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WeldabilityofmaterialscarbonmanganeseandlowalloysteelsJobknowledge19
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Steels
Weldabilityofmaterials
JobKnowledge
Inarcwelding,astheweldmetalneedsmechanicalpropertiestomatchtheparentmetal,theweldermustavoid
formingdefectsintheweld.Imperfectionsareprincipallycausedby:
poorweldertechnique
insufficientmeasurestoaccommodatethematerialorweldingprocess
highstressinthecomponent.
Techniquestoavoidimperfectionssuchaslackoffusionandslaginclusions,whichresultfrom
poorweldertechniques,arerelativelywellknown.However,theweldershouldbeawarethat
thematerialitselfmaybesusceptibletoformationofimperfectionscausedbythewelding
process.InthematerialssectionoftheJobKnowledgeforWelders,guidelinesaregivenon
materialweldabilityandprecautionstobetakentoavoiddefects.

Materialtypes
Intermsofweldability,commonlyusedmaterialscanbedividedintothefollowingtypes:
Steels
Stainlesssteels
Aluminiumanditsalloys
Nickelanditsalloys
Copperanditsalloys
Titaniumanditsalloys
Castiron
Fusionweldingprocessescanbeusedtoweldmostalloysofthesematerials,inawiderangeofthickness.When
imperfectionsareformed,theywillbelocatedineithertheweldmetalortheparentmaterialimmediatelyadjacentto
theweld,calledtheheataffectedzone(HAZ).Aschemicalcompositionoftheweldmetaldeterminestheriskof
imperfections,thechoiceoffillermetalmaybecrucialnotonlyinachievingadequatemechanicalpropertiesand
corrosionresistancebutalsoinproducingasoundweld.However,HAZimperfectionsarecausedbytheadverseeffect
oftheheatgeneratedduringweldingandcanonlybeavoidedbystrictadherencetotheweldingprocedure.
ThispartofthematerialssectionofJobKnowledgeforWeldersconsiderstheweldabilityofcarbonmanganese(CMn)
steelsandlowalloysteels.

Imperfectionsinwelds
Commonlyusedsteelsareconsideredtobereadilywelded.However,thesematerialscanbeatriskfromthefollowing
typesofimperfection:
porosity
solidificationcracking
hydrogencracking
reheatcracking.
Otherfabricationimperfectionsarelamellartearingandliquationcrackingbutusingmodernsteelsandconsumables,
thesetypesofdefectsarelesslikelytoarise.
Indiscussingthemaincausesofimperfections,guidanceisgivenonprocedureandweldertechniquesforreducing
theriskinarcwelding.

Porosity
Porosityisformedbyentrapmentofdiscretepocketsofgasinthesolidifyingweldpool.Thegasmayoriginatefrom
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poorgasshielding,surfacecontaminantssuchasrustorgrease,orinsufficientdeoxidantsintheparentmetal
(autogenousweld),electrodeorfillerwire.Aparticularlysevereformofporosityis'wormholes',causedbygross
surfacecontaminationorweldingwithdampelectrodes.
Thepresenceofmanganeseandsiliconintheparentmetal,electrodeandfillerwireisbeneficialastheyactas
deoxidantscombiningwithentrappedairintheweldpooltoformslag.Rimmingsteelswithahighoxygencontent,
canonlybeweldedsatisfactorilywithaconsumablewhichaddsaluminiumtotheweldpool.
Toobtainsoundporosityfreewelds,thejointareashouldbecleanedanddegreasedbeforewelding.Primercoatings
shouldberemovedunlessconsideredsuitableforweldingbythatparticularprocessandprocedure.Whenusinggas
shieldedprocesses,thematerialsurfacedemandsmorerigorouscleaning,suchasbydegreasing,grindingor
machining,followedbyfinaldegreasing,andthearcmustbeprotectedfromdraughts.

Solidificationcracking
Solidificationcracksoccurlongitudinallyasaresultoftheweldbeadhavinginsufficientstrengthtowithstandthe
contractionstresseswithintheweldmetal.Sulphur,phosphorus,andcarbonpickupfromtheparentmetalathigh
dilutionincreasetheriskofweldmetal(solidification)crackingespeciallyinthicksectionandhighlyrestrainedjoints.
Whenweldinghighcarbonandsulphurcontentsteels,thinweldbeadswillbemoresusceptibletosolidification
cracking.However,aweldwithalargedepthtowidthratiocanalsobesusceptible.Inthiscase,thecentreofthe
weld,thelastparttosolidify,willhaveahighconcentrationofimpuritiesincreasingtheriskofcracking.
Solidificationcrackingisbestavoidedbycarefulattentiontothechoiceofconsumable,weldingparametersand
weldertechnique.Tominimisetherisk,consumableswithlowcarbonandimpuritylevelsandrelativelyhigh
manganeseandsiliconcontentsarepreferred.HighcurrentdensityprocessessuchassubmergedarcandCO2,are
morelikelytoinducecracking.Theweldingparametersmustproduceanadequatedepthtowidthratioinbuttwelds,
orthroatthicknessinfilletwelds.Highweldingspeedsalsoincreasetheriskastheamountofsegregationandweld
stresseswillincrease.Theweldershouldensurethatthereisagoodjointfitupsoastoavoidbridgingwidegaps.
Surfacecontaminants,suchascuttingoils,shouldberemovedbeforewelding.

Hydrogencracking
AcharacteristicfeatureofhighcarbonandlowalloysteelsisthattheHAZimmediatelyadjacenttotheweldhardens
onweldingwithanattendantriskofcold(hydrogen)cracking.Althoughtheriskofcrackingisdeterminedbythelevel
ofhydrogenproducedbytheweldingprocess,susceptibilitywillalsodependuponseveralcontributoryfactors:
materialcomposition(carbonequivalent)
sectionthickness
arcenergy(heat)input
degreeofrestraint.
Theamountofhydrogengeneratedisdeterminedbytheelectrodetypeandtheprocess.Basicelectrodesgenerate
lesshydrogenthanrutileelectrodes(MMA)andthegasshieldedprocesses(MIGandTIG)produceonlyasmall
amountofhydrogenintheweldpool.SteelcompositionandcoolingratedeterminestheHAZhardness.Chemical
compositiondeterminesmaterialhardenability,andthehigherthecarbonandalloycontentofthematerial,the
greatertheHAZhardness.Sectionthicknessandarcenergyinfluencesthecoolingrateandhence,thehardnessof
theHAZ.
Foragivensituationtherefore,materialcomposition,thickness,jointtype,electrodecompositionandarcenergy
input,HAZcrackingispreventedbyheatingthematerial.Usingpreheatwhichreducesthecoolingrate,promotes
escapeofhydrogenandreducesHAZhardnesssopreventingacracksensitivestructurebeingformedthe
recommendedlevelsofpreheatforvariouspracticalsituationsaredetailedintheappropriatestandardse.g.BS
EN10112:2001.Ascrackingonlyoccursattemperaturesslightlyaboveambient,maintainingthetemperatureofthe
weldareaabovetherecommendedlevelduringfabricationisespeciallyimportant.Ifthematerialisallowedtocool
tooquickly,crackingcanoccuruptoseveralhoursafterwelding,oftentermed'delayedhydrogencracking'.After
welding,therefore,itisbeneficialtomaintaintheheatingforagivenperiod(holdtime),dependingonthesteel
thickness,toenablethehydrogentodiffusefromtheweldarea.
WhenweldingCMnstructuralandpressurevesselsteels,themeasureswhicharetakentopreventHAZcrackingwill
alsobeadequatetoavoidhydrogencrackingintheweldmetal.However,withincreasingalloyingoftheweldmetal
e.g.whenweldingalloyedorquenchedandtemperedsteels,morestringentprecautionsmaybenecessary.
TheriskofHAZcrackingisreducedbyusingalowhydrogenprocess,lowhydrogenelectrodesandhigharcenergy,
andbyreducingthelevelofrestraint.Practicalprecautionstoavoidhydrogencrackingincludedryingtheelectrodes
andcleaningthejointfaces.Whenusingagasshieldedprocess,asignificantamountofhydrogencanbegenerated
fromcontaminantsonthesurfaceofthecomponentsandfillerwiresopreheatandarcenergyrequirementsshouldbe
maintainedevenfortackwelds.

Reheatcracking
ReheatorstressrelaxationcrackingmayoccurintheHAZofthicksectioncomponents,usuallyofgreaterthan50mm
thickness.ThemorelikelycauseofcrackingisembrittlementoftheHAZduringhightemperatureserviceorstress
reliefheattreatment.
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AsacoarsegrainedHAZismoresusceptibletocracking,lowarcenergyinputweldingproceduresreducetherisk.
Althoughreheatcrackingoccursinsensitivematerials,avoidanceofhighstressesduringweldingandeliminationof
localpointsofstressconcentration,e.g.bydressingtheweldtoes,canreducetherisk.

Weldabilityofsteelgroups
PDCENISO/TR15608:2005identifiesanumberofsteelsgroupswhichhavesimilarmetallurgicalandwelding
characteristics.Themainrisksinweldingthesegroupsare:
Group1.Lowcarbonunalloyedsteels,nospecificprocessingrequirements,specifiedminimumyield
strengthReH460N/mm2.
Forthinsection,unalloyedmaterials,thesearenormallyreadilyweldable.However,whenweldingthickersections
withafluxprocess,thereisariskofHAZhydrogencracking,whichwillneedincreasedhydrogencontrolofthe
consumablesortheuseofpreheat.
Group2.Thermomechanicallytreatedfinegrainsteelsandcaststeelswithaspecifiedminiumumyield
strengthReH>360N/mm2.
Foragivenstrengthlevel,athermomechanicallyprocessed(TMCP)steelwillhavealoweralloycontentthana
normalisedsteel,andthuswillbemorereadilyweldablewithregardtoavoidanceofHAZhydrogencrackingandthe
achievementofmaximumhardnesslimits.However,thereisalwayssomedegreeofsofteningintheHAZafter
weldingTMCPsteels,andarestrictionontheheatinputused,soasnottodegradethepropertiesofthejointzone
(e.g.2.5kJ/mmlimitsfor15mmplate).
Group3.Quenchedandtemperedsteelsandprecipitationhardenedsteels(exceptstainlesssteels),
ReH>360N/mm2
Theseareweldable,butcaremustbetakentoadheretoestablishedprocedures,astheseoftenhavehighcarbon
contents,andthushighhardenability,leadingtoahardHAZsusceptibilitytocracking.AswithTMCPsteels,there
maybearestrictiononheatinputorpreheattoavoiddegradationofthesteelproperties.
Groups4,5and6.Chromiummolybdenumandchromiummolybdenumvanadiumcreepresistingsteels.
Thesearesusceptibletohydrogencracking,butwithappropriatepreheatandlowhydrogenconsumables,with
temperbeadtechniquestominimisecracking,thesteelsarefairlyweldable.Postweldheattreatmentisusedto
improveHAZtoughnessinthesesteels.
Group7.Ferritic,martensiticorprecipitationhardenedstainlesssteels.
Whenusingafillertoproducematchingweldmetalstrength,preheatisneededtoavoidHAZcracking.Postweldheat
treatmentisessentialtorestoreHAZtoughness.
Group8.Austeniticstainlesssteels.
Thesesteelsdonotgenerallyneedpreheat,butinordertoavoidproblemswithsolidificationorliquationcracking
uponwelding,theconsumablesshouldbeselectedtogiveweldmetalwithalowimpuritycontent,orifappropriate,
residualferriteintheweldmetal.
Group9.Nickelalloysteels,Ni10%.
ThesehaveasimilarweldabilitytoGroups4,5&6.
Group10.Austeniticferriticstainlesssteels(duplex).
Inweldingthesesteels,maintainingphasebalanceintheweldmetalandintheHAZrequirescarefulselectionof
consumables,theabsenceofpreheatandcontrolofmaximuminterpasstemperature,alongwithminimumheatinput
levels,asslowcoolingencouragesausteniteformationintheHAZ.
Group11.Highcarbonsteels.
ThesesteelswillbelessweldableowingtotheirincreasedcarboncontentwithrespecttoGroup1.Itislikelythatcare
overthechoiceofconsumablesandtheuseofhighpreheatlevelswouldbeneeded.
Itisimportanttoobtainadvicebeforeweldinganysteelsthatyoudonothaveexperiencein.

References
1. BSEN10112:2001'Weldingrecommendationsforweldingofmetallicmaterialspart2:Arcweldingof
ferriticsteels'BritishStandardsInstitution,March2001.
2. PDCENISO/TR15608:2005'Weldingguidelinesforametallicmaterialgroupingsystem'BritishStandards
Institution,October2005.
ThisJobKnowledgearticlewasoriginallypublishedinConnect,July/August1996.Ithasbeenupdatedsotheweb
pagenolongerreflectsexactlytheprintedversion.
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