be used in the repair of tough pitch copper components. To counteract the high thermal conductivity, helium and nitrogen-based gases, which have higher arc voltages, can be used as an alternative to argon. Avoiding weld imperfections

In fusion welding tough pitch copper, high oxygen content leads to embrittlement in the heat affected zone (HAZ) and weld metal porosity. Phosphorus deoxidised copper is more weldable but residual oxygen can result in porosity in autogenous welds especially in the presence of hydrogen. Porosity is best avoided by using appropriate filler wire containing deoxidants (Al, Mn, Si, P and Ti). Thin section material can be welded without preheat. However, over 5mm thickness all grades need preheat to produce a fluid weld pool and avoid fusion defects . Thick section components may need a preheat temperature as high as 600 deg.C.

Copper with small alloying additions

Low alloying additions of sulphur or tellurium can made to improve machining. However, these grades are normally considered to be unweldable.


Small additions of chromium, zirconium or beryllium will produce precipitation hardened alloys which, on heat treatment, have superior mechanical properties. Chromium and beryllium copper may suffer from HAZ cracking unless heat treated before welding. When welding beryllium copper, care should be taken to avoid inhaling the welding fumes.

Brasses (copper-zinc alloys) and nickel silvers

When considering weldability, brasses can be conveniently separated into two groups, low zinc (up to 20% Zn) and high zinc (30 to 40% Zn). Nickel silvers contain 20 to 45% zinc and nickel to improve strength. The main problem in fusion welding these alloys is the volatilisation of the zinc which results in white fumes of zinc oxide and weld metal porosity. Only low zinc brasses are normally considered suitable for fusion welding using the TIG and MIG processes. Avoiding weld imperfections To minimise porosity, a zinc-free filler wire should be used, either silicon bronze (C9) or an aluminium bronze (C13). High welding speeds will reduce pore coarseness. TIG and MIG processes are used with argon or an argon-helium mixture but not nitrogen. A preheat is normally used for low zinc (<20% Zn) to avoid fusion defects because of the high thermal conductivity,. Although preheat is not needed in higher zinc content alloys, slow cooling reduces cracking risk. Post weld heat treatment also helps reduce the risk of stress corrosion cracking in areas where there is high restraint.

Bronzes (tin bronze, phosphor bronze, silicon bronze and gun metal)
Tin bronzes can contain between 1% and 10% tin. Phosphor bronze contains up to 0.4% phosphorus. Gunmetal is essentially a tin bronze with up to 5% zinc and may additionally have up to 5% lead. Silicon bronze contains typically 3% silicon and 1% manganese and is probably the easiest of the bronzes to weld. Avoiding weld imperfections These are generally considered to be weldable, apart from phosphor bronze and leaded gun metal, and a matching filler composition is normally employed. Autogenous welding of phosphor bronzes is not recommended due to porosity, but the risk can be reduced by using a filler wire with a higher level of deoxidants. Gun metal is not considered weldable due to hot cracking in the weld metal and HAZ.

Aluminium bronze
There are essentially two types of aluminium bronzes; single phase alloys containing between 5 and 10% aluminium, with a small amount of iron or nickel, and more complex, two phase alloys containing up to 12% aluminium and about 5% of iron with specific 70

alloys also containing nickel and manganese and silicon. Gas shielded welding processes are preferred for welding this group of alloys. In TIG welding, the presence of a tenacious, refractory oxide film requires AC (argon), or DC with a helium shielding gas. Because of its low thermal conductivity, a preheat is not normally required except when welding thick section components. Avoiding weld imperfections Rigorous cleaning of the material surface is essential, both before and after each run, to avoid porosity. Single phase alloys can be susceptible to weld metal cracking and HAZ cracking can occur under highly restrained conditions. It is often necessary to use matching filler metals to maintain corrosion resistance but a non-matching, two phase, filler will reduce the cracking risk. Two phase alloys are more easily welded. For both types, preheat and interpass temperatures should be restricted to prevent cracking.

Cupro-nickel alloys contain between 5 and 30% nickel with specific alloys having additions of iron and manganese; 90/10 and 70/30 (Cu/Ni) alloys are commonly welded grades. These alloys are single phase and generally considered to be readily weldable using inert gas processes and, to a lesser extent, MMA. A matching filler is normally used but 70/30 (C18) is often regarded as a 'universal' filler for these alloys. As the thermal conductivity of cupro-nickel alloys is similar to low carbon steels, preheating is not required. Avoiding weld imperfections As the alloys do not contain deoxidants, autogenous welding is not recommended because of porosity. Filler metal compositions contain typically 0.2 to 0.5% titanium, to prevent weld metal porosity. Argon shielding gas is normally used for both TIG and MIG but in TIG welding, an argon-H2 mixture, with appropriate filler, improves weld pool fluidity and produces a cleaner weld bead. Gas backing (usually argon) is recommended, especially in pipe welding, to produce an oxide-free underbead.

Weldability of materials

Titanium and titanium alloys

Titanium and its alloys are chosen because of the following properties:

high strength to weight ratio; corrosion resistance;


mechanical properties at elevated temperatures.

Titanium is a unique material, as strong as steel but half its weight with excellent corrosion resistance. Traditional applications are in the aerospace and chemical industries. More recently, especially as the cost of titanium has fallen significantly, the alloys are finding greater use in other industry sectors, such as offshore. The various types of titanium alloys are identified and guidance given on welding processes and techniques employed in fabricating components without impairing their corrosion, oxidation and mechanical properties or introducing defects into the weld.

Material types
Alloy groupings
There are basically three types of alloys distinguished by their microstructure: Titanium - Commercially pure (98 to 99.5% Ti) or strengthened by small additions of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon and iron. The alloys are readily fusion weldable. Alpha alloys - These are largely single-phase alloys containing up to 7% aluminium and a small amount (< 0.3%) of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon. The alloys are fusion welded in the annealed condition. Alpha-beta alloys - These have a characteristic two-phase microstructure formed by the addition of up to 6% aluminium and varying amounts of beta forming constituents vanadium, chromium and molybdenum. The alloys are readily welded in the annealed condition. Alloys which contain a large amount of the beta phase, stabilised by elements such as chromium, are not easily welded. Commonly used alloys are listed in Table 1 with the appropriate ASTM grade, the internationally recognised designation. In industry, the most widely welded titanium alloys are the commercially pure grades and variants of the 6%Al and 4%V alloy. Table 1: Commonly used titanium alloys and the recommended filler material ASTM Grade Composition 1 2 4 7 Ti-0.15O Ti-0.20O Ti-0.35O

UTS (min) Mpa Filler 240 340 550 ERTi-1 ERTi-2 ERTi-4 ERTi-7

Comments Commercially pure ,, ,, ,,

Ti-0.20O -0.2Pd 340



9 5 23 25

Ti-3Al-2.5V Ti-6Al-4V Ti-6Al-4V ELI

615 900 900

ERTi-9 ERTi-5 ERTi-25

Tube components 'Workhorse' alloy Corrosion resistant grade

ERTi-5ELI Low interstitials

Ti-6Al-4V-0.06Pd 900

Filler alloys
Titanium and its alloys can be welded using a matching filler composition; compositions are given in The American Welding Society specification AWS A5.16-2004. Recommended filler wires for the commonly used titanium alloys are also given in Table 1. When welding higher strength titanium alloys, fillers of a lower strength are sometimes used to achieve adequate weld metal ductility. For example, an unalloyed filler ERTi-2 can be used to weld Ti-6Al-4V and Ti-5Al-2.5Sn alloys in order to balance weldability, strength and formability requirements.

Weld imperfections
This material and its alloys are readily fusion welded providing suitable precautions are taken. TIG and plasma processes, with argon or argon-helium shielding gas, are used for welding thin section components, typically <10mm. Autogenous welding can be used for a section thickness of <3mm with TIG, or <6mm with plasma. Pulsed MIG is preferred to dip transfer MIG because of the lower spatter level. The most likely imperfections in fusion welds are:

Weld metal porosity Embrittlement Contamination cracking

Normally, there is no solidification cracking or hydrogen cracking.

Weld metal porosity

Weld metal porosity is the most frequent weld defect. Porosity arises when gas bubbles are trapped between dendrites during solidification. In titanium, hydrogen from moisture in the arc environment or contamination on the filler and parent metal surface, is the most likely cause of porosity. It is essential that the joint and surrounding surface areas are cleaned by first degreasing either by steam, solvent, alkaline or vapour degreasing. Any surface oxide should then be removed by pickling (HF-HNO 3 solution), light grinding or scratch brushing with a clean, stainless steel wire brush. On no account should an ordinary steel brush be used. 73

After wiping with a lint-free cloth, care should be taken not to touch the surface before welding. When TIG welding thin section components, the joint area should be drymachined to produce a smooth surface finish.

Embrittlement can be caused by weld metal contamination by either gas absorption or by dissolving contaminants such as dust (iron particles) on the surface. At temperatures above 500C, titanium has a very high affinity for oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen. The weld pool, heat affected zone and cooling weld bead must be protected from oxidation by an inert gas shield (argon or helium). When oxidation occurs, the thin layer of surface oxide generates an interference colour. The colour can indicate whether the shielding was adequate or an unacceptable degree of contamination has occurred. A silver or straw colour shows satisfactory gas shielding was achieved but for certain service conditions, dark blue may be acceptable. Light blue, grey and white show a higher, usually unacceptable, level of oxygen contamination. For small components, an efficient gas shield can be achieved by welding in a totally enclosed chamber, filled with the shielding gas. It is recommended that before welding, the arc is struck on a scrap piece of titanium, termed 'titanium-getter', to remove oxygen from the atmosphere; the oxygen level should be reduced to approximately 40ppm before striking the arc on the scrap titanium and <20ppm before welding the actual component. In tube welding, a fully enclosed head is equally effective in shielding the weld area and is be preferable to orbital welding equipment in which the gas nozzle must be rotated around the tube. When welding out in the open, the torch is fitted with a trailing shield to protect the hot weld bead whilst cooling. The size and shape of the shield is determined by the joint profile whilst its length will be influenced by welding current and travel speed. It is essential in 'open air' welding that the underside of the joint is protected from oxidation. For straight runs, a grooved bar is used with argon gas blown on to the joint. In tube and pipe welding, normal gas purging techniques are appropriate.

Contamination cracking
If iron particles are present on the component surface, they dissolve in the weld metal reducing corrosion resistance and, at a sufficiently high iron content, causing


embrittlement. Iron particles are equally detrimental in the HAZ where local melting of the particles form pockets of titanium - iron eutectic. Microcracking may occur but it is more likely that the iron-rich pockets will become preferential sites for corrosion. Particular attention should be paid to separating titanium from steel fabrications, preferably by designating a specially reserved clean area. Welders should guard against embedding steel particles into the surface of the material by:

Avoiding steel fabrication operations near titanium components. Covering components to avoid airborne dust particles settling on the surface Not using tools, including wire brushes, previously used for steel Scratch brushing the joint area immediately before welding Not handling the cleaned component with dirty gloves.

To avoid corrosion cracking, and minimise the risk of embrittlement through iron contamination, it is best practice to fabrication titanium in a specially reserved clean area.

Weldability of materials

Cast irons
Cast irons are iron based alloys containing more than 2% carbon, 1 to 3% silicon and up to 1% manganese. As cast irons are relatively inexpensive, very easily cast into complex shapes and readily machined, they are an important engineering and structural group of materials. Unfortunately not all grades are weldable and special precautions are normally required even with the so-called weldable grades.

Material types
Cast irons can be conveniently grouped according to their structure which influences their mechanical properties and weldability; the main groups of general engineering cast irons are shown in the first figure.

Grey cast irons

Grey cast irons contain 2.0 - 4.5% carbon and 1 - 3% silicon. Their structure consists of branched and interconnected graphite flakes in a matrix which is pearlite, ferrite or a mixture of the two. The graphite flakes form planes of weakness and so strength and toughness are inferior to those of structural steels.


Nodular cast irons

The mechanical properties of grey irons can be greatly improved if the graphite shape is modified to eliminate planes of weakness. Such modification is possible if molten iron, having a composition in the range 3.2 - 4.5% carbon and 1.8 2.8% silicon, is treated with magnesium or cerium additions before casting. This produces castings with graphite in spheroidal form instead of flakes, known as nodular, spheroidal graphite (SG) or ductile irons. Nodular irons are available with pearlite, ferrite or pearlite-ferrite matrices which offer a combination of greater ductility and higher tensile strength than grey cast irons.

White cast irons

By reducing the carbon and silicon content and cooling rapidly, much of the carbon is retained in the form of iron carbide without graphite flakes. However, iron carbide, or cementite, is extremely hard and brittle and these castings are used where high hardness and wear resistance is needed.

Malleable irons
These are produced by heat treatment of closely controlled compositions of white irons which are decomposed to give carbon aggregates dispersed in a ferrite or pearlitic matrix. As the compact shape of the carbon does not reduce the matrix ductility to the same extent as graphite flakes, a useful level of ductility is obtained. Malleable iron may be divided into classes. Whiteheart, Blackheart and Pearlitic irons. Whiteheart malleable irons Whiteheart malleable castings are produced from high carbon white cast irons annealed in a decarburising medium. Carbon is removed at the casting surface, the loss being only compensated by the diffusion of carbon from the interior. Whiteheart castings are inhomogenous with a decarburised surface skin and a higher carbon core. Blackheart malleable irons Blackheart malleable irons are produced by annealing low carbon (2.2 - 2.9%) white iron castings without decarburisation. The resulting structure, of carbon in a ferrite matrix, is homogenous with better mechanical properties than those of whiteheart irons. Pearlitic malleable irons These have a pearlite rather than ferritic matrix which gives them higher strength but lower ductility than ferritic, blackheart irons.


This depends on microstructure and mechanical properties. For example, grey cast iron is inherently brittle and often cannot withstand stresses set up by a cooling weld. As the lack of ductility is caused by the coarse graphite flakes, the graphite clusters in malleable irons, and the nodular graphite in SG irons, give significantly higher ductility which improves the weldability. The weldability may be lessened by the formation of hard and brittle microstructures in the heat affected zone (HAZ), consisting of iron carbides and martensite. As nodular and malleable irons are less likely to form martensite, they are more readily weldable, particularly if the ferrite content is high. White cast iron which is very hard and contains iron carbides, is normally considered to be unweldable.

Welding process
Braze welding is frequently employed to avoid cracking. Braze welding is often called 'Bronze welding' in the UK. Bronze welding is a varient of braze welding employing copper-base fillers, it is regulated by BS 1724:1990. As oxides and other impurities are not removed by melting, and mechanical cleaning will tend to smear the graphite across the surface, surfaces must be thoroughly cleaned, for example, by means of a salt bath. In fusion welding, the oxy-acetylene, MMA, MIG/FCA welding processes can all be used. In general, low heat inputs conditions, extensive preheating and slow cooling are normally a pre-requisite to avoid HAZ cracking. Oxy-acetylene because of the relatively low temperature heat source, oxy-acetylene welding will require a higher preheat than MMA. Penetration and dilution is low but the wide HAZ and slow cooling will produce a soft microstructure. Powder welding in which filler powder is fed from a small hopper mounted on the oxy-acetylene torch, is a very low heat input process and often used for buttering the surfaces before welding. MMA widely used in the fabrication and repair of cast iron because the intense, high temperature arc enables higher welding speeds and lower preheat levels. The disadvantage of MMA is the greater weld pool penetration and parent metal dilution but using electrode negative polarity will help to reduce the HAZ. MIG and FCA MIG (dip transfer) and especially the FCA processes can be used to achieve high deposition rates whilst limiting the amount of weld penetration.

Filler alloys
In oxy-acetylene welding, the consumable normally has slightly higher carbon and silicon content to give a weld with matching mechanical properties. The most common MMA 77

filler rods are nickel, nickel - iron and nickel - copper alloys which can accommodate the high carbon dilution from the parent metal and produces a ductile machinable weld deposit. In MIG welding, the electrode wires are usually nickel or Monel but copper alloys may be used. Flux cored wires, nickel-iron and nickel-iron-manganese wires, are also available for welding cast irons. Powders are based on nickel with additions of iron, chromium and cobalt to give a range of hardnesses.

Weld imperfections
The potential problem of high carbon weld metal deposits is avoided by using a nickel or nickel alloy consumable which produces finely divided graphite, lower porosity and a readily machinable deposit. However, nickel deposits which are high in sulphur and phosphorus from parent metal dilution, may result in solidification cracking. The formation of hard and brittle HAZ structures make cast irons particularly prone to HAZ cracking during post-weld cooling. HAZ cracking risk is reduced by preheating and slow post-weld cooling. As preheating will slow the cooling rate both in weld deposit and HAZ, martensitic formation is suppressed and the HAZ hardness is somewhat reduced. Preheating can also dissipate shrinkage stresses and reduce distortion, lessening the likelihood of weld cracking and HAZ. Table 1: Typical preheat levels for welding cast irons

Cast iron type Ferritic flake Ferritic nodular Pearlitic flake Pearlitic nodular Pearlitic malleable

Preheat temperature degrees C MMA 300 MIG 300 RT* Gas (fusion) Gas (powder) 600 600 300 200 200 350 300 300 temperature

RT-150 RT-150 600 300-330 300-330 600 200-330 200-330 600 300-330 300-330 600

Ferritic whiteheart malleable RT*

RT room * 200 degrees C if high C core involved.

As cracking may also result from unequal expansion, especially likely during preheating of complex castings or when preheating is localised on large components, preheat should always be applied gradually. Also, the casting should always be allowed to cool slowly to avoid thermal shock. 78

An alternative technique is 'quench' welding for large castings which would be difficult to preheat. The weld is made by depositing a series of small stringer weld beads at a low heat input to minimise the HAZ. These weld beads are hammer peened whilst hot to relieve shrinkage stresses and the weld area is quenched with an air blast or damp cloth to limit stress build up.

Repair of castings
Because of the possibility of casting defects and their inherent brittle nature, repairs to cast iron components are frequently required. For small repairs, MMA, oxy-acetylene, braze and powder welding processes can all be used. For larger areas, MMA or powder technique can be used for buttering the edges of the joint followed by MMA or MIG/FCA welding to fill the groove.

Remove defective area preferably by grinding or tungsten carbide burr. If air arc or MMA gouging is used, the component must be preheated locally to typically 300 degrees C. After gouging, the prepared area should be lightly ground to remove any hardened material. Preheat the casting to the temperature given in Table 1. Butter the surface of the groove with MMA using a small diameter (2.4 or 3mm) electrode; use a nickel or Monel rod to produce a soft, ductile 'buttered' layer; alternatively use oxy-acetylene with a poder consumable. Remove slag and peen each weld bead whilst still hot. Fill the groove using nickel (3 or 4mm diameter) or nickel-iron electrodes for greater strength.

Finally, to avoid cracking through residual stresses, the weld area should be covered to ensure the casting will cool slowly to room temperature.

Health, safety and accident prevention

General information
The Health & Safety at Work etc. Act, 1974, places a duty on the employer to provide premises, plant and systems of work which are, so far as it is reasonably practical, safe and without risk to health. It also charges employees to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and for that of others. In this article, the general hazards which may arise when carrying out welding and related operations, are identified. In subsequent articles, guidelines will be given on the principal health and safety considerations for each welding process. 79

Regulations and codes of practice

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, 1974, requires that the risk to workers of injury or ill health due to work activities should be minimised and there are many national and international Regulations, approved Codes of Practice and Standards covering the safe operation of welding and cutting systems. Those of more direct interest to welders and welding engineers are listed at the end of the article. In the UK, particular attention should be given to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publications.

Safe assembly
Although welding and cutting operations require special considerations, personnel should be aware of the general health and safety requirements of related fabrication activities. Safe places and systems of work include handling and housekeeping.

The wrong and right way to carry out arc welding processes

Safe control of arc welding

Arc processes produce fumes which contaminate the atmosphere surrounding the work. Precautions must be taken to eliminate the risk of electric shock. Actions to ensure safe practice and accident avoidance will be presented in a subsequent issue.

Personal protection

Firstly, can exposure can be prevented by eliminating the generation of welding fumes altogether? If not, fume will have to be controlled at source, perhaps by local ventilation. Respiratory equipment should not be used until all other possibilities have been eliminated. In general, respiratory protective equipment is used only as an interim measure but there will be circumstances where, in addition to ventilation measures, personal protection may be necessary.

Arc radiation
The arc can generate three types of radiation; ultra-violet, visible and infra red (heat) radiation which can be injurious in the following ways:

ultra-violet: damage to skin and eyes(inflammation of the cornea and cataracts) visible light: dazzle eyes and impair vision infra-red: damage skin and eyes

Radiation may be direct or reflected from shiny or other reflective surfaces. Safe practice and accident avoidance

Protect face and eyes using a suitable welding shield equipped with eye protection filter Protect the body by wearing suitable clothing Protect persons in the vicinity of the arc by means of non-reflective curtains or screens

Fire and explosion hazards

There is an inherent hazard associated with gas processes. Additionally, both flames and arcs in welding and cutting may create a fire hazard. When fighting a fire, the appropriate fire extinguisher for the type of material must be used. Class C fires, for example those involving flammable gases such as acetylene, are best extinguished by cutting off the gas supply. Water and foam extinguishers should not be used on fires near to live electrical equipment. Safe practice and accident avoidance

Remove flammable material from the welding area Cover remaining flammable material with fire resistant material Before welding, check that the appropriate fire fighting equipment is at hand


After welding, observe surrounding area of the work for an adequate period of time (suggest about one hour)

There is danger of explosion when welding a container which previously contained explosive or flammable substances; explosive material can be trapped in grooves, seams, riveted joints or behind scale. Safe practice and accident avoidance Before welding, the following actions should be carried out:

Remove explosive material by steaming or boiling out If the explosive material cannot be completely removed, fill the container with water, an inert gas or pass steam through it

Welding in confined spaces

Special care should be taken in case toxic fumes or gases build up. In gas shielded welding operations, there may be a danger from asphyxiating because of oxygen deficiency. A suitably qualified person should assess the risk, determine the steps required to make the job safe and recommend precautions to be taken during the welding operation itself. Safe practice and accident avoidance

Ensure adequate ventilation and, if necessary, use personal protection Ensure that any used vessel does not contain flammable, poisonous or explosive material Ensure gas cylinders are not taken into the enclosed space Check equipment for gas leaks Ensure trained personnel are in attendance to deal with any emergency Check by rehearsal that the worker can be rescued, should an emergency arise At the end of work periods, shut off all gas supply valves and withdraw hoses and equipment

Awareness of welding environments

As a general guideline, wherever it is difficult to carry on a conversation, it is likely the noise level is unacceptable. HSE recommendations are that when the noise reaches 85dB(A), employers are required to offer hearing protection to their employees. As continuous exposure for 8 hours or more to a noise level at or above 90dB(A) is


injurious, hearing protection is mandatory when this level is reached. Higher levels can be tolerated for short periods but impulsive or peak noise in excess of 140 dB should not, where practicable, be exceeded. As damaging noise levels can be generated from some welding processes and allied activities, welders will usually need hearing protection. For example, hand grinding may emit noise levels of the order 108dB(A). Safe practice and accident avoidance If noisy equipment or processes cannot be avoided, one or more of the following alternatives may apply:

Insulate the noise source as far as possible by fitting silencers or sound proof enclosures Insulate the operator from the noise source by wearing suitable ear protection Where practicable, do not exceed impulsive noise levels in excess of 140 dB

Portable tools which produce excessive vibration, may cause damage to the hands, often called 'white finger' (Raynaud's phenomenon). As the hazard is particularly acute with tools such as chipping hammers which rely on impact, their use must be minimised. Safe practice and accident avoidance

Avoid or limit the use of equipment with excessive vibration Keep the hands warm Avoid an excessively strong grip when holding the tool

Designation of hazardous areas

It may be necessary to restrict entry to the work area to authorised persons wearing suitable protection. Warning signs will be required for the following hazards:

For welding and cutting processes, where the arc is exposed, the warning for eye protection should refer to the hazard of arc radiation 'Ear Protection Areas' where 8 hours exposure to noise levels is at, or above, 90 dB(A).

Further information
The following are useful standards and codes of practice relating to health and safety in welding and allied processes:


HSE publications
EH 55,1990, The control of exposure to fume from welding and allied processes HS(G) 53, 1990, Respiratory protective equipment: a practical guide to users HS(G) 56, 1990, Noise at work, noise assessment, information and control HS(G) 118, 1995, Electrical safety in arc welding

British standards
BSEN 169: 1992 Personal eye protection equipment used in welding and similar operations BSEN 470-1:1995 Protective clothing for welders The information was prepared in collaboration with Roger Sykes, Health & Safety Executive, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Health, safety and accident prevention

Oxyacetylene welding, cutting and heating

Guidelines are given on the principal health and safety considerations for oxyacetylene welding to ensure safe welding practices.

The oxyacetylene process

The oxyacetylene process produces a high temperature flame, over 3000 degrees C, by the combustion of pure oxygen and acetylene. It is the only gas mixture hot enough to melt steel; other gases (propane, LPG or hydrogen) can be used for lower melting point non-ferrous metals, for brazing and silver soldering and as a preheating/piercing gas for cutting.

Safe storage
Gases are normally supplied under high pressure in steel cylinders; in the UK, the colour coding for the cylinders is maroon for acetylene and black for oxygen. To prevent the interchange of fittings between cylinders containing combustible and non-combustible gases, oxygen cylinders have a right-hand and acetylene have a left-hand thread. All cylinders are opened by turning the key or knob anticlockwise and closed by turning them clockwise.


Oxygen will cause a fire to burn more fiercely and a mixture of oxygen and a fuel gas can cause an explosion. It is, therefore, essential that the oxygen cylinders are separated from the fuel gas cylinders and stored in an area free from combustible material.

Safe practice and accident avoidance

Store the cylinders in a well-ventilated area, preferably in the open air The storage area should be well away from sources of heat, sparks and fire risk Cylinders should be stored upright and well secured Oxygen cylinders should be stored at least 3m from fuel gas cylinders or separated by a 30 minute fire resisting barrier The store area should be designated 'No Smoking'.

Handling compressed gases

Cylinders are fitted with regulators to reduce the gas pressure in the cylinder to the working pressure of the torch. The regulator has two gauges, a high pressure gauge for the gas in the cylinder and a low pressure gauge for the gas being fed to the torch. The gas flow rate is controlled by a pressure adjusting screw which sets the outlet gas pressure. The BCGA Code of Practice CP7 recommends the gauges are checked annually and replaced every 5 years. Factors to be considered are that the gas system is suitable for the pressure rating and the hoses are connected without any leaks. Valve threads should be cleaned before screwing in the regulator. The valve of an acetylene cylinders can be opened slightly to blow out the threads but the threads in oxygen cylinders are best cleaned using clean compressed air (the threads on hydrogen cylinders must always be blown out using compressed air). As oxygen can react violently with oils and grease, lubricating oils or sealant for the threads must not be used.

Safe practice and accident avoidance

Cylinders are very heavy and must be securely fastened at all times Cylinder valves or valve guards should never be loosened Check the regulator is rated for the pressure in the cylinder When attaching the regulator to the cylinder the joints must be clean and sealant must not be used Before attaching a regulator, the pressure adjustment screw must be screwed out to prevent unregulated flow of gas into the system when the cylinder valve is opened

Using compressed gases


Gases are mixed in the hand-held torch or blowpipe in the correct proportions. Hoses between regulator and torch should be colour coded; in the UK, red for acetylene and blue for oxygen. Hoses should be kept as short as possible and users should check periodically that they are not near hot or sharp objects which could damage the hose wall. Acetylene cylinders must always be used upright. When connecting the system, and at least at the start of each shift, hoses and torch must be purged to remove any inflammable gas mixtures. It is essential the oxygen stream does not come into contact with oil which can ignite spontaneously. Purging should also not be carried out in confined spaces. The torch should be lit with a friction lighter or stationary pilot flame to avoid burning the hands; matches should not be used and the flame should not be reignited from hot metal, especially when working in a confined space. The cylinders should not become heated, for example by allowing the torch flame to heat locally the cylinder wall. Similarly, arc welding too close to the cylinder could result in an arc forming between the cylinder and workpiece/electrode. Although very little UV is emitted, the welder must wear tinted goggles. The grade of filter is determined by the intensity of the flame which depends on the thickness of metal being welded; recommendations for filters according to the acetylene flow rate are given in the table (BSEN 169:1992). Grade of filter recommended according to the acetylene flow rate:


flow rate of acetylene in l/hr up to 70 - 200 - over 800 70 200 800 Welding and braze welding of heavy metals e.g. steels, 4 5 6 7 copper and their alloys Welding with emittive fluxes (notably light alloys) 4a 5a 6a 7a

Safe practice and accident avoidance

When cleaning the cylinder threads, connecting the regulator and purging the hoses, protect face and eyes by wearing the appropriate head shield Use a suitable welding shield equipped with the appropriate ocular protection filter Wear non-combustible clothing Ensure the cylinder is not heated by the flame or by stray arcs from adjacent electrical equipment


Leak detection
Joints and hoses should be checked for leaks before any welding is attempted. Whilst acetylene may be detected by its distinctive smell (usually at levels of less than 2%) oxygen is odourless. Leak detection is best carried out applying a weak (typically 0.5%) solution of a detergent in water or a leak detecting solution from one of the gas supply companies. It is applied to the joints using a brush and the escaping gas will form bubbles. On curing the leak, the area should be cleaned to remove the residue from the leak detecting solution. Leaks in hoses may be repaired but approved replacement hose and couplings must be used in accordance with BSEN 560:1995 and BSEN 1256:1996.

Backfire and flashback

A backfire (a single cracking or 'popping' sound) is when the flame has ignited the gases inside the nozzle and extinguished itself. This may happen when the torch is held too near the workpiece. A flashback (a shrill hissing sound) when the flame is burning inside the torch, is more severe. The flame may pass back through the torch mixing chamber to the hose. The most likely cause is incorrect gas pressures giving too low a gas velocity. Alternatively, a situation may be created by a higher pressure gas (acetylene) feeding up a lower pressure gas (oxygen) stream. This could occur if the oxygen cylinder is almost empty but other potential causes would be hose leaks, loose connections, or failure to adequately purge the hoses. Non-return valves fitted to the hoses will detect and stop reverse gas flow preventing an inflammable oxygen and acetylene mixture from forming in the hose. The flashback arrestor is an automatic flame trap device designed not only to quench the flame but also to prevent the flame from reaching the regulator.

Backfire or flashback procedure

After an unsustained backfire in which the flame is extinguished:

close the blowpipe control valves (fuel gas first) check the nozzle is tight check the pressures on regulators re-light the torch using the recommended procedure

If the flame continues to burn:

close the oxygen valve at the torch (to prevent internal burning) close the acetylene valve at the torch


close cylinder valves or gas supply point isolation valves for both oxygen and acetylene close outlets of adjustable pressure regulators by winding out the pressure-adjusting screws open both torch valves to vent the pressure in the equipment close torch valves check nozzle tightness and pressures on regulators re-light the torch using the recommended procedure

If a flashback occurs in the hose and equipment, or fire in the hose, regulator connections or gas supply outlet points:

isolate oxygen and fuel gas supplies at the cylinder valves or gas supply outlet points (only if this can be done safely) if no risk of personal injury, control fire using first aid fire-fighting equipment if the fire cannot be put out at once, call emergency fire services after the equipment has cooled, examine the equipment and replace defective components

When a backfire has been investigated and the fault rectified, the torch may be re-lit. After a flashback, because the flame has extended to the regulator it is essential not only to examine the torch, but the hoses and components must be checked and, if necessary, replaced. The flashback arrestor should also be checked according to manufacturer's instructions and, with some designs, it may be necessary to replace it. BCGA Code of Practice CP7 recommends that non-return valves and flashback arrestors are replaced every 5 years.

Health, safety and accident prevention

Electrical hazards - Power sources and installation

Guidelines are given on the principal health and safety considerations to ensure safe welding practices and prevent accidents. The hazards associated with the use of electrical equipment are highlighted.

The arc welding circuit

MMA and TIG processes can be either alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC) whilst MIG is only operated with DC. As arc processes need a large current (up to 500 A) but at a relatively low arc voltage (10 to 40V), the high voltage mains supply (230 or 400V) must be reduced. In its basic form, the power source for generating AC comprises a transformer to reduce the mains voltage and increase the current for welding. For 88

generating the DC arc, a rectifier is placed on the secondary side of the mains-fed transformer or alternatively, a motor- or engine-driven generator can be used.

Welding installations
Typical arc welding installations for both single and multi-welder operations are described in HSE guideline No 118, Electrical Safety in Arc Welding. When the welding circuit is connected, the following guidelines should be adopted:

the connection between the power source and the workpiece should be as direct as practicable use insulated cables and connection devices of adequate current-carrying capacity extraneous conductive parts should not be used as part of the welding return circuit unless part of the workpiece itself the current return clamp should be as near to the welding arc as possible

When attaching the welding current and current return cables, it is essential that an efficient contact is achieved between the connection device and the workpiece to prevent overheating and arcing. For example, current and return clamps must be securely attached to 'bright' metal i.e. any rust or primer coatings should be locally removed.

Power source and earthing

The normal practice in the UK has been to provide a separate earth connection to the workpiece, ( Circuit a) so that, in the unlikely event of an insulation breakdown between primary and secondary circuits, the fuses will blow. However, the separate earth connection increases the risk of stray currents which may damage other equipment and conductors. As modern power sources have been designed to have a much higher level of insulation ( double or reinforced insulation), a separate earth connection is not recommended ( Circuit b). There is a potential problem in that both designs can often be found in the same welding shop. The newer power source can be identified by the power source's Rating Plate, which indicates it has been manufactured to recent standards e.g. EN 60 974-1 or IEC 974-1.


In very old designs, the welding circuit was sometimes connected internally to the power source enclosure ( Circuit c). However, the danger is that even with the welding return lead disconnected, and a separate earth connection, welding is possible with current flowing through the earth. Because of the risk of damaging protective earth and other connectors, this type of power source is considered to be obsolete and should not be used.

Manufacturer's rating plate

The following symbols are used on the manufacturer's Rating Plate to indicate the type of protection:

Electrical hazards
Electric shock
In all manual arc welding operations, the principal risk is from electric shock, most likely from contact with bare live parts of the welding circuit. The arc voltage is within the range 10 to 40V, but, as the voltage required to strike the arc may be substantially higher, power sources have an open circuit voltage (OCV), typically up to 80V. Although these voltages appear low compared with the 230V domestic mains supply, work by the International Electrotechnical Commission shows that only voltages below 50V AC or 120V DC are unlikely to be dangerous to healthy people in a dry working environment. In other conditions such as restricted conducting locations or wet surroundings, potentials of 80V AC have been the cause of fatal electric shocks.


Appropriate protective clothing such as gloves, boots and overalls will protect the welder from electric shock.

Stray welding currents

A different kind of electrical hazard can arise from stray welding currents which return to the welding transformer by paths other than the welding return lead. For example, although the return is disconnected, welding is possible when the return current flows through:

protective earth (PE) conductors of other electrical equipment, or the power source itself wire ropes, slings and chains metal fittings and pipework bearings in motors

Damage to the PE conductor in particular could mean the equipment is no longer being earthed. Stray currents may be substantial and comparable with the welding current level where there is poor or faulty insulation of the return lead which may be short- circuited by other conductors. When welding on building structures and pipework installations, the welding return lead should be placed as close as possible to the point of welding. The exception is where the metallic grid, support structure or metallic ship hull is used as part of the welding return circuit. There is an increased risk of stray currents when welding on structures which have an inherent connection to earth such as ships or pipelines. There could be an unacceptable indirect current return path with damage to conductors if, for example, the current return lead is detached and the circuit becomes open. The recommendations for the electrical distribution systems and earth connections in various situations are described in HS(G) 118.

Safe practice and accident avoidance

Welding equipment should conform to the appropriate standards (as listed at the end of the article); electrode holders that are insulated overall are recommended so no bare metal can be inadvertently touched. Welding leads and return leads should be insulated and thick enough to carry the current safely; connectors should also be insulated to avoid inadvertent access to live conductors and adequate for the current being carried. The welding return lead should be connected as near as practicable to the welding arc; metal rails, pipes and frames should not be used as part of the welding circuit unless they are a part of the workpiece itself. 91

Check the workpiece earthing requirements. When using a double or reinforced insulation power source, stray currents can be avoided by not earthing the workpiece or the welding output circuit. The welding leads, connection devices and electrode holder or torch should be checked at regular intervals for 'fitness for use'; repair or replace damaged or worn components.

Publications and relevant standards

1. HS(G) 118 'Electrical Safety in Arc Welding', HSE Books, 1994 2. 'The Arc Welder at Work', Welding Manufacturer's Association 3. EN 60974-1: 1998, Safety Requirements for Arc Welding Equipment. Welding Power Sources. 4. BS EN 60974-1: 1998, Arc Welding Equipment. Power Sources. 5. BS EN 470-1: 1995, 'Protective Clothing for Use in Welding and Allied Processes' 6. BS EN 60974-7: 2000, Arc Welding Equipment. Torches. 7. CLC/TS 62081:2000 'Arc Welding Equipment - Installation and Use' (IEC62081:1999) 8. BSEN 60974-6:2003 'Arc Welding Equipment - Limited duty manual metal arc power sources'. The information was prepared in collaboration with Roger Sykes, Health & Safety Executive and Geoff Melton, Chairman, BSI WEE-6 Committee.

Health, safety and accident prevention

Arc welding
This article gives guidelines on health and safety considerations when arc welding to ensure safe practice and prevent accidents. The hazards associated with this process are highlighted. The wrong and right ways to carry out arc welding processes are shown schematically in the figure at the end of this page. Regarding safe welding practices, the principal hazards are associated with electric shock and arc radiation.

Electric shock
As the principal danger is an electric shock from the live parts of the welding circuit (the electrode and the workpiece), the following practices are recommended.


Checking the equipment

Installation of welding equipment should be carried out by suitably qualified staff who must check that the equipment is suitable for the operation and connected in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations. The welder is responsible for checking the equipment (cable, electrode holder and coupling devices) daily for damage and reporting defects. All external connections should be clean and tight and checked each time a reconnection is made. The welding return clamp should be connected directly to the workpiece, as close as possible to the point of welding or to the work bench on which the workpiece is placed.

Changing electrodes
In MMA welding, the electrode holder should be isolated when changing the electrode. Where a workpiece is earthed, if the electrode is changed without isolating the electrode holder, the welder is relying on the insulation properties of the glove to avert shock from the OCV which can be 80V between the electrode and earth. If the glove is wet, the electrode a bad insulator or the welder in contact with a conductive surface, one or more of these layers of insulation may be ineffective.

Working in the open air

When welding outside, the equipment should have the appropriate level of waterproofing; see manufacturer's Rating Plate (Fig. 2, Job Knowledge for Welders, No 28 ) which should display one of the following ingress protection (IP) codes for enclosures:

IP 23 protection against limited spraying IP 24 protection against spraying from all directions

If there is a risk of heavy rain, a cover for the welder, equipment and workpiece should be in place.

Multiple welder operations

When two or more welders with separate power sources are working on the same workpiece, or electrically-connected workpieces, it is essential that they are segregated. This will reduce the possibility of electric shock from simultaneous contact with any part of the two different systems.

Safe practice and accident avoidance

Welders should not wear jewellery (especially rings) or metallic watch straps Appropriate clothing should be worn. Gloves, boots and overalls will provide some protection from electric shock The welder should check daily, and after each reconnection, that all external connections are clean and tight 93

When changing the MMA electrode, the electrode holder should be isolated When welding stops for a short time, the MMA electrode holder should not be put on the face shield or flammable material as it may still be 'live' at 80V or hot enough to cause damage When two or more welders (with separate power sources) are operating on the same workpiece, they should work out of reach of each other

Environments with increased hazard of electric shock

These are as follows:

locations where the welder has restricted freedom of movement, working in a cramped position (kneeling or sitting) or in contact with conductive parts areas which are fully or partially restricted by conductive elements with which the welder is likely to make accidental contact welding in wet, damp or humid conditions which reduces the skin resistance of the body and insulating properties of accessories

Where electrically conductive parts have been insulated close to the welder, there is no increased shock hazard. The equipment should conform to BS 638 Part 10. In MMA welding DC is safer than AC welding. However, if AC is used the OCV or no-load voltage should be limited, where possible, by a voltage reduction device. This limits the OCV to less than 48V until the electrode touches the workpiece. Suitable power sources may be marked with S on the manufacturer's Rating Plate (see Fig. 2, Job Knowledge for Welders No 28 ) and it is also often displayed on the front of the power source.

Safe practice and accident avoidance

Wear protective clothing including insulating safety boots Stand or kneel on a mat of insulating material which should be kept dry Only use an all-insulated electrode holder Place the welding power source outside the working environment Ensure qualified support staff are in close proximity outside the working space to give first aid and switch off the electrical supply When welding outside, check the power source protection rating is adequate for the environment and do not weld in the rain without a suitable cover

High frequency
In TIG welding, high frequency (HF) is used to start the arc and to stabilise the AC arc. HF consists of sparks of several thousand volts but because they last for only a few microseconds and are at a very low current, will not give an electric shock. However, HF


can startle the welder who could injure himself. If HF is concentrated on the skin, for example through a hole in the glove, it can cause small, deep burns. HF generates electromagnetic (EM) emission, both airborne or transmitted along power cables. Care must be taken to avoid interference in equipment control systems and instruments in the vicinity of welding. Guidance on installation and use of arc welding equipment to minimise the risk of EM interference is given in BS EN 50199:1995. In practice, the welder is advised to keep welding cables as short as possible, close together and near to the ground. Workpiece earthing may be effective but should only be done if it does not increase the risk to users or damage other electrical equipment through stray currents (see Job Knowledge for Welders, No 28).

Arc radiation
The welder must be protected from light radiation emitted from the arc by a hand or head shield and protective clothing. The shield is fitted with filter glass, dark enough to absorb infrared and ultraviolet rays. Filter glasses conform to EN 169:1992 and are graded according to a shade number. This specifies the amount of light allowed to pass through the lower the number, the lighter the filter. The shade number is selected according to welding process and current level. For a given current level, the same shade number can be used for MMA and MIG welding on heavy metals such as steel. However, a higher shade number is needed for MIG welding light metals such as aluminium, and for MAG welding. Screens must be used to protect other workers in the vicinity.

Publications and relevant standards

HS(G) 107 Maintenance of portable and transportable electrical equipment HS(G) 118 Electrical Safety in Arc Welding, HSE Books, 1995 The Arc Welder at Work Welding Manufacturer's Association BS EN 60 974-1990 Arc welding power sources, equipment and accessories, Part 10, Specification for safety requirements of arc welding equipment: welding power sources BS EN 169:1992 Personal eye protection equipment used in welding and similar operations BS EN 60 529:1992 Specification for degree of protection provided by enclosures (IP codes) BS EN 60 974-11:1995


Arc-welding equipment: electrode holders BS EN 470-1:1995 Protective clothing for use in welding and allied processes-general requirements BS EN 50199:1996 Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC)-Product standard for arc welding equipment

The contrast between good and bad practice in arc welding

Bad practice 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. No face protection No arm protection Exposed cloth Exposed solvent Bystander exposed to arc Fire exit obstructed Fire bucket unsuitable for electrical fires should contain sand 8. Fume extraction not effective 9. No work earth (if required) 10. Cable damaged

Hazards arc eye, burn fire fire/explosion, vapour arc fire, electric fume electric stray arc, electric shock burn toxic eye burns shock shock burns,

Good practice

This information was prepared in collaboration with Roger Sykes, Health & Safety Executive and Geoff Melton, Chairman, BSI WEE-6 Committee.

Health, safety and accident prevention


Health risks of welding fume/gases

Guidelines are given on the principal health and safety considerations to ensure safe welding practices and prevent accidents. Health risks associated with fume and gases generated during welding are highlighted.

What is welding fume/gases?

Welding fume is a mixture of airborne fine particles. Toxic gases may also be generated during welding and cutting.

Particulate fume
More than 90% of the particulate fume arises from vaporisation of the consumable electrode, wire or rod as material is transferred across the arc or flame. The range of welding particles size is shown in relation to the more familiar types of dust and fume. The respirable fraction of particles (especially less than 3m) are potentially the more harmful as they can penetrate to the innermost parts of the lung.

The range of welding particles size in relation to the more familiar types of dust and fume

Gases encountered in welding may be:

Fuel gases which, on combustion, form carbon dioxide and, if the flame is reducing, carbon monoxide Shielding gases such as argon, helium and carbon dioxide, either alone or in mixtures with oxygen or hydrogen Carbon dioxide and monoxide produced by the action of heat on the welding flux or slag Nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone produced by the action of heat or ultraviolet radiation on the atmosphere surrounding the welding arc Gases from the degradation of solvent vapours or surface contaminants on the metal. 97

The degree of risk to the welder's health from fume/gases will depend on:

composition concentration the length of time the welder is exposed the welder's susceptibility

Health hazards from particulate fume

The potential hazards from breathing in particulate fume are:

Irritation of the respiratory tract

Fine particles can cause dryness of the throat, tickling, coughing and if the concentration is particularly high, tightness of the chest and difficulty in breathing.

Metal fume fever

Breathing in metal oxides such as zinc and copper can lead to an acute flu-like illness called 'metal fume fever'. It most commonly occurs when welding galvanised steel; symptoms usually begin several hours after exposure with a thirst, cough, headache sweat, pain in the limbs and fever. Complete recovery usually occurs within 1 to 2 days of removal from the exposure, without any lasting effects.

Longer term effects

The continued inhalation of welding fume over long periods of time can lead to the deposition of iron particles in the lung, giving rise to a benign condition called siderosis. There is evidence that welders have a slightly greater risk of developing lung cancer than the general population. In certain welding situations, there is potential for the fume to contain certain forms of chromium and/or nickel compounds - substances which have been associated with lung cancer in processes other than welding. As yet, no direct link has been clearly established. Nevertheless, as a sensible precaution and to minimise the risk, special attention should be paid to controlling fumes which may contain them.

Additional hazards
A number of other specific substances known to be hazardous to health can be found in welding fume such as barium and fluorides which do not originate from the metal. If the metal contains a surface coating, there will also be a potential risk from any toxic substances generated by thermal degradation of the coating.

Health hazards from gases


The potential hazards from breathing in gases during welding are:

Irritation of the respiratory tract

Ozone can cause delayed irritation of the respiratory tract which may progress to bronchitis and occasionally pneumonia. Nitrogen oxides can cause a dry irritating cough and chest tightness. Symptoms usually occur after a delay of 4 to 8 hours. In severe cases, death can occur from pulmonary oedema (fluid on the lungs) or pneumonia.

There may be a risk of asphyxiation due to replacement of air with gases produced when welding in a workshop or area with inadequate ventilation. Special precautions are needed when welding in confined spaces where there is the risk of the build up of inert shielding gases. Carbon monoxide, formed as a result of incomplete combustion of fuel gases, can also cause asphyxiation by replacing the oxygen in the blood.

Establishing safe levels of fume in the workplace

The COSHH Regulations require that exposure is controlled below specific limits. The limits, known as occupational exposure limits, are detailed in EH 40 which is revised periodically. The majority of limits listed are for single substances. Only a few relate to substances which are complex mixtures; welding fume is one of these. It has an occupational exposure limit but account must also be taken of the exposure limits of the individual constituents. So, in considering what would be safe exposure levels to welding fume, not only should exposure be controlled to within the welding fume limit but also the individual components must be controlled to within their own limits. The assessment of exposure to fume from welding processes is covered in EH 54. Substances may have a maximum exposure limit (MEL) or an occupation exposure standard (OES). A MEL is the maximum concentration of an airborne substance to which people may be exposed under any circumstances. Exposure must be reduced as far as is reasonably practicable and at least below any MEL. An OES is the concentration of an airborne substance, for which (according to current information) there is no evidence that it is likely to cause harm to a person's health , even if they are exposed day after day. Control is thought to be adequate if exposure is reduced to or below the standard.


The OESs and the MELs of some of the substances found in welding fume are listed in Table 1; the absence of other substances from this list does not indicate that they are safe. Occupational Exposure Limits 8hr TWA Substances Assigned a Maximum Exposure Limit Beryllium Cadmium oxide fume (as Cd) Chromium VI compounds (as Cr) Cobalt Nickel (insoluble compounds) Substances Standard Welding fume Fluoride (as F) Iron oxide, fume (as Fe) Zinc oxide, fume Manganese, fume (as Mn) Ozone Nitric Oxide Nitrogen dioxide Chromium III compounds (as Cr) Barium compounds, soluble (as Ba) Carbon monoxide Copper fume 1 ppm 1 ppm 0.5 mg/m 3 0.5 mg/m 3 50 ppm 0.2 mg/m 3 300 ppm Assigned an Occupational Exposure 5 mg/m 3 2.5 mg/m 3 5 mg/m 3 5 mg/m 3 0.5 mg/m 3 0.2 ppm 10 mg/m 3 10 mg/m 3 0.002 mg/m 3 0.025 mg/m 3 0.05 mg/m 3 0.1 mg/m 3 0.5 mg/m 3 15 min STEL

If the fume contains only substances such as iron or aluminium which are of low toxicity, an 8 hour (TWA) OES of 5mg/m3 applies; this figure is the average concentration of particulate fume that should not be exceeded in an 8 hour day.

Publications and relevant standards


EH 40 Occupation Exposure Limits, HSE Books. EH 54 Assessment of Exposure to Fume from Welding and Allied Processes, HSE Books, 1990. EH 55 The Control of Exposure to Fume from Welding, Brazing and Similar Processes, HSE Books, 1990. The article was prepared by Bill Lucas (E-mail: bill.lucas@twi.co.uk ) in collaboration with Roger Sykes, Health & Safety Executive. Further information, such as technical data on fume limits, can be obtained from Graham Carter (E-mail: graham.carter@twi.co.uk )

Health, safety and accident prevention

Health risks from fume and gases during welding

Factors affecting composition and quantity of fume and gases
The quantity and composition of welding fume and gases are influenced by the following:

type of process welding consumable presence of any material coatings nature of MMA flux coating, or core of FCA consumable welding parameters shielding gas composition

The two most important are the welding process and the choice of consumable.

Welding processes
Gas welding


Gas welding fume contains pollutants formed by combustion of the fuel gas. When an oxidising flame is used, these will be carbon dioxide with oxides of nitrogen but, for a slightly reducing flame, carbon monoxide will also be present. Safe practice and accident avoidance Providing there is good ventilation, the levels of fume and gases generated when welding mild steel are normally well below the occupational exposure limits (OELs). No special precauations are required.

Manual metal arc (MMA)

An MMA rod has a suitable composition for the weld metal but the flux covering provides gases for the arc, additional alloying elements and slag for protecting the weld pool. The composition and quantity of the fume generated will depend on the process variables, for example, type of consumable, polarity, voltage and current. The toxic elements in the fume will be similar to those in the consumable although the proportions are likely to be different. Safe practice and accident avoidance For normal welding operations, fume exposure will generally be over the welding fume exposure limit of 5 mg/m3. As stainless steel fume, in particular, causes respiratory tract sensitisation (the welder becomes more susceptible to occupational asthma), special precautions should be taken to control exposure. Local fume extraction should be used to remove fume at source.

Flux cored arc (FCA)

Continuously fed wire in self-shielded FCA welding contains a flux which produces a large amount of gas for the arc and protection/deoxidisation of the weld pool. Selfshielded wires are normally used for welding outdoors. In gas-shielded wires, which are only used in the welding shop, an additional shield (CO2 or argon-CO2) is needed to protect the weld pool. As FCA is normally employed at high welding current levels and higher duty cycle, more fume will be produced compared with MMA. Safe practice and accident avoidance Providing sensible precautions are taken, self-shielded FCA welding taking place outside will not need any fume removal measures. For gas-shielded welding inside a building, similar precautions to MMA welding should be used, such as local fume extraction.

Metal inert gas (MIG/MAG)

MIG uses a solid wire and a separate gas to form the arc and shield the weld pool. The shielding gas is normally CO2 or a mixture of argon-O2-CO2 and argon can be partly 102

replaced with helium. As well as the effect of the welding parameters, the mode of metal transfer has a significant effect on fume levels. Dip transfer mode operates at a low welding current level and has a characteristic short arc length. Fume levels are low. However, spray transfer mode which operates at much higher current levels and at a greater arc length generates higher fume levels. Pulsed transfer mode operates at similar low current levels to dip transfer but with a longer arc length and generates intermediate fume levels depending upon the welding parameters. Special mention must be made of the presence of ozone which is generated by the effect of ultraviolet radiation on the air immediately surrounding the gas shield as shown in the diagram. Welding of stainless steel and aluminium, in particular, can produce a significant level of ozone and exposures may exceed the recommended OEL. Safe practice and accident avoidance Use local fume extraction equipment to remove fume at source. As ozone can be generated away from the arc, additional general ventilation may be needed. If the fume is not adequately controlled by these methods, the welder must wear Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE).

Tungsten inert gas (TIG) and plasma

The arc is formed between the tungsten electrode and the workpiece with an inert gas. As the filler metal is added directly to the weld pool, metal does not pass through the arc so there is considerably less particulate fume emission. In open workshop conditions, exposure to particulate fume will normally be below the OEL of 5 mg/m3. Welding of stainless steel and aluminium may generate unacceptable levels of ozone.

Ozone is generated by the effect on the air immediately surrounding the gas shield. Safe practice and accident avoidance





Good ventilation does not require fume extraction but when welding stainless steel and aluminium, local extraction to control ozone may be needed.

Submerged arc
Submerged arc welding uses a bed of granulated flux to cover the arc. As the arc is not exposed, there is negligible emission of fume and gaseous pollutants. Safe practice and accident avoidance No special precautions are needed but it should be remembered that dust may be produced when filling the hopper with flux.

Exposure to welding fume and gases

The effect of process, consumable and parent metal composition on exposure assessment is summarised in the Table. The Indication of fume levels assumes that no control systems are being used. The generic term Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) is used and may apply to one or all of the individual constituents of the fume. The Assessment indicators summarise information published in EH 54 'Assessment of exposure to fume from welding and allied processes.' The Welding Manufacturers Association has produced a standard format for hazard data sheets to enable manufacturers to comply with their legal obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 Section 6. The hazard sheet contains the following information:

chemical analysis of substances present in the fume produced by the consumable the appropriate OELs

For safe use of consumables, reference should always be made to the manufacturers' or suppliers' hazard data sheets. It should be noted that in addition to particulate fume, where appropriate, risk assessment must also include composition of shielding gases which may be toxic or asphyxiant. Gases are also produced by the action of heat on the welding flux or slag (carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide) and heat or ultraviolet radiation on the atmosphere surrounding the welding arc (nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone).

Effect of process, consumable and parent metal composition on the assessment of exposure




Indication of fume level

Below OELSs except in poorly ventilated or confined space 3 mg/m3 -30 mg/m3 in open workshop conditions, depends on operator variables 3 mg/m3-30 3 mg/m in open workshop

Nature of fume assessment indicators

Gas welding

Mild steel

Carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide (reducing flame) nitrogen dioxide

Manual metal arc (MMA)

Mild steel and low alloy steels

Iron oxide flux particulates eg fluorides

Stainless steel

Consumable particulates, may contain up to 8% chromium, the majority present as hexavalent chromium (CrVI) Consumable particulates, ozone in aluminium welding

Generally in excess of OELs Aluminium, copper, nickel alloys, cast iron, hardfacing TIG and plasma arc Mild and low alloy steels Less than OELs

Particulate fume from consumable - shielding gas can constitute a hazard in confined spaces by reducing the available oxygen to a level which will not support life Ozone, shielding confined spaces gases in

Stainless alloys


Less than OELs for particulate fume, greater than OELs for gases Generally excess of in 5

Metal inert gas/metal

Mild and low

Particulate iron oxide, ozone, shield gases. High fume levels


active gas (MIG/MAG

alloy steels


are obtained with CO2 shielding than with argon than Particulate fume from consumable, ozone and shield gases. Process related values will apply to particulate fume Particulate aluminium oxide fume. Ozone levels can be very high particularly with aluminium/silicon alloys some distance from the arc Particulate iron oxide and flux materials, some consumables may give rise to soluble barium in fume Consumable and flux particulates, chromium VI likely to be present

Stainless steel

Greater OELs

Aluminium and aluminium alloys

Greater than OELs for gases and fume

Flux-cored arc

Mild and low alloy steels

Greater than 10 mg/m3

Stainless steel

Greater than 10 mg/m3

Publications and relevant standards

EH 40 (updated annually) Occupation Exposure Limits, HSE Books. EH 54 Assessment of exposure to fume from welding and allied processes, HSE Books, 1990. EH 55 The control of exposure to fume from welding, brazing and similar processes, HSE Books, 1990. Welding Manufacturers Association, Leaflet 236, Hazards from welding fume. This article was prepared by Bill Lucas, E-mail: bill.lucas@twi.co.uk in collaboration with Roger Sykes, Health & Safety Executive. Further information and technical data on fume limits can be obtained from Graham Carter at TWI, E-mail: graham.carter@twi.co.uk Note: When assessing fume risk, the suppliers' data sheets and hazard information must be fully consulted.


Health, safety and accident prevention

Control of welding fume

Exposure to fume
For many gas and arc welding processes, the fume concentration in the immediate vicinity of the weld is well above its exposure limit. The amount of fume generated is determined primarily by welding process, consumable and welding procedure. However, the following aspects are likely to influence the degree to which the welder is exposed to fume:

welding position location and type of workplace exposure duration

Thus, welders using the same process may be exposed to different levels of fume. The risks for each job should, therefore, be assessed individually.

Welding position
The welding position (flat, vertical, horizontal or overhead) and proximity of the welder to the fume plume affect exposure. As the welder naturally bends over the workpiece, the flat position induces the highest level of fume in the breathing zone. The welder should adopt a working position which ensures that his head is away from the plume.

Location and type of workplace

Welding in a large workshop, or outdoors, prevents build-up of fume and gases. However, in a small workshop, fume will not be readily dispersed and the welder may be subjected to a higher than average exposure. Working in confined spaces, in particular, requires an efficient, monitored, ventilation system so exposure is controlled and there is no depletion of oxygen in the working atmosphere.

Exposure duration
Long and short term Occupational Exposure Limits (OELS) given in Job Knowledge for Welders No. 31 relate to the average concentration over an eight hour period. Exposure will be intermittent, mainly during the arcing period. There should be relatively little exposure between arcing periods but this may be influenced by the presence of other welders, effectiveness of control measures and general ventilation. Furthermore, as the


work pattern (arcing time and down time) vary from day to day, average exposure may often only be assessed by frequent sampling.

Control of welding fume

If welding fume cannot be eliminated, control measures should be adopted as follows:

choice or modification of the welding process improvement in working practices ventilation use of respiratory protection equipment (RPE)

RPE should not be considered until the effectiveness of all other techniques has been explored.

Choice or modification of the welding process

Process choice is usually made on the basis of weld quality, economics and equipment availability. Nevertheless, if other processes can be used, it should be borne in mind that some processes, such as submerged-arc and TIG, generates significantly less particulate fume than MMA, MIG and FCAW. Consumable manufacturers also supply information on fume composition which can be used in selecting welding rods for a particular job.

Improvement in working practices

A substantial improvement can often be made by placing the workpiece so the welder can avoid the plume which rises above the weld. In large scale fabrications, the welding sequence should be organised to minimise the work carried out in enclosed or confined spaces. Safe practice and accident avoidance

adopt position and techniques to keep head out of welding plume avoid welding in enclosed and confined spaces



The strategy for using ventilation to control fume is shown above. General ventilation may be adequate if welding is of short duration and intermittent. The most efficient way of controlling exposure to welding fume is its removal at source. There are several methods of removing fume close to the weld:


Extracted benches

Extracted booth

Local exhaust ventilation (LEV)


On-gun extraction

As LEV and on-gun extraction systems are never 100% efficient, especially when welding awkward structures, general ventilation may also be necessary to control the background level of fume. As each type of extraction equipment has limitations, it is important to select the right equipment for each job. It is also essential that welders are adequately trained to use the equipment and adopt good working practices. Supervision is needed to ensure the equipment is being used effectively and to minimise background fume level in the workshop. Safe practice and accident avoidance

check that the equipment is working correctly and is regularly maintained, for example, cleaning and replacing filters according to manufacturer's recommendations place the extraction hood or nozzle to capture the fume without disturbing the gas shield when welding large structures, reposition the hood at appropriate intervals to ensure fume continues to be effectively extracted

Respiratory protection equipment (RPE)

Where fume needs to be controlled, LEV should always be used to achieve as much control as possible. If LEV is not possible, or there is still unacceptable exposure, RPE is needed. RPE should always be the least preferred means of control because it only protects the wearer. Other methods are all aimed at preventing exposure whereas RPE is essentially curative. There are two types of RPE:

respirators - workshop air cleaned before being inhaled air-supplied - air supply is separate from workshop atmosphere

Selection of suitable RPE will require the advice of an expert who can make the selection based on fume concentration, presence of toxic gases and whether there is a oxygen deficient atmosphere.


Safe practice and accident avoidance

Consult expert in choice of respirator Each welder to be personally fitted with an RPE to ensure that it provides adequate protection Personnel to be trained in use of an RPE and its maintenance and cleaning Management to ensure systems exist for control of equipment and training


Types and causes

This article covers several key issues on distortion in arc welded fabrications, especially basic types of and factors affecting the degree of distortion.

Dishing of the steel plate between longitudinal stiffeners can be seen clearly on the bow of this ship (Courtesy MOD).

What causes distortion?

Because welding involves highly localised heating of joint edges to fuse the material, non-uniform stresses are set up in the component because of expansion and contraction of the heated material. Initially, compressive stresses are created in the surrounding cold parent metal when the weld pool is formed due to the thermal expansion of the hot metal (heat affected zone) adjacent to the weld pool. However, tensile stresses occur on cooling when the contraction of the weld metal and the immediate heat affected zone is resisted by the bulk of the cold parent metal. The magnitude of thermal stresses induced into the material can be seen by the volume change in the weld area on solidification and subsequent cooling to room temperature. For example, when welding CMn steel, the molten weld metal volume will be reduced by approximately 3% on solidification and the volume of the solidified weld metal/heat 112

affected zone (HAZ) will be reduced by a further 7% as its temperature falls from the melting point of steel to room temperature. If the stresses generated from thermal expansion/contraction exceed the yield strength of the parent metal, localised plastic deformation of the metal occurs. Plastic deformation causes a permanent reduction in the component dimensions and distorts the structure.

What are the main types of distortion?

Distortion occurs in six main forms:

Longitudinal shrinkage Transverse shrinkage Angular distortion Bowing and dishing Buckling Twisting

The principal features of the more common forms of distortion for butt and fillet welds are shown.

Contraction of the weld area on cooling results in both transverse and longitudinal shrinkage. Non-uniform contraction (through thickness) produces angular distortion in addition to longitudinal and transverse shrinkage. For example, in a single V butt weld, the first weld run produces longitudinal and transverse shrinkage and rotation. The second run causes the plates to rotate using the


first weld deposit as a fulcrum. Hence, balanced welding in a double side V butt joint can be used to produce uniform contraction and prevent angular distortion. Similarly, in a single side fillet weld, non-uniform contraction produces angular distortion of the upstanding leg. Double side fillet welds can therefore be used to control distortion in the upstanding fillet but because the weld is only deposited on one side of the base plate, angular distortion will now be produced in the plate. Longitudinal bowing in welded plates happens when the weld centre is not coincident with the neutral axis of the section so that longitudinal shrinkage in the welds bends the section into a curved shape. Clad plate tends to bow in two directions due to longitudinal and transverse shrinkage of the cladding; this produces a dished shape. Dishing is also produced in stiffened plating. Plates usually dish inwards between the stiffeners, because of angular distortion at the stiffener attachment welds (see main photograph). In plating, long range compressive stresses can cause elastic buckling in thin plates, resulting in dishing, bowing or rippling. Distortion due to elastic buckling is unstable: if you attempt to flatten a buckled plate, it will probably 'snap' through and dish out in the opposite direction. Twisting in a box section is caused by shear deformation at the corner joints This is caused by unequal longitudinal thermal expansion of the abutting edges. Increasing the number of tack welds to prevent shear deformation often reduces the amount of twisting.

How much shall I allow for weld shrinkage?

It is almost impossible to predict accurately the amount of shrinking. Nevertheless, a 'rule of thumb' has been composed based on the size of the weld deposit. When welding steel, the following allowances should be made to cover shrinkage at the assembly stage.

Transverse Shrinkage
Fillet Welds 0.8mm per weld where the leg length does not exceed 3/4 plate thickness Butt weld 1.5 to 3mm per weld for 600 V joint, depending on number of runs

Longitudinal Shrinkage
Fillet Welds 0.8mm per 3m of weld Butt Welds 3mm per 3m of weld Increasing the leg length of fillet welds, in particular, increases shrinkage.


What are the factors affecting distortion?

If a metal is uniformly heated and cooled there would be almost no distortion. However, because the material is locally heated and restrained by the surrounding cold metal, stresses are generated higher than the material yield stress causing permanent distortion. The principal factors affecting the type and degree of distortion, are:

Parent material properties Amount of restraint Joint design Part fit-up Welding procedure

Parent material properties

Parent material properties which influence distortion are coefficient of thermal expansion and specific heat per unit volume. As distortion is determined by expansion and contraction of the material, the coefficient of thermal expansion of the material plays a significant role in determining the stresses generated during welding and, hence, the degree of distortion. For example, as stainless steel has a higher coefficient of expansion than plain carbon steel, it is more likely to suffer from distortion.

If a component is welded without any external restraint, it distorts to relieve the welding stresses. So, methods of restraint, such as 'strong-backs' in butt welds, can prevent movement and reduce distortion. As restraint produces higher levels of residual stress in the material, there is a greater risk of cracking in weld metal and HAZ especially in crack-sensitive materials.

Joint design
Both butt and fillet joints are prone to distortion. It can be minimised in butt joints by adopting a joint type which balances the thermal stresses through the plate thickness. For example, a double-sided in preference to a single-sided weld. Double-sided fillet welds should eliminate angular distortion of the upstanding member, especially if the two welds are deposited at the same time.

Part fit-up
Fit-up should be uniform to produce predictable and consistent shrinkage. Excessive joint gap can also increase the degree of distortion by increasing the amount of weld metal needed to fill the joint. The joints should be adequately tacked to prevent relative movement between the parts during welding.


Welding procedure
This influences the degree of distortion mainly through its effect on the heat input. As welding procedure is usually selected for reasons of quality and productivity, the welder has limited scope for reducing distortion. As a general rule, weld volume should be kept to a minimum. Also, the welding sequence and technique should aim to balance the thermally induced stresses around the neutral axis of the component. The article was prepared by Bill Lucas in collaboration with Geert Verhaeghe and Rick Leggatt. E-mail: bill.lucas@twi.co.uk

Distortion - prevention by design

Strongbacks on girder flange to prevent cross bowing. Courtesy John Allen General guidelines are given below as 'best practice' for limiting distortion when considering the design of arc welded structures.

Design principles
At the design stage, welding distortion can often be prevented, or at least restricted, by considering:

elimination of welding weld placement reducing the volume of weld metal reducing the number of runs use of balanced welding

Elimination of welding
As distortion and shrinkage are an inevitable result of welding, good design requires that not only the amount of welding is kept to a minimum, but also the smallest amount of weld metal is deposited. Welding can often be eliminated at the design stage by forming the plate or using a standard rolled section, as shown in Fig 1. Fig. 1 Elimination of welds by: a) forming the plate; b) use of rolled or extruded section


If possible, the design should use intermittent welds rather than a continuous run, to reduce the amount of welding. For example, in attaching stiffening plates, a substantial reduction in the amount of welding can often be achieved whilst maintaining adequate strength.

Weld placement
Placing and balancing of welds are important in designing for minimum distortion. The closer a weld is positioned to the neutral axis of a fabrication, the lower the leverage effect of the shrinkage forces and the final distortion. Examples of poor and good designs are shown in Fig 2. Fig. 2 Distortion may be reduced by placing the welds around the neutral axis As most welds are deposited away from the neutral axis, distortion can be minimised by designing the fabrication so the shrinkage forces of an individual weld are balanced by placing another weld on the opposite side of the neutral axis. Whenever possible, welding should be carried out alternately on opposite sides, instead of completing one side first. In large structures, if distortion is occurring preferentially on one side, it may be possible to take corrective actions, for example, by increasing welding on the other side to control the overall distortion.

Reducing the volume of weld metal

To minimise distortion, as well as for economic reasons, the volume of weld metal should be limited to the design requirements. For a single-sided joint, the cross-section of the weld should be kept as small as possible to reduce the level of angular distortion, as illustrated in Fig 3.

Fig. 3 Reducing the amount of angular distortion and lateral shrinkage by: a) reducing the volume of weld metal; b) using single pass weld Joint preparation angle and root gap should be minimised providing the weld can be made satisfactorily. To facilitate access, it may be possible to specify a larger root gap and smaller preparation angle. By cutting down the difference in the amount of weld metal at the root and the face of the weld, the degree of angular distortion will be correspondingly reduced. Butt joints made in a single pass using deep penetration have little angular distortion, especially if a closed butt joint can be welded (Fig 3). For example, thin section material can be welded using plasma and laser welding processes and thick section can be welded, in the vertical position, using electrogas and electroslag


processes. Although angular distortion can be eliminated, there will still be longitudinal and transverse shrinkage. In thick section material, as the cross sectional area of a double-V joint preparation is often only half that of a single-V preparation, the volume of weld metal to be deposited can be substantially reduced. The double-V joint preparation also permits balanced welding about the middle of the joint to eliminate angular distortion. As weld shrinkage is proportional to the amount of weld metal, both poor joint fit-up and over-welding will increase the amount of distortion. Angular distortion in fillet welds is particularly affected by over-welding. As design strength is based on throat thickness, over-welding to produce a convex weld bead does not increase the allowable design strength but it will increase the shrinkage and distortion.

Reducing the number of runs

There are conflicting opinions on whether it is better to deposit a given volume of weld metal using a small number of large weld passes or a large number of small passes. Experience shows that for a single-sided butt joint, or a single-side fillet weld, a large single weld deposit gives less angular distortion than if the weld is made with a number of small runs. Generally, in an unrestrained joint, the degree of angular distortion is approximately proportional to the number of passes. Completing the joint with a small number of large weld deposits results in more longitudinal and transverse shrinkage than a weld completed in a larger number of small passes. In a multi-pass weld, previously deposited weld metal provides restraint, so the angular distortion per pass decreases as the weld is built up. Large deposits also increase the risk of elastic buckling particularly in thin section plate.

Use of balanced welding

Balanced welding is an effective means of controlling angular distortion in a multi-pass butt weld by arranging the welding sequence to ensure that angular distortion is continually being corrected and not allowed to accumulate during welding. Comparative amounts of angular distortion from balanced welding and welding one side of the joint first are shown schematically in Fig 4. The balanced welding technique can also be applied to fillet joints.

Fig. 4 Balanced welding to reduce the amount of angular distortion


If welding alternately on either side of the joint is not possible, or if one side has to be completed first, an asymmetrical joint preparation may be used with more weld metal being deposited on the second side. The greater contraction resulting from depositing the weld metal on the second side will help counteract the distortion on the first side.

Best practice
The following design principles can control distortion:

eliminate welding by forming the plate and using rolled or extruded sections minimise the amount of weld metal do not over weld use intermittent welding in preference to a continuous weld pass place welds about the neutral axis balance the welding about the middle of the joint by using a double-V joint in preference to a single-V joint

Adopting best practice principles can have surprising cost benefits. For example, for a design fillet leg length of 6mm, depositing an 8mm leg length will result in the deposition of 57% additional weld metal. Besides the extra cost of depositing weld metal and the increase risk of distortion, it is costly to remove this extra weld metal later. However, designing for distortion control may incur additional fabrication costs. For example, the use of a double-V joint preparation is an excellent way to reduce weld volume and control distortion, but extra costs may be incurred in production through manipulation of the workpiece for the welder to access the reverse side.

Distortion - Prevention by pre-setting, pre-bending or use of restraint

Assembly arrangement for main side plate fabrication of the Stalwart carrier. (Courtesy of Roland Andrews)

General guidelines are provided as 'best practice' for limiting distortion by adopting suitable assembly techniques. In the 'Job knowledge for welders, Distortion - prevention by design', it was shown that distortion could often be prevented at the design stage, for example, by placing the welds about the neutral axis, reducing the amount of welding and depositing the weld metal 119

using a balanced welding technique. In designs where this is not possible, distortion may be prevented by one of the following methods:

pre-setting of parts pre-bending of parts use of restraint

The technique chosen will be influenced by the size and complexity of the component or assembly, the cost of any restraining equipment and the need to limit residual stresses. Fig. 1 Pre-setting of parts to produce correct alignment after welding a) Pre-setting of fillet b) Pre-setting of butt c) Tapered gap to prevent closure joint joint to to prevent prevent angular angular distortion distortion

Pre-setting of parts
The parts are pre-set and left free to move during welding (see Fig 1). In practice, the parts are pre-set by a pre-determined amount so that distortion occurring during welding is used to achieve overall alignment and dimensional control. The main advantages compared with the use of restraint are that there is no expensive equipment needed and there will be lower residual stress in the structure. Unfortunately, as it is difficult to predict the amount of pre-setting needed to accommodate shrinkage, a number of trial welds will be required. For example, when MMA or MIG welding butt joints, the joint gap will normally close ahead of welding; when submerged arc welding; the joint may open up during welding. When carrying out trial welds, it is also essential that the test structure is reasonably representative of the full size structure in order to generate the level of distortion likely to occur in practice. For these reasons, pre-setting is a technique more suitable for simple components or assemblies.

Fig. 2 Pre-bending, using strongbacks and wedges, to accommodate angular distortion in thin plates

Pre-bending of parts


Pre-bending, or pre-springing the parts before welding is a technique used to pre-stress the assembly to counteract shrinkage during welding. As shown in Fig 2, pre-bending by means of strongbacks and wedges can be used to pre-set a seam before welding to compensate for angular distortion. Releasing the wedges after welding will allow the parts to move back into alignment. The main photograph shows the diagonal bracings and centre jack used to pre-bend the fixture, not the component. This counteracts the distortion introduced though out-ofbalance welding.

Use of restraint
Because of the difficulty in applying pre-setting and pre-bending, restraint is the more widely practised technique. The basic principle is that the parts are placed in position and held under restraint to minimise any movement during welding. When removing the component from the restraining equipment, a relatively small amount of movement will occur due to locked-in stresses. This can be cured by either applying a small amount of pre-set or stress relieving before removing the restraint. When welding assemblies, all the component parts should be held in the correct position until completion of welding and a suitably balanced fabrication sequence used to minimise distortion. Welding with restraint will generate additional residual stresses in the weld which may cause cracking. When welding susceptible materials, a suitable welding sequence and the use of preheating will reduce this risk. Restraint is relatively simple to apply using clamps, jigs and fixtures to hold the parts during welding.

Welding jigs and fixtures

Jigs and fixtures are used to locate the parts and to ensure that dimensional accuracy is maintained whilst welding. They can be of a relatively simple construction, as shown in Fig 3a, but the welding engineer will need to ensure that the finished fabrication can be removed easily after welding.

Flexible clamps
A flexible clamp (Fig 3b) can be effective not only in applying restraint but also in setting up and maintaining the joint gap (it can also be used to close a gap that is too wide). A disadvantage is that as the restraining forces in the clamp will be transferred into the joint when the clamps are removed, the level of residual stress across the joint can be quite high. 121

Fig. 3 Restraint techniques to prevent distortion

a) Welding jig

b) Flexible clamps

c) Strongbacks with wedges

d) Fully welded strongbacks

Strongbacks (and wedges)

Strongbacks are a popular means of applying restraint especially for site work. Wedged strongbacks, Fig.3c, will prevent angular distortion in plate and help to prevent peaking in welding cylindrical shells. As these types of strongback will allow transverse shrinkage, the risk of cracking will be greatly reduced compared with fully welded strongbacks. Fully welded strongbacks (welded on both sides of the joint) Fig 3d, will minimise both angular distortion and transverse shrinkage. As significant stresses can be generated across the weld which will increase any tendency for cracking, care should be taken in the use of this type of strongback.

Best practice
Adopting the following assembly techniques will help to control distortion:

Pre-set parts so that welding distortion will achieve overall alignment and dimensional control with the minimum of residual stress Pre-bend joint edges to counteract distortion and achieve alignment and dimensional control with minimum residual stress. Apply restraint during welding by using jigs and fixtures, flexible clamps, strongbacks and tack welding but consider the risk of cracking which can be quite significant, especially for fully welded strongbacks.


Use an approved procedure for welding and removal of welds for restraint techniques which may need preheat to avoid forming imperfections in the component surface.

Distortion Prevention fabrication techniques


Distortion caused by welding a plate at the centre of a thin plate before welding into a bridge girder section. Courtesy John Allen

Assembly techniques
In general, the welder has little influence on the choice of welding procedure but assembly techniques can often be crucial in minimising distortion. The principal assembly techniques are:

tack welding back-to-back assembly stiffening

Tack welding
Tack welds are ideal for setting and maintaining the joint gap but can also be used to resist transverse shrinkage. To be effective, thought should be given to the number of tack welds, their length and the distance between them. With too few, there is the risk of the joint progressively closing up as welding proceeds. In a long seam, using MMA or MIG, the joint edges may even overlap. It should be noted that when using the submerged arc process, the joint might open up if not adequately tacked. The tack welding sequence is important to maintain a uniform root gap along the length of the joint. Three alternative tack welding sequences are shown in Fig 1:

tack weld straight through to the end of the joint (Fig 1a). It is necessary to clamp the plates or to use wedges to maintain the joint gap during tacking tack weld one end and then use a back stepping technique for tacking the rest of the joint (Fig 1b) tack weld the centre and complete the tack welding by back stepping (Fig 1c).


Fig. 1 Alternative procedures used for tack welding to prevent transverse shrinkage a) tack weld straight through to end of joint b) tack weld one end, then use back-step technique for tacking the rest of the joint c) tack weld the centre, then complete the tack welding by the back-step technique

Directional tacking is a useful technique for controlling the joint gap, for example closing a joint gap which is (or has become) too wide. When tack welding, it is important that tacks which are to be fused into the main weld, are produced to an approved procedure using appropriately qualified welders. The procedure may require preheat and an approved consumable as specified for the main weld. Removal of the tacks also needs careful control to avoid causing defects in the component surface.

Back-to-back assembly
By tack welding or clamping two identical components back-to-back, welding of both components can be balanced around the neutral axis of the combined assembly (Fig 2a). It is recommended that the assembly is stress relieved before separating the components. If stress relieving is not done, it may be necessary to insert wedges between the components (Fig 2b) so when the wedges are removed, the parts will move back to the correct shape or alignment.

Fig. 2 Back-to-back assembly to control distortion when welding two identical components a) assemblies tacked together before welding b) use of wedges for components that distort on separation after welding



Fig. 3 Longitudinal stiffeners prevent bowing in butt welded thin plate joints Longitudinal shrinkage in butt welded seams often results in bowing, especially when fabricating thin plate structures. Longitudinal stiffeners in the form of flats or angles, welded along each side of the seam (Fig 3) are effective in preventing longitudinal bowing. Stiffener location is important: they must be placed at a sufficient distance from the joint so they do not interfere with welding, unless located on the reverse side of a joint welded from one side.

Welding procedure
A suitable welding procedure is usually determined by productivity and quality requirements rather than the need to control distortion. Nevertheless, the welding process, technique and sequence do influence the distortion level.

Welding process
General rules for selecting a welding process to prevent angular distortion are:

deposit the weld metal as quickly as possible use the least number of runs to fill the joint

Unfortunately, selecting a suitable welding process based on these rules may increase longitudinal shrinkage resulting in bowing and buckling. In manual welding, MIG, a high deposition rate process, is preferred to MMA. Weld metal should be deposited using the largest diameter electrode (MMA), or the highest current level (MIG), without causing lack-of-fusion imperfections. As heating is much slower and more diffuse, gas welding normally produces more angular distortion than the arc processes. Mechanised techniques combining high deposition rates and high welding speeds have the greatest potential for preventing distortion. As the distortion is more consistent, simple techniques such as presetting are more effective in controlling angular distortion.

Welding technique
General rules for preventing distortion are:

keep the weld (fillet) to the minimum specified size use balanced welding about the neutral axis keep the time between runs to a minimum


Fig. 4 Angular distortion of the joint as determined by the number of runs in the fillet weld In the absence of restraint, angular distortion in both fillet and butt joints will be a function of the joint geometry, weld size and the number of runs for a given cross section. Angular distortion (measured in degrees) as a function of the number of runs for a 10mm leg length fillet weld is shown in Fig 4. If possible, balanced welding around the neutral axis should be done, for example on double sided fillet joints, by two people welding simultaneously. In butt joints, the run order may be crucial in that balanced welding can be used to correct angular distortion as it develops. Fig. 5 Use of a) b) Skip welding welding direction Back-step to control distortion welding

Welding sequence
The sequence, or direction, of welding is important and should be towards the free end of the joint. For long welds, the whole of the weld is not completed in one direction. Short runs, for example using the back-step or skip welding technique, are very effective in distortion control (Fig 5).

Back-step welding involves depositing short adjacent weld lengths in the opposite direction to the general progression (Fig.5a). Skip welding is laying short weld lengths in a predetermined, evenly spaced, sequence along the seam (Fig 5b). Weld lengths and the spaces between them are generally equal to the natural run-out length of one electrode. The direction of deposit for each electrode is the same, but it is not necessary for the welding direction to be opposite to the direction of general progression.

Best practice
The following fabrication techniques are used to control distortion:

using tack welds to set up and maintain the joint gap identical components welded back to back so welding can be balanced about the neutral axis attachment of longitudinal stiffeners to prevent longitudinal bowing in butt welds of thin plate structures


where there is choice of welding procedure, process and technique should aim to deposit the weld metal as quickly as possible; MIG in preference to MMA or gas welding and mechanised rather than manual welding in long runs, the whole weld should not be completed in one direction; back-step or skip welding techniques should be used.

Distortion - corrective techniques

Local heating of the flange edges to produce curved beams for a bridge structure Every effort should be made to avoid distortion at the design stage and by using suitable fabrication procedures. As it is not always possible to avoid distortion during fabrication, several well-established corrective techniques can be employed. However, reworking to correct distortion should not be undertaken lightly as it is costly and needs considerable skill to avoid damaging the component. In this issue, general guidelines are provided on 'best practice' for correcting distortion using mechanical or thermal techniques.

Mechanical techniques
The principal mechanical techniques are hammering and pressing. Hammering may cause surface damage and work hardening. In cases of bowing or angular distortion, the complete component can often be straightened on a press without the disadvantages of hammering. Packing pieces are inserted between the component and the platens of the press. It is important to impose sufficient deformation to give over-correction so that the normal elastic spring-back will allow the component to assume its correct shape. Fig. 1 Use of press to correct bowing in T butt joint Pressing to correct bowing in a flanged plate is illustrated in Fig. 1. In long components, distortion is removed progressively in a series of incremental pressings; each one acting over a short length. In the case of the flanged plate, the load should act on the flange to prevent local damage to the web at the load points. As incremental point loading will only produce an approximately straight component, it is better to use a former to achieve









Best practice for mechanical straightening

The following should be adopted when using pressing techniques to remove distortion:

Use packing pieces which will over correct the distortion so that spring-back will return the component to the correct shape Check that the component is adequately supported during pressing to prevent buckling Use a former (or rolling) to achieve a straight component or produce a curvature As unsecured packing pieces may fly out from the press, the following safe practice must be adopted: - bolt the packing pieces to the platen - place a metal plate of adequate thickness to intercept the 'missile' - clear personnel from the hazard area

Thermal techniques
The basic principle behind thermal techniques is to create sufficiently high local stresses so that, on cooling, the component is pulled back into shape. Fig. 2 Localised heating to correct distortion This is achieved by locally heating the material to a temperature where plastic deformation will occur as the hot, low yield strength material tries to expand against the surrounding cold, higher yield strength metal. On cooling to room temperature the heated area will attempt to shrink to a smaller size than before heating. The stresses generated thereby will pull the component into the required shape. (See Fig. 2) Local heating is, therefore, a relatively simple but effective means of correcting welding distortion. Shrinkage level is determined by size, number, location and temperature of the heated zones. Thickness and plate size determines the area of the heated zone. Number and placement of heating zones are largely a question of experience. For new jobs, tests will often be needed to quantify the level of shrinkage. Spot, line, or wedge-shaped heating techniques can all be used in thermal correction of distortion.

Spot heating

Fig. 3 Spot heating for correcting buckling Spot heating (Fig. 3), is used to remove buckling, for example when a relatively thin sheet has been welded to a stiff frame. Distortion is corrected by spot heating on the convex side. If the buckling is regular, the spots can be arranged symmetrically, starting at the centre of the and working outwards.


Line heating
Fig. 4 Line heating to correct angular distortion in a fillet weld

Heating in straight lines is often used to correct angular distortion, for example, in fillet welds (Fig. 4). The component is heated along the line of the welded joint but on the opposite side to the weld so the induced stresses will pull the flange flat.

Wedge-shaped heating
To correct distortion in larger complex fabrications it may be necessary to heat whole areas in addition to employing line heating. The pattern aims at shrinking one part of the fabrication to pull the material back into shape. Fig. 5 Use of wedge shaped heating to straighten plate

Apart from spot heating of thin panels, a wedge-shaped heating zone should be used, (Fig. 5) from base to apex and the temperature profile should be uniform through the plate thickness. For thicker section material, it may be necessary to use two torches, one on each side of the plate. As a general guideline, to straighten a curved plate (Fig. 5) wedge dimensions should be: 1. Length of wedge - two-thirds of the plate width 2. Width of wedge (base) - one sixth of its length (base to apex) The degree of straightening will typically be 5mm in a 3m length of plate. Wedge-shaped heating can be used to correct distortion in a variety of situations, (Fig. 6): 129

1. Standard rolled section which needs correction in two planes,(Fig. 6a) 2. Buckle at edge of plate as an alternative to rolling (Fi.g 6b) 3. Box section fabrication which is distorted out of plane (Fig. 6c) Fig. 6 Wedge shaped heating to correct distortion a) standard rolled steel b) section buckled edge of plate c) box fabrication

General precautions
The dangers of using thermal straightening techniques are the risk of overshrinking too large an area or causing metallurgical changes by heating to too high a temperature. As a general rule, when correcting distortion in steels the temperature of the area should be restricted to approximately to 60 - 650C - dull red heat. If the heating is interrupted, or the heat lost, the operator must allow the metal to cool and then begin again.

Best practice for distortion correction by thermal heating

The following should be adopted when using thermal techniques to remove distortion:

use spot heating to remove buckling in thin sheet structures other than in spot heating of thin panels, use a wedge-shaped heating technique use line heating to correct angular distortion in plate restrict the area of heating to avoid over-shrinking the component limit the temperature to 60 to 650C (dull red heat) in steels to prevent metallurgical damage in wedge heating, heat from the base to the apex of the wedge, penetrate evenly through the plate thickness and maintain an even temperature


Standards - application standards, codes of practice and quality levels

Production at Dennis vehicle manufacturers Application standards and codes of practice ensure that a structure or component will have an acceptable level of quality and be fit for the intended purpose. In this document, the requirements for standards on welding procedure and welder approval are explained together with the quality levels for imperfections. It should be noted that the term approval is used in European standards in the context of both testing and documentation. The equivalent term in the ASME standard is qualification.

Application standards and codes

There are essentially three types of standards which can be referenced in fabrication:

Application and design Specification and approval of welding procedures Approval of welders

There are also specific standards covering material specifications, consumables, welding equipment and health and safety. British Standards are used to specify the requirements, for example, in approving a welding procedure, they are not a legal requirement but may be cited by the Regulatory Authority as a means of satisfying the law. Health and Safety guidance documents and codes of practice may also recommend standards. Codes of practice differ from standards in that they are intended to give recommendations and guidance, for example, on the validation of power sources for welding. It is not intended that should be used as a mandatory, or contractual, document. Most fabricators will be working to one of the following:

Company or industry specific standards National BS (British Standard)


European BS EN (British Standard European Standard) US AWS (American Welding Society) and ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) International ISO (International Standards Organisation)

Examples of application codes and standards and related welding procedure and welder approval standards are listed in Table 1.

Table 1 Examples of application codes and standards and related welding procedure and welder approval standards Welding standard Application Pressure Vessels Process Pipework Application code/standard PD 5500 ASME VIII BS 2633 BS 4677 ANSI/ASME B311 ANSI/ASME B31.3 BS 2971 Procedure approval Welder approval BS EN ASME IX BS EN 288 BS EN 288 ASME ASME BS EN 288 (if required) BS EN 287 ASME IX (Part 3) BS EN 287 (Part 1) (Part 4) IX BS EN 287 (Part 2) IX (Part 3) ASME IX ASME IX BS 4872/BS EN 287 AWS D1.1 AWS D1.1 AWS D1.2 AWS D1.2 BS EN 288 (Part 3) BS EN 287 BS EN 288 (Part 4) BS EN 287 BS 4872 BS EN 288 (Parts 3 & BS EN 287 4) BS EN 287 BS EN 288 (Parts 3 & ASME IX 4) ASME IX 288

Structural Fabrication

AWS D1.1 AWS D1.2 BS EN 1011 BS 8118 BS 2654 BS 2594 API 620/650

Storage Tanks

Note 1: Reference should be made to the application codes/standards for any additional requirements to those specified in BS EN 287, BS EN 288 and ASME IX. Note 2: Some BS Standards have not been revised to include the new BS EN standards: BS EN 287 and BS EN 288 should be substituted, as appropriate, for BS 4871 and BS 4870, respectively, which have been with drawn.


In European countries, national standards are being replaced by EN standards. However, when there is no equivalent EN standard, the National standard can be used. For example, BS EN 287 replaces BS 4871 but BS 4872 remains as a valid standard.

Approval of welding procedures and welders

An application standard or code of practice will include requirements or guidelines on material, design of joint, welding process, welding procedure, welder qualification and inspection or may invoke other standards for example for welding procedure and welder approval tests. The manufacturer will normally be required to approve the welding procedure and welder qualification. The difference between a welding procedure approval and a welder qualification test is as follows:

The welding procedure approval test is carried out by a competent welder and the quality of the weld is assessed using non-destructive and mechanical testing techniques. The intention is to demonstrate that the proposed welding procedure will produce a welded joint which will satisfy the specified requirements of weld quality and mechanical properties. The welder approval test examines a welder's skill and ability in producing a satisfactory test weld. The test may be performed with or without a qualified welding procedure (note, without an approved welding procedure the welding parameters must be recorded).

The requirements for approvals are determined by the relevant application standard or as a condition of contract (Table 1). EN 287 and ASME IX would be appropriate for welders on high quality work such as pressure vessels, pressure vessel piping and off-shore structures and other products where the consequences of failure, stress levels and complexity mean that a high level of welded joint integrity is essential. In less demanding situations, such as small to medium building frames and general light structural and non- structural work, an approved welding procedure may not be necessary. However, to ensure an adequate level of skill, it is recommended that the welder be approved to a less stringent standard e.g. BS 4872. 'Coded welder' is often used to denote an approved welder but the term is not recognised in any of the standards. However, it is used in the workplace to describe those welders whose skill and technical competence have been approved to the requirements of an appropriate standard.

Quality Acceptance Levels for Welding Procedure and Welder Approval Tests
When welding to application standards and codes, consideration must be given to the imperfection acceptance criteria which must be satisfied. Some standards contain an appropriate section relating to the acceptance levels while others make use of a separate standard. For example, in welding procedure and welder approval tests to EN 288 Pt3 and 133

EN 287 Pt1, respectively, reference is made to BS EN ISO 5817. It is important to note that the application standard may specify more stringent imperfection acceptance levels and/or require additional tests to be carried out as part of the welding procedure approval test. For example, for joints which must operate at high temperatures, elevated temperature tensile test may be required whereas for low temperature applications, impact or CTOD tests may be specified. Guidance on permissible levels of imperfections in arc welded joints in steel are given in BS EN ISO 5817. Production quality, but not fitness-for-purpose, is defined in terms of three levels of quality for imperfections:

Moderate - Level D Intermediate- Level C Stringent - Level B

The standard applies to most arc welding processes and covers imperfections such as cracks, porosity, inclusions, poor bead geometry, lack of penetration and misalignment. As the quality levels are related to the types of welded joint and not to a particular component, they can be applied to most applications for procedure and welder approval. The quality levels which are the most appropriate for production joints will be determined by the relevant application standard which may cover design considerations, mode of stressing (e.g. static, dynamic), service conditions (e.g. temperature, environment) and consequences of failure. When working to the European Standards, the welding procedure, or the welder, will be qualified if the imperfections in the test piece are within the specified limits of Level B except for excess weld metal, excess convexity, excess throat thickness and excess penetration type imperfections when Level C will apply. Guidance levels for aluminium joints are given in BS EN 30042. For the American standards ASME IX and AWS D1.1, the acceptance levels are contained in the standard. Application codes may specify more stringent imperfection acceptance levels and/or additional tests.

Relevant Standards

American Welding Society, Structural Welding Code, AWS D1.1 ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code, Section IX: Welding Qualifications BS 4872 Approval Testing of Welders when Welding Procedure Approval is not Required BS EN 287:1998 Approval Testing of welders for fusion welding BS EN 288: Specification and approval of welding procedures for metallic materials


BS EN ISO 5817:2003 Welding - fusion-welded joints in steel, nickel, titanium and their alloys (beam welding excluded) - Quality levels for imperfections BS EN ISO 6520-1:1998 Welding and allied processes - Classification of geometric imperfections in metallic materials BS EN 30042:1994 Arc-welded joints in aluminium and its weldable alloys. Guidance on quality levels for imperfections.

Standards procedures, operators

Approval of welders and

welding welding

For a given application, the main way of ensuring adequate weld quality is to specify the procedure and the skill level of the welding operator. Here, the alternative routes for welding procedure approval are described together with the requirements for welder or welding operator approval. AC TIG welding of aluminium cryogenic pressure vessel Courtesy of Air Products PLC Routes to welding procedure approval

The key document is the Welding Procedure Specification (WPS) which details the welding variables to be used to ensure a welded joint will achieve the specified levels of weld quality and mechanical properties. The WPS is supported by a number of documents (eg a record of how the weld was made, NDE, mechanical test results) which together comprise a welding approval record termed the WPAR (EN288) or PQR (ASME). In both the European and ASME standards, there are a number of 'essential variables' specified which, if changed, may affect either weld quality or mechanical properties. Therefore, a change in any of the essentials will invalidate the welding procedure and will require a new approval test to be carried out. The essential variables are detailed in the relevant specification but include material type, welding process, thickness range and sometimes welding position.


The route followed to produce a WPS in EN 288 and the responsibilities of the manufacturer and the Examiner/Examining Body are shown in Fig. 1. The most common method of gaining approval is to carry out an approval test as described in EN 288 Pt3 (steels) and Pt4 (aluminium and its alloys). The manufacturer initially drafts a preliminary welding procedure (pWPS) which is used by one of the manufacturer's competent welders to prove that it is capable of producing a welded joint to the specified levels of weld quality and mechanical properties. The welding procedure approval record (WPAR) is a record of this weld. If the WPAR is approved by the Examiner, it is used to finalise one or Fig. 1. Stages in welding and welder more WPSs which is the basis for the Work Instructions given to the welder. approval It is noteworthy that the welder carrying out a satisfactory welding procedure approval test is approved for the appropriate range of approval given in the relevant standard (EN 287, ASME IX or AWS D1.1). EN 288 also permits the following options for procedure approval:

Welding procedure test Approved welding consumable Previous welding experience Standard welding procedure Pre-production welding test

The conventional procedure test (as specified in Parts 3 or 4) does not always need to be carried out to gain approval. But alternative methods have certain limits of application regarding, for example, welding processes, materials and consumables as specified in the appropriate application standard or contract agreement. The welding procedure test method of approval is often a mandatory requirement of the Application Standard. If not, the contracting parties can agree to use one of the alternative methods. For example, a welding procedure specification can be approved in accordance with the requirements of Part 6 (previous experience) on condition that the manufacturer


can prove, with appropriate documentation, that the type of joint has previously been welded satisfactorily. The American standard, ASME IX requires a welding procedure test (PQR) but AWS D1.1 will allow the use of pre-qualified procedures within the limits detailed in the specification.

Welder approval
The welder approval test is carried out to demonstrate that the welder has the necessary skill to produce a satisfactory weld under the conditions used in production as detailed in the approved WPS or Work Instruction. As a general rule, the test piece approves the welder not only for the conditions used in the test but also for all joints which are considered easier to weld. As the welder's approval test is carried out on a test piece which is representative of the joint to be welded, it is independent of the type of construction. The precise conditions, called 'essential variables', must be specified in the approval test eg material type, welding process, joint type, dimensions and welding position. The extent of approval is not necessarily restricted to the conditions used for the test but covers a group of similar materials or a range of situations which are considered easier to weld. It is important to note that a number of Amendments and Corrigenda have now been issued which affect the range of approval (see list of Relevant Standards). In EN 287, the certificate of approval testing is issued under the sole responsibility of the Examiner / Examining Body. The welder approval certificate remains valid subject to the requirements of the application standard. In EN 287, it can be extended at six monthly intervals by the employer for up to two years provided the welder has been successfully welding similar joints. After two years, prolongation of the welder's qualification will need approval of the Examiner who will require proof that his or her performance has been of the required standard during the period of validity. As the Examiner will normally examine the company's records on the welder's work and tests as proof that he has maintained his skill, it is essential that work records are maintained by the company. It should also be noted that EN 287 requires records of tests ie half yearly documentation about X-ray or ultrasonic inspections or test reports on fracture tests must be maintained with the welder's approval certificate (tests on production welds will satisfy this requirement). Failure to comply will necessitate a retest. American standards have similar requirements although the extent of approval of the welding variables are different to those of EN 287.

Welding operator approval


When required by the contract or application standard, the welding operators responsible for setting up and/or adjustment of fully mechanised and automatic equipment must be approved but the personnel operating the equipment do not need approval. In clarifying the term 'welding operator', personnel who are using the equipment (loading and unloading robotic equipment or operating a resistance welding machine) do not require approval. As specified in EN 1418, approval of operators of equipment for fusion welding and resistance weld equipment setters can be based on:

welding a procedure test pre-production welding test or production test production sample testing or a function test.

It should be noted that the methods must be supplemented by a functional test appropriate to the welding unit. However, a test of knowledge relating to welding technology which is the equivalent of 'Job knowledge for welders' in EN 287 is recommended but not mandatory. Prolongation of the welding operator approval is generally in accordance with the requirements of EN 287. The welding operator's approval remains valid for two years providing the employer/welding co-ordinator confirms that there has been a reasonable continuity of welding work (period of interruption no longer than six months) and there is no reason to question the welding operator's knowledge. The validity of approval may be prolonged for further periods of two years by the examiner / examining body providing there is proof of production welds of the required quality, and appropriate test records maintained with the operator's certificate. When working to ASME IX, operators for both mechanised and automatic welding equipment require approval. The essential variables are different to those in welder approval.

Relevant Standards
EN 287: (Amendment 9665, (Amendment 9804, (Corrigenda No 1, April 1998) Part 1. August January Steels 1997) 1998) and November alloys 1997)

Part 2.Aluminium (Amendment No (Corrigenda No 1 June, 1998)



EN 288: (Amendment No (Corrigenda No 1, June 1998)

Part 9736,

3. November

Steels 1997)

EN 1418 : 1998 Welding personnel - Approval testing of welding operators for fusion welding and resistance weld setters for fully mechanised and automatic welding of metallic materials The SS Schenectady, an all welded tanker, broke in two whilst lying in dock in 1943. Principal causes of this failure were poor design and bad workmanship

Weld defects / imperfections incomplete root fusion or penetration

The characteristic features and principal causes of incomplete root fusion are described. General guidelines on 'best practice' are given so welders can minimise the risk of introducing imperfections during fabrication.

Fabrication and service defects and imperfections

As the presence of imperfections in a welded joint may not render the component defective in the sense of being unsuitable for the intended application, the preferred term is imperfection rather than defect. For this reason, production quality for a component is defined in terms of a quality level in which the limits for the imperfections are clearly defined, for example Level B, C or D in accordance with the requirements of BS EN ISO 5817. For the American standards ASME X1 and AWS D1.1, the acceptance levels are contained in the standards. The application code will specify the quality levels which must be achieved for the various joints. Imperfections can be broadly classified into those produced on fabrication of the component or structure and those formed as result of adverse conditions during service. The principal types of imperfections are: fabrication:

lack of fusion cracks porosity inclusions 139

incorrect weld shape and size


brittle fracture stress corrosion cracking fatigue failure

Welding procedure and welder technique will have a direct effect on fabrication imperfections. Incorrect procedure or poor technique may produce imperfections leading to premature failure in service.

Incomplete root fusion or penetration

Incomplete root fusion is when the weld fails to fuse one side of the joint in the root. Incomplete root penetration occurs when both sides of the joint are unfused. Typical imperfections can arise in the following situations:

an excessively thick root face in a butt weld (Fig. 1a) too small a root gap (Fig. 1b) misplaced welds (Fig. 1c) failure to remove sufficient metal in cutting back to sound metal in a double sided weld (Fig. 1d) incomplete root fusion when using too low an arc energy (heat) input (Fig. 1e) too small a bevel angle, too large an electrode in MMA welding (Fig 2)

Fig. 1 Causes of incomplete root fusion a) c) b) d) a) Excessively thick root face b) Too small a root gap c) Misplaced welds d) Power input too low e) Arc (heat) input too low

e) Fig. 2 Effect of electrode size on root fusion


a) a) Large diameter electrode b) Small diameter electrode b)

These types of imperfection are more likely in consumable electrode processes (MIG, MMA and submerged arc welding) where the weld metal is 'automatically' deposited as the arc consumes the electrode wire or rod. The welder has limited control of weld pool penetration independent of depositing weld metal. Thus, the non consumable electrode TIG process in which the welder controls the amount of filler material independent of penetration is less prone to this type of defect. In MMA welding, the risk of incomplete root fusion can be reduced by using the correct welding parameters and electrode size to give adequate arc energy input and deep penetration. Electrode size is also important in that it should be small enough to give adequate access to the root, especially when using a small bevel angle (Fig 2). It is common practice to use a 3.25mm diameter electrode for the root so the welder can manipulate the electrode for penetration and control of the weld pool. However, for the fill passes where penetration requirements are less critical, a 4 or 5mm diameter electrode is used to achieve higher deposition rates. In MIG welding, the correct welding parameters for the material thickness, and a short arc length, should give adequate weld bead penetration. Too low a current level for the size of root face will give inadequate weld penetration. Too high a level, causing the welder to move too quickly, will result in the weld pool bridging the root without achieving adequate penetration. It is also essential that the correct root face size and bevel angles are used and that the joint gap is set accurately. To prevent the gap from closing, adequate tacking will be required.

Best practice in prevention

The following techniques can be used to prevent lack of root fusion:

In TIG welding, do not use too large a root face and ensure the welding current is sufficient for the weld pool to penetrate fully the root In MMA welding, use the correct current level and not too large an electrode size for the root


In MIG welding, use a sufficiently high welding current level but adjust the arc voltage to keep a short arc length When using a joint configuration with a joint gap, make sure it is of adequate size and does not close up during welding Do not use too high a current level causing the weld pool to bridge the gap without fully penetrating the root.

Acceptance standards
The limits for lack of penetration are specified in BS EN ISO 5817 for the three quality levels. Lack of root penetration is not permitted for Quality Level B (stringent) and Level C (intermediate). For Quality Level (moderate) short lack of penetration imperfections are permitted. Incomplete root penetration is not permitted in the manufacture of pressure vessels but is allowable in the manufacture of pipework depending on material and wall thickness.

Remedial actions
If the root cannot be directly inspected, for example using a penetrant or magnetic particle inspection technique, detection is by radiography or ultrasonic inspection. Remedial action will normally require removal by gouging or grinding to sound metal, followed by re-welding in conformity with the original procedure.

Relevant standards
BS EN ISO 5817:2003 Welding - fusion-welded joints in steel, nickel, titanium and their alloys (beam welding excluded) - Quality levels for imperfections. BS EN 30042: 1994 Arc welded joints in aluminium and its weldable alloys - Guidance on quality levels for imperfections. This information was prepared by Bill Lucas with help from Gene Mathers. Copies of other articles in the Job knowledge for welders series can be found under Practical Joining Knowledge or by using the search engine.

Weld defects/imperfections in welds - lack of sidewall and inter-run fusion


Demagnetising a pipe

This article describes the characteristic features and principal causes of lack of sidewall and inter-run fusion. General guidelines on best practice are given so that welders can minimise the risk of imperfections during fabrication.

Lack of fusion imperfections can occur when the weld metal fails

to fuse completely with the sidewall of the joint (Fig. 1) to penetrate adequately the previous weld bead (Fig. 2).

Fig. 1. Lack of side wall fusion

Fig. 2. Lack of inter-run fusion

The principal causes are too narrow a joint preparation, incorrect welding parameter settings, poor welder technique and magnetic arc blow. Insufficient cleaning of oily or scaled surfaces can also contribute to lack of fusion. These types of imperfection are more likely to happen when welding in the vertical position.

Joint preparation
Too narrow a joint preparation often causes the arc to be attracted to one of the side walls causing lack of side wall fusion on the other side of the joint or inadequate penetration into the previously deposited weld bead. Too great an arc length may also increase the risk of preferential melting along one side of the joint and cause shallow penetration. In addition, a narrow joint preparation may prevent adequate access into the joint. For example, this happens in MMA welding when using a large diameter electrode, or in MIG welding where an allowance should be made for the size of the nozzle.


Welding parameters
It is important to use a sufficiently high current for the arc to penetrate into the joint sidewall. Consequently, too high a welding speed for the welding current will increase the risk of these imperfections. However, too high a current or too low a welding speed will cause weld pool flooding ahead of the arc resulting in poor or non-uniform penetration.

Welder technique
Poor welder technique such as incorrect angle or manipulation of the electrode/welding gun, will prevent adequate fusion of the joint sidewall. Weaving, especially dwelling at the joint sidewall, will enable the weld pool to wash into the parent metal, greatly improving sidewall fusion. It should be noted that the amount of weaving may be restricted by the welding procedure specification limiting the arc energy input, particularly when welding alloy or high notch toughness steels.

Magnetic arc blow

When welding ferromagnetic steels lack of fusion imperfections can be caused through uncontrolled deflection of the arc, usually termed arc blow. Arc deflection can be caused by distortion of the magnetic field produced by the arc current (Fig. 3), through:

residual magnetism in the material through using magnets for handling earth's magnetic field, for example in pipeline welding position of the current return

The effect of welding past the current return cable which is bolted to the centre of the place is shown in Fig. 4. The interaction of the magnetic field surrounding the arc and that generated by the current flow in the plate to the current return cable is sufficient to deflect the weld bead. Distortion of the arc current magnetic field can be minimised by positioning the current return so that welding is always towards or away from the clamp and, in MMA welding, by using AC instead of DC. Often the only effective means is to demagnetise the steel before welding.

Fig. 3. Interaction of magnetic forces causing arc deflection


Fig. 4. Weld bead deflection in DC MMA welding caused by welding past the current return connection

Best practice in prevention

The following fabrication techniques can be used to prevent formation of lack of sidewall fusion imperfections:

use a sufficiently wide joint preparation select welding parameters (high current level, short arc length, not too high a welding speed) to promote penetration into the joint side wall without causing flooding ensure the electrode/gun angle and manipulation technique will give adequate side wall fusion use weaving and dwell to improve side wall fusion providing there are no heat input restrictions if arc blow occurs, reposition the current return, use AC (in MMA welding) or demagnetise the steel

Acceptance standards
The limits for incomplete fusion imperfections in arc welded joints in steel are specified in BS EN ISO 5817 for the three quality levels (see Table). These types of imperfection are not permitted for Quality Level B (stringent) and C (intermediate). For Quality level D (moderate) they are only permitted providing they are intermittent and not surface breaking. For arc welded joints in aluminium, long imperfections are not permitted for all three quality levels. However, for quality levels C and D, short imperfections are permitted but the total length of the imperfections is limited depending on the butt weld or the fillet weld throat thickness.

Acceptance limits for specific codes and application standards Application Steel Code/Standard BS EN Acceptance limit ISO Level B and C not permitted.



Level D short imperfections permitted but not surface breaking. Levels B, C, Long imperfections not Levels C and Short imperfections permitted. Not permitted Not permitted 'l' not greater than (depending on wall thickness) 'l' not greater than (less when weld length <300mm) 15mm 25mm D. permitted. D.


BS EN 30042:1994

Pressure vessels Storage tanks Pipework Line pipe

PD5500:2003 BS2654:1989 BS2633:1987 API 1104:1999

Detection and remedial action

If the imperfections are surface breaking, they can be detected using a penetrant or magnetic particle inspection technique. For sub-surface imperfections, detection is by radiography or ultrasonic inspection. Ultrasonic inspection is normally more effective than radiography in detecting lack of inter-run fusion imperfections. Remedial action will normally require their removal by localised gouging, or grinding, followed by re-welding as specified in the agreed procedure. If lack of fusion is a persistent problem, and is not caused by magnetic arc blow, the welding procedures should be amended or the welders retrained.

Defects/imperfections in welds - porosity

The characteristic features and principal causes of porosity imperfections are described. Best practice guidelines are given so welders can minimise porosity risk during fabrication.

Porosity is the presence of cavities in the weld metal caused by the freezing in of gas released from the weld pool as it solidifies. The porosity can take several forms: 146

distributed surface breaking pores wormhole crater pipes

Cause and prevention

Distributed porosity and surface pores
Distributed porosity (Fig. 1) is normally found as fine pores throughout the weld bead. Surface breaking pores (Fig. 2) usually indicate a large amount of distributed porosity

Fig. 1. Uniformly distributed porosity

Fig. 2. Surface breaking pores (T fillet weld in primed plate)

Cause Porosity is caused by the absorption of nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen in the molten weld pool which is then released on solidification to become trapped in the weld metal. Nitrogen and oxygen absorption in the weld pool usually originates from poor gas shielding. As little as 1% air entrainment in the shielding gas will cause distributed porosity and greater than 1.5% results in gross surface breaking pores. Leaks in the gas line, too high a gas flow rate, draughts and excessive turbulence in the weld pool are frequent causes of porosity. Hydrogen can originate from a number of sources including moisture from inadequately dried electrodes, fluxes or the workpiece surface. Grease and oil on the surface of the workpiece or filler wire are also common sources of hydrogen. Surface coatings like primer paints and surface treatments such as zinc coatings, may generate copious amounts of fume during welding. The risk of trapping the evolved gas will be greater in T joints than butt joints especially when fillet welding on both sides (see Fig 2). Special mention should be made of the so-called weldable (low zinc) primers. 147

It should not be necessary to remove the primers but if the primer thickness exceeds the manufacturer's recommendation, porosity is likely to result especially when using welding processes other than MMA.

The gas source should be identified and removed as follows: Air entrainment - seal any air leak - avoid weld pool turbulence - use filler with adequate level of deoxidants - reduce excessively high gas flow - avoid draughts Hydrogen - dry the electrode and flux - clean and degrease the workpiece surface Surface coatings - clean the joint edges immediately before welding - check that the weldable primer is below the recommended maximum thickness

Characteristically, wormholes are elongated pores (Fig. 3) which produce a herring bone appearance on the radiograph.

Elongated pores or wormholes

Cause Wormholes are indicative of a large amount of gas being formed which is then trapped in the solidifying weld metal. Excessive gas will be formed from gross surface contamination or very thick paint or primer coatings. Entrapment is more likely in crevices such as the gap beneath the vertical member of a horizontal-vertical, T joint which is fillet welded on both sides. When welding T joints in primed plates it is essential that the coating thickness on the edge of the vertical member is not above the manufacturer's recommended maximum, typically 20m, through over-spraying.

Eliminating the gas and cavities prevents wormholes. Gas generation - clean the workpiece surfaces 148

- remove any coatings from the joint area - check the primer thickness is below the manufacturer's maximum Joint geometry - avoid a joint geometry which creates a cavity

Crater pipe
A crater pipe forms during the final solidified weld pool and is often associated with some gas porosity. Cause This imperfection results from shrinkage on weld pool solidification. Consequently, conditions which exaggerate the liquid to solid volume change will promote its formation. Switching off the welding current will result in the rapid solidification of a large weld pool. In TIG welding, autogenous techniques, or stopping the wire before switching off the welding current, will cause crater formation and the pipe imperfection.

Crater pipe imperfection can be prevented by removing the stop or by welder technique. Removal of stop - use run-off tag in butt joints - grind out the stop before continuing with the next electrode or depositing the subsequent weld run Welder technique - progressively reduce the welding current to reduce the weld pool size - add filler (TIG) to compensate for the weld pool shrinkage

Porosity susceptibility of materials

Gases likely to cause porosity in the commonly used range of materials are listed in the Table. Principal gases causing porosity and recommended cleaning methods Material C-Mn steel Stainless steel Gas Cleaning

Hydrogen, Nitrogen and Grind to remove scale coatings Oxygen Hydrogen Degrease + wire brush + degrease


Aluminium alloys

and Hydrogen Hydrogen, Nitrogen Nitrogen

Chemical clean + wire brush + degrease + scrape Degrease + wire brush + degrease Degrease + wire brush + degrease

Copper and alloys Nickel and alloys

Detection and remedial action

If the imperfections are surface breaking, they can be detected using a penetrant or magnetic particle inspection technique. For sub surface imperfections, detection is by radiography or ultrasonic inspection. Radiography is normally more effective in detecting and characterising porosity imperfections. However, detection of small pores is difficult especially in thick sections. Remedial action normally needs removal by localised gouging or grinding but if the porosity is widespread, the entire weld should be removed. The joint should be reprepared and re-welded as specified in the agreed procedure.

Defects/imperfections in welds - slag inclusions

Prevention of slag inclusions by grinding between runs

The characteristic features and principal causes of slag imperfections are described.


Fig. 1. Radiograph of a butt weld showing two Slag is normally seen as elongated lines either continuous or slag lines in the weld root discontinuous along the length of the weld. This is readily identified in a radiograph, Fig 1. Slag inclusions are usually associated with the flux processes, ie MMA, FCA and submerged arc, but they can also occur in MIG welding.

As slag is the residue of the flux coating, it is principally a deoxidation product from the reaction between the flux, air and surface oxide. The slag becomes trapped in the weld when two adjacent weld beads are deposited with inadequate overlap and a void is formed. When the next layer is deposited, the entrapped slag is not melted out. Slag may also become entrapped in cavities in multi-pass welds through excessive undercut in the weld toe or the uneven surface profile of the preceding weld runs, Fig 2. As they both have an effect on the ease of slag removal, the risk of slag imperfections is influenced by

Type of flux Welder technique

The type and configuration of the joint, welding position and access restrictions all have an influence on the risk of slag imperfections. Fig. 2. The influence of welder technique on the risk of slag inclusions when welding with a basic MMA (7018) electrode

a) Poor (convex) weld bead profile resulted in pockets of slag being trapped between the weld runs


b) Smooth weld bead profile allows the slag to be readily removed between runs

Type of flux
One of the main functions of the flux coating in welding is to produce a slag which will flow freely over the surface of the weld pool to protect it from oxidation. As the slag affects the handling characteristics of the MMA electrode, its surface tension and freezing rate can be equally important properties. For welding in the flat and horizontal/vertical positions, a relatively viscous slag is preferred as it will produce a smooth weld bead profile, is less likely to be trapped and, on solidifying, is normally more easily removed. For vertical welding, the slag must be more fluid to flow out to the weld pool surface but have a higher surface tension to provide support to the weld pool and be fast freezing. The composition of the flux coating also plays an important role in the risk of slag inclusions through its effect on the weld bead shape and the ease with which the slag can be removed. A weld pool with low oxygen content will have a high surface tension producing a convex weld bead with poor parent metal wetting. Thus, an oxidising flux, containing for example iron oxide, produces a low surface tension weld pool with a more concave weld bead profile, and promotes wetting into the parent metal. High silicate flux produces a glass-like slag, often self detaching. Fluxes with a lime content produce an adherent slag which is difficult to remove. The ease of slag removal for the principal flux types are:

Rutile or acid fluxes - large amounts of titanium oxide (rutile) with some silicates. The oxygen level of the weld pool is high enough to give flat or slightly convex weld bead. The fluidity of the slag is determined by the calcium fluoride content. Fluoride-free coatings designed for welding in the flat position produce smooth bead profiles and an easily removed slag. The more fluid fluoride slag designed for positional welding is less easily removed. Basic fluxes - the high proportion of calcium carbonate (limestone) and calcium fluoride (fluospar) in the flux reduces the oxygen content of the weld pool and therefore its surface tension. The slag is more fluid than that produced with the


rutile coating. Fast freezing also assists welding in the vertical and overhead positions but the slag coating is more difficult to remove. Consequently, the risk of slag inclusions is significantly greater with basic fluxes due to the inherent convex weld bead profile and the difficulty in removing the slag from the weld toes especially in multi-pass welds.

Welder technique
Welding technique has an important role to play in preventing slag inclusions. Electrode manipulation should ensure adequate shape and degree of overlap of the weld beads to avoid forming pockets which can trap the slag. Thus, the correct size of electrode for the joint preparation, the correct angle to the workpiece for good penetration and a smooth weld bead profile are all essential to prevent slag entrainment. In multi-pass vertical welding, especially with basic electrodes, care must be taken to fuse out any remaining minor slag pockets and minimise undercut. When using a weave, a slight dwell at the extreme edges of the weave will assist sidewall fusion and produce a flatter weld bead profile. Too high a current together with a high welding speed will also cause sidewall undercutting which makes slag removal difficult. It is crucial to remove all slag before depositing the next run. This can be done between runs by grinding, light chipping or wire brushing. Cleaning tools must be identified for different materials eg steels or stainless steels, and segregated. When welding with difficult electrodes, in narrow vee butt joints or when the slag is trapped through undercutting, it may be necessary to grind the surface of the weld between layers to ensure complete slag removal.

Best practice
The following techniques can be used to prevent slag inclusions:

Use welding techniques to produce smooth weld beads and adequate inter-run fusion to avoid forming pockets to trap the slag Use the correct current and travel speed to avoid undercutting the sidewall which will make the slag difficult to remove Remove slag between runs paying particular attention to removing any slag trapped in crevices Use grinding when welding difficult butt joints otherwise wire brushing or light chipping may be sufficient to remove the slag.

Acceptance standards

Slag and flux inclusions are linear defects but because they do not have sharp edges compared with cracks, they may be permitted by specific standards and codes. The limits in steel are specified in BE EN ISO 5817: 2003 for the three quality levels. Long slag imperfections are not permitted in both butt and fillet welds for Quality Level B (stringent) and C (moderate). For Quality Level D, butt welds can have imperfections providing their size is less than half the nominal weld thickness. Short slag related imperfections are permitted in all three quality levels with limits placed on their size relative to the butt weld thickness or nominal fillet weld throat thickness.

Defects - solidification cracking

Weld repair on a cast iron exhaust manifold

A crack may be defined as a local discontinuity produced by a fracture which can arise from the stresses generated on cooling or acting on the structure. It is the most serious type of imperfection found in a weld and should be removed. Cracks not only reduce the strength of the weld through the reduction in the cross section thickness but also can readily propagate through stress concentration at the tip, especially under impact loading or during service at low temperature.


Visual appearance
Solidification cracks are normally readily distinguished from other types of cracks due to the following characteristic factors:

they occur only in the weld metal they normally appear as straight lines along the centreline of the weld bead, as shown in Fig. 1, but may occasionally appear as transverse cracking depending on the solidification structure solidification cracks in the final crater may have a branching appearance as the cracks are 'open', they are easily visible with the naked eye

Fig. 1 Solidification crack along the centre line of the weld

On breaking open the weld, the crack surface in steel and nickel alloys may have a blue oxidised appearance, showing that they were formed while the weld metal was still hot.

The cracks form at the solidification boundaries and are characteristically inter dendritic. The morphology reflects the weld solidification structure and there may be evidence of segregation associated with the solidification boundary.

The overriding cause of solidification cracking is that the weld bead in the final stage of solidification has insufficient strength to withstand the contraction stresses generated as the weld pool solidifies. Factors which increase the risk include:

insufficient weld bead size or shape welding under high restraint material properties such as a high impurity content or a relatively large amount of shrinkage on solidification.


Joint design can have a significant influence on the level of residual stresses. Large gaps between component parts will increase the strain on the solidifying weld metal, especially if the depth of penetration is small. Therefore, weld beads with a small depth-to-width ratio, such as formed in bridging a large gap with a wide, thin bead, will be more susceptible to solidification cracking, as shown in Fig. 2. In this case, the centre of the weld which is the last part to solidify, is a narrow zone with negligible cracking resistance.

Fig. 2 Weld bead penetration too small

Segregation of impurities to the centre of the weld also encourages cracking. Concentration of impurities ahead of the solidifying front weld forms a liquid film of low freezing point which, on solidification, produces a weak zone. As solidification proceeds, the zone is likely to crack as the stresses through normal thermal contraction build up. If liquid from the weld pool can feed into an incipent crack, it can be prevented. For this reason, an elliptically shaped weld pool is preferable to a tear drop shape, and fast welding speeds, which result in a large separation between the weld pool and cracking locations, increase the risk of cracking. Welding with contaminants such as cutting oils on the surface of the parent metal will also increase the build up of impurities in the weld pool and the risk of cracking. As the compositions of the plate and the filler determine the weld metal composition they will, therefore, have a substantial influence on the susceptibility of the material to cracking. Steels Cracking is associated with impurities, particularly sulphur and phosphorus, and is promoted by carbon whereas manganese and silicon can help to reduce the risk. To minimise the risk of cracking, fillers with low carbon and impurity levels and a relatively high manganese content are preferred. As a general rule, for carbon-manganese steels, the total sulphur and phosphorus content should be no greater than 0.06%. 156

Weld metal composition is dominated by the consumable and as the filler is normally cleaner than the metal being welded, cracking is less likely with low dilution processes such as MMA and MIG. Plate composition assumes greater importance in high dilution situations such as when welding the root in butt welds, using an autogenous welding technique like TIG, or a high dilution process such as submerged arc welding. In submerged arc welds, as described in BS 5135 (Appendix F), the cracking risk may be assessed by calculating the Units of Crack Susceptibility (UCS) from the weld metal chemical composition (weight %): UCS = 230C* + 190S + 75P + 45Nb - 12.3Si - 5.4Mn - 1 C* = carbon content or 0.08 whichever is higher Although arbitrary units, a value of <10 indicates high cracking resistance whereas >30 indicates a low resistance. Within this range, the risk will be higher in a weld run with a high depth to width ratio, made at high welding speeds or where the fit-up is poor. For fillet welds, runs having a depth to width ratio of about one, UCS values of 20 and above will indicate a risk of cracking. For a butt weld, values of about 25 UCS are critical. If the depth to width ratio is decreased from 1 to 0.8, the allowable UCS is increased by about nine. However, very low depth to width ratios, such as obtained when penetration into the root is not achieved, also promote cracking. Aluminium The high thermal expansion (approximately twice that of steel) and substantial contraction on solidification (typically 5% more than in an equivalent steel weld) means that aluminium alloys are more prone to cracking. The risk can be reduced by using a crack resistant filler (usually from the 4xxx and 5xxx series alloys) but the disadvantage is that the resulting weld metal is likely to have non-matching properties such as a lower strength than the parent metal. Austenitic Stainless Steel A fully austenitic stainless steel weld is more prone to cracking than one containing between 5-10% of ferrite. The beneficial effect of ferrite has been attributed to its capacity to dissolve harmful impurities which would otherwise form low melting point segregates and consequently interdendritic cracks. Therefore the choice of filler material is important to suppress cracking so a type 308 filler is used to weld type 304 stainless steel.

Best practice in avoiding solidification cracking

Apart from the choice of material and filler, the principal techniques for minimising the risk of welding solidification cracking are:

Control joint fit-up to reduce gaps.


Before welding, clean off all contaminants from the material Ensure that the welding sequence will not lead to a build-up of thermally induced stresses. Select welding parameters and technique to produce a weld bead with an adequate depth to width ratio, or with sufficient throat thickness (fillet weld), to ensure the weld bead has sufficient resistance to the solidification stresses (recommend a depth to width ratio of at least 0.5:1). Avoid producing too large a depth to width ratio which will encourage segregation and excessive transverse strains in restrained joints. As a general rule, weld beads whose depth to weld ratio exceeds 2:1 will be prone to solidification cracking. Avoid high welding speeds (at high current levels) which increase the amount of segregation and the stress level across the weld bead. At the run stop, ensure adequate filling of the crater to avoid an unfavourable concave shape.

Acceptance standards
As solidification cracks are linear imperfections with sharp edges, they are not permitted for welds meeting the quality levels B, C and D in accordance with the requirements of BS EN 25817 (ISO 5817). Crater cracks are permitted for quality level D.

Detection and remedial action

Surface breaking solidification cracks can be readily detected using visual examination, liquid penetrant or magnetic particle testing techniques. Internal cracks require ultrasonic or radiographic examination techniques. Most codes will specify that all cracks should be removed. A cracked component should be repaired by removing the cracks with a safety margin of approximately 5mm beyond the visible ends of the crack. The excavation is then re-welded using a filler which will not produce a crack sensitive deposit.

Jk 45 has to download properly

Defects - hydrogen cracks in steels identification


Preheating cracking




Hydrogen cracking may also be called cold cracking or delayed cracking. The principal distinguishing feature of this type of crack is that it occurs in ferritic steels, most often immediately on welding or after a short time after welding. In this issue, the characteristic features and principal causes of hydrogen cracks are described.

Visual appearance
Hydrogen cracks can be usually be distinguished due to the following characteristics:

In C-Mn steels, the crack will normally originate in the heat affected zone (HAZ) but may extend into the weld metal (Fig 1). Cracks can also occur in the weld bead, normally transverse to the welding direction at an angle of 45 to the weld surface. They are essentially straight, follow a jagged path but may be non-branching. In low alloy steels, the cracks can be transverse to the weld, perpendicular to the weld surface, but are non-branching and essentially planar.


Fig. 1 Hydrogen cracks originating in the HAZ (note, the type of cracks shown would not be expected to form in the same weldment)

On breaking open the weld (prior to any heat treatment), the surface of the cracks will normally not be oxidised, even if they are surface breaking, indicating they were formed when the weld was at or near ambient temperature. A slight blue tinge may be seen from the effects of preheating or welding heat.

Cracks which originate in the HAZ are usually associated with the coarse grain region, (Fig 2). The cracks can be intergranular, transgranular or a mixture. Intergranular cracks are more likely to occur in the harder HAZ structures formed in low alloy and high carbon steels. Transgranular cracking is more often found in C-Mn steel structures. In fillet welds, cracks in the HAZ are usually associated with the weld root and parallel to the weld. In butt welds, the HAZ cracks are normally oriented parallel to the weld bead.

Fig. 2 Crack along the coarse grain structure in the HAZ


There are three factors which combine to cause cracking:

hydrogen generated by the welding process a hard brittle structure which is susceptible to cracking tensile stresses acting on the welded joint

Cracking usually occurs at temperatures at or near normal ambient. It is caused by the diffusion of hydrogen to the highly stressed, hardened part of the weldment. In C-Mn steels, because there is a greater risk of forming a brittle microstructure in the HAZ, most of the hydrogen cracks are to be found in the parent metal. With the correct choice of electrodes, the weld metal will have a lower carbon content than the parent metal and, hence, a lower carbon equivalent (CE). However, transverse weld metal cracks can occur especially when welding thick section components. In low alloy steels, as the weld metal structure is more susceptible than the HAZ, cracking may be found in the weld bead. The main factors which influence risk of cracking are:

weld metal hydrogen parent material composition parent material thickness stresses acting on the weld heat input

Weld metal hydrogen content The principal source of hydrogen is the moisture contained in the flux, i.e. the coating of MMA electrodes, the flux in cored wires and the flux used in submerged arc welding. The amount of hydrogen generated is influenced by the electrode type. Basic electrodes normally generate less hydrogen than rutile and cellulosic electrodes. It is important to note that there can be other significant sources of hydrogen, e.g. moisture from the atmosphere or from the material where processing or service history has left the steel with a significant level of hydrogen. Hydrogen may also be derived from the surface of the material or the consumable. Sources of hydrogen will include:

oil, grease and dirt rust paint and coatings cleaning fluids

Parent metal composition


This will have a major influence on hardenability and, with high cooling rates, the risk of forming a hard brittle structure in the HAZ. The hardenability of a material is usually expressed in terms of its carbon content or, when other elements are taken into account, its carbon equivalent (CE) value.

The higher the CE value, the greater the risk of hydrogen cracking. Generally, steels with a CE value of <0.4 are not susceptible to HAZ hydrogen cracking, as long as low hydrogen welding consumables or processes are used. Parent material thickness Material thickness will influence the cooling rate and therefore the hardness level, microstructure produced in the HAZ and the level of hydrogen retained in the weld. The 'combined thickness' of the joint, ie the sum of the thicknesses of material meeting at the joint line, will determine, together with the joint geometry, the cooling rate of the HAZ and its hardness. Consequently, as shown in Fig. 3, a fillet weld will have a greater risk than a butt weld in the same material thickness.

Fig.3 Combined thickness measurements for butt and fillet joints

Stresses acting on the weld


The stresses generated across the welded joint as it contracts will be greatly influenced by external restraint, material thickness, joint geometry and fit-up. Areas of stress concentration are more likely to initiate a crack at the toe and root of the weld. Poor fit-up in fillet welds markedly increases the risk of cracking. The degree of restraint acting on a joint will generally increase as welding progresses due to the increase in stiffness of the fabrication. Heat input The heat input to the material from the welding process, together with the material thickness and preheat temperature, will determine the thermal cycle and the resulting microstructure and hardness of both the HAZ and weld metal. A high heat input will reduce the hardness level, and therefore reduce the risk of HAZ cracking. However, as the diffusion distance for the escape of hydrogen from a weld bead increases with increasing heat input, the risk of weld metal cracking is increased. Heat input per unit length is calculated by multiplying the arc energy by an arc efficiency factor according to the following formula:

V = arc A = welding S = welding k = thermal efficiency factor

voltage current speed

(V) (A) (mm/min)

In calculating heat input, the arc efficiency must be taken into consideration. The arc efficiency factors given in EN 1011-1: 2001 for the principal arc welding processes, are:

Submerged arc (single wire) MMA MIG/MAG and flux cored wire TIG and plasma

1.0 0.8 0.8 0.6

In MMA welding, heat input is normally controlled by means of the run-out length from each electrode, which is proportional to the heat input. As the run-out length is the length of weld deposited from one electrode, it will depend upon the welding technique, e.g. weave width /dwell. 163

Defects - hydrogen cracks in steels prevention and best practice

Preheating of a jacket structure to prevent hydrogen cracking

Techniques and practical guidance on the avoidance of hydrogen cracks are described.

Preheating, interpass and post heating to prevent hydrogen cracking

There are three factors which combine to cause cracking in arc welding:

hydrogen generated by the welding process a hard brittle structure which is susceptible to cracking tensile stresses acting on the welded joint

Cracking generally occurs when the temperature has reached normal ambient. In practice, for a given situation (material composition, material thickness, joint type, electrode composition and heat input), the risk of hydrogen cracking is reduced by heating the joint.

Preheat, which slows the cooling rate, allows some hydrogen to diffuse away, and prevents a hard, crack-sensitive structure being formed. The recommended levels of preheat for carbon and carbon manganese steel are detailed in EN 1011-2: 2001 (which incorporates the nomograms from BS 5135). The preheat level may be as high as 200C for example, when welding thick section steels with a high carbon equivalent (CE) value.

Interpass and post heating


As cracking rarely occurs at temperatures above ambient, maintaining the temperature of the weldment during fabrication is equally important. For susceptible steels, it is usually appropriate to maintain the preheat temperature for a given period, typically between 2 to 3 hours, to enable the hydrogen to diffuse away from the weld area. In crack sensitive situations such as welding higher CE steels or under high restraint conditions, the temperature and heating period should be increased, typically 250-300C for three to four hours. Post-weld heat treatment (PWHT) may be used immediately on completion of welding, i.e. without allowing the preheat temperature to fall. However, in practice, as inspection can only be carried out at ambient temperature, there is the risk that 'rejectable,' defects will only be found after PWHT. Also, for highly hardenable steels, a second heat treatment may be required to temper the hard microstructure present after the first PWHT. Under certain conditions, more stringent procedures are needed to avoid cracking than those derived from the nomograms for estimating preheat in Fig. C2 of EN 1011-2. Section C.2.9 of this standard mentions the following conditions: a. high restraint, including welds in section thicknesses above approximately 50mm, and root runs in double bevel joints b. thick sections ( approximately 50mm) c. low carbon equivalent steels (CMn steels with C 0.1% and CE approximately 0.42) d. 'clean' or low sulphur steels (S approximately 0.008%), as a low sulphur and low oxygen content will increase the hardenability of a steel. e. alloyed weld metal where preheat levels to avoid HAZ cracking may be insufficient to protect the weld metal. Low hydrogen processes and consumables should be used. Schemes for predicting the preheat requirements to avoid weld metal cracking generally require the weld metal diffusible hydrogen level and the weld metal tensile strength as input.

Use of austenitic and nickel alloy weld metal to prevent cracking

In situations where preheating is impractical, or does not prevent cracking, it will be necessary to use an austenitic consumable. Austenitic stainless steel and nickel electrodes will produce a weld metal which at ambient temperature, has a higher solubility for hydrogen than ferritic steel. Thus, any hydrogen formed during welding becomes locked in the weld metal, with very little diffusing to the HAZ on cooling to ambient.


A commonly used austenitic MMA electrode is 23Cr:12Ni, e.g. from EN 1600: 1987. However, as nickel alloys have a lower coefficient of thermal expansion than stainless steel, nickel austenitic electrodes are preferred when welding highly restrained joints, to reduce the shrinkage strain. Figure 1 is a general guide on the levels of preheat when using austenitic electrodes. When welding steels with up to 0.2%C, a preheat would not normally be required. However, above 0.4%C a minimum temperature of 150C will be needed to prevent HAZ cracking. The influence of hydrogen level and the degree of restraint are also illustrated in the figure.


Guide to preheat temperature when using austenitic MMA electrodes at 1-2kJ/mm a) low restraint (e.g. material thickness <30mm) b) high restraint (e.g. material thickness >30mm)

Best practice in avoiding hydrogen cracking

Reduction in weld metal hydrogen
The most effective means of avoiding hydrogen cracking is to reduce the amount of hydrogen generated by the consumable, ie by using a low hydrogen process or low hydrogen electrodes. Welding processes can be classified as high, medium, low, very low and ultra low, depending on the amount of weld metal hydrogen produced. The weld metal diffusible hydrogen levels (ml/100g of deposited metal), and the hydrogen scale designations of EN 1011-2: 2001 are as follows:

High Medium Low

>15 10 5

Scale A Scale B Scale C


Very low Ultra-low

3 - 5 Scale D 3 Scale E

Figure 2 illustrates the relative amounts of weld metal hydrogen produced by the major welding processes. MMA, in particular, has the potential to generate a wide range of hydrogen levels. Thus, to achieve the lower values, it is essential that basic electrodes are used and they are baked in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations. For the MIG process, cleaner wires will be required to achieve very low hydrogen levels.


General relationships between potential hydrogen and weld metal hydrogen levels for arc welding processes

General guidelines
The following general guidelines are recommended for the various types of steel but requirements for specific steels should be checked according to EN 1011-2: 2001 Mild steel (CE <0.4) - readily weldable, preheat generally not required if low hydrogen processes or electrodes are used - preheat may be required when welding thick section material, high restraint and with higher levels of hydrogen being generated


C-Mn, medium carbon, low alloy steels (CE 0.4 to 0.5) - thin sections can be welded without preheat, but thicker sections will require low preheat levels, and low hydrogen processes or electrodes should be used Higher carbon and alloyed steels (CE >0.5) - preheat, low hydrogen processes or electrodes, post weld heating and slow cooling required. More detailed guidance on the avoidance of hydrogen cracking is described in EN 1011-2: 2000.

Practical Techniques
The following practical techniques are recommended to avoid hydrogen cracking:

clean the joint faces and remove contaminants such as paint, cutting oils, grease use a low hydrogen process, if possible dry the electrodes (MMA) or the flux (submerged arc) in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations reduce stresses on the weld by avoiding large root gaps and high restraint if preheating is specified in the welding procedure, it should also be applied when tacking or using temporary attachments preheat the joint to a distance of at least 75mm from the joint line, ensuring uniform heating through the thickness of the material measure the preheat temperature on the face opposite that being heated. Where this is impractical, allow time for the equalisation of temperature after removing the preheating before the temperature is measured adhere to the heat input requirements maintain heat for approximately two to four hours after welding, depending on crack sensitivity In situations where adequate preheating is impracticable, or cracking cannot be avoided, austenitic electrodes may be used

Acceptance standards
As hydrogen cracks are linear imperfections which have sharp edges, they are not permitted for welds meeting the quality levels B, C and D in accordance with the requirements of EN ISO 5817.

Detection and remedial action

As hydrogen cracks are often very fine and may be sub-surface, they can be difficult to detect. Surface-breaking hydrogen cracks can be readily detected using visual examination, liquid penetrant or magnetic particle testing techniques. Internal cracks require ultrasonic or radiographic examination techniques. Ultrasonic examination is


preferred as radiography is restricted to detecting relatively wide cracks parallel to the beam. Most codes will specify that all cracks should be removed. A cracked component should be repaired by removing the cracks with a safety margin of approximately 5mm beyond the visible ends of the crack. The excavation is then re-welded. To make sure that cracking does not re-occur, welding should be carried out with the correct procedure, ie preheat and an adequate heat input level for the material type and thickness. However, as the level of restraint will be greater and the interpass time shorter when welding within an excavation compared to welding the original joint, it is recommended that a higher level of preheat is used (typically by 50C).

BS 5135:1984 Arc Welding of Carbon and Carbon Manganese Steels (now superceded by EN 1011: 2001) EN 1011-1: 2001 Welding - Recommendations for Welding of Metallic Materials Part 1General Guidance for Arc Welding Part 2- Arc Welding of Ferritic Steels EN ISO 13916: 1997 Welding - Guidance on the Measurement of Preheating Temperature, Interpass Temperature and Preheat Maintenance Temperature EN ISO 5817: 2003 Welding - Fusion-welded joints in steel , nickel, titanium and their alloys (Beam welding excluded). Quality levels for imperfections

Defects - lamellar tearing

BP Forties platform lamellar tears were produced when attempting the repair of lack of root penetration in a brace weld


Lamellar tearing can occur beneath the weld especially in rolled steel plate which has poor through-thickness ductility. The characteristic features, principal causes and best practice in minimising the risk of lamellar tearing are described.

Visual appearance
The principal distinguishing feature of lamellar tearing is that it occurs in T-butt and fillet welds normally observed in the parent metal parallel to the weld fusion boundary and the plate surface , (Fig 1). The cracks can appear at the toe or root of the weld but are always associated with points of high stress concentration.

Fracture face
The surface of the fracture is fibrous and 'woody' with long parallel sections which are indicative of low parent metal ductility in the through-thickness direction, (Fig 2).

Fig. 1. Lamellar tearing in T butt weld


Fig. 2. Appearance of fracture face of lamellar tear

As lamellar tearing is associated with a high concentration of elongated inclusions oriented parallel to the surface of the plate, tearing will be transgranular with a stepped appearance.

It is generally recognised that there are three conditions which must be satisfied for lamellar tearing to occur: 1. Transverse strain - the shrinkage strains on welding must act in the short direction of the plate ie through the plate thickness 2. Weld orientation - the fusion boundary will be roughly parallel to the plane of the inclusions 3. Material susceptibility - the plate must have poor ductility in the throughthickness direction Thus, the risk of lamellar tearing will be greater if the stresses generated on welding act in the through-thickness direction. The risk will also increase the higher the level of weld metal hydrogen

Factors to be considered to reduce the risk of tearing


The choice of material, joint design, Fig. 3. Relationship between the STRA and welding process, consumables, sulphur content for 12.5 to 50mm thick plate preheating and buttering can all help reduce the risk of tearing.

Tearing is only encountered in rolled steel plate and not forgings and castings. There is no one grade of steel that is more prone to lamellar tearing but steels with a low Short Transverse Reduction in Area (STRA) will be susceptible. As a general rule, steels with STRA over 20% are essentially resistant to tearing whereas steels with below 10 to 15% STRA should only be used in lightly restrained joints (Fig. 3). Steels with a higher strength have a greater risk especially when the thickness is greater than 25mm. Aluminium treated steels with low sulphur contents (<0.005%) will have a low risk. Steel suppliers can provide plate which has been through-thickness tested with a guaranteed STRA value of over 20%.

Joint Design
Lamellar tearing occurs in joints producing high through-thickness strain, eg T joints or corner joints. In T or cruciform joints, full penetration butt welds will be particularly susceptible. The cruciform structures in which the susceptible plate cannot bend during welding will also greatly increase the risk of tearing. In butt joints, as the stresses on welding do not act through the thickness of the plate, there is little risk of lamellar tearing. As angular distortion can increase the strain in the weld root and or toe, tearing may also occur in thick section joints where the bending restraint is high. Several examples of good practice in the design of welded joints are illustrated in Fig. 4.

As tearing is more likely to occur in full penetration T butt joints, if possible, use two fillet welds, Fig. 4a.


Double-sided welds are less susceptible than large single-sided welds and balanced welding to reduce the stresses will further reduce the risk of tearing especially in the root, Fig. 4b Large single-side fillet welds should be replaced with smaller double-sided fillet welds, Fig. 4c Redesigning the joint configuration so that the fusion boundary is more normal to the susceptible plate surface will be particularly effective in reducing the risk, Fig. 4d

Fig. 4 Recommended joint configurations to reduce the risk of lamellar tearing

Fig. 4a

Fig. 4b

Fig. 4c

Fig. 4d


Weld size
Lamellar tearing is more likely to occur in large welds typically when the leg length in fillet and T butt joints is greater than 20mm. As restraint will contribute to the problem, thinner section plate which is less susceptible to tearing, may still be at risk in high restraint situations.

Welding process
As the material and joint design are the primary causes of tearing, the choice of welding process has only a relatively small influence on the risk. However, higher heat input processes which generate lower stresses through the larger HAZ and deeper weld penetration can be beneficial. As weld metal hydrogen will increase the risk of tearing, a low hydrogen process should be used when welding susceptible steels.

Where possible, the choice of a lower strength consumable can often reduce the risk by accommodating more of the strain in the weld metal. A smaller diameter electrode which can be used to produce a smaller leg length, has been used to prevent tearing. A low hydrogen consumable will reduce the risk by reducing the level of weld metal diffusible hydrogen. The consumables must be dried in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations.

Preheating will have a beneficial effect in reducing the level of weld metal diffusible hydrogen. However, it should be noted that in a restrained joint, excessive preheating could have a detrimental effect by increasing the level the level of restraint produced by the contraction across the weld on cooling. Preheating should, therefore, be used to reduce the hydrogen level but it should be applied so that it will not increase the amount of contraction across the weld.

Buttering the surface of the susceptible plate with a low strength weld metal has been widely employed. As shown for the example of a T butt weld (Fig. 5) the surface of the plate may be grooved so that the buttered layer will extend 15 to 25mm beyond each weld toe and be about 5 to 10mm thick.


Fig. 5. Buttering with low strength weld metal

a) general deposit on the surface of the susceptible plate

b) in-situ buttering

In-situ buttering ie where the low strength weld metal is deposited first on the susceptible plate before filling the joint, has also been successfully applied. However, before adopting this technique, design calculations should be carried out to ensure that the overall weld strength will be acceptable.

Acceptance standards
As lamellar tears are linear imperfections which have sharp edges, they are not permitted for welds meeting the quality levels B, C and D in accordance with the requirements of BS EN 25817 (ISO 5817).

Detection and remedial action

If surface-breaking, lamellar tears can be readily detected using visual examination, liquid penetrant or magnetic particle testing techniques. Internal cracks require ultrasonic examination techniques but there may be problems in distinguishing lamellar tears from inclusion bands. The orientation of the tears normally makes them almost impossible to detect by radiography.


Defects/imperfections in welds - reheat cracking

Location of reheat cracks in a nuclear pressure vessel steel

The characteristic features and principal causes of reheat cracking are described. General guidelines on best practice are given so that welders can minimise the risk of reheat cracking in welded fabrications.

Visual appearance
Reheat cracking may occur in low alloy steels containing alloying additions of chromium, vanadium and molybdenum when the welded component is being subjected to post weld heat treatment, such as stress relief heat treatment, or has been subjected to high temperature service (typically 350 to 550C). Cracking is almost exclusively found in the coarse grained regions of the heat affected zone (HAZ) beneath the weld, or cladding, and in the coarse grained regions within the weld metal. The cracks can often be seen visually, usually associated with areas of stress concentration such as the weld toe. Cracking may be in the form of coarse macro-cracks or colonies of micro-cracks. A macro-crack will appear as a 'rough' crack, often with branching, following the coarse grain region, ( Fig. 1a). Cracking is always intergranular along the prior austenite grain boundaries ( Fig. 1b). Macro-cracks in the weld metal can be oriented either longitudinal


or transverse to the direction of welding. Cracks in the HAZ, however, are always parallel to the direction of welding.


Cracking associated with the coarse grained heat affected zone


Intergranular morphology of reheat cracks

Micro-cracking can also be found both in the HAZ and within the weld metal. Microcracks in multipass welds will be found associated with the grain coarsened regions which have not been refined by subsequent passes.

The principal cause is that when heat treating susceptible steels, the grain interior becomes strengthened by carbide precipitation, forcing the relaxation of residual stresses by creep deformation at the grain boundaries.


The presence of impurities which segregate to the grain boundaries and promote temper embrittlement, e.g. sulphur, arsenic, tin and phosphorus, will increase the susceptibility to reheat cracking. The joint design can increase the risk of cracking. For example, joints likely to contain stress concentration, such as partial penetration welds, are more liable to initiate cracks. The welding procedure also has an influence. Large weld beads are undesirable, as they produce a coarse grained HAZ which is less likely to be refined by the subsequent pass, and therefore will be more susceptible to reheat cracking.

Best practice in prevention

The risk of reheat cracking can be reduced through the choice of steel, specifying the maximum impurity level and by adopting a more tolerant welding procedure / technique.

Steel choice
If possible, avoid welding steels known to be susceptible to reheat cracking. For example, A 508 Class 2 is known to be particularly susceptible to reheat cracking, whereas cracking associated with welding and cladding in A508 Class 3 is largely unknown. The two steels have similar mechanical properties, but A508 Class 3 has a lower Cr content and a higher manganese content. Similarly, in the higher strength, creep resistant steels, an approximate ranking of their crack susceptibility is as follows:

5 Cr 1Mo 2.25Cr 1 Mo 0.5Mo B

lower risk

0.5Cr 0.5Mo 0.25V higher risk Thus, in selecting a creep resistant, chromium molybdenum steel, 0.5Cr 0.5Mo 0.25V steel is known to be susceptible to reheat cracking but the 2.25Cr 1Mo which has a similar creep resistance, is significantly less susceptible. Unfortunately, although some knowledge has been gained on the susceptibility of certain steels, the risk of cracking cannot be reliably predicted from the chemical composition. Various indices, including G1, P SR and Rs, have been used to indicate the susceptibility of steel to reheat cracking. Steels which have a value of G1 of less than 2, P SR less than zero or Rs less than 0.03, are less susceptible to reheat cracking 178

G1 = 10C + Cr + 3.3Mo + 8.1V - 2 P SR Rs = Cr +Cu + 2Mo + 10V +7Nb + 5Ti - 2 = 0.12Cu +0.19S +0.10As + P +1.18Sn + 1.49Sb

Irrespective of the steel type, it is important to purchase steels specified to have low levels of impurity elements (antimony, arsenic, tin, sulphur and phosphorus).

Welding procedure and technique

The welding procedure can be used to minimise the risk of reheat cracking by

Producing the maximum refinement of the coarse grain HAZ Limiting the degree of austenite grain growth Eliminating stress concentrations

The procedure should aim to refine the coarse grained HAZ by subsequent passes. In butt welds, maximum refinement can be achieved by using a steep sided joint preparation with a low angle of attack to minimise penetration into the sidewall, ( Fig 2a). In comparison, a larger angle V preparation produces a wider HAZ, limiting the amount of refinement achieved by subsequent passes, ( Fig 2b). Narrow joint preparations, however, are more difficult to weld, due to the increased risk of lack of sidewall fusion.


Welding in the flat position - high degree of HAZ refinement



Welding in the horizontal/vertical position - low degree of HAZ refinement

Refinement of the HAZ can be promoted by first buttering the surface of the susceptible plate with a thin weld metal layer using a small diameter (3.2mm) electrode. The joint is then completed using a larger diameter (4 - 4.8mm) electrode which is intended to generate sufficient heat to refine any remaining coarse grained HAZ under the buttered layer. The degree of austenite grain growth can be restricted by using a low heat input. However, precautionary measures may be necessary to avoid the risk of hydrogen assisted cracking and lack-of-fusion defects. For example, reducing the heat input will almost certainly require a higher preheat temperature to avoid hydrogen assisted cracking. The joint design and welding technique adopted should ensure that the weld is free from localised stress concentrations which can arise from the presence of notches. Stress concentrations may be produced in the following situations:

welding with a backing bar a partial penetration weld leaving a root imperfection internal weld imperfections such as lack of sidewall fusion the weld has a poor surface profile, especially sharp weld toes

The weld toes of the capping pass are particularly vulnerable, as the coarse grained HAZ may not have been refined by subsequent passes. In susceptible steel, the last pass should never be deposited on the parent material, but always on the weld metal, so that it will refine the HAZ. Grinding the weld toes with the preheat maintained has been successfully used to reduce the risk of cracking in 0.5Cr 0.5Mo 0.25V steels.


Oxyfuel cutting - process and fuel gases

Mechanised oxyacetylene cutting system

The oxyfuel process is the most widely applied industrial thermal cutting process because it can cut thicknesses from 0.5mm to 2,500mm, the equipment is low cost and can be used manually or mechanised. There are several fuel gas and nozzle design options that can significantly enhance performance in terms of cut quality and cutting speed.

Process fundamentals
The cutting process is illustrated in Fig. 1. Basically, a mixture of oxygen and the fuel gas is used to preheat the metal to its 'ignition' temperature which, for steel, is 700C 900C (bright red heat) but well below its melting point. A jet of pure oxygen is then directed into the preheated area instigating a vigorous exothermic chemical reaction between the oxygen and the metal to form iron oxide or slag. The oxygen jet blows away the slag enabling the jet to pierce through the material and continue to cut through the material.


Fig.1. Diagram of oxyacetylene cutting process

There are four basic requirements for oxy-fuel cutting:

the ignition temperature of the material must be lower than its melting point otherwise the material would melt and flow away before cutting could take place the oxide melting point must be lower than that of the surrounding material so that it can be mechanically blown away by the oxygen jet the oxidation reaction between the oxygen jet and the metal must be sufficient to maintain the ignition temperature a minimum of gaseous reaction products should be produced so as not to dilute the cutting oxygen

As stainless steel, cast iron and non-ferrous metals form refractory oxides ie the oxide melting point is higher than the material, powder must be injected into the flame to form a low melting point, fluid slag.

Purity of oxygen
The cutting speed and cut edge quality are primarily determined by the purity of the oxygen stream. Thus, nozzle design plays a significant role in protecting the oxygen stream from air entrainment. The purity of oxygen should be at least 99.5%. A decrease in purity of 1% will typically reduce the cutting speed by 25% and increase the gas consumption by 25%.


Choice of fuel gas

Fuel gas combustion occurs in two distinct zones. In the inner cone or primary flame, the fuel gas combines with oxygen to form carbon monoxide and hydrogen which for acetylene, the reaction is given by 2C H + 2O
2 2 2

4CO + 2H

Combustion also continues in the secondary or outer zone of the flame with oxygen being supplied from the air. 4CO+2H +3O
2 2

4CO +2H O
2 2

Thus, fuel gases are characterised by their

flame temperature - the hottest part of the flame is at the tip of the primary flame (inner cone) fuel gas to oxygen ratio - the amount of fuel gas required for combustion but this will vary according to whether the flame is neutral, oxidising or reducing heat of combustion - heat of combustion is greater in the outer part of the flame

The five most commonly used fuel gases are acetylene, propane, MAPP (methylacetylene-propadiene), propylene and natural gas. The properties of the gases are given in the Table. The relative performance of the fuel gases in terms of pierce time, cutting speed and cut edge quality, is determined by the flame temperature and heat distribution within the inner and out flame cones.

Acetylene produces the highest flame temperature of all the fuel gases. The maximum flame temperature for acetylene (in oxygen) is approximately 3,160C compared with a maximum temperature of 2,810C with propane. The hotter flame produces more rapid piercing of the materials with the pierce time being typically one third that produced with propane. The higher flame speed (7.4m/s compared with 3.3m/s for propane) and the higher calorific value of the primary flame (inner cone) (18,890kJ/m compared with 10,433 kJ/m for propane) produce a more intense flame at the surface of the metal reducing the width of the Heat Affected Zone (HAZ) and the degree of distortion.
3 3

Propane produces a lower flame temperature than acetylene (the maximum flame temperature in oxygen is 2,828C compared with 3,160C for acetylene). It has a greater total heat of combustion than acetylene but the heat is generated mostly in the outer cone 183

( see Table). The characteristic appearance of the flames for acetylene and propane are shown in Figs.2 and 3 where the propane flame appears to be less focused. Consequently, piercing is much slower but as the burning and slag formation are effected by the oxygen jet, cutting speeds are about the same as for acetylene. Propane has a greater stoichiometric oxygen requirement than acetylene; for the maximum flame temperature in oxygen, the ratio of the volume of oxygen to fuel gas are 1.2 to 1 for acetylene and 4.3 to 1 for propane.


Ocyacetylene gas jet and nozzle design

Fig.3. Propane gas jet and nozzle design

MAPP gas is a mixture of various hydrocarbons, principally, methylacetylene and propadiene. It produces a relatively hot flame (2,976C) with a high heat release in the


primary flame (inner cone) (15,445kJ/m ), less than for acetylene (18,890kJm ) but much higher than for propane (10,433kJm ). The secondary flame (outer cone) also gives off a high heat release, similar to propane and natural gas. The combination of a lower flame temperature, more distributed heat source and larger gas flows compared with acetylene results in a substantially slower pierce time.
3 3 3

As MAPP gas can be used at a higher pressure than acetylene, it can be used for underwater cutting in deep water as it is less likely to dissociate into its components of carbon and hydrogen which are explosive.

Propylene is a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) product and has a similar flame temperature to MAPP (2896C compared to 2,976C for MAPP); it is hotter than propane, but not as hot as acetylene. It gives off a high heat release in the outer cone (72,000kJ/m ) but, like propane, it has the disadvantage of having a high stoichiometric fuel gas requirement (oxygen to oxygen ratio of approximately 3.7 to 1 by volume).

Natural Gas
Natural gas has the lowest flame temperature similar to propane and the lowest total heat value of the commonly used fuel gases, eg for the inner flame 1,490kJ/m compared with 18,890kJ/m for acetylene. Consequently, natural gas is the slowest for piercing.
3 3

Table : Fuel Gas Characteristics Fuel Gas Maximum Flame Oxygen to fuel gas Heat distribution Temperature C Ratio (vol) kJ/m3 Primary Secondary Acetylene Propane MAPP Propylene Hydrogen 3,160 2,810 2,927 2,872 2,834 1.2:1 4.3:1 3.3:1 3.7:1 0.42:1 1.8:1 18,890 10,433 15,445 16,000 1,490 35,882 85,325 56,431 72,000 35,770

Natural Gas 2,770


Rough-cut gear oxyacetylene




Cutting processes application of oxyfuel cutting

Oxyfuel is one of the most widely used cutting processes with the following benefits:

Low cost equipment Basic equipment suitable for cutting, gouging and other jobs such as welding and heating Portable, suitable for site work Manual and mechanised operations Mild and low alloy steels (but not aluminium or stainless steel) Wide range of thickness (typically from 1mm to 1000mm)

It is therefore not surprising that the process can be used for a diverse range of applications from manual rough severing and scrap cutting to precision contour cutting in fully automated systems. Here, the process application is described including the choice of fuel gas and nozzle design to maximise performance. Best practice to ensure adequate quality of the cut surface is also included.

Choice of fuel gas

Basically, a mixture of oxygen and a fuel gas (acetylene, propane, MAPP propylene or methane) is used to preheat the metal to its 'ignition' temperature which is well below its melting point. A jet of pure oxygen is then directed into the preheated area which burns through the spot and the resulting molten metal and slag are removed by the high velocity oxygen stream. The cutting speed is primarily determined by the oxygen jet but as the outer fuel gas/oxygen flame determines the rate of preheating, the choice of fuel gas has a significant influence on the time taken to initiate the cutting operation. This is especially important if the designed cut begins by piercing. The choice of fuel gas is largely made on cost, performance, ease of use and whether it is a manual or mechanised operation. However, in making the choice it should be noted that in a typical application the cost is made up of approximately:

50% overheads 30% handling labour 18% cutting labour 1-2% gas


Consideration should, therefore, be given to the choice of fuel gas type and nozzle design to speed up the initiation of the cutting operation. Labour costs can be reduced by decreasing the pierce time and/or increasing the cutting speed. Typical flame temperatures and fuel gas to oxygen ratios are shown in Fig. 1. Generally, fuel gases which generate a higher flame temperature and require a lower oxygen to fuel gas ratio, will speed up the cutting operation.

Fig. 1. Flame temperature and the fuel gas to oxygen ratio

Acetylene produces the highest flame temperature of all the fuel gases and generates a highly focused flame. As the pierce time is approximately one third that achieved with propane, it should be used when the pierce time is a significant proportion of the total cutting time, for example, short cuts and multi-pierce cutting operations The high temperature, highly focused flame makes the oxyacetylene process ideal for cutting thin sheets with minimum distortion and for bevel cutting. However, the high cost and low heat generation make it less suitable for general heating of large plates.

Propane is low cost and has the advantage of being available in bulk supplies. The flame temperature is lower than for acetylene (the maximum flame temperature in oxygen is 2810C compared with 3160C for acetylene) which makes piercing much slower.


However, it can tolerate a greater nozzle to workpiece distance which reduces the risk of molten metal splashing back onto the nozzle and causing a 'backfire'. For similar nozzle designs, cutting speeds for oxypropane and oxyacetylene are similar. Advantages claimed for propane are smooth cut edge, less slag adhesion and lower plate edge hardening because of the lower flame temperature. The heat affected zone is much wider than for oxyacetylene.

MAPP gas, which is a mixture of various hydrocarbons, principally, methylacetylene and propadiene, produces a relatively hot flame (2927C). However, the lower calorific value of the inner cone compared with acetylene gives a slightly slower pierce time. The gas is seen as an alternative to acetylene with greater tolerance to torch distance variation because of the more uniformly distributed heat between the inner and the outer cones. Only acetylene, hydrogen and MAPP have sufficiently high flame temperature for underwater cutting. But as acetylene has a limited outlet pressure, MAPP is the only gas other than hydrogen that can be used for cutting in deep water.

Propylene is a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) product and has a similar flame temperature to MAPP (2896C compared to 2976C for MAPP). It gives off a high heat release in the outer cone (72,000 kJ/m3) but, like propane, it has the disadvantage of having a high stoichiometric oxygen requirement (oxygen to fuel gas ratio of approximately 3.7 to 1 by volume).

Methane has the lowest flame temperature similar to propane and the lowest total heat value of the commonly used fuel gases. Consequently, natural gas is the slowest for piercing.

Cutting torch
The cutting torch design can be either nozzle mix or injector. In the nozzle mix torch, the fuel gas and pre-heat oxygen are mixed in the nozzle. In the injector torch, the pre-heat gases mix either in the body of the torch, within the gas delivery tubes, or within the head of the torch. Injector torches have the advantage of being able to use the higher pressure of oxygen to pull the fuel into the torch. This allows the torch to be used at low fuel gas pressures or with large pressure drops such as those experienced through long hose lengths.


The primary functions of the nozzle are to provide:

a method of preheating the metal to its ignition temperature a jet of oxygen to react with the material to be cut and at a flow rate sufficient to blow away the slag

Each torch should be fitted with the appropriate nozzle for the type of fuel gas. Nozzles can be of a one- or two-piece design. The nozzle type will depend on:

fuel gas manual or machine operation manufacturer's preference

Acetylene nozzles are usually one-piece but two-piece nozzles similar to those for other fuel gases are produced for machine cutting. The diameter of the cutting oxygen hole is selected according to the material thickness. There are two types of nozzle; standard and high speed. The standard nozzle usually has a parallel sided, central bore for the oxygen jet, which is surrounded by an annulus or a ring of smaller diameter ports for the pre-heating gas mixture, Fig. 2. There are many designs and arrangements of the preheating ports that focus the flame for heating and to protect the oxygen jet from air entrainment.

Fig. 2. Standard nozzle with central bore for oxygen jet and a ring of ports for the pre-heating gas mixture

High-speed nozzles are capable of being used with higher oxygen pressures, up to 10 bar. The essential difference is that the cutting oxygen is forced through a convergent / divergent orifice which speeds up the gas flow rate to near supersonic levels. High-speed nozzles are primarily used in mechanised equipment to exploit the higher speeds for cutting long lengths.

Best practice

Cutting conditions are normally set to produce an acceptable cut surface finish for the application but at the highest cutting speed. It is, therefore, essential that consideration is given to the following settings for the material thickness and the cutting speed: nozzle distance - too high or too low will disturb oxygen flow preheat flame - too high a flow can cause top edge melting cutting oxygen - too low a flow can cause poor slag removal - too high a flow can result in poor cut finish The typical appearances of a good and poor quality cut surface for manual cutting are shown in Fig.3. The principal features are described together with their cause and remedial measures necessary to produce the ideal square edge, smooth surface cut.

Fig. 3. Best practice guide for hand cutting Surface Appearance Features Square edge, smooth cut surface, underside free of slag, small drag lines Cutting Too Fast Coarse drag lines at angle to surface with excessive amount of slag sticking to bottom edge of plate Oxygen jet trailing with insufficient oxygen reaching bottom of the cut Cause

Ideal Cut Profile

Too high nozzle to plate distance


Uneven cut surface with heavy melting of top edge, coarse drag lines at bottom cut surface Excessive slag adhering to cut face, local gouging, excessive top edge melting

Preheat is not focused on plate surface, oxygen jet easily disturbed

Too High Oxygen Flow Turbulence between the preheat flame and the cutting jet

Cutting processes plasma arc cutting - process and equipment considerations

Photo courtesy: Goodwin Plasma

The plasma arc process has always been seen as an alternative to the oxy-fuel process. In this part of the series the process fundamentals are described with emphasis being placed on the operating features and the advantages of the many process variants.

Process fundamentals
The plasma arc cutting process is illustrated in Fig. 1. The basic principle is that the arc formed between the electrode and the workpiece is constricted by a fine bore, copper nozzle. This increases the temperature and velocity of the plasma emanating from the nozzle. The temperature of the plasma is in excess of 20 000C and the velocity can approach the speed of sound. When used for cutting, the plasma gas flow is increased so


that the deeply penetrating plasma jet cuts through the material and molten material is removed in the efflux plasma.

Fig.1. The plasma arc cutting process

The process differs from the oxy-fuel process in that the plasma process operates by using the arc to melt the metal whereas in the oxy-fuel process, the oxygen oxidises the metal and the heat from the exothermic reaction melts the metal. Thus, unlike the oxyfuel process, the plasma process can be applied to cutting metals which form refractory oxides such as stainless steel, aluminium, cast iron and non-ferrous alloys.

Power source
The power source required for the plasma arc process must have a drooping characteristic and a high voltage. Although the operating voltage to sustain the plasma is typically 50 to 60V, the open circuit voltage needed to initiate the arc can be up to 400V DC. On initiation, the pilot arc is formed within the body of the torch between the electrode and the nozzle. For cutting, the arc must be transferred to the workpiece in the so-called 'transferred' arc mode. The electrode has a negative polarity and the workpiece a positive polarity so that the majority of the arc energy (approximately two thirds) is used for cutting.

Gas composition
In the conventional system using a tungsten electrode, the plasma is inert, formed using either argon, argon-H or nitrogen. However, as described in Process variants, oxidising gases, such as air or oxygen, can be used but the electrode must be copper with hafnium.


The plasma gas flow is critical and must be set according to the current level and the nozzle bore diameter. If the gas flow is too low for the current level, or the current level too high for the nozzle bore diameter, the arc will break down forming two arcs in series, electrode to nozzle and nozzle to workpiece. The effect of 'double arcing' is usually catastrophic with the nozzle melting.

Cut quality
The quality of the plasma cut edge is similar to that achieved with the oxy-fuel process. However, as the plasma process cuts by melting, a characteristic feature is the greater degree of melting towards the top of the metal resulting in top edge rounding, poor edge squareness or a bevel on the cut edge. As these limitations are associated with the degree of constriction of the arc, several torch designs are available to improve arc constriction to produce more uniform heating at the top and bottom of the cut.

Process variants
The process variants, Figs. 2a to 2e, have principally been designed to improve cut quality and arc stability, reduce the noise and fume or to increase cutting speed. Fig.2a. dual gas

Dual gas
The process operates basically in the same manner as the conventional system but a secondary gas shield is introduced around the nozzle, Fig. 2a. The beneficial effects of the secondary gas are increased arc constriction and more effective 'blowing away' of the dross. The plasma forming gas is normally argon, argon-H2 or nitrogen and the secondary gas is selected according to the metal being cut. Steel air, oxygen, nitrogen Stainless steel nitrogen, argon-H , CO

Aluminium argon-H2, nitrogen / CO The advantages compared with conventional plasma are:

Reduced risk of 'double arcing' Higher cutting speeds Reduction in top edge rounding


Fig.2b. water injection

Water injection
Nitrogen is normally used as the plasma gas. Water is injected radially into the plasma arc, Fig. 2b, to induce a greater degree of constriction. The temperature is also considerably increased, to as high as 30,000C. The advantages compared with conventional plasma are:

Improvement in cut quality and squareness of cut Increased cutting speeds Less risk of 'double arcing' Reduction in nozzle erosion Fig.2c. water shrouded

Water shroud
The plasma can be operated either with a water shroud, Fig. 2c, or even with the workpiece submerged some 50 to 75mm below the surface of the water. Compared with conventional plasma, the water acts as a barrier to provide the following advantages:

Fume reduction Reduction in noise levels Improved nozzle life

In a typical example of noise levels at high current levels of 115dB for conventional plasma, a water shroud was effective in reducing the noise level to about 96dB and cutting under water down to 52 to 85dB. As the water shroud does not increase the degree of constriction, squareness of the cut edge and the cutting speed are not noticeably improved.

Air plasma


Fig.2d. air plasma

The inert or unreactive plasma forming gas (argon or nitrogen) can be replaced with air but this requires a special electrode of hafnium or zirconium mounted in a copper holder, Fig. 2d. The air can also replace water for cooling the torch. The advantage of an air plasma torch is that it uses air instead of expensive gases. It should be noted that although the electrode and nozzle are the only consumables, hafnium tipped electrodes can be expensive compared with tungsten electrodes.

High tolerance plasma

Fig.2e. high tolerance

In an attempt to improve cut quality and to compete with the superior cut quality of laser systems, High Tolerance Plasma Arc cutting (HTPAC) systems are available which operate with a highly constricted plasma. Focusing of the plasma is effected by forcing the oxygen generated plasma to swirl as it enters the plasma orifice and a secondary flow of gas is injected downstream of the plasma nozzle, Fig. 2e. Some systems have a separate magnetic field surrounding the arc. This stabilises the plasma jet by maintaining the rotation induced by the swirling gas. The advantages of HTPAC systems are:

Cut quality lies between a conventional plasma arc cut and laser beam cut Narrow kerf width Less distortion due to smaller heat affected zone

HTPAC is a mechanised technique requiring precision, high-speed equipment. The main disadvantages are that the maximum thickness is limited to about 6mm and the cutting speed is generally lower than conventional plasma processes and approximately 60 to 80% the speed of laser cutting.

Cutting processes - laser cutting


Cut section of ellipse in flat plate

Coined from the words Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation lasers have been a byword for efficiency and quality in materials processing since their advent in the sixties. They offered an entirely new form of energy which in turn lent itself to uses in manufacturing, medicine and communications. Able to heat, melt and even vaporise material lasers are seen as the ideal medium for combining intense but controllable energy. By far the most popular use of the laser, particularly the carbon dioxide laser, is for cutting.

Laser cutting
It is largely a thermal process in which a focused laser beam is used to melt material in a localised area. A co-axial gas jet is used to eject the molten material from the cut and leave a clean edge. A continuous cut is produced by moving the laser beam or workpiece under CNC control The process also lends itself to automation with offline CAD/CAM systems controlling either 3-axis flat bed systems or 6-axis robots for three dimensional laser cutting. The improvements in accuracy, edge squareness and heat input control means that other profiling techniques such as plasma cutting and oxy-fuel cutting are being replaced by laser cutting.

Cutting characteristics Benefits Cuts carbon manganese steels up to High quality cut - no finishing 20mm Ultra flexible - simple or complex Cuts stainless steel up to 12mm parts Cuts aluminium up to 10mm Non contact - no surface Cuts brass and titanium blemishing Quick set up - small batches Low heat input - small HAZ, low Cuts thermoplastics, wood and many distortion non-metals

Lends itself to nearly all materials


What's the relationship between the lens used and the thickness of cut?
The laser cutting process involves focusing a laser beam, usually with a lens, to a small spot which has sufficient power density to produce a laser cut. The lens is defined by its focal length, which is the distance from the lens to the focused spot. However, the critical factors which determine the selection of the lens are the focused spot diameter, d, and the depth of focus, L. The depth of focus is the effective distance over which satisfactory cutting can be achieved. It can be defined as the distance over which the focused spot size does not increase beyond 5%. For a given beam diameter, as the focal length becomes shorter the focused spot diameter and the depth of focus also both become smaller. The size of the actual spot is also dependent on the raw beam diameter, D. As this increases, for a given lens, the focused spot size decreases. To allow comparison between lasers with different beam diameters we therefore use a factor called the focus f-number, which is the focal length, F, divided by the incoming raw beam diameter, D. As we are generally unable to alter the raw beam diameter we select the correct lens to give us a focus beam of the required type. The requirements for cutting are high power density, and therefore small focused spot size but with a long depth of focus, and therefore the ability to process thicker materials with a reasonable tolerance to focus position variation. These two requirements are in conflict with each other and therefore a compromise must be made. The only other consideration is that the shorter the focal length, the closer the lens is to the workpiece, and therefore more likely to be damaged by spatter from the cutting process. For typical CO laser cutting systems focal lengths can be selected in the range from 2 / inches up to 10 inches, which are equivalent to f-numbers between two and ten, depending on the beam diameter.
2 1 2

In practice a 5 inch lens could cut up to around half inch thick steel before a longer lens would be required to provide a greater depth of focus. However on thin sheet material, for example 1mm, a shorter focal length may offer significantly higher cutting speeds, or allow more intricate detail to be produced.


In fact it would be possible to optimise focal length for each material thickness, but this would involve additional set up time when changing from one job to the next, which would have to be balanced against the increased speed. In reality lens changing is avoided and a compromise cutting speed used, unless a specific job has special requirements .

Just how flexible are they?

Most laser cutting machines are 3-axis systems, that is X-Y, two dimensional positioning control with a Z-axis height control. There are however a number of ways of achieving the X-Y movement, either moving the laser head, moving the workpiece or a combination of both. The most popular approach is known as a 'flying optics' system where the workpiece remains stationary and mirrors are moved in both X and Y axes. The advantages of this approach are that the motors are always moving a known, fixed mass. This can often be much heavier than the workpiece, but it is easier to predict and control. As the workpiece is not moved, this also means that there is no real limit to sheet weight. The disadvantage of flying optics is the variation in beam size, as a laser beam is never perfectly parallel, but actually diverges slightly as it leaves the laser. This means that without controlling the divergence, there may be some variation in cutting performance between different parts of the table, due to a change in raw beam size. This effect can be reduced by adding a re-collimating optic, or some systems even use adaptive mirror control. The alternative is a 'fixed optic' system where the laser head remains stationary and the workpiece is moved in both X and Y axes. This is the ideal situation optically, but the worst situation mechanically, especially for heavier sheets. For relatively light sheet weights, a fixed optic system can be a viable option, but as the sheet weight increases, accurately positioning the material at high speed can be a problem. The third option is known as a 'hybrid' system, where the laser head is moved in one axis and the material moved in the other axis. This is often an improvement over fixed optics, but still suffers from difficulties with heavier sheet weights.

What difficulties does reflection cause?


Amada LCV laser cutting machine with All metals are reflective to CO laser beams, autostorage and pallet changer system until a certain power density threshold value is reached. Courtesy of Amada UK Ltd

Aluminium is more reflective than carbon manganese steel or stainless steel and has the potential to cause damage to the laser itself. Most laser cutting machines use a laser beam aligned normal to a flat sheet of material. This means that should the laser beam be reflected by the flat sheet it can be transmitted back through the beam delivery optics, and into the laser itself, potentially causing significant damage. This reflection does not come entirely from the sheet surface, but is caused by the formation of a molten pool which can be highly reflective. For this reason simply spraying the sheet surface with a non-reflective coating will not entirely eliminate the problem. As a general rule the addition of alloying elements reduces the reflectivity of aluminium to the laser, so pure aluminium is harder to process than a more traditional 5000 series alloy. With good, consistent cutting parameters the likelihood of a reflection can be reduced to almost zero, depending on the materials used. However it is still necessary to be able to prevent damage to the laser while developing the conditions or if something goes wrong with the equipment. The 'aluminium cutting system' which most modern equipment uses is actually a way of protecting the laser rather than an innovative technique for cutting. This system usually takes the form of a back reflection system that can detect if too much laser radiation is being reflected back through the optics. This will often automatically stop the laser, before any major damage is caused. Without this system there are risks with processing aluminium as there is no way of detecting if potentially hazardous reflections are occurring.


Job knowledge for welders - Laser cutting: process variants

Laser cutting offers a high precision, CNC controlled method of cutting plastic, metallic and thin ceramic components. It is a mechanised, thermal, non-contact process capable of cutting most materials with a high degree of precision and accuracy. There are two commonly used types of industrial cutting laser, CO and Nd:YAG. These differ in that the wavelength of infrared light produced is 10.6m for CO lasers and 1.06m for Nd:YAG lasers. Both these types of lasers produce the cut by focusing a beam of monochromatic light to a very small spot size by lenses and mirrors giving power densities in the up to 10 W/mm . This power density is sufficient to melt locally or even vaporise most materials. Once a through thickness zone of molten or vaporised material is generated (a keyhole), a jet of assist gas, delivered co-axially through the cutting nozzle, is used to eject this material from the kerf. (Fig 1).
2 2 5 2

Fig.1. Laser cutting head

The characteristics of the laser cutting process relate to the fact that the beam can be focused to a spot of less than 0.5mm diameter to achieve these very high power densities. The resulting cut edge is very square and the process is capable of cutting at very high speeds. The combination of an intensely concentrated heat source moving at high speeds also results in very little heat being transmitted to the surrounding material and, therefore, very little thermal distortion of parts. The difference in wavelength between the two types of lasers is significant in that the shorter wavelength of the Nd:YAG laser enables the light to be transmitted to the workpiece by fibre optics allowing three dimensional cutting or trimming of parts. 200

Light from CO lasers on the other hand are transmitted to the workpiece by mirrors or transmissive optics. Although three dimensional cutting systems are available for CO lasers they are relatively cumbersome compared to fibre delivered Nd:YAG lasers and CO lasers are more commonly used for two dimensional flat bed cutting.
2 2

Assist gases
The types of assist gases used to eject the material from the kerf can be classified as either reactive or inert. The CO gas used in CO lasers is not the assist gas, but one of the gases excited to produce the laser light in the lasing cavity, usually quite a distance from the cutting process head. The most commonly used reactive assist gases are oxygen or air. Oxygen is used primarily for cutting low alloy steels and readily reacts with iron at high temperatures producing additional heat energy which enables thicker parts to be cut or greater speeds to be achieved. This gas is delivered at relatively low pressures and flow rates and the process is referred to as 'low pressure oxygen cutting'.
2 2

Inert assist gases commonly used are either nitrogen or argon. These provide no thermal assistance to the cutting process and are used simply to blow the molten material out of the kerf. They are used at pressures of around 10 bar and the process is referred to as 'high pressure inert gas cutting'. Inert gases can be used for alloys which readily oxidise in the presence of oxygen such as stainless steel, aluminium or titanium to give a very bright and clean cut edge. Occasionally, inert gases are recommended for cutting low alloy steels where the edges are to be subsequently laser welded. This reduces the formation of an oxidised layer on the face of the cut edge and will reduce porosity in the resulting weld.

Cut quality
The precision or dimensional accuracy of a cut is important as it helps to ensure correct part tolerances and fit-up, thus eliminating rework or secondary processing operations further down the production line. The main criteria used to assess the quality of a cut, together with typical values for lasers areas follows.

Defined as the width of the cut at its widest point in millimetres, the kerf gives an indication of the minimum internal radius or feature that can be cut. Laser cuts possess a narrow to very narrow kerf width (0.5-1.0mm) for CO and Nd:YAG lasers respectively.

Cut edge roughness, Rz,mm

Cut edge roughness is used to define the cosmetic appearance of a cut and can give an indication of whether subsequent machining operations are necessary. It is determined by an Rz value in microns (also known as the ISO 10 point height parameter). This is a measure of the surface roughness transverse to the cut edge produced by traversing at 2/3


depth with a stylus and taking an average value. Both CO and Nd:YAG processes produce cuts with a low edge roughness (<50m).

Cut edge squareness, U

Edge squareness is of interest because it gives an indication of the fit-up between two components and whether any post cutting machining operations will be necessary. It is defined in terms of the Perpendicularity and Angularity tolerance, U (mm). This is a measure, in millimetres, of how much the cut edge deviates from a perfect square edge. CO and Nd:YAG lasers are capable of producing cuts with good edge squareness (<0.5mm). This is highlighted in Fig. 2.

Fig.2. Relative edge squareness of laser and competing processes for carbon steels

Heat Affected Zone (HAZ) width

HAZ width is defined as the width of a detectable microstructural change measured perpendicular to the cut edge face. This is only applicable to alloys that are hardenable or heat treatable. The width of the HAZ is of interest because, due to the potential degradation of properties and this material may have to be removed before final assembly of the product. The concentrated heat source produced by both CO and Nd:YAG lasers produces a very narrow HAZ (<0.5mm).

Dross describes the resolidified material that adheres to the bottom edge of a cut produced by a thermal process. Levels of dross are quantified subjectively, with none, light, medium and heavy being the terms used most commonly. For laser cutting, dross is light provided the cutting parameters are optimised.


Economics of laser cutting processes

Whilst most suited for precision cutting of thin sheet in the 1-15mm thickness range, both CO and Nd:YAG laser cutting systems require high capital investment. The cost of purchasing laser equipment can range from 50k-250k depending on the output power requirements of the system. Precision work handling equipment is required if a laser is to be used to its full potential, in terms of cutting speed and quality. When combined with a chiller unit, this can add a further 100k to the cost of implementing a laser system.

As a result, laser cutting systems typically are used where high cut quality requirements make their application essential, or where the initial investment is offset by the high production rates that can be reached as a result of their high cutting speeds on thin sheet materials as illustrated in Fig. 3.

Fig.3. Cutting Speeds of laser and competing processes for carbon steels

For low production volumes, sub-contracting work to laser job shops can offer an attractive alternative to such an investment.

Ceramics - materials, applications



Ceramics are an incredibly diverse family of materials whose members span traditional ceramics (such as pottery and refractories) to the modern day engineering ceramics (such as alumina and silicon nitride) found in electronic devices, aerospace components and cutting tools.


Whilst the most extravagant claims of the 1980s in favour of advanced ceramic materials (such as the all ceramic engine) have largely proved inaccurate, it is true to say that ceramics have established themselves as key engineering materials. When used in conjunction with other materials, usually metals, they provide added functionality to components thereby improving application performance, once the appropriate joint design and technology have been identified.

Ceramic materials
Ceramics exhibit very strong ionic and/or covalent bonding (stronger than the metallic bond) and this confers the properties commonly associated with ceramics: high hardness, high compressive strength, low thermal and electrical conductivity and chemical inertness. This strong bonding also accounts for the less attractive properties of ceramics, such as low ductility and low tensile strength. The wider range of properties, however, is not widely appreciated. For example, whilst ceramics are perceived as electrical and thermal insulators, ceramic oxides (initially based on Y-Ba-Cu-O) are the basis for high temperature superconductivity. Diamond, beryllia and silicon carbide have a higher thermal conductivity than aluminium or copper. Control of the microstructure can overcome inherent stiffness to allow the production of ceramic springs, and ceramic composites have been produced with a fracture toughness about half that of steel. The main compositional classes of engineering ceramics are the oxides, nitrides and carbides. The Table gives the general properties of the most used ceramics. Table 1 Properties of ceramics Ceramic Melting point (C) 2530

Density (g/cm )

Strength (MPa)

Coefficient of Thermal thermal conductivity expansion (W/m.K) (x 10 /C)


Elastic Modulus (GPa) 400 380 140 320 175 450

BeO Al O

3.1 4.0 5.6 3.3 3.2 2.5

246 455 175 441 210 350

7.4 8.0 10.5 4.4 3.0 4.3

210 40 19 180 17 25

2050 2700 1900


AlN Si N
3 4

1900 2350




2700 2377

3.2 15.8 3.5

140 600 1500

4.3 5.2 0.5

50 2000

210 700 500

Diamond 3000

Aluminium oxide (Al O ) and zirconia (ZrO ) are the most commonly used engineering grade oxide ceramics, with alumina being the most used ceramic by far in terms of both tonnage and value.
2 3 2

Silicon nitride (Si N ), and aluminium nitride (AlN) are the main advanced engineering ceramics in this category. There is a wide range of grades and types of these materials, particularly of silicon nitride with each grade having specific properties
3 4

Silicon carbide (SiC) is widely used for its high thermal conductivity, corrosion resistance and hardness, although as an engineering ceramic its toughness is lower than that of some silicon nitride grades. Boron carbide (B C) is the third hardest industrial material (after diamond and cubic boron nitride) and is used for components needing very high wear performance.

Ceramic-based composites
Ceramics are used as the reinforcement of composite systems such as GRP (glass reinforced plastics) and metal matrix composites such as alumina reinforced aluminium (Al/Al O ). Advanced ceramic materials are also used as the matrix materials in composites. Currently the most widely available materials are based on SiC and carbon.
2 3

There are many possible techniques for joining ceramics to themselves and to dissimilar materials. These technologies range from mechanical fixturing to direct bonding. Fig.1 gives an overview of these methods.


Fig.1. An overview of processes for joining ceramics

The selection of one of these techniques to manufacture a particular component will depend on a number of factors including:

desired component function eg strength, electrical insulation or wear resistance materials to be joined operational temperature applied stress required level of joint hermeticity component design cost

Whilst all these considerations must be taken into account, generally the two important factors are the similarity of the materials to be joined and the required temperature capability. Fig. 2 gives the temperature capability of a number of joining media.



Temperature capability of a number of joining media

When joining ceramics to metals it is necessary to create an interface between the materials. In general the interface must accommodate the following:

the difference in coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) bond type ie ionic/covalent for ceramics ranging to the metallic bond crystallographic lattice mismatch between the ceramic and metal

Compared to metals and plastics, ceramics are hard, non-combustible and inert. Thus they can be used in high temperature, corrosive and tribological applications. These applications rely on combinations of properties that are unique to industrial ceramics and which include:

retention of properties at high temperature low coefficient of friction (particularly at high loads and low levels of lubrication) low coefficient of expansion corrosion resistance thermal insulation electrical insulation low density

Engineering ceramics are used to fabricate components for applications in many industrial sectors, including ceramic substrates for electronic devices (Fig. 3), turbocharger rotors (Fig. 4), and tappet heads for use in automotive engines. Other examples of where advanced ceramics are used include oil-free bearings in food processing equipment, aerospace turbine blades, nuclear fuel rods, lightweight armour, cutting tools, abrasives, thermal barriers and furnace/kiln furniture.


Fig.3. Ceramic substrates for electronic devices


Ceramic turbocharger rotor assembly made from silicon nitride Courtesy of NGK/NTK Spark Plug Co

When selecting a material for use in a specific component the applicability and suitability of the candidate materials need to be considered in detail. When a ceramic material is being selected the fitness-for-purpose criteria that should be applied include:

operational environment - atmosphere, temperature, applied stress, fatigue, exposure time predictable excursions beyond the usual, including mechanical impact or rapid heating/cooling design - ceramic materials are relatively intolerant of abrupt changes in crosssection such as notches, holes and corners joining - the role of the joint, its operational conditions and performance requirements and the joining techniques suitable for manufacture cost - as with all materials selection and component design questions, the cost and availability of the raw materials and all necessary fabrication techniques must be considered in the light of their suitability to provide a component with the required performance profile at a viable cost

Future development is likely to come from improved processing and fabrication techniques that will lower component costs or improve behaviour, an increasing demand for higher performance materials necessitating the use of more ceramics. Whilst it is difficult to predict new materials, improvements in existing ones can be readily foreseen. The most significant area of development is likely to be in the ceramic matrix composites.


Whilst existing composites based on SiC will improve as porosity levels are reduced by improved processing techniques, the development of high temperature oxide-based composites is likely to provide a competitor material system with wider applicability in the near future. In the future we can expect to see a still greater contribution to industrial growth and technological development from these materials.

Welding techniques for thermoplastics

The purpose of this article is to give an overview of the variety of techniques available to industry for the thermal joining of thermoplastics. The techniques used can be divided into three distinct groups based on the method used to introduce heat to the weld. These are:

by mechanical movement, by an external heat source from electromagnetism

Welding techniques where heat is generated by mechanical movement

Linear vibration
In linear vibration welding the parts to be joined are brought into contact under pressure before being rubbed together in a linear reciprocating motion. The resulting friction melts the material at the interface after which the vibration stops; the parts are then aligned and held together until the weld solidifies. Most thermoplastic materials can be welded Fig. 1. Spin welding machine using this technique, which is used extensively in the automotive industry for joining components such as two-part bumpers, fuel tanks, air ducts and inner door panels.

In spin welding the joint areas are always circular and the motion is rotational. The technique has been exploited for applications as diverse as the manufacture of polyethylene floats, aerosol bottles, transmission shafts and PVC pipes and fittings.


Ultrasonic welding involves the use of high frequency mechanical energy to soften or melt the thermoplastic at the joint line. Parts to be joined are held together under pressure and then subjected to ultrasonic vibrations, usually at a frequency of 20 or 40kHz. Ultrasonic welding is a fast process, with weld times typically less than a second, and can be easily automated. It is a popular choice for assembling components in the automotive, medical, electronic and packaging markets.

Welding techniques using an external heat source

Hot plate
Hot plate welding is possibly the simplest plastic joining technique, used for various applications ranging from small automotive fluid reservoir vessels to pipelines in excess of 1000mm in diameter. The technique involves heating the ends of the parts to be joined against an electrically heated platen until they are sufficiently molten. The heater plate is then removed and the parts pressed together. A cooling cycle follows, allowing the weld to develop strength.

Hot bar and impulse

This technique is mainly used for joining thermoplastic films with a thickness of less than 0.5mm. It works on the principle that if two films are pressed against a heated metal bar, they will soften and allow a joint to be made between them. Weld times are rapid, around two seconds for 100mm film. The principle of impulse welding is the same. Here the heat comes from a brief burst of electrical energy through a nickel chromium wire triggered as the films are pressed together. This method is used in packaging for the rapid sealing of polyethylene bags.

Hot gas
In hot gas welding of thermoplastics, the parts to be joined, typically sheet sections up to 30mm in thickness, are prepared in a V-butt or T-butt configuration before a stream of hot gas is directed towards the joint area. This causes melting of the joint area and also of a consumable filler rod of the same polymer type as the parts being joined. The weld is formed from the fusing together of the joint with the filler material. The main advantage of hot gas welding is that the equipment is easily portable. However, the process is slow and weld quality depends greatly on the skill of the operator. Training and Certification of operators is recommended to achieve high standards.



Fig. 2. Extrusion welding

Extrusion welding is similar to hot gas welding, sharing some of its characteristic advantages and disadvantages. Molten thermoplastic filler material is fed into the joint preparation from the barrel of a mini hand-held extruder based on an electric drill. The molten material emerges from a PTFE shoe shaped to match the profile being welded. At the leading edge of the shoe a stream of hot gas is used to pre heat the substrate prior to the molten material being deposited, ensuring sufficient heat is available to form a weld. The process is used typically for assembly of large fabrications such as chemical storage vessels, with wall thicknesses up to 50mm.

Welding techniques electromagnetism.




Fig. 3. Overview of welding processes for thermoplastics, grouped by heating mechanism

Resistive implant
This involves trapping an electrically conducting implant between the two parts to be joined before applying a high electric current to cause resistive heating. As the implant


heats, the surrounding thermoplastic material softens and melts. Application of pressure ensures the molten surfaces fuse together to form a weld. A widely used application of resistive implant welding is the electrofusion technique for joining thermoplastic pipes using specially designed socket couplers containing an integral electrical heating coil.

Induction is similar to resistive implant welding as an implant is generally needed at the joint line. However, in this process a work coil connected to a high frequency power supply is placed close to the joint. As high frequency electric current passes through the work coil, a dynamic magnetic field is generated whose flux interacts with the implant. Eddy currents are induced in the implant, heating it and the surrounding joint area.

High frequency (dielectric)

High frequency (dielectric or radio frequency) welding relies on the ability of the plastic being joined to generate heat in a rapidly alternating electric field. Hence the technique is generally restricted to PVC, EVA and polyurethanes. During the process, the parts to be joined are subjected to a high frequency electric field applied between two metal bars. The dynamic electric field causes molecular vibration in the plastic. Some of the resulting oscillatory motion is converted into thermal energy, causing the material to heat. Products manufactured by high frequency welding include stationery wallets, inflatables, tarpaulins and blood bags.

During infrared welding the parts to be joined are brought into very close proximity with an electrically heated platen. The technique is similar to hot plate welding although no actual physical contact is made with the heat source. After sufficient time has elapsed the parts become molten and can be forced together to form a weld. Infrared welding is generally faster than hot plate welding with typical welding times being reduced by around 50%. The fact that heating is achieved without physical contact eliminates the possibility of contamination entering the weld from the surface of the hot plate. The technique is used for joining thermoplastic pipes.

The laser welding technique uses a focused beam of intense radiation, usually in the infrared area of the electromagnetic spectrum, to melt the plastic in the joint region. The


type of laser used and the absorption characteristics of the plastic determine the extent of welding possible. Clearweld transmission welding, recently patented by TWI, uses a colourless infrared absorbing medium at the joint interface of two transmissive plastics. Thus two optically clear plastics may be laser welded with an almost invisible joint. Laser welding has the advantage of being a quick, clean, non-contact process which generates minimum flash and distortion.

Hot gas welding of plastics: Part 1 - the basics

Process background
Hot gas welding is a fabrication process for thermoplastic materials. The process, invented in the mid 20 century, uses a stream of heated gas, usually air, to heat and melt both the thermoplastic substrate material and the thermoplastic welding rod. The substrate and the rod fuse to produce a weld (Figs. 1 and 2).

Fig.1. Hot gas hand welding nozzle Fig.2. Hot gas hand welding motion and rod angle

To ensure welding takes place, adequate temperature and pressure must be applied to the rod, along with the use of the correct welding speed and gun position. The weld quality, since this is a purely manual technique, is dependent on the skill of the welder. Typical applications include chemical storage vessels, ventilation ducting and repair of plastic mouldings such as car bumpers.

Welding materials

There are two groups of plastic materials; thermoplastics and thermosets. The hot gas welding technique is only applicable to those plastic materials that can be heated and melted repeatedly, namely thermoplastics. When a thermoplastic is heated, the molecular chains become mobile within the material and allow it to melt and flow. Thermosets are a group of plastic materials in which the molecular chains form crosslinks. These cross-links, formed by a chemical reaction, prevent the molecular chains becoming mobile when heat is applied. Although many thermoplastics can be welded by this process, the most common are polypropylene, polyethylene, PVC and some fluoropolymers such as PVDF, FEP and PFA. Extruded rod and sheet are the most commonly used raw materials for the manufacture of fabricated plastic products. It is of utmost importance when fabricating plastics that the welding rod and the sheet are of identical material and chemical type. For example, although it is possible to weld polypropylene homopolymer to polypropylene random block copolymer, the strength of the weld will be reduced significantly. It is also important to check the quality of the welding rod prior to use, since air bubbles within the rod can form during the extrusion process. These will lead to voids in the weld. Welding rods will typically be either three or four millimetres in diameter.

Welding equipment
The equipment used for hot gas welding consists of an air supply, a handle with sturdy grip, a heating chamber with temperature control to produce the hot gas and a nozzle where the heated gas leaves the welding gun in order to heat the plastic rod and substrate. (Fig.3)

Fig.3. Hot gas welding gun


A fan, either incorporated into the welding gun handle or positioned remotely and connected to the gun, provides the air supply. It is also possible to use compressed gas from bottles, for example, air or nitrogen. Whichever gas supply is used, it is important that it is clean and dry, since dirt and moisture will contaminate the weld. The gun temperature is set via a dial on the handle, with some welding guns showing the temperature of the air stream on a digital read-out also on the handle. It is good practice to measure the gas temperature consistently using a digital thermometer, for example, with the thermocouple tip placed 5mm inside the welding gun nozzle. The front end of the welding gun allows interchangeable welding nozzles to be fitted depending on the type of welding needed. Three nozzle types are most commonly used, the tacking nozzle, the round nozzle and the high-speed nozzle (Fig.4).

Fig.4. Plastic welding nozzles (left to right) tacking nozzle, round nozzle, high speed nozzle

The tacking nozzle, as the name suggests, is used to tack the materials together before welding. The round nozzle allows the welder to heat the rod and substrate without physical contact with either and is useful for welding in areas with difficult access. This is less commonly used than the high-speed welding nozzle where the toe of the nozzle contacts the welding rod and allows the welder to put pressure on both the rod and the substrate material whilst welding. Along with correct temperature, the pressure ensures that there is adequate fusion between the welding rod and the substrate material. In addition to the welding gun, several tools are needed. These are a coarse tooth file, router and hand grinder for edge preparation, a scraper for removal of the material surface around the weld and a wire brush for cleaning the nozzle. Also, wire cutters are required for cutting the welding rod and a jigsaw for cutting the substrate materials. 215

Welding parameters
There are four main welding parameters in the hot gas welding process: temperature, pressure, welding speed and gun position. Since the process is manual, it is important that the welder has a good understanding of the need to ensure that all four of these parameters are correct and controlled during the welding operation. Temperature is the most important of the four parameters, since the temperature at the interface between the rod and the substrate is not only controlled by the setting on the gun, but also by the gun travel speed and the gun position with respect to the substrate. Typically, the temperature for welding is set between 80 and 100C above the melting point of the material being welded. The gun travel speed is normally between 0.1 and 0.3m/min, again, depending upon the material being welded. The welding pressure is applied via the toe of the welding nozzle and is achieved by holding the welding gun grip firmly and pushing down into the weld. For round nozzle welding, pressure is applied manually from the welding rod. The correct welding pressure is easier to achieve using welding guns with the fan separate to the gun since a firmer grip around the handle can be achieved. The force applied to the welding rod would typically be between 15 and 30N. Practical welding details are given in Hot gas welding of plastics: Part 2 - welding techniques

Weld quality
As a manual process, weld quality is dependent on skill. There is no recognised nondestructive technique, that conclusively shows the presence of defects in plastic welds that could lead to weld failure. Therefore, it is recommended that good quality welder training is received and that welder certification is adopted. The European Standard (EN13067) sets out the criteria for plastic welder approval. It details a scheme where the welder undergoes both a theoretical and a practical test and the welder, upon successful completion, is awarded a certificate of approval in the specific material categories taken in the test. Certification lasts for two years with a further two years prolongation, effectively giving the welder an approval certificate for four years before requiring a full retest.

Extrusion welding of thermoplastics


Polypropylene tank made using extrusion and hot gas welding

Extrusion welding is used in the manufacture of thicksection fabrications, such as tanks and pipes, where it is necessary to produce large volume, homogeneous seams in a single pass, unlike hot gas welding where it would be necessary to produce a seam using multiple runs. In tank fabrications, the main use of extrusion welding is to weld the bases and tops, although in certain applications, the body panels are also welded using this technique. In large section pipe fabrications, it can be used where manual welding techniques are required. Another use for extrusion welding is in environmental applications where it is used in the joining of lining material for the construction of landfill waste sites, lagoons and roof coverings. It is also becoming increasingly used in agriculture and water engineering, for example, in the fabrication of land drainage systems, sump tanks and manways.

Extrusion welders are available in a variety of sizes, from compact units with an integral air supply, weighing a mere 2.8 kg, through to large 13kg machines used for welding lining material in landfill applications. They can be supplied in both 110v and 240v configurations. Fig.1. Extrusion welding gun

Extrusion welding has historically been used to weld mainly PP and HDPE, although some modern types of extruders have also been engineered to weld PVC and PVDF. In the case of PVC, due to its narrow processing 'window', the extruder needs to be purged using PP or PE weld rod, to ensure that no PVC material is left to degrade in the barrel.


Extrusion welders are designed to ensure that certain parameters are accurately defined to maximise weld quality, these being:

Temperature of the welding material - extrudate Mass flow rate of the welding material Temperature of the hot gas for substrate pre-heat Quantity of hot gas

The welding speed that can be achieved is dependent on the flow rate of the extrudate, the material thickness, the cross sectional area of the seam and the size and design of the PTFE welding shoe.

As for hot gas welding, good quality extrusion welded seams can only be achieved if the parts to be welded are prepared correctly. They must be scraped to remove any contamination and the oxide layer on the surface of the material, and then fully tacked together to ensure perfect alignment for the application of the initial root run of 3mm hot gas weld. The root run ensures full weld penetration which maximises weld strength and also ensures that the parts remain together during the extrusion process. Due to the large quantity of air used for the pre-heat (typically 300 ltrs/min to comply with the DVS guidelines) a standard hot gas tack weld would break due to expansion. The angle of the extruder in relation to the work-piece is also extremely important, to ensure an even pre-heat of the substrate and an even flow of the extrudate (Fig.2a and 2b). If incorrect parameters are used, ie too cold, the surface of the weld will be very rough and irregular in appearance and the resulting weld will have low strength. If the weld is too hot, the surface will have a wet look and the weld will again have low strength.

Fig.2a) Example of a good quality extrusion weld


Fig.2b) This photo illustrates a weld made using incorrect welding parameters

The modern extrusion welder has the facility to control the melt temperature and the preheat air separately, with a display on the control box for easy operation and monitoring. The electronic control of the melting chamber does not allow the drive motor to operate until the material is at the correct temperature. This prevents strain being put on the motor and the screw drive.

Fig.3. Schematic of extrusion welding gun

The drive motor (1) is an electric drill with improved gearing, which drives a screw shaft in a heated barrel. This also feeds the welding rod (2) into the rod input point (3) via a pair of pinch rollers, then into the extruder (4). Modern extruders have a special welding rod feed, which prevents the welding rod from becoming twisted, and ensures constant rod input. This improves the homogeneous quality of the welding seam, because variations in input due to twists and kinks in the weld rod, can lead to deviations in output. The extruder screw grinds the welding rod into granules. The resulting granulate


is then fed into the melting chamber (5) where it is melted. The mass then continues through the barrel to the pre-formed, interchangeable, PTFE shoe (6), where it is formed to the shape of the seam required. Certain machines also have the facility to be fed with granulate directly, rather than welding rod. These extruders are mainly used in landfill applications where there is the potential for long seams and inclement weather conditions. The hoppers can be covered to reduce the possibility of moisture and contamination that can appear on weld rod. The correct design of welding shoe required for the type of seam to be welded, is placed on the end of the extruder. The base material is heated (plasticised) by the heating nozzle (7) with air supplied (on this particular design) via an integral air heater unit (8). Extrusion welding is a manual welding process and as such, is dependent on operator skill. Therefore to achieve a high quality seam, it is recommended that a quality training programme and certification is undertaken. As in hot gas welding, the draft European standard (prEN 13067) sets out the requirements for plastics welder approval in extrusion welding. The CSWIP PW-6-96 certification scheme is available for the certification of plastics welding personnel, to undertake both a theory test and a practical examination in extrusion welding of PP and HDPE. Certification is valid for two years with a further two years prolongation, as long as the welder has continued to use the process on a regular basis for that period of time. After the four-year period, the welder will need to undergo a full retest.

Butt fusion welding Fig.1. Aligning and clamping the pipes of plastics
The heating phase, sometimes referred to as 'bead up', is where the pipe ends are pressed against a heated plate for a period of time. This is followed by the 'heat soak' phase where the pressure is reduced to just hold the pipe ends on the hot plate. This allows time for the heat to soak into the material at the pipe ends. After the heat soak phase, the hot plate is removed and the pipe ends brought together. The time taken to do this is called 'dwell time' and needs to be as short as possible. The final phase is the welding/cooling time, predetermined subject to pipe diameter and wall thickness.


Machine set up
Before making any pipe welds, the butt fusion welding machine needs to be checked for smooth running and set up for the pipe materials to be welded.

Selection of the correct clamps or inserts, ensuring all fixings are tight, to reduce the possibility of misalignment due to axial movement. Correct temperature of the hot plate, for the material being welded; this should be checked with a surface temperature probe and digital thermometer in several positions after a stabilisation period of at least 20 minutes. Between welds the hot plate should be covered by a heatproof bag to protect it from surface contamination and to prevent heat loss. Check the planer blades used to trim and square the pipe ends; they need to be sharp, undamaged and firmly fixed to the planer surface to avoid slippage of the planer during rotation. Check all moving parts for smooth operation and, if using a hydraulic machine, check the hoses and fittings for signs of leakage.

Preparing the pipe

Fig.2. Planing the pipe ends so they are Prior to welding, correct preparation of the pipes is necessary. When measuring pipe ready for welding lengths, allowance should be made for the trimming and melting sequences to guarantee correct lengths after welding. Before clamping the pipes into the machine, the ends should be checked for irregular shape, damage, or embedded grit. The maximum allowable depth of this must be less than 10% of the wall thickness. Damaged or deeply scored pipe should be discarded. Any loose contamination can be removed by wiping the pipe ends with a lint-free cloth on both inner and outer surfaces. Once cleaned, the pipes are clamped into the machine. To help alignment, it is good practice to clamp the pipes in such a way that their stamped markings are in line. This also helps with identification at a later date if required. Once securely fitted in the clamps, the pipe ends should be brought into contact with the rotating planer tool until continuous shavings are cut from each end. The planing process ensures the pipe ends are smooth and square ready for the welding phase. Loose shavings should be removed from the machine and inside the pipes taking care not to touch the planed ends. This ensures that no grease or dirt is transferred from hands to pipe ends.


Fig.3. The hotplate between the pipes



The pipes should then be checked for alignment and adjustments made to the clamps where necessary to ensure there is minimal mismatch in diameter.

Before the welding sequence, heating and cooling times and fusion pressures should be noted for the specific pipe diameter and written down for quick reference during the welding cycle. Some machines have all the relevant Fig.4. Bead formation needs to be tables on them for convenience. A timer or monitored carefully stopwatch should be available for accurate timing. The heatproof bag should be removed from the hotplate, and the temperature should be checked using a digital thermometer and surface probe. It is good practice to complete a dummy weld before undertaking actual welding. This is to ensure the surface area of the hotplate in contact with the pipe ends is totally clean of any dust particles or other contaminants. Place the hotplate between the pipe ends, ensuring that it is properly located and square to the pipe faces. Move the pipes into contact with the surface applying an axial force. The force should be applied smoothly making sure that the required pressure is not exceeded. The force needs to be held securely, allowing the formation of a bead of molten material around the pipe. The bead needs to be even around the pipe circumference, on both sides of the hotplate. This is the 'bead up' phase of the process. The means of applying the force will vary with the type of equipment. On certain types of machine the force will be applied by mechanical means using a spring loaded mechanism with the force being maintained by a locking screw. On other types of equipment, hydraulic rams are used with the pressure maintained by switching valves in the hydraulic power pack. When the required bead has been achieved, the pressure is reduced for the heat soak phase. The pipes rest on the hot plate which allows the heat to permeate the material, reducing the possibility of cold welds.


Fig.5. The pipes should be kept clamped during the welding/cooling phase This time will vary subject to pipe diameter and wall thickness, therefore manufacturers recommended times should be used. When this phase is completed, the pipe faces are moved away from the hotplate as smoothly as possible to ensure that none of the molten bead sticks to the surface and the hotplate is removed. The pipes are then brought together as smoothly and quickly as possible to minimise the possibility of temperature drop, taking care not to exceed the required force. The welding/cooling phase begins when the required force has been achieved. The weld force should be maintained throughout this phase, to ensure maximum weld strength On completion of the cooling time, the pressure can be reduced to zero, and the pipe removed from the clamps. The finished weld can now be visually inspected for uniformity and alignment. Fig.1. An air intake manifold joined by friction welding Friction welding of thermoplastics is a long established technique usually employed for joining injection-moulded parts. The welding process has found many applications ranging from automotive, for example air intake manifolds (see Fig.1) and expansion tanks, through to domestic appliance components such as a cistern ball float. Experimental applications of friction welding for thermoplastics have included welding polyethylene pipes for gas and water distribution.

Friction welding of plastics

There are five identifiable variations of the friction welding process; linear, orbital, multi-directional, rotational and angular. The linear and rotational forms of the friction welding process are used extensively in industrial applications. Figure 2 shows a typical linear friction-welding machine. The angular friction welding process has only been used in a limited number of commercial applications and equipment is not commercially available. Welding machines using the other two friction welding techniques, orbital and multi-directional, have only become available in recent years.


Fig.2. An example of a typical linear friction welding machine

Thermoplastic friction welding processes

Linear friction welding (also known as vibration welding) of thermoplastics involves rubbing together, under axial force, two injection-moulded components in a linear reciprocating motion. The frequency of the vibration is typically between 100 and 240Hz with a peak-to-peak vibration movement of 1 to 4mm. Rotational friction welding (or spin welding) is rubbing together plastic parts, under axial force, while a component is rotated in the continuous circular motion. The typical rotation speed is between 1200 and 3500rpm. Orbital welding involves rubbing together the thermoplastic parts, under axial force, in an orbital motion at the interface. Similar to linear friction welding, the frequency of operation is around 200Hz with an off-axis deflection between 1 and 2mm. The orbital motion has been adapted on some equipment to give a multi-directional, non-uniform vibration pattern. The final friction welding process, angular friction welding, is designed to allow circular components to be welded in a vibration mode. The components are rubbed together in a reciprocating motion, through a few degrees (typically 2 to 5), during the welding process giving an arc of vibration motion at the component interfaces.

Process operation
In all the thermoplastic friction welding processes, the heat generated by the rubbing action must be sufficient to melt and flow the plastic at the weld interface. Sufficient heat is generated by a combination of weld time, weld force and interface velocity, determined by either the reciprocating or rotational motion.


Figure 3 shows a schematic of the material displacement at the welding interface during the welding cycle. In all friction processes a similar pattern of behaviour can be seen. Typically, displacement can be divided into four phases.

Fig.3. Material displacement at the welding interface during welding

In Phase 1 the parts are brought together and a welding force is applied. The interfacial friction begins but initially, no material flows. In Phase II, the weld zone material starts to melt and material displacement to the edges of the weld begins. Phase III is a steady state phase; the material is pushed out from the weld at a constant rate. Phase IV is the cooling phase when the interfacial friction is stopped but the force is still applied to consolidate the weld. It is generally accepted that Phases I, II and IV are an essential part of the process but that there is no benefit, in terms of weld strength, in prolonging Phase III. Typically Phases I and II would take between 0.5 and 8 seconds to complete depending on the weld surface area being joined. Typically cooling times in Phase IV would be between 4 and 10 seconds.

Welding process parameters

In friction processes, welding can be carried out either until the pre-set weld time has elapsed or a pre-set material displacement has been achieved. When welding by time, the weld time is the length of time the plastic parts are rubbed together to create the heat. As discussed previously, the weld time should ideally be terminated when the steady state phase of the weld cycle is achieved. This can be determined by using a displacement transducer. Higher melting point materials would typically require a longer weld time. An alternative to welding by time is to weld by displacement. Interfacial friction is applied to components being welded until a fixed material displacement is achieved. This would typically be 1 to 2mm, but would depend on the flatness of the components being 225

welded. Undulations in the welding interface would need to be taken into consideration when setting the weld displacement. Applying a force to the component during welding creates a pressure at the joint interface. For friction welding of plastics, the typical welding and cooling pressure is between 0.5 and 2Mpa. Increasing the weld pressure beyond these values can reduce the strength of the weld by forcing out most of the molten thermoplastic materials, resulting in a 'cold weld' being formed. The cooling time is the length of time for which parts remain under pressure after the relative friction motion is removed. Other welding process parameters are unique to the individual processes and include amplitude and frequency in the vibration process and rotational speed in the spin welding process.

Component design
Component design can be divided into the joint design and the Fig.4. design of the component itself. Joint and component design are critical to the success of friction welding processes, particularly in linear and orbital friction welding where flexing in the walls of the components can result in a reduction of the relative interfacial motion needed to produce friction heating. To eliminate this problem, it is important to include features such as stiffening ribs and U-flanges to the component wall around the weld area. The U-flange is particularly important since it is designed to lock the component wall to the component tooling, thus preventing wall flexing. Wall flexing is especially a problem in vibration welding where the vibrations occur transverse to the wall of the component unless suitable measures described above are implemented. Figure 4 shows a U-flange joint used in vibration welding, which can also be employed with other friction welding processes. U-flange joint used in vibration or other friction welding processes


Friction welding processes are widely used techniques for the assembly of plastic components. Correct selection of welding parameters and component design are essential to successful welding using these processes. Fig.1. A rear light cluster typical hot plate welding application

Hot plate welding of plastics moulded components


Hot plate welding, also known as mirror, platen, or butt welding, is used for welding injection-moulded components, for example in automotive applications, and extensively in joining plastic pipes for gas and water distribution. This article deals only with welding injection-moulded components. A typical hot plate welding application is shown in Fig.1.


The process uses a heated, metal plate to heat and melt the interface surfaces of the thermoplastic components. Once the component interfaces are sufficiently heated, the hot plate is removed and the components are brought into contact to form the weld. An axial load is applied to the components during both the heating and joining phases of the welding process.

Hot plate welding equipment

An example of a hot plate welding machine used for welding injection-moulding components is shown in Fig.2. The machine consists of four main parts; the hot plate, the machine slides, holding fixtures, and machine control system. Fig.2. An example of a hot plate The hot plate is typically flat, but can be shaped to welding machine match the profile of the components being welded. If necessary this could be three-dimensional. Hot plates are usually manufactured in aluminium or aluminium bronze. The latter has greater dimensional stability at the high temperatures required for the hot plate welding process. To prevent the molten thermoplastic materials sticking to the hot plate during the heating phase of the process, the plates are often coated with a nonstick surface. Typically, a PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) based material is used for the coating. This could be a permanent coating or a semi-permanent, adhesive backed PTFE fabric. It is important when using PTFE-coated hot plates, not to set the temperature above 270C, since toxic fumes are produced, which can lead to fluoropolymer fume fever. The component-holding fixtures are mounted on to the machine slides. The slides are designed to support the holding fixtures and the components being welded, as well as applying the axial load without distorting the machine frame. The load is typically applied by a pneumatic system. The components can either be restrained in the holding fixture using mechanical clamps or using a vacuum system. It is important, where practical, that the holding fixtures support the component directly behind the welding surfaces. This will prevent distortion of the components during the heating and joining phases. The machine controller controls the heating and joining phases of the welding process. On modern equipment, this would typically be microprocessor control led.

Hot plate welding process


In order to achieve good quality welds, it is important to understand how the process works. The process begins when the components are loaded into the holding fixtures. Components should be firmly positioned in the fixtures to ensure that the surfaces to be heated are flat and free from distortion. When the welding cycle is initiated, the components are brought into contact with the hot plate surface and the heating phase begins. The heating process is the most important part of hot plate welding. Heating takes place in two phases. In the first phase, often known as the 'bead up' phase, the components are pushed against the hot plate, under an axial load and melting begins to occur. Once the entire joint surface of the component is melted as shown by a small continuous bead of molten material (approximately 1 to 2mm in height) around the perimeter of the component, the axial load is reduced. This reduction can be achieved either by reducing the pressure in the pneumatic system, or by using melt depth stops. The melt depth stops are positioned on the machine, between the hot plate and the machine slides to give a predetermined amount of melt or 'bead up'. When the load is reduced, the 'heat soak' phase of the heating cycle begins. Heat is allowed to soak into the material to give a 'thermal mass' of molten material behind the surface in contact with the hot plate. This ensures that there is sufficient heat present in the material to prevent the welding surfaces cooling below the melt temperature when the components are removed from the hot plate and brought together for welding. It also ensures that there is molten material behind the weld interface when the interface material is squeezed out as the components are forced together to form the weld. If the heat soak phase is ignored, a brittle cold weld is formed. The final phase of the welding process is the joining phase, when the components are brought together and allowed to cool under axial load. Again, melt depth stops can be used to control the amount of material displacement during the joining phase. When the joining phase is complete, the welded components are removed from the holding fixtures.

Hot plate welding parameters

There are six welding parameters that govern the hot plate welding process:

Bead up time or bead size Heat soak time Dwell time Cooling time Heating pressure and cooling pressure Temperature

The bead up time is the time taken to achieve a minimum size bead around the perimeter of the component. This time will depend upon the wall thickness of the component being welded. The thicker the wall, the longer it will take to achieve the minimum bead size. A typical minimum bead size will be between 1 to 2mm in height. 229

The heat soak time is the length of time the component remains in contact with the hot plate under reduced axial load. This is again dependent upon the wall thickness of the component. The thicker the wall of the component, the longer the required heat soak time. Longer heat soak times will be needed for materials with higher melting temperature. The dwell time is that taken for the components to be removed from the surface of the hot plate and then brought into contact with each other. Once the components are removed from the hot plate their surfaces begin to lose heat. It is, therefore, essential that the dwell time is kept as short as possible to prevent the surfaces cooling to below the temperature required for welding before being brought into contact. The final welding parameter relating to time is the cooling time. This is the amount of time that the components remain under an axial load after they have been brought together before they are removed from the holding fixture. During the early stages of this phase, the thermoplastic molecular chains at the weld interface can diffuse to form the weld. The heating and cooling pressure is the pressure at the component interface during the welding process. In the welding of injection-moulded components, it is recommended that melt stops are used to control the displacement of material during the heating and cooling phases. In this case, the heating and cooling pressure is not critical to the welding process, providing it is greater than the value required to push the parts against the melt stops. The welding temperature is the temperature at which the hot plate is set in order to carry out the welding process. This is typically 60 to 100C above the melting temperature of the material. If the temperature is set too high, it can lead to degradation of the material at the weld interface, which will result in a poor quality weld.

Component design
Typically, the butt joint shown in Fig.3 is joined by the hot plate welding process. Unlike in the majority of the plastic welding processes, the welding flash (excess material) produced around the weld line during the process is not normally hidden or removed. However, flash traps (shown in Fig.4) can be added to the weld area if the weld flash is required to be hidden. Fig.3. A butt joint of this kind is typically Fig.4. A flash trap may be included in the joined by the hot plate welding welding process to hide the weld process flash


Ultrasonic welding of injection moulded components - Part 1 Process and equipment

Process overview

Fig.1. Ultrasonic machine


Ultrasonic welding, for thermoplastic injection moulded components, is a process that uses mechanical vibrations above the audible range. The vibrations, produced by a welding sonotrode or horn, as it is generally known, are used to soften or melt the thermoplastic material at the joint line. The components to be joined are held together under pressure and subjected to vibrations, usually at a frequency of 20 or 40kHz. The ability to weld a component successfully is governed by the design of the equipment, the mechanical properties of the material to be welded and the design of the components and joint. Ultrasonic welding times are short (typically less than one second), which makes the process ideal for mass production. The process is widely accepted in many applications ranging from automotive light clusters to consumer electronics products, such as mobile telephone casings. An ultrasonic welding machine is shown in Fig.1.

Ultrasonic welding equipment


Ultrasonic welding equipment consists of a machine press, generator, converter or transducer, booster, sonotrode or horn, and component support tooling. A schematic of an ultrasonic welding machine is shown in Fig.2.


Schematic of ultrasonic welding machine

The generator converts electrical power from the single-phase mains to the correct frequency and voltage for the transducer to convert into mechanical vibrations. The microprocessor unit controls the welding cycle and feeds back key welding information to the user, via the user interface. The user interface also allows the operator to enter the required welding parameters.

Machine press
The machine stand is designed to hold the welding system or stack and apply the force necessary for welding. It consists of a base-plate, to hold the tooling jig, and a pneumatic cylinder to apply the force. The machine has a pressure gauge and regulator for adjustment of the welding force. It should be noted that a particular gauge pressure set on one piece of ultrasonic welding equipment will not necessarily provide the same welding force as another machine set at the same gauge pressure. Welding force should be calibrated using a load cell so that direct comparison of welding forces can be made from machine to machine. There is also a flow control valve to allow adjustment of the speed at which the welding head approaches the component being welded. Some equipment manufacturers have 232

introduced an electromagnetic force application system in place of the traditional pneumatic cylinder. This gives better control of the approach rate, and can be beneficial when welding small or delicate components.

Welding stack
This is the part of the machine that provides the ultrasonic mechanical vibrations. It is generally a three-part unit consisting of transducer, booster and welding horn, mounted on the welding press at the centre-point of the booster section. The stack is a tuned resonator, rather like a musical instrument tuning fork. In order to function, the resonant frequency of the tuned welding stack must closely match the frequency of the electrical signal from the generator (to within 30Hz).

The transducer, also known as the converter, converts the electrical energy from the generator to the mechanical vibrations used for the welding process. It consists of a number of piezo-electric ceramic discs sandwiched between two metal blocks, usually titanium. Between each of the discs there is a thin metal plate, which forms the electrode. As the sinusoidal electrical signal is fed to the transducer via the electrodes, the discs expand and contract, producing an axial, peak-to-peak movement of 15 to 20m. Transducers are delicate devices and should be handled with care. Once the elements are broken, the transducer will not function.

The booster section of the welding stack serves two purposes, primarily to amplify the mechanical vibrations produced at the tip of the transducer and transfer them to the welding horn. Its secondary purpose is to provide a location for mounting the stack on the welding press. The booster expands and contracts as the transducer applies the ultrasonic energy. Figure 3 shows a range of ultrasonic welding boosters.


Fig.3. Ultrasonic welding boosters

The booster, like other elements in the welding stack, is a tuned device therefore it must resonate at a specific frequency in order to transfer the ultrasonic energy from the transducer to the welding horn. In order to function successfully, the booster must be either one half of a wavelength of ultrasound in the material from which it is manufactured, or multiples of this length. Normally, it is one half wave length.

Welding horn
The welding horn is the element of the welding stack that supplies energy to the component being welded. A typical welding horn is shown in Fig.4. Design of the welding horn is critical to successful welding. It is strongly recommended that welding horn manufacture should only be carried out by companies specialising in ultrasonic welding.

Fig.4 Ultrasonic welding horn

The welding horn, like the booster element, is a tuned device, which, in the majority of applications, also provides mechanical gain. It is typically manufactured in either aluminium or titanium. Aluminium welding horns tend to be used for low volume applications since wear can be a particular problem with this material. Some welding horns have specially hardened tips to reduce wear during welding. As with the booster element, the length of the welding horn must be either one half of a wavelength of ultrasound in the material from which it is manufactured, or multiples of this length. This ensures that there is sufficient amplitude at the end of the welding horn to effect welding. 234

The amplitude is typically between 30 and 120m. The shape of the welding horn is important since stress, caused by the axial expansion and contraction of the horn, could lead to cracking in high amplitude applications. In some applications the welding horn is manufactured with slots in the axial direction. This is to ensure that the maximum vibration amplitude is in the longitudinal direction. The tip of the welding horn delivers the ultrasonic energy to the component being welded. The tip should be specifically designed to match the component. This will ensure that maximum energy transfer between the horn and the component is achieved. Usually, the tip of the horn is profiled to match the contours of the component.

Support tooling
Finally, the base of the machine press supports the tooling that supports the components during the welding operation. The support tooling is designed to prevent movement of the lower component while the ultrasound is applied. It is often machined to match the contours of the component surface intimately. The next article will cover component design and welding parameters.

Ultrasonic welding of injection moulded components - Part 2. Component design and weld parameters
One of the key factors to successful ultrasonic welding is good component design, in particular the shape of the surfaces to be joined ie the joint design. There are a variety of joint designs possible, each with specific features and advantages. The choice of design depends on the following factors:

Type of thermoplastic Part geometry Weld requirements Aesthetics

One of the basic requirements of any joint design for ultrasonic welding is a small, uniform initial contact area. This can be achieved using a projection joint or a shear joint.

Projection joint

The basic projection or energy director joint is shown in Fig.1. The joint consists of a small triangular section moulded into the component and typically running the length of the joint perimeter. The purpose of the energy director is to focus the ultrasonic energy at the apex, resulting in a rapid build up of heat. This causes the triangular section to melt and flow across the joint interface, forming a weld.

Fig.1. Projection joint

The type of thermoplastic to be welded determines the form of the triangular energy director. Amorphous materials require a right-angled triangle with the 90 angle at the apex. For semi-crystalline materials, a 60 equilateral projection is used. Typical heights for energy directors are between 0.2 to 1.0mm, depending on the material. The projection joint is favoured for use with amorphous materials such as PC, ABS and PS where a hermetic seal is not required. Figure 2 shows a variation of the projection joint, in the form of a tongue and groove design. The advantage of this design is that the weld flash is hidden and the parts to be joined are self-locating. However, joint strength is relatively weak since the weld is only about half the width of the joint.

Fig.2. Tongue and groove variation of a projection joint

Shear joint


For some applications, a projection joint may not provide sufficient strength. In such cases, a shear joint can be used. A basic shear joint design is shown in Fig.3. The joint allows one component to shear inside the other, providing self-location. Welding is accomplished by first melting the small initial contact area and then continuing to melt with a controlled interference along the vertical walls as the parts telescope together. The smearing action of the two melt surfaces at the weld interface is beneficial for two reasons.

Fig.3. Basic shear joint design

Firstly it eliminates leaks and voids, so a strong, hermetic weld is produced. Secondly, it eliminates exposure to air, preventing premature solidification. This is particularly important for semi-crystalline materials, which rapidly change from a molten state to a solid state. As such, semi-crystalline materials should only be ultrasonically welded with a shear joint. The vertical dimension of the weld, typically between 1.0 and 1.5mm, controls the strength of the joint and can be adjusted to suit the requirements of the application. A design consideration with this type of joint is the wall thickness of the lower part, which should be sufficient to prevent outward movement during welding. Side-wall support from a fixture jig should also be provided.

Other design considerations

Aside from the joint design, other aspects of the moulded component must be considered if ultrasonic welding is to be effective. The distance between the joint line and the contact surface where the welding horn meets the component can be critical. Far field welding, as shown in Fig.4, is where the distance is greater than 6mm. This arrangement is best suited to rigid amorphous materials such as PS, ABS and PMMA, which have good ultrasound transmission properties. Many semicrystalline materials, such as PP are poor transmitters of ultrasonic energy, requiring the 237

joint to be as close as possible to the welding horn area. This is termed near field welding, as shown in Fig.5.

Fig.4. Far field welding

Fig.5. Near field welding

For all materials, the use of near field welding is preferable, since it tends to require shorter weld times and lower pressures. Sharp corners on the moulding should be avoided, as these can localise stress, possibly leading to fracture under the action of the ultrasonic vibratory energy. Minimum radii of 0.2 to 0.5mm are suggested.

Welding parameters
There are a number of parameters that must be selected correctly in order to achieve good ultrasonic welds. These include vibration amplitude, welding mode, downspeed, trigger pressure, weld time, hold time. For this article, the amplitude and welding modes are considered.



Successful welding depends on the proper amplitude of vibration occurring at the tip of the welding horn. For any booster/horn combination, the amplitude is fixed. Amplitude selection is based on the thermoplastic being welded such that the proper degree of melting is achieved. In general, semi-crystalline materials require more energy and, therefore, more horn tip amplitude compared to amorphous materials. Process control on modern ultrasonic welding machines can allow the amplitude to be profiled. High amplitude may be used to initiate melting, followed by a lower amplitude to control the viscosity of the molten material.

Welding modes
Welding by time is termed an open-loop process. The components to be welded are assembled in the tooling fixture before the welding horn descends and makes contact. The ultrasound is then applied to the assembly for a fixed duration of time, typically between 0.2 to 1.0 seconds. This process gives no indication of successful welding. It works on the assumption that a fixed weld time will result in a fixed amount of energy being applied to the joint, giving a controlled amount of melt. In reality, the power drawn to maintain amplitude is never the same from one cycle to the next. This is due to factors such as the fit between the components. Therefore, since energy is a function of power and time, and time is fixed, the energy applied will vary from one component to the next. For mass production, where consistency is important, this is undesirable. Welding by energy is a closed loop process, giving feedback control. The ultrasonic machine software measures the power being drawn and adjusts the exposure time so that the desired energy input to the joint is delivered. The assumption with this process is that if the energy consumed is the same for every weld, the quantity of molten material in the joint is the same each time. However, in reality there are energy losses, within the welding stack and especially at the interface between the welding horn and the component. As a result, some components may receive more energy than others, with the possibility of inconsistent weld strengths. Welding by distance allows components to be joined by a specific weld depth. This mode operates independently of time, energy or power drawn and compensates for any tolerance variation in the moulded components, thus giving the best guarantee that the same amount of material in the joint is melted each time. Limits can be set on the amount of energy used or the time taken to make the weld, for the purposes of quality control.


A review of the application of weld symbols on drawings - Part 1

Weld symbols have been used for many years and are a simple way of communicating design office details to a number of different industrial shop floor personnel such as welders, supervisors, and inspectors. Subcontractors are often required to interpret weld symbols on engineering drawings, from perhaps the main contractor or client. It is essential that everyone should have a full understanding of weld symbol requirements to ensure that the initial design requirement is met. There are a number of standards which relate to weld symbols including British, European, International and American (American Welding Society) standards. Most of the details are often similar or indeed, the same, but it is essential that everyone concerned knows the standard to be used. One of the first requirements therefore is:

Which standard?
The UK has traditionally used BS 499 Part 2. This standard has now been superseded by BS EN 22553, however in many welding and fabrication organizations there will be old drawings used that make reference to out of date standards such as BS 499 Pt 2. BS EN 22553 is almost identical to the original ISO 2553 standard on which it was based. Therefore we can say, for at least this article's scope, there are no significant differences, but it is essential that the reader consults the specific standard. The American system is also similar in many respects but will not be covered here.

Basic requirements
All the standards have the same requirements in relation to the following items:

Arrow line and arrow head Reference line

The arrow line can be at any angle (except 180 degrees) and can point up or down. The arrow head must touch the surfaces of the components to be joined and the location of the weld. Any intended edge preparation or weldment is not shown as an actual cross sectional representation, but is replaced by a line. The arrow also points to the component to be prepared with single prepared components. See Figs. 1-4.


Fig. 1.

Fig. 2.

Fig. 3.

Fig. 4.

Symbol types
To the basic set-up of the arrow and reference line, the design draughtsperson can apply the appropriate symbol, or symbols for more complex situations. The symbols, in particular for arc and gas welding, are often shown as cross sectional representations of either a joint design or a completed weld. Simple, single edge preparations are shown in Fig. 5. For resistance welding, a spot weld and seam weld are shown in Fig. 6: Fig. 5. Fig. 6.

Joint and/or weld shape

The above examples can be interpreted as either the joint details alone or the completed weld, however, for a finished weld it is normal to find that an appropriate weld shape is 241

specified. Using the examples above, there are a number of options and methods to specify an appropriate weld shape or finish. Butt welded configurations would normally be shown as a convex profile (Fig.7 'a', 'd' and 'f') or as a dressed-off weld as shown in 'b' and 'c'. Fillet weld symbols are always shown as a 'mitre' fillet weld (a right angled triangle) and a convex or concave profile can be superimposed over the original symbol's mitre shape. See Fig. 7. Fig. 7.

Part 2 of this explanation of weld symbols covering more complex situations will appear in the next issue.

A review of the application of weld symbols on drawings - Part 2

Part 1 of this article which appeared in the May/June issue of Connect, dealt with the most basic weld symbols as they appear on engineering drawings. As previously mentioned, it is essential that all concerned in any project are aware of which Standard is being applied.

Weld sizing
In order that the correct size of weld can be applied, it is common to find numbers to either the left or to the right of the symbol. For fillet welds, numbers to the left of the symbol indicate the design throat thickness, leg length, or both design throat thickness and leg length requirements. Figure 1 gives examples of symbols used in different Standards.



For fillet welds: Superseded BS499 Pt 2 gives a = design throat thickness b = leg length ISO 2553/EN 22553 requirements a = design throat thickness z = leg length s = penetration throat thickness For butt joints and welds, an S with a number to the left of a symbol refers to the depth of penetration as shown in Fig.2.


When there are no specific dimensional requirements specified for butt welds on a drawing using weld symbols, it would normally be assumed that the requirement is for a full penetration butt weld (Fig.3).



Numbers to the right of a symbol or symbols relate to the longitudinal dimension of welds, eg for fillets, the number of welds, weld length and weld spacing for noncontinuous welds, as Fig.4.


On fillet welded joints made from both sides, a staggered weld can be shown by placing a 'Z' through the reference line (Fig.5).



Supplemetary symbols
Weld symbols indicate the type of preparation to use or the weld type. However, there may still be occasions where other information is required. The basic information can therefore be added to in order to provide further details as shown in Figs.6, 7 and 8.





Weld all round

For a Rectangular Hollow Section (RHS) welded to a plate, for example:

Weld in the field or on site

The box attached to the arrow can be used to contain, or point to, other information.

Welding process type

ISO 4063 gives welding processes specific reference numbers. As shown in Fig.9 the appropriate process number is placed in the tail of the arrow. Other processes are given a unique number. In this example, 135 refers to MAG welding.


There are a number of additional symbols given in the Standards (eg ISO 22553) which refer to additional welding or joint requirements. Figure 10 shows the requirement for a sealing run.



Compound joints/welds
A compound weld could be a 'T' butt weld which requires fillet welds to be added to increase the throat thickness as shown in Fig.11. Fig.11


The broken reference line

The main feature that distinguishes weld symbol standards is that for ISO 2553 and BS EN 22553, there is an additional feature of a broken reference line. This method is used when a weldment or weld preparation needs to be specified on the 'other side' of the arrow as shown in Fig.12. Any symbol that is used to show a joint or weld type feature on the other side of the arrow line is always placed on a dotted line. BS 499 and AWS require symbols to be placed above the reference line (which indicate the other side) or below the reference line (indicating the arrow side). 247

Weld symbols are a very useful way of communicating welding requirements from the design office to the shop floor. It is essential that the 'rules' of the standard used are correctly applied by drawing office personnel. However, it is also important that shop floor personnel are able to read and understand the details of weld symbols. Much of this requirement can be met by reference to the standard being used within the organisation and by the drawing office personnel considering the needs of the end user such as the welders, welding supervisors, welding inspection personnel and welding engineers in order to minimise costly mistakes due to misinterpretation. Training of all personnel in the correct use of weld symbol specifications also plays an important role in ensuring that weld symbols are both correctly applied and correctly read.

Fillet welded joints - a review of the practicalities

Fillet welded joints such as tee, lap and corner joints are the most common connection in welded fabrication. In total they probably account for around 80% of all joints made by arc welding. It is likely that a high percentage of other joining techniques also use some form of a fillet welded joint including non-fusion processes such as brazing, braze welding and soldering. The latter techniques are outside the scope of this article. Although the fillet weld is so common, there are a number of aspects to be considered before producing such a weld. This article will review a number of topics that relate to fillet welded joints and it is hoped that even the most seasoned fabricator or welding person will gain from this article in some way. Common joint designs for fillet welds are shown below in Fig.1.



Fillet weld features

ISO 2553 (EN 22553) uses the following notation as Figs.2 and 3 show. a = throat thickness z = leg length s = deep penetration throat thickness l = length of intermittent fillet Fig.2 Fig.3

Fillet weld shapes

Over specified fillet welds or oversized fillet welds



One of the greatest problems associated with fillet welded joints is achieving the correct weld size in relation to the required leg lengths or throat thickness (Fig.4). The designer may calculate the size and allow a 'safety factor' so that the weld specified on the fabrication drawing is larger than is required by design considerations. The weld size is communicated by using an appropriate weld symbol. In the UK the weld size is frequently specified by referring to the leg length 'z' in ISO 2553 where the number gives the weld size in millimetres as shown in Fig.5.


In Europe, it is more common to find the design throat thickness, 'a' specified (Fig.6).



Once the drawing has been issued to the shop floor, it is usual to find an additional safety factor also being applied on by the welder or inspector. It is also common to hear 'add a bit more it will make it stronger'. The outcome is an oversized weld with perhaps an 8mm leg length rather than the 6mm specified by the designer. This extra 2mm constitutes an increase in weld volume of over 80%. This coupled with the already over specified weld size from the designer's 'safety factor' may lead to a weld that is twice the volume of a correctly sized fillet weld. By keeping the weld to the size specified by the drawing office, faster welding speeds can be achieved, therefore increasing productivity, reducing overall product weight, consumable consumption and consumable cost. The other benefit is that, in the case of most arc welding processes, a slight increase in travel speed would in most cases see an increase in root penetration so that the actual throat thickness is increased: An oversized weld is therefore very costly to produce, may not have 'better strength' and is wasteful of welding consumables and may see other fabrication problems including excessive distortion.

Lap joints welded with fillet welds.

As discussed earlier, oversized welds are commonplace and the lap joint is no exception. The designer may specify a leg length that is equal to the material thickness as in Fig.7.


Strength considerations may mean that the fillet weld size need not be anywhere near the plate thickness. In practice the weld may also be deficient in other ways for example:



Due to melting away of the corner of the upper plate (Fig.8), the vertical leg length is reduced meaning that the design throat has also been reduced; therefore an undersized weld has been created. Care is therefore needed to ensure that the corner of the upper plate is not melted away. Ideally the weld should be some 0.5-1mm clear of the top corner (Fig.9).


It may be the designer may therefore specify a slightly smaller leg length compared to the thickness of the component. To compensate for this reduction in throat thickness it may be necessary to specify a deep penetration fillet weld. This amount of additional penetration would need to be confirmed by suitable weld tests. Additional controls may also be needed during production welding to ensure that this additional penetration is being achieved consistently. In addition to the reduction in throat thickness there is the potential for additional problems such as overlap at the weld toe due to the larger weld pool size (Fig.10) or an excessively convex weldface and consequential sharp notches at the weld toe (Fig.11). Fig.10 Fig.11


Both the potential problems shown in Figs.10 and 11 could adversely influence the fatigue life of the welded joint due to the increased toe angle, which acts as a greater stress concentration. Poor fit-up can also reduce the throat thickness as in Fig.12. The corner of the vertical component has been bevelled in the sketch in an exaggerated manner to illustrate the point.


Fillet welded joints are not only the most frequently used weld joints but are also one of the most difficult to weld with any real degree of consistency. Fillet welds require a higher heat input than a butt joint of the same thickness and, with less skilled welders this can lead to lack of penetration and/or fusion defects that cannot be detected by visual examination and other NDT techniques. Fillet welded joints are not always open to NDT or are indeed time consuming to many non-destructively testing techniques such as radiography or ultrasonic testing and the results are often difficult to interpret. Inspection methods such as visual inspection, magnetic particle inspection and penetrant inspection are surface examination techniques only and with visual inspection, much of the effort is expended in measuring the size of the weld rather than identifying other quality aspects. Fillet welded joints are therefore much more difficult to weld and inspect. Often the welds that are produced are larger than they need to be or they may be of a poor shape which can adversely influence their service performance. To overcome these difficulties, designers need to specify accurately the most appropriate throat size and welding personnel should strive to achieve the specified design size. Welders also need to be adequately trained and sufficiently skilled to be capable of maintaining an acceptable weld quality.

A general review of geometric shape imperfections - types and causes


Part 1. Introduction
In the job knowledge series welding imperfections such as cracks, lack of fusion, penetration and porosity have been discussed. This article looks at those imperfections related to poor geometric shape and will concentrate on the following:

Excess weld metal Undercut Overlap Linear misalignment Incompletely filled groove

Such imperfections might be considered as anomalies in the joint and they will always be present to some degree so that it becomes necessary to separate the acceptable from the unacceptable. This is done by following guidance given by the application standard, which was the basis for the component design, and/or by direction, as set out in the job contract. Examples of standards that might be referred to are: PD 5500 Specification for unfired fusion welded pressure vessels. BS 2640 Specification for Class II oxy-acetylene welding of carbon steel pipework for carrying fluids BS EN 25817 Arc welded joints in steel - guidance on quality levels for imperfections AWS D1.1 Structural welding code - Steel

Excess weld metal

Fig.1. Excess weld metal

(also called cap height, overfill or reinforcement)

This is weld metal lying outside the plane joining the weld toes. Note that the term 'reinforcement', although used extensively in the ASME/AWS specifications is avoided in Europe as it implies it adds strength to the welded joint, which is rarely the case.

Common causes
This imperfection is formed when excessive weld metal is added to the joint, which is usually a result of poor welder technique for manual processes but may be due to poor parameter selection when the process is mechanised. That is, too much filler metal for the travel speed used. In multi-run welding a poor selection of individual bead sizes can result in a bead build-up pattern that overfills the joint. Different processes and parameters (eg voltage) can result in different excess weld metal shapes. 254

The acceptability of this imperfection is very dependent on the application in which the product will be used. Most standards have limit, related to material thickness (eg10%), but also have a maximum upper limits. Both the ratio and the maximum may be related to the severity of service that the component is expected to see. The following table gives examples taken from BS EN 25817. Excess weld metal limits for quality levels: Severity of service Moderate, D Stringent, B

Limit (up to maximum) h = 1mm + 0.25 b h = 1mm + 0.25 b Maximum Transition required 10 mm smooth 3 mm smooth

Where: h = height of excess & b = width of bead (see figure) An important reason for limiting the height of excess weld metal is that it represents a non-value added cost. However, it must be remembered that the height of the weld cap influences the resultant toe blend. A sharp transition causes a local stress concentration that can contribute to loss of strength, which is particularly important in fatigue situations. As a result most specifications state that 'smooth transition is required'.

If the imperfection is a result of welder technique then welder retraining is required. For mechanised techniques an increase in travel speed or voltage will help to reduce cap height. Fig.2. Undercut

This is an irregular groove at the toe of a run in the parent metal. The figure shows undercut at surface of a completed joint but it may also be found at the toes of each pass of a multi-run weld. The latter can result in slag becoming trapped in the undercut region.

Common causes


When arc and gas welding, undercut is probably the most common shape imperfection. With single-sided pipe welds it may also be found at the bore surface. It may also be seen on the vertical face of fillet welds made in the horizontal vertical position. A wide spreading arc (high arc voltage) with insufficient fill (low current or high travel speed) is the usual cause. However, welder technique, especially when weaving, and the way the welding torch is angled can both cause and be used to overcome undercutting (ie angled to push the weld metal to fill the melted groove). High welding current will also cause undercut - this is generally associated with the need for a high travel speed to avoid overfilling of the joint.

Largely because this imperfection is widespread, most standards permit some level of undercut although they do require that a 'smooth transition is required. The limits in BS EN 25817 range from 0.5mm (stringent) to 1.5mm (moderate) while AWS D1.1 has a limit of 1mm. Standards may also place limits on the length of the undercut. For example, BS 2640 says, 'not exceed a total of 25mm in any 100mm length of weld'. Measuring undercut can be a problem because of the small size of the imperfection compared with the general environment where there can be mill scale, irregularities in the surface and spatter. In critical applications the imperfection can be 'corrected' by blend grinding or by depositing an additional weld bead.

This imperfection may be avoided by reducing travel speed and/or the welding current and by maintaining the correct arc Fig.3. Overlap length.

Overlap (cold lapping)

This is an imperfection at a toe or root of a weld caused by metal flowing on to the surface of the parent metal without fusing to it. It may occur in both fillet and butt welds.

Common causes
This is often caused by poor manipulation of the electrode or welding gun, especially when the weld pool is large and 'cold', where the welder allows gravity to influence the


weld shape before solidification. Tightly adherent oxides or scale on the metal surface can also prevent the weld metal fusing with the parent metal to cause the overlap imperfection.

Avoidance is achieved through an acceptable level of welder skill and a reduction in weld pool size (obtained by reducing current or increasing travel speed). Adequate cleaning of the parent plate is also important.

Standards rarely allow the presence of this imperfection, unless the length is short (eg BS EN 25817 for moderate quality level D). Overlap can be very difficult to detect, especially if it is extremely small. Fig.4 Linear misalignment

Linear misalignment
(Also known in the USA as highlow). This imperfection relates to deviations from the correct position/alignment of the joint.

Common causes
This is primarily a result of poor component fit-up before welding, which can be compounded by variations in the shape and thickness of components (eg out of roundness of pipe). Tacks that break during welding may allow the components to move relative to one another, again resulting in misalignment.

The acceptability of this defect is related to the design function of the structure or pipe line either in terms of the ability to take load across the misalignment or because such a step impedes the flow of fluid. Acceptance varies with the application. BS EN 25817 relates misalignment to wall thickness but sets maximum limits (eg linear misalignment, for moderate limits of imperfections D, = 0.25 x material thickness in mm, with a maximum of 5mm). AWS D1.1 allows 10% of the wall thickness up to a maximum of 3mm


BS2640 gives limits for size and alignment as follows: Outside diameter Over mm 42.4 Up to and Maximum permissible difference Maximum out of including in internal diameter alignment at the bore mm mm mm 42.2 114.3 1.0 2.0 3.0 1.0 1.0 2.0

114.3 -

The consequence of linear misalignment can, when welding is carried out from one side, be lack of root or sidewall fusion to give a sharp continuous imperfection along the higher weld face toe. In some situations linear misalignment in the bore of a pipe can lead to in-service problems where turbulence of the carrier fluid in the pipe creates subsequent erosion. Incomplete filled groove

Incomplete groove


This is a continuous, or intermittent, channel in the surface of a weld, running along its length, due to insufficient weld metal.

Common causes
This problem arises when there has been insufficient filler metal (current or wire feed too low or too high a travel speed) so that the joint has not been sufficiently filled. The result is that the thickness of weldment is less than that specified in the design, which could lead to failure.

Most standards will not accept this type of imperfection, except perhaps over short lengths and even then a smooth transition is required. The designer expects the joint to be adequately filled, but not too much so (see excess weld metal). Often the presence of this imperfection is an indication of poor workmanship and could suggest that further training is required.


Part 2 looks at shape imperfections such as excess penetration and root concavity and highlights shape imperfections related to fillet welded joints.

A general review of the causes and acceptance of shape imperfections Part 2

Part 1. This second article on shape imperfections refers mostly to fillet welds but there are two additional butt weld imperfections Fig.1. Excess penetration that require some comment.

Excessive penetration (Excess penetration bead)

Excess weld metal protruding through the root of a fusion (butt) weld made from one side only. With pipe welding this type of imperfection may cause effects in the fluid flow that can cause erosion and/or corrosion problems.

Common causes
Penetration becomes excessive when the joint gap is too large, the root faces are too small, the heat input to the joint is too high or a combination of these causes.

The criteria which sets the level of acceptable penetration depends primarily on the application code or specification. BS 2971 requires that the 'penetration bead shall not exceed 3mm for pipes up to and including 150mm bore or 6mm for pipes over 150mm bore'. BS 2633 gives specific limits for smaller diameters pipes, eg for pipe size 25-50mm the maximum allowed bore penetration is 2.5mm.


ASME B31.3 bases acceptability on the nominal thickness of the weld, for instance, allowing for a thickness range of 13-25mm up to 4mm of protrusion. However, ASME notes that 'more stringent criteria may be specified in the engineering design'. BS EN 25817 relates the acceptable protrusion to the width of the under-bead as follows: Severity of service Limit (up to maximum) Maximum Moderate, D Stringent, B

h 1mm + 1.2 b h 1mm + 0.3 b 10 mm 3 mm

Where: h = height of excess & b = width of bead (see Fig.1)

It is important to ensure that joint fit-up is as specified in the welding procedure. If welder technique is the problem Fig.2. Root concavity then re training is required.

Root concavity (suckback; underwashing)

A shallow groove that may occur in the root of a butt weld.

Common causes
Root concavity is caused by shrinkage of the weld pool in the through-thickness direction of the weld. Melting of the root pass by the second pass can also produce root concavity. This imperfection is frequently associated with TIG welding with the most common cause being poor preparation leaving the root gap either too small or, in some cases, too large. Excessively high welding speeds make the formation of root concavity more likely.

The root concavity may be acceptable. This will depend on the relevant standard being worked to. For example: BS 2971 requires a) there is complete b) the thickness of the weld is not less than the pipe thickness. root that: fusion


ASME B31.3 requires that the 'total joint thickness, including weld reinforcement, must be greater than the weld thickness'. BS EN 25817 sets upper limits related to the quality level, eg Moderate, D, h 1.5mm and for Stringent, B, h 0.5mm. Furthermore, a smooth transition is required at the weld toes. In effect the standards require that the minimum design throat thickness of the finished weldment is achieved. If the first two conditions of acceptance are met but the weld face does not have a sufficiently high cap, additional weld metal may be deposited to increase the throat.

It is important to ensure that joint fit-up is as specified in the welding procedure and that the defined parameters are being followed. If welder technique is the problem then retraining is required.

Fillet welded joints

This Section should be read in conjunction with Job Knowledge 66 Fillet welded joints a review of the practicalities. Fig.3. Excess convexity

Excess convexity

This feature is also covered by the definition for excess weld metal, see Part 1, and may be described as weld metal lying outside the plane joining the weld toes. Note that the term 'reinforcement', although used extensively in the ASME/AWS specifications is avoided in Europe as it implies that excess metal contributes to the strength of the welded joint. This is rarely the case.

Common causes
Poor technique and the deposition of large volumes of 'cold' weld metal.

The idealised design requirement of a 'mitre' fillet weld is often difficult to achieve, particularly with manual welding processes.


BS EN 25817 acceptance is based on a mitre fillet weld shape with a specific design throat and any excess weld metal is measured in relation to this mitre surface. The limits for this imperfection relate the height of the excess metal to the width of the bead with maximum values ranging from 3mm for a stringent quality level to 5mm for a moderate quality level. Surprisingly, there is no reference to a 'smooth transition' being required at the weld toes for such weld shape. AWS D1.1 also has limits relating width to acceptable excess as follows: Width of weld face Maximum convexity W 8mm W <8 to W<25mm W 25mm 2mm 3mm 5mm

Welder technique is the major cause of this problem and training may be required. It is also important to ensure that the parameters specified in the welding procedures specification are adhered to. Fig.4. Oversize fillet weld

Oversize fillet welds (welds with a throat larger than required by the design)
As discussed in Job Knowledge 66, oversize fillet welds can represent a significant additional cost and loss of productivity.

Common causes
There are some welding related causes, eg high welding current, slow travel speeds, and some supervision related (eg to be safe make this fillet bigger by x mm.)

BS EN 25817 notes that 'for many applications a throat thickness greater than the nominal one may not be a reason for rejection'. Where called for this standard has limits related to the actual throat (eg for stringent quality levels, the actual weld throat [a] may exceed the nominal (design) weld throat [h] 262

by 1+0.15a with a maximum of 3mm. For the moderate quality level the maximum limit for this feature is 5mm.

Adhere to the specified welding procedure and parameters and do not add to the specified weld size. Where possible mechanise the Fig.5. Undersized fillet weld welding operation.

Undersized fillet welds (fillet welds smaller than those specified)

Common causes
The welding related causes are associated with high welding speeds and low welding currents.

It is normally assumed that fillet welds will be at least of the size specified. BS EN 25817 states 'a fillet weld with an apparent throat thickness smaller that that prescribed should not be regarded as being imperfect if the actual throat thickness with a compensating greater depth of penetration complies with the nominal value'. That is if we can be sure there is good penetration the smaller fillet may be acceptable, however, this should be discussed with the designer of the fabrication.

Quality levels Imperfection: fillet weld having a throat thickness smaller than the nominal value Moderate D Intermediate C Stringent B NOT permitted 0.3mm+

Long imperfections NOT permitted Short imperfections (see Fig.5) h 0.1 a max 2mm max 1mm

Relying upon deep penetration to provide the required minimum design throat thickness can be difficult to justify. Penetration is a weld characteristic that is hard to measure directly and reliance must be placed on the stringent control of both the welding process


and the welder. Manual welding can rarely be relied upon to provide the required consistency but it is an option with mechanised welding systems.

Adhere to the specified welding procedure and parameters. Use sufficient current and Fig.6. Asymmetric fillet weld appropriate travel speed. Where possible mechanise the welding operation.

Asymmetric fillet weld (a fillet weld where the legs are of unequal length)
Common causes
Due to incorrect electrode positioning or to gravity pulling the molten pool towards one face of the joint. It is an mainly a problem with fillet welds made in the horizontal/vertical (PB) position.

There are instances where asymmetry may be specified (eg to place the toe stress concentration in a particular region). BS EN 25817 would, for a 10mm leg length fillet weld (ie 7.1mm throat) allow a difference in leg lengths of about 2.5mm at the stringent quality level and 3.4mm at the moderate quality level. Acceptance is related to the throat thickness. The consequence of this imperfection is a significant increase in weld volume. Provided the leg length requirement is achieved there would not be a loss of strength. Perhaps this Fig.7. Poor fit-up is why, in other standards, a requirement is not specified and the acceptability is left to the inspection personnel to make the 'engineering judgement'!

Poor fit-up
The most common imperfection is an excessive gap between the mating faces of the materials.


Common causes
Poor workshop practice, poor dimensioning and tolerance dimensions on drawings.

A major problem with fillet welds is ensuring the gap between the components is within defined limits. ISO 5817 specifies the acceptance criteria as follows:

Quality levels Moderate D Intermediate C Stringent B

h 1mm + 0.3 a h 0.5mm + 0.2 a h 0.5mm + 0.1 a max 4mm max 3mm max 2mm

Where h = fit-up gap and a = fillet weld design throat Figure 7 shows that the gap results in a reduction in the leg length on the vertical plate and this, in turn, results in a reduction in the throat thickness of the joint. A 10mm leg length fillet with a root gap of 3mm gives an effective leg of 7mm (a throat of 4.9mm instead of the expected 7mm). This discrepancy is addressed within AWS D1.1. which permits a root gap of up to 5mm for material thickness up to 75mm. However, 'if the (joint) separation is greater than 2mm the leg of the fillet weld shall be increased by Fig.1. Typical tensile testing the amount of the root opening, or the contractor machine shall demonstrate that the effective throat has been obtained'.

Mechanical testing Tensile testing, Part 1

Mechanical testing is carried out to produce data that may be used for design purposes or as part of a material joining procedure or operator acceptance scheme. The most important function may be that of providing design data since it is essential that the limiting values that a structure can withstand without failure are known.


Inadequate control of the material properties by the supplier, or incompetent joining procedures and operatives are, however, equally crucial to the supply of a product that is safe in use. An example of this dual role of mechanical testing is the tensile test that may be used either to determine the yield strength of a steel for use in design calculations or to ensure that the steel complies with a material specification's strength requirements. Mechanical tests may also be divided into quantitative or qualitative tests. A quantitative test is one that provides data that will be used for design purposes, a qualitative test where the results will be used for making comparisons - hardness or Charpy-V tests - for example as a 'go/no go test' such as the bend test. Mechanical property data are obtained from a relatively small number of standard tests and these will be covered over the next several articles. These will include tensile and toughness tests, the tests used for welding procedure and welder approval and those used for the determination of in-service properties.

Tensile testing
As mentioned earlier the tensile test is used to provide information that will be used in design calculations or to demonstrate that a material complies with the requirements of the appropriate specification - it may therefore be either a quantitative OR a qualitative test. The test is made by gripping the ends of a suitably prepared standardised test piece in a tensile test machine and then applying a continually increasing uni-axial load until such time as failure occurs. Test pieces are standardised in order that results are reproducible and comparable as shown in Fig 2.


Fig.2. Standard shape tensile specimens

Specimens are said to be proportional when the gauge length, L , is related to the original cross sectional area, A , expressed as L =k A . The constant k is 5.65 in EN specifications and 5 in the ASME codes. These give gauge lengths of approximately 5x specimen diameter and 4x specimen diameter respectively - whilst this difference may not be technically significant it is important when claiming compliance with specifications.
0 0 0 0

Fig.3. Stress/strain curve


Both the load (stress) and the test piece extension (strain) are measured and from this data an engineering stress/strain curve is constructed, Fig.3. From this curve we can determine: a) the tensile strength, also known as the ultimate tensile strength, the load at failure divided by the original cross sectional area where the ultimate tensile strength (U.T.S.), = P /A , where P = maximum load, A = original cross sectional area. In EN specifications this parameter is also identified as 'R ';
max max 0 max 0 m

b) the yield point (YP), the stress at which deformation changes from elastic to plastic behaviour ie below the yield point unloading the specimen means that it returns to its original length, above the yield point permanent plastic deformation has occurred, YP or y = P /A where P = load at the yield point. In EN specifications this parameter is also identified as 'R ';
yp 0 yp e

c) By reassembling the broken specimen we can also measure the percentage elongation, El% how much the test piece had stretched at failure where El% = (L - L /L ) x100 where Lf = gauge length at fracture and L0 = original gauge length. In EN specifications this parameter is also identified as 'A' (Fig.4a).
f 0 o

d) the percentage reduction of area, how much the specimen has necked or reduced in diameter at the point of failure where R of A% =(A - A /A ) x 100 where A = cross sectional area at site of the fracture. In EN specifications this parameter is also identified as 'Z', (Fig.4b).
0 f 0 f

Fig.4 a) Calculation of percentage elongation b) Calculation of percentage reduction of area


(a) and (b) are measures of the strength of the material, (c) and (d) indicate the ductility or ability of the material to deform without fracture. The slope of the elastic portion of the curve, essentially a straight line, will give Young's Modulus of Elasticity, a measure of how much a structure will elastically deform when loaded. A low modulus means that a structure will be flexible, a high modulus a structure that will be stiff and inflexible. To produce the most accurate stress/strain curve an extensometer should be attached to the specimen to measure the elongation of the gauge length. A less accurate method is to measure the movement of the cross-head of the tensile machine. The stress strain curve in Fig.3 shows a material that has a well pronounced yield point but only annealed carbon steel exhibits this sort of behaviour. Metals that are strengthened by alloying, by heat treatment or by cold working do not have a pronounced yield and some other method must be found to determine the 'yield point'. This is done by measuring the proof stress (offset yield strength in American terminology), the stress required to produce a small specified amount of plastic deformation in the test piece. The proof stress is measured by drawing a line parallel to the elastic portion of the stress/strain curve at a specified strain, this strain being a percentage of the original gauge length, hence 0.2% proof, 1% proof (see Fig.5).

Fig.5. Determination of proof (offset yield) strength


For example, 0.2% proof strength would be measured using 0.2mm of permanent deformation in a specimen with a gauge length of 100mm. Proof strength is therefore not a fixed material characteristic, such as the yield point, but will depend upon how much plastic deformation is specified. It is essential therefore when considering proof strengths that the percentage figure is always quoted. Most steel specifications use 0.2% deformation, R in the EN specifications.

Some materials such as annealed copper, grey iron and plastics do not have a straight line elastic portion on the stress/strain curve. In this case the usual practice, analogous to the method of determining proof strength, is to define the 'yield strength' as the stress to produce a specified amount of permanent deformation. Part 2 of this series on mechanical testing will cover welding procedure approval tensile testing.

Mechanical testing - Tensile testing Part II

Welding procedure approval for tensile testing.
To approve a butt welding procedure most specifications such as BS EN 288 Parts 3 and 4 and ASME IX require tensile tests to be carried out. These are generally cross joint (CJ) tensile tests of square or rectangular cross section that, as the name suggests, are oriented across the weld so that both parent metals, both heat affected zones (HAZs) and the weld metal itself are tested (Fig.1). The excess weld metal in the cap of the weld may be left in-situ or machined off.

Fig.1. Square or rectangular cross joint tensile test piece


While it is possible to measure the yield strength, the elongation and the reduction of area of CJ specimens the fact that there are at least three different areas with dissimilar mechanical properties makes such measurements inaccurate and unreliable, although this is sometimes carried out purely for information purposes. The specifications mentioned above require the UTS and the position of the fracture only to be recorded. The cross joint strength is usually required to exceed the minimum specified UTS of the parent metal. In most situations the weld metal is stronger than the parent metal - it is overmatched - so that failure occurs in the parent metal or the HAZ at a stress above the specified minimum. In cases where the weld and/or the HAZs are weaker than the parent metal - welded agehardened or cold worked aluminium alloys are a good example - this is covered in most specifications. Refer to Table 2 of BS EN 288 Part 4 or clause QW153 in ASME IX. The designer must also take this into account in design calculations and provide some method of compensating for this loss of strength. The tensile testing of flat plate butt welds presents few problems of specimen shape but those machined from a pipe butt joint are not flat and this curvature can affect the results. In the context of welding procedure approval testing, this is not significant since the test is used only for the determination of the UTS and the position of the fracture. For more accurate results the test piece may be waisted and may be machined flat as illustrated in Fig.2.

Fig.2. Flat cross joint tensile specimen machined from tube

It may be necessary to machine a number of specimens through the thickness of a weld, particularly on very thick joints where the capacity of the tensile machine is insufficient to pull a full thickness specimen, Fig.3.



Multiple cross joint specimens machined from thick plate

To test a small diameter tube, a solid bar is inserted in the bore of the tube to prevent the tube collapsing when the sample is clamped into the tensile machine. Most weld testing is carried out with CJ specimens but longitudinally oriented specimens are useful particularly where the weld metal or the HAZ is very strong but ductility is low. In a CJ specimen the parent metal can yield and finally fail without the weld metal or the HAZ experiencing any significant amount of deformation whereas in a longitudinal test piece the load is shared more equally. A brittle weld or HAZ will not elongate with the parent metal but will crack, with the cracks opening, but not necessarily propagating into the parent metal, as testing proceeds. The testing described above is that required by the welding procedure approval specifications. These provide no assurance that the welds in a structure will be suitable for their purpose such as elevated or cryogenic service and many application standards such as BS PD 5500 Unfired Pressure Vessels, and ASME VIII Pressure Vessels, require additional tests. Since the strength of a metal falls as the temperature rises these specifications require elevated temperature tensile tests to be carried out at the maximum design temperature. These tests are required to be carried out on the weld metal only and use a longitudinally orientated round cross section specimen from which an accurate measurement of the proof strength can be obtained.


Many application standards such as BS PD 5500 require tests additional to those required by, for example, BS EN 288 Part 3. This must be remembered when procedure approval documentation is submitted for approval by the inspecting authority or the client.

Validity of tensile data.

The samples taken are assumed to be representative of the bulk of the material but this is not always the case. Tensile strength of a casting, for instance, is often determined from a specimen machined from a riser and this will have a grain size different from that of the bulk of the casting. A rolled steel plate will be found to have different properties in the longitudinal, transverse and through thickness directions. Material specifications such as BS EN 10028, Flat Products in Steel for Pressure Purposes, therefore, require the tensile test to be taken transverse to the rolling direction so that the steel is tested across the 'grain' - the lower strength, lower ductility direction. The size of a product can also influence the properties as, during heat treatment, the section thickness will affect the cooling rate with slower cooling rates, and hence softer structures, at the centre of thicker sections. This is dealt with in material standards by specifying what is known as the 'limiting ruling section', the maximum diameter of bar at which the required mechanical properties can be achieved at the centre. In addition to variations of the properties due to the shape of the specimens and the testing temperature, the rate of loading will also affect the results. Figure 4 shows how the tensile strength increases but ductility decreases as the testing speed is increased. The speed of the cross head of the tensile machine therefore needs to be controlled and BS EN 10002 specifies a stress rate range of 6MPa per second to 60MPa per second. The ASTM specifications have similar - but not identical requirements.

Fig.4. Effect of speed of testing on strength and ductility

Needless to say, calibration of testing equipment to guarantee operation within acceptable parameters is mandatory.


Relevant specifications
BS EN 10002 Methods of tensile testing of metallic materials. BS EN 876 Destructive tests on welds in metallic materials - longitudinal tensile test. BS EN 895 Destructive tests on welds in metallic materials - transverse tensile test. BS EN ISO 7500-1 Tension/compression testing machines. Verification and calibration of the force measuring system. ASTM A370 Mechanical testing of steel products. ASTM E8 Tension testing of metallic materials. ASTM B557 Tension testing wrought and cast aluminium and magnesium alloy products.

Mechanical testing - notched bar or impact testing

Before looking at impact testing let us first define what is meant by 'toughness' since the impact test is only one method by which this material property is measured. Toughness is, broadly, a measure of the amount of energy required to cause an item - a test piece or a bridge or a pressure vessel - to fracture and fail. The more energy that is required then the tougher the material. The area beneath a stress/strain curve produced from a tensile test is a measure of the toughness of the test piece under slow loading conditions. However, in the context of an impact test we are looking at notch toughness, a measure of the metal's resistance to brittle or fast fracture in the presence of a flaw or notch and fast loading conditions. It was during World War II that attention was focused on this property of 'notch toughness' due to the brittle fracture of all-welded Liberty ships, then being built in the USA. From this work the science of fracture toughness developed and gave rise to a range of tests used to characterise 'notch toughness' of which the Charpy-V test described in this article is one. There are two main forms of impact test, the Izod and the Charpy test.


Both involve striking a standard specimen with a controlled weight pendulum travelling at a set speed. The amount of energy absorbed in fracturing the test piece is measured and this gives an indication of the notch toughness of the test material. These tests show that metals can be classified as being either 'brittle' or 'ductile'. A brittle metal will absorb a small amount of energy when impact tested, a tough ductile metal a large amount of energy. It should be emphasised that these tests are qualitative, the results can only be compared with each other or with a requirement in a specification - they cannot be used to calculate the fracture toughness of a weld or parent metal. Tests that can be used in this way will be covered in future Job Knowledge articles. The Izod test is rarely used these days for weld testing having been replaced by the Charpy test and will not be discussed further in this article. The Charpy specimen may be used with one of three different types of notch, a 'keyhole', a 'U' and a 'V'. The keyhole and U-notch are used for the testing of brittle materials such as cast iron and for the testing of plastics. The V-notch specimen is the specimen of choice for weld testing and is the one discussed here. The standard Charpy-V specimen, illustrated in Fig.1. is 55mm long, 10mm square and has a 2mm deep notch with a tip radius of 0.25mm machined on one face. Fig.1. Standard Charpy-V notch specimen

To carry out the test the standard specimen is supported at its two ends on an anvil and struck on the opposite face to the notch by a pendulum as shown in Fig.2. The specimen is fractured and the pendulum swings through, the height of the swing being a measure of the amount of energy absorbed in fracturing the specimen. Conventionally three specimens are tested at any one temperature, see Fig.3, and the results averaged.


Fig.2. Charpy testing machine

Fig.3. Schematic Charpy-V energy and % age crystallinity curves

A characteristic of carbon and low alloy steels is that they exhibit a change in fracture behaviour as the temperature falls with the failure mode changing from ductile to brittle. If impact testing is carried out over a range of temperatures the results of energy absorbed versus temperature can be plotted to give the 'S' curve illustrated in Fig.3. This shows that the fracture of these types of steels changes from being ductile on the upper shelf to brittle on the lower shelf as the temperature falls, passing through a transition region where the fracture will be mixed.


Many specifications talk of a transition temperature, a temperature at which the fracture behaviour changes from ductile to brittle. This temperature is often determined by selecting, quite arbitrarily, the temperature at which the metal achieves an impact value of 27 Joules - see, for example the impact test requirements of EN 10028 Part 2 Steel for Pressure Purposes. What the curve shows is that a ductile fracture absorbs a greater amount of energy than a brittle fracture in the same material. Knowing the temperature at which the fracture behaviour changes is therefore of crucial importance when the service temperature of a structure is considered - ideally in service a structure should operate at upper shelf temperatures. The shape of the S curve and the positions of the upper and lower shelves are all affected by composition, heat treatment condition, whether or not the steel has been welded, welding heat input, welding consumable and a number of additional factors. All the factors must be controlled if good notch toughness is required. This means that close control of the welding parameters is essential if impact testing is a specification requirement. Stainless steels, nickel and aluminium alloys do not show this change in fracture behaviour, the fracture remaining ductile even to very low temperatures. This is one reason why these types of alloys are used in cryogenic applications. In addition to the impact energy there are two further features that can be measured and may be found as a requirement in some specifications. These are percentage crystallinity and lateral expansion. The appearance of a fracture surface gives information about the type of fracture that has occurred - a brittle fracture is bright and crystalline, a ductile fracture is dull and fibrous. Percentage crystallinity is therefore a measure of the amount of brittle fracture, determined by making a judgement of the amount of crystalline or brittle fracture on the surface of the broken specimen. Lateral expansion is a measure of the ductility of the specimen. When a ductile metal is broken the test piece deforms before breaking, a pair of 'ears' being squeezed out on the side of the compression face of the specimen, as illustrated in Fig 4. The amount by which the specimen deforms is measured and expressed as millimetres of lateral expansion. ASME B31.3 for example requires a lateral expansion of 0.38mm for bolting materials and steels with a UTS exceeding 656N/mm , rather than specifying an impact value.


Fig.4 Lateral expansion

The next article in this series will look at the testing of welds, how the impact strength can be affected by composition and microstructure and some of its limitations and disadvantages.

Notched bar or impact testing. Part II

Mechanical testing - Notched bar or impact testing - Part I The previous article looked at the method of Charpy-V impact testing and the results that can be determined from carrying out a test. This next part looks at the impact testing of welds and some of the factors that affect the transition temperature such as composition and microstructure. Within such a short article, however, it will only be possible to talk in the most general of terms. Welding can have a profound effect on the properties of the parent metal and there may be many options on process selection, welding parameters and consumable choice that will affect impact strength. Many application standards therefore require impact testing to be carried out on the parent metal, the weld metal and in the heat affected zone as illustrated in Fig.1 which is taken from BS PD 5500 Annex D. The standards generally specify a minimum impact energy to be achieved at the minimum design temperature and to identify from where the specimens are to be taken. This is done in order to quantify the impact energy of the different microstructures in the weld metal and the HAZs to ensure that, as far as possible, the equipment will be operating at upper shelf temperatures where brittle fracture is not a risk.


Fig.1. PD5500 App D. location of Charpy specimens in weld HAZ

These application standards may be supplemented by client specifications that impose additional and more stringent testing requirements, as shown in Fig.2 taken from an oil industry specification for offshore structures.

Fig.2. Offshore client requirements

The positioning of the specimens within a weld is extremely important both in terms of the specimen location and the notch orientation. A specimen positioned across the width of a multi-pass arc weld will probably include more than one weld pass and its associated HAZs. Quite a small movement in the position of the notch can therefore have a significant effect on the impact values recorded during a test. Positioning a notch precisely down the centre line of a single pass of a submerged arc weld can give extremely low impact values! Testing the heat affected zone also has problems of notch position since in a carbon or low alloy steel there will be a range of microstructures from the fusion line to the unaffected parent metal. Many welds also use a 'V' preparation as illustrated above and this, coupled with the narrow HAZ, means that a single notch may sample all of these structures. If the impact properties of specific areas in the HAZ need to be determined then a 'K' or single bevel preparation may be used. 279

The standard specimen is 10mm x 10mm square - when a weld joint is thicker than 10mm the machining of a standard size specimen is possible. When the thickness is less than this and impact testing is required it becomes necessary to use sub-size specimens. Many specifications permit the use of 10mm x 7.5mm, 5mm and 2.5mm thickness (notch length) specimens. There is not a simple relationship between a 10mm x 10mm specimen and the sub-size specimens - a 10mm x 5mm specimen does not have half the notch toughness of the full size test piece. As the thickness decreases the transition temperature also decreases, as does the upper shelf value, illustrated in Fig.3 and this is recognised in the application standards.

Fig.3. Effect of size on transition temperature and upper shelf values

In a carbon or low alloy steel the lowest impact values are generally to be found close to the fusion line where grain growth has taken place. Coarse grains generally have low notch toughness, one reason why heat input needs to be controlled to low levels if high notch toughness is required. For example, EN ISO 15614 Pt. 1 requires Charpy-V specimens to be taken from the high heat input area of a procedure qualification test piece and places limits on any increase in heat input. Certain steels may also have an area some distance from the fusion line that may be embrittled so some specifications require impact tests at a distance of 5mm from the fusion line. Charpy-V tests carried out on rolled products show that there is a difference in impact values if the specimens are taken parallel or transverse to the rolling direction. Specimens taken parallel to the rolling direction test the metal across the 'grain' of the steel and have higher notch toughness than the transverse specimens - one reason why pressure vessel plates are rolled into cylinders with the rolling direction oriented in the hoop direction.


In a carbon or low alloy steel the element that causes the largest change in notch toughness is carbon with the transition temperature being raised by around 14C for every 0.1% increase in carbon content. An example of how this can affect properties is the root pass of a single sided weld. This often has lower notch toughness than the bulk of the weld as it has a larger amount of parent metal melted into it - most parent metals have higher carbon content than the filler metal and the root pass therefore has a higher carbon content than the bulk of the weld. Sulphur and phosphorus are two other elements that both reduce notch toughness, one reason why steel producers have been working hard to reduce these elements to as low a level as possible. It is not uncommon for a good quality modern steel to have a sulphur content less than 0.005%. Of the beneficial elements, manganese and nickel are possibly the two most significant, the nickel alloy steels forming a family of cryogenic steels with the 9% nickel steel being capable of use at temperatures down to -196C. Aluminium is also beneficial at around 0.02% where it has the optimum effect in providing a fine grain size. Lastly, let us have a brief look at some of the other factors that can affect the impact values. These are concerned with the quality of the specimen and how the test is conducted. It goes without saying that the specimens must be accurately machined, the shape of the tip of the notch being the most important feature. A blunted milling cutter or broach will give a rounded notch tip and this in turn will give a false, high impact value. Checking the tip radius on a shadowgraph is one simple way of ensuring the correct tip shape. Correct positioning of the specimen on the anvil is most important and this can be done using a specially designed former. The last point concerns the testing of specimens at temperatures other than at room temperature. When testing at sub-zero temperatures the length of time taken to remove the specimen from the cooling bath, position it on the anvil and test it is most important. EN875 requires this to be done within five seconds otherwise the test piece temperature will rise making the test invalid - referring back to the impact energy vs temperature curve in the previous article will show why. Relevant Specifications BS 131 Part 4 Calibration of Impact Testing Machines for metals. BS 131 Part 5 Determination of Crystallinity BS 131 Part 6 Method for Precision Determination of Charpy-V Impact Energy BS 131 Part 7 Specification for Verification of Precision Test Machines EN 875 Destructive Tests on Welds in Metallic Materials - Impact Tests EN 10045 Part 1 Test Method EN 10045 Part 2 Verification of Impact Testing Machines


ASTM E23-O2A Standard Test Methods for Notched Bar Impact Testing of Metallic Materials.

Bend testing
The bend test is a simple and inexpensive qualitative test that can be used to evaluate both the ductility and soundness of a material. It is often used as a quality control test for butt-welded joints, having the advantage of simplicity of both test piece and equipment. No expensive test equipment is needed, test specimens are easily prepared and the test can, if required, be carried out on the shop floor as a quality control test to ensure consistency in production. The bend test uses a coupon that is bent in three point bending to a specified angle. The outside of the bend is extensively plastically deformed so that any defects in, or embrittlement of, the material will be revealed by the premature failure of the coupon. The bend test may be free formed or guided. The guided bend test is where the coupon is wrapped around a former of a specified diameter and is the type of test specified in the welding procedure and welder qualification specifications. For example, it is a requirement in ASME IX, the EN 287 and EN 288 series of specifications and ISO 15614 Part 1. As the guided bend test is the only form of bend test specified in welding qualification specifications it is the only one that will be dealt with in this article. Typical bend test jigs are illustrated in Fig.1(a) and 1(b).


Fig.1(a) shows a guided bend test jig that uses a male and a female former, the commonest form of equipment

Fig.1(b) shows a wrap-around guided bend test machine that works on the same principles as a plumber's pipe bender

The strain applied to the specimen depends on the diameter of the former around which the coupon is bent and this is related to the thickness of the coupon 't', normally expressed as a multiple of 't' eg 3t, 4t etc. The former diameter is specified in the test standard and varies with the strength and ductility of the material - the bend former diameter for a low ductility material such as a fully hard aluminium alloy may be as large as 8t. Annealed low carbon steel on the other hand may require a former diameter of only 3t. The angle of bend may be 90, 120 or 180 depending on the specification requirements.



On completion of the test the coupon is examined for defects that may have opened up on the tension face. Most specifications regard a defect over 3mm in length as being cause for rejection. For butt weld procedure and welder qualification testing the bend coupons may be oriented transverse or parallel to the welding direction. Below approximately 12mm material thickness transverse specimens are usually tested with the root or face of the weld in tension. Material over 12mm thick is normally tested using the side bend test that tests the full section thickness, Fig.2. Where the material thickness is too great to permit the full section to be bent the specifications allow a number of narrower specimens to be taken provided that the full material thickness is tested. Conventionally, most welding specifications require two root and two face bend coupons or four side bends to be taken from each butt welded test piece. The transverse face bend specimen will reveal any defects on the face such as excessive undercut or lack of sidewall fusion close to the cap. The transverse root bend is also excellent at revealing lack of root fusion or penetration. The transverse side bend tests the full weld thickness and is particularly good at revealing lack of side-wall fusion and lack of root fusion in double-V butt joints. This specimen orientation is also useful for testing weld cladding where any brittle regions close to the fusion line are readily revealed. Longitudinal bend specimens are machined to include the full weld width, both HAZs and a portion of each parent metal. They may be bent with the face, root or side in tension and are used where there is a difference in mechanical strength between the two parent metals or the parent metal and the weld. The test will readily reveal any transverse defects but it is less good at revealing longitudinally oriented defects such as lack of fusion or penetration. Whilst the bend test is simple and straightforward to perform there are some features that may result in the test being invalid. In cutting the coupon from the test weld the effects of the cutting must not be allowed to affect the result. Thus it is necessary to remove any HAZ from flame cutting or work hardened metal if the sample is sheared. It is normal to machine or grind flat the face and root of a weld bend test coupon to reduce the stress raising effect that these would have. Sharp corners can cause premature failure and should be rounded off to a maximum radius of 3mm.


The edges of transverse bend coupons from small diameter tubes will experience very high tensile stresses when the ID is in tension and this can result in tearing at the specimen edges. Weld joints with non-uniform properties such as dissimilar metal joints or where the weld and parent metal strengths are substantially different can result in 'peaking' of the bend coupon. This is when most of the deformation takes place in the weaker of the two materials which therefore experiences excessive localised deformation that may result in premature failure. A dissimilar metal joint where one of the parent metals is very high strength is a good example of where this may occur and similar peaking can be seen in fully hard welded aluminium alloy joints. In these instances the roller bend test illustrated in Fig.1(b) is the best method of performing a bend test as each component of the coupon is strained by a similar amount and peaking is to a great extent eliminated.

Related Specifications BS EN 910 ASME IX Destructive Tests on Welds in Metallic Materials - Bend Tests Welding and Brazing Qualifications

ASTM E190-92 Guided bend Test for Ductility of Welds

Hardness Testing Part 1

The hardness of a material can have a number of meanings depending upon the context, which in the case of metals generally means the resistance to indentation. There are a number of test methods of which only the Brinell, Vickers and portable hardness testing will be covered in this article.

Brinell Hardness Test

The Brinell test was devised by a Swedish researcher at the beginning of the 20th century. The test comprises forcing a hardened steel ball indentor into the surface of the sample using a standard load as shown in Fig.1(a). The diameter/load ratio is selected to provide an impression of an acceptable diameter. The ball may be 10, 5 or 1mm in diameter, the load may be 3000, 750 or 30kgf, The load, P, is related to the diameter, D by the relationship P/D and this ratio has been standardised for different metals in order that test results are accurate and reproducible. For steel the ratio is 30:1 - for example a


10mm ball can be used with a 3000kgf load or a 1mm ball with a 30kgf load. For aluminium alloys the ratio is 5:1. The load is applied for a fixed length of time, usually 30 seconds. When the indentor is retracted two diameters of the impression, d and d , are measured using a microscope with a calibrated graticule.and then averaged as shown in Fig.1(b).
1 2

Fig.1. Brinell Hardness Test

The Brinell hardness number (BHN) is found by dividing the load by the surface area of the impression. There is a somewhat tedious calculation that can be carried out to determine the hardness number but it is more usual and far simpler to refer to a set of standard tables from which the Brinell hardness number can be read directly. The Brinell test is generally used for bulk metal hardness measurements - the impression is larger than that of the Vickers test and this is useful as it averages out any local heterogeneity and is affected less by surface roughness. However, because of the large ball diameter the test cannot be used to determine the hardness variations in a welded joint for which the Vickers test is preferred. Very hard metals, over 450BHN may also cause the ball to deform resulting in an inaccurate reading. To overcome this limitation a tungsten carbide ball is used instead of the hardened steel ball but there is also a hardness limit of 600BHN with this indentor.

Vickers Hardness Test

The Vickers hardness test operates on similar principles to the Brinell test, the major difference being the use of a square based pyramidal diamond indentor rather than a hardened steel ball. Also, unlike the Brinell test, the depth of the impression does not 286

affect the accuracy of the reading so the P/D ratio is not important. The diamond does not deform at high loads so the results on very hard materials are more reliable. The load may range from 1 to 120kgf and is applied for between 10 and 15 seconds.

The basic principles of operation of the Vickers hardness test are illustrated in Fig.2 where it can be seen that the load is applied to the indentor by a simple weighted lever. In older machines an an oil filled dash pot is used as a timing mechanism - on more modern equipment this is done electronically.

Fig.2. Schematic principles of operation of Vickers hardness machine

As illustrated in Fig.3(b) two diagonals, d and d , are measured, averaged and the surface area calculated then divided into the load applied. As with the Brinell test the diagonal measurement is converted to a hardness figure by referring to a set of tables. The hardness may be reported as Vickers Hardness number (VHN), Diamond Pyramid Number (DPN) or, most commonly, Hv where 'xx' represents the load used during the test.
1 2 xx


Vickers hardness test


As mentioned earlier, the Vickers indentation is smaller than the Brinell impression and thus far smaller areas can be tested, making it possible to carry out a survey across a welded joint, including individual runs and the heat affected zones. The small impression also means that the surface must be flat and perpendicular to the indentor and should have a better than 300 grit finish.

Errors in Hardness Testing

There are many factors that can affect the accuracy of the hardness test. Some of these such as flatness and surface finish have already been mentioned above but it is worth reemphasising the point that flatness is most important - a maximum angle of approximately 1 would be regarded as acceptable. To achieve the required flatness tolerance and surface finish surface grinding or machining may be necessary. The correct load must be applied and to achieve this there must be no friction in the loading system otherwise the impression will be smaller than expected - regular maintenance and calibration of the machine is therefore essential. The condition of the indentor is crucial - whilst the Vickers diamond is unlikely to deteriorate with use unless it is damaged or loosened in its mounting by clumsy handling, the Brinell ball will deform over a period of time and inaccurate readings will result. This deterioration will be accelerated if a large proportion of the work is on hard materials. The length of time that the load is applied is important and must be controlled. The specimen dimensions are important - if the test piece is too thin the hardness of the specimen table will affect the result. As a rule of thumb the specimen thickness should be ten times the depth of the impression for the Brinell test and twice that of the Vickers diagonal. Similarly, if the impression is too close to the specimen edge then low hardness values will be recorded - again as a rule the impression should be some 4 to 5 times the impression diameter from any free edge. Performing hardness testing on cylindrical surfaces eg pipes and tubes, the radius of curvature will affect the indentation shape and can lead to errors. It may be necessary to apply a correction factor - this is covered in an ISO specification, ISO 6507 Part 1. The specimen table should be rigidly supported and must be in good condition - burrs or raised edges beneath the sample will give low readings. Impact loading must be avoided. It is very easy to force the indentor into the specimen surface when raising the table into position. This can strain the equipment and damage the indentor. Operator training is crucial and regular validation or calibration is essential if hardness rest results are to be accurate and reproducible.

Hardness Testing Part 2

Part 1


The previous article dealt with the conventional Vickers and Brinell hardness tests. This second article reviews micro-hardness and portable hardness testing. The investigation of metallurgical problems in welds often requires the determination of hardness within a very small area or on components in service or too large to be able to test in a laboratory environment. Micro-hardness testing may be carried out using any one of three common methods and, as with the macro-hardness tests, measure the size of the impression produced by forcing an indentor into the specimen surface under a dead load, although many of the new test machines use a load cell system. The three most common tests are the Knoop test, the Vickers test and the ultrasonic micro-hardness test. The Knoop test uses a pyramidal indentor that gives an elongated diamond shaped impression with an aspect ratio of around 7:1, the Vickers test uses the pyramidal indentor described in the previous article (January/February 2005). The Knoop test is rarely used in Europe where the Vickers test is the preferred method. The loads used for the tests vary from 1gmf to 1kgf and produce impressions that need to be measured by using a microscope with magnifications of up to 100X, although modern machines may be equipped with an image analysis system that enables the process to be automated. The ultrasonic hardness test does not rely upon measuring the size of an impression. Instead, the test uses a Vickers diamond attached to the end of a metal rod. The rod is vibrated at its natural frequency by a piezoelectric converter and then brought into contact with the specimen surface under a small load. The resonant frequency is changed by the size of the impression produced and this change can be measured and converted to a hardness value. The size of the impression is extremely small and the test may be regarded as nondestructive since it is non-damaging in most applications. The micro-hardness test has a number of applications varying from being a metallurgical research tool to a method of quality control. The test may be used to determine the hardness of different micro-constituents in a metal, as shown in Fig.1. Where an impression would be damaging, for instance on a finished product, micro-hardness tests, particularly the ultrasonic test, may be used for quality control purposes. Micro-hardness testing also finds application in the testing of thin foils, case hardened items and decarburised components.


Fig.1. Micro-hardness test

Portable hardness tests may be used where the component is too large to be taken to the testing machine or in on-site applications. It is useful on-site, for example, for checking that the correct heat treatment has been carried out on welded items or that welded joints comply with the hardness limits specified by NACE for sour service. There are three principal methods - dynamic rebound, Brinell or Vickers indentation or ultrasonic testing. The Leeb hardness test uses dynamic rebound where a hammer is propelled into the test piece surface and the height of the rebound is measured. This gives a measure of the elasticity of the material and hence its hardness. This type of test is typified by the 'Equotip' test, Fig.2, a trademark of Proceq SA. The Equotip tester comprises a hand-held tube that contains a spring loaded hammer. The device is cocked by compressing the hammer against the spring, the device is then positioned vertically on the test surface and the release button is pressed. The hammer strikes the surface, rebounds and the result displayed digitally. Generally the average of five readings is taken.

Fig.2. Equotip test

To obtain a valid result, the position of the device, the flatness of the surface and the flexibility of the component all affect the accuracy of the results. Needless to say the skill and experience of the operator is one of the key factors in producing accurate hardness figures. The results are generally converted to give a hardness in Vickers or Brinell units.


The other type of portable hardness test in common use is the ultrasonic method described above. Commercially available machines are typified by the Microdur unit supplied by GE Inspection Technologies as shown in Fig.3. This type of equipment is electronically based and can be programmed to give hardness readings of any type Vickers, Brinell, or Rockwell. Needless to say, any of these methods of hardness testing require regular calibration of the equipment, fully trained operators and well prepared surfaces.

Fig.3. Ultrasonic testing using a Microdur unit

Although there are several different methods of hardness testing the results can be compared and converted. The ASTM specification E140 contains conversion tables for metals - ferritic and austenitic steels, nickel alloys, copper and brass- for converting Vickers to Brinell or Rockwell or vice versa. To end this article on hardness testing let us look at the significance of the results. Hardness is related to tensile strength - multiplying the Vickers hardness number of a carbon steel by 3.3 will give the approximate ultimate tensile strength in N/mm . A hardness traverse across a weld and its HAZs will therefore reveal how the tensile strength varies, as illustrated in Fig.4 which is for a work hardened aluminium alloy. In carbon or low alloy steels a hardness of above approximately 380HV suggests that the hard brittle microstructure, martensite, has been formed leading to the possibility of cold cracking during fabrication or brittle fracture in service. This fact has been recognised in the specification EN ISO 15614 Part 1 so that a maximum hardness of 380HV is permitted on a hardness traverse of a macro-section from a carbon steel procedure qualification test.


Fig.4. Variation in tensile strength across a weld

Relevant Specifications. ASTM E 10 Brinell Hardness of Metallic Materials ASTM E 140 Hardness Conversion Tables for Metals. ASTM E 110 Portable Hardness Testing. ASTM E 384 Microhardness Testing of Metallic Materials. ASTM E 103 Rapid Indentation Hardness Testing. ASTM E 18 Rockwell Hardness Testing. ASTM E 92 Vickers Hardness of Metallic Materials.

CTOD Testing
The concept of fracture toughness was introduced in an earlier Connect article, Job knowledge 71 , which discussed the Charpy-V test, a simple quantitative test that gives only an indication of the toughness of a metal. The next few articles will look at the tests that enable fracture toughness to be accurately measured in a quantitative manner by using a full size specimen containing a crack with loading that is representative of service conditions. This allows a fitness-for-purpose analysis to be carried out which enables a critical defect size to be calculated. Thus, prior to fabrication, realistic acceptance standards can be set and decisions on appropriate NDE techniques and detection sensitivities can be made. For equipment already in service, it is possible to justify the continued use of cracked or otherwise flawed components until such time as repair or replacement can be effected. Such engineering critical assessments can save an operator large amounts of time and


money, running into perhaps hundreds of millions of pounds in the case of an oil rig for example. Whilst the Crack Tip Opening Displacement (CTOD) test was developed for the characterisation of metals it has also been used to determine the toughness of nonmetallics such as weldable plastics. The CTOD test is one such fracture toughness test that is used when some plastic deformation can occur prior to failure - this allows the tip of a crack to stretch and open, hence 'tip opening displacement'. Unlike the inexpensive 10mm by 10mm square Charpy-V test piece with a blunt machined notch, the CTOD specimen may be the full thickness of the material, will contain a genuine crack and will be loaded at a rate more representative of service conditions. Conventionally three tests are carried out at the relevant temperature to ensure consistency of results. The test piece itself is 'proportional' - the length, depth and thickness of each specimen are inter-related so that, irrespective of material thickness, each specimen has the same proportions. There are two basic forms - a square or a rectangular cross section specimen. If the specimen thickness is defined as 'W', the depth will be either W or 2W with a standard length of 4.6W. A notch is machined at the centre and then extended by generating a fatigue crack so that the total 'defect' length is half the depth of the test piece- see Fig.1. A test on a 100mm thick weld will therefore require a specimen measuring 100mm wide, 200mm deep and 460mm long - an expensive operation, the validity of which can only be determined once the test has been completed. Fig.1. Prop ortio nal recta ngul ar cross secti on CTO D speci men The test is performed by placing the specimen into three point bending and measuring the amount of crack opening. This is done by means of a strain gauge attached to a clip placed between two accurately positioned knife edges at the mouth of the machined notch ( Fig.2) 293


Typical test arrangement. The specimen can be easily immersed in a cooling bath

As bending proceeds, the crack tip plastically deforms until a critical point is reached when the crack has opened sufficiently to initiate a cleavage crack. This may lead to either partial or complete failure of the specimen. The test may be performed at some minimum temperature eg the minimum design temperature or, more rarely, at a range of temperatures. As a rule of thumb, a CTOD value of between 0.1mm and 0.2mm at the minimum service temperature is regarded as demonstrating adequate toughness. The values that are required for the calculation of toughness are firstly the load at which fracture occurs and secondly the amount by which the crack has opened at the point of crack propagation ( Fig.3).


Position of immediately propagation

CTOD specimen prior to crack


Since the length of the crack and the opening at the mouth of the notch are known it is a simple matter to calculate the crack tip opening by simple geometry. Whilst the test is in progress the results are recorded automatically on a load/displacement chart that is similar in some respects to the tensile test curve illustrated in Fig.3 in Job knowledge 69. The CTOD curve is a plot of stress versus strain ( Fig.4). This illustrates the various shapes of curve that may be produced - (a) is a test where the test piece has fractured in a brittle manner with little or no plastic deformation. (b) exhibits a 'pop-in' where the brittle crack initiates but only propagates a short distance before it is arrested in tougher material - this may occur several times giving the curve a saw tooth appearance or after this one pop-in deformation may continue in a ductile manner as in (c) which shows completely plastic behaviour. Fig.4. Load vs crack opening displacement curves showing three types of fracture behaviour

The location of the notch in the weld HAZ or parent metal is important as an incorrectly positioned fatigue crack will not sample the required area, making the test invalid. To be certain that the crack tip is in the correct region, polishing and etching followed by a metallurgical examination are often carried out prior to machining the notch and fatigue cracking. This enables the notch to be positioned very accurately. This examination may be carried out after testing as further confirmation of the validity of the test results. Once the sample is broken open the crack surface is examined to ensure that the fatigue crack has a reasonably straight front. The residual stresses present in a welded joint may cause the fatigue crack front to be irregular - if this is excessive the test may be invalid. To overcome this problem the test piece may be locally compressed at the machined notch tip to redistribute the residual stress. Two depressions each side of the sample can often be seen where this compression has been carried out. The fatigue cracking itself should be carried out using a low stress 295

range. The use of high stresses to speed up the fatigue cracking process can result in a large plastically deformed area ahead of the fatigue crack and this will invalidate the results of the test. Other causes of test failure can unfortunately only be determined once the test has been completed and the crack surface examined. The precise length of the fatigue crack is measured - this is required for the analysis - but if the length of the crack is not within the limits required by the specification the test is invalid. If the fatigue crack is not in a single plane, if the crack is at an angle to the machined notch or if the crack is not in the correct region the test will need to be repeated.

Related specifications
BS 7448 BS 6729 BS 7910 Parts 1- 4 Fracture Mechanics Toughness Tests Determination of the Dynamic Fracture Toughness of Metallic Materials. Guide on Methods for Assessing the Acceptability of Flaws in Metallic Structures. Standard Test Method for Measurement of Fracture Toughness.

ASTM E1820

Compact tension and J integral tests

The previous Connect article in this series, number 76, dealt entirely with the CTOD test and illustrated the use of a single edged notched bend (SENB) specimen. This test was developed at TWI as a cost effective method of determining fracture toughness in a metal that exhibits some degree of plasticity - plane stress conditions - before fracture, the analysis of the results being carried out using elastic plastic fracture mechanics (EPFM). The failure mode is a function of the material properties, the rate of loading, the temperature and the material thickness. The lower the material toughness or temperature, the faster the loading rate or the thicker the specimen the more likely it is that brittle fracture will occur. With carbon manganese steels toughness is generally sufficiently high that it is difficult to achieve plane strain conditions except at low temperatures ie on the lower shelf, or with thick plate. The SENB specimen that is used for the CTOD test can also be used in linear elastic fracture mechanics (LEFM), a situation where the failure mode is accompanied by little or no plastic deformation - plane strain conditions. Any displacement that occurs is essentially elastic, a situation that pertains when brittle fracture occurs. Both types of fracture, brittle or ductile, can therefore be characterised by the SENB test. 296

The compact tension (CT) specimen and the J integral test, the two test methods briefly described in this article, may also be used to characterise fracture behaviour by using the appropriate calculation techniques irrespective of the failure mode. The compact tension specimen is, in some respects, similar to the SENB specimen in that it is a proportional specimen of full plate thickness containing a fatigue crack. The sides of the specimen are approximately twice the specimen thickness as illustrated in Fig.1. The specimen has a notch machined into one face in the area - weld, HAZ etc - to be tested and a fatigue crack is then grown from the tip of the machined notch to give a total 'crack' length approximately equivalent to the specimen thickness. The specimen is tested in tension with deformation measured by means of a clip gauge mounted across the mouth of the notch. Load and deformation are recorded and crack length is measured on the broken test piece. A decision may then be made as to the failure mode and the appropriate analysis tools then used to calculate toughness.

Fig.1. Compact tension specimen

The compact tension test has the advantage compared with the SENB test that the specimen is more economical in material and this can be important when thick plates are to be tested. The specimen is, however, more expensive in machining costs and the method of loading tends to give lower toughness results than the SENB specimen. For this reason the CT test is favoured by the nuclear industry, where safety is crucial and lower bound results are preferred. The J integral is a third method of determining toughness and is based on the amount of energy required to propagate a crack. Both CTOD and J can be measured on the same specimen by using two clip gauges, one to measure CTOD, the other to measure J. To determine J the specimen is loaded at successively higher loads and the displacement and crack length at each load is measured. The area beneath the load/displacement curve


gives the amount of energy required for fracture propagation to occur. Analysis of the results enables a J factor to be calculated as a measure of fracture toughness.

Qualitative tests
All the above tests - the SENB test, the CT test or the J integral - enable critical defect sizes to be calculated and decisions made about fitness for service of a structure or the required level and sensitivity of NDE. They are therefore quantitative tests. There are however a number of qualitative tests that have been developed where the test regime attempts to simulate service conditions and the test gives a 'go - no go' result. Typical of this family of tests is the NDT or drop weight test. This test was developed in the USA for the testing of naval steels where the temperature at which the failure mode of a plate subjected to impact loading would change from ductile to brittle behaviour. The sample size is standardised with three sizes depending upon plate thickness. A 20mm thick plate, for instance, would require a specimen measuring 125mm x 50mm and full plate thickness. A brittle crack starter weld is made along one side of the sample, often using a hard facing electrode. This weld deposit is notched and the sample laid, notch down, across two supports. A standard weight hammer is then dropped on to the sample and this initiates a crack in the hard facing as illustrated in Fig.2 which shows weld metal being tested. The test is carried out on a number of samples at progressively lower temperatures until the test piece breaks. This temperature is known as the 'nil-ductility temperature' (NDT). A further two tests are carried out at a temperature 50C above the NDT to demonstrate that complete failure does not occur and that a crack will arrest provided the test sample is above NDT.

Fig.2. Drop weight testing of weld

The test may be used to characterise and compare weld metals and plates or as an acceptance criterion by specifying the NDT temperature.


There are a number of other tests available some of which may be called up in application standards or in contract specifications. One such test is the dynamic tear test - a test that is, in principle, similar to the Charpy test. The test piece, however, is 15.8mm thick, 38mm deep and 180mm in length with a notch pressed into the edge instead of being machined. The test results are absorbed energy, temperature and, if requested, the amount of crystallinity on the fracture face. One other test worth mentioning is the Wells wide plate test, developed here at TWI in the early 1960's and illustrated in Fig.3. This uses a full size plate with a machined notch and/or fatigue crack. Service conditions, residual stresses etc are simulated as closely as possible. Large scale and very expensive tests such as this have been almost entirely replaced by the more cost effective SENB and compact tension specimen methods.

Fig.3. Wells wide plate test

Relevant specifications are given in the Table. Related specifications BS 7448 BS 6729 BS 7910 ASTM E1820 Parts 1-4 Fracture Mechanics Toughness Tests Determination of the Dynamic Fracture Toughness of Metallic Materials Guide on Methods for Assessing the Acceptability of Flaws in Metallic Structures Standard Test Method for Measurement of Fracture Toughness