Journal of Materials Processing Technology 161 (2005) 497–503

FEM simulation on microstructure of DC flash butt welding for an ultra-fine grain steel
Weibin Wanga , Yaowu Shia,∗ , Yongping Leia , Zhiling Tianb
a

School of Materials Science and Engineering, Beijing University of Technology, Beijing 100022, PR China b Central Iron and Steel Research Institute, Beijing 100081, PR China Received 25 September 2003; received in revised form 22 July 2004; accepted 22 July 2004

Abstract Finite element method (FEM) was used to simulate the process of a direct current (DC) flash butt welding (FBW) processing. In the simulation thermal–electrical coupling and flash process are considered. Element live-death method was adopted to simulate metal melting and metal loss during the flash process. Then, the temperature field of the welded joint was computed. In addition, a Monte Carlo (MC) simulation technology was utilized to investigate the Austenite grain growth in the heat affected zone (HAZ) of the FBW for the ultra-fine grain steel. On the basis of the result of the temperature field, an experimental data-based (EDB) model proposed by Gao was used to establish the relation between the MC simulation time and real time in the grain growth kinetics simulation. Moreover, thermal pinning was considered due to the effect of temperature gradient on HAZ grain growth of welded joint. The simulations give out the grain size distribution in HAZ of the FBW welded joint for the ultra-fine grain steel and effect of grain growth due to temperature gradient. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Ultra-fine grain steel; DC flash butt welding; Monte Carlo method; Microstructure simulation

1. Introduction Ultra-fine grain steel is a newly steel developed from TMCP (thermo-mechanical control process) technology. Ferrite grain size with micrometer or sub-micrometer was produced by the controlled thermo-mechanical process. The steel is with super fine grain size and super purity. That greatly improves its strength and toughness. Grain size is a key parameter dependent on the properties of materials. Due to the grain size of the ultra-fine grain steel is very fine, the coarse grain in the HAZ may deteriorate toughness of the HAZ [1]. In 1997, Japanese scientists started a project of super steel [2,3]. In the same year, a project of 21st century structure steel began in Korea [4]. Later, a great fundamental study of a new-generation steel named as Projects 973 began in China in 1999. In the project welding consumables

Corresponding author. E-mail address: shiyw@bjut.edu.cn (Y. Shi).

and welding technology were also studied in order to make the welded joint have over 90% properties of the parent metal [5,6]. In the present, the researches on the adaptability of laser welding, MAG welding technology to the ultra-fine grain steel have been widely conducted now. The FBW technology is a high efficient joining process, and widely used in train manufactory, long transportation pipeline construction, architecture construction and other engineering field. Being a solid state joining process, the FBW process is different from the common fusion welding. So, the research on the welding technology and its effect on the microstructure of the ultra-fine grain steel is needed. As there exist several controllable welding parameters in the FBW, the choice of the welding technology is complex. Thus, numerical simulation is useful tool for studying the joining process of FBW. In this work, FEM is used to simulate the welding process of the FBW for the weld HAZ for the ultra-fine grain steel.

0924-0136/$ – see front matter © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.jmatprotec.2004.07.098

Materials and experiment 2. Its microstructure consists of ferrite and pearlite. FBW experiments A cam-controlled welder with power of 150 kW was used in the flash butt welding. 3. The specimen was etched by 3% nitric acid ethanol solution. 2(b).5 0. Fig.1. Vickers diamond hardness was investigated along the longitudinal section of the welded joint. and the hollow points indicate the hardness located in the outside edge of the joint. The reinforcement steel bar used in architecture is with diameter Fig. discussion on the weld stress–strain and weld formation will appear in other publication.015 0.3 0.19 0. stress–strain field.5 38 7. 2(a) shows the morphology of the welded joint. 1 is the microstructure of the base steel bar. Metallographical examination was made from longitudinal section of the welded bar after welding. Microstructure of 400 MPa ultra-fine grain reinforcement steel bar. Wang et al. 2.2. as much higher cooling rate exists in edge of the bar. The coarsened microstructure at the weld interface is shown in Fig. Monte Carlo method is used to analyze the Austenite grain growth in the HAZ. and the results along the length direction are shown in Fig. Morphology and microstructure of the FBW joint.%) and tensile strength of 400 MPa ultra-fine grain reinforcement steel bar C Si Mn P S Cr. However.498 W. 2. Fig.18 0. the hardness in the HAZ is higher than that in the base metal. On the basis of the computed temperature field.17 526. Fig. The simulation includes the instantaneous temperature field.2 Table 1 Chemical composition (wt. 2.4 of 20 mm and the average grain size is less than 10 m. Table 1 shows the chemical composition and mechanical properties of the 400 MPa ultra-fine grain reinforcement steel bar. The main parameters used in producing the welded joints are given in Table 2. In addition. Ni Cu σ b (MPa) 0. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 161 (2005) 497–503 Table 2 Main parameters used in the FBW process Mode Flash length (mm) Forging length (mm) Flash velocity (mm/s2 ) Stretch length (mm) Output voltage (V) Uniform accelerating 12 2. The solid points indicate the hardness located in the inside of the joint.009 ≤0. It is clear that the hardness in the outside edge is higher than that in the inside of the welded bar. During the welding process NiCr/NiSi thermal couples were welded in the bottom of small holes drilled in the different position away from the interface of the butt-welded joints. Test materials An ultra-fine grain steel SS400 made by fining grain process based on low carbon steel A36 is used in the test.60 0. 1. .

3. 3. The instantaneous heat generation at the welded end is described by Qc = ( U)2 + qv Rc (4) U the poten- where Rc is the surface contact resistance and tial drop at contacted interface. Fig. (2) is the contacted surface or flash face. the following differential equation can be used to describe electrical voltage distribution of body: ∂ ∂r 1 ∂U ρE ∂r + 1 ∂U ∂ + ρr ∂r ∂z 1 ∂U ρE ∂z =0 (1) Fig. The electrical potential equation gave out the distribution of electrical voltage in the bar. 4 shows the computational model in the thermal–electrical coupling computation.1.3. In the computation. For axial symmetrical problem. the differential equation for axial symmetrical heat transfer is as follows: ρc ∂T ∂ ∂T = k ∂t ∂r ∂r + k ∂T ∂ ∂T + k r ∂r ∂z ∂z + qv (2) As the geometry of the test bar was symmetrical. c the mass capacity of materials.2. For the simulated bar with diameter of 20 mm. heat transfer and temperature distribution. Based on the electromagnetic theory. ρ the density. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 161 (2005) 497–503 499 Fig. (6) is the terminal of welded bar. in which cooling jig was included. 4Node even-parameter element was used in the analysis. (5) and (7) are the outer surface of electrode and bar. where T is the temperature. separately. With the increase of the welding time. the model consisted of nodes of 57. For contacted face. Computational model where r and z are the radial and axial coordinates. Basic equations In the numerical computation of the DC FBW process.720. the resistivity is indicated by the following relations. 2D axial symmetry finite element model was utilized. electrical resistivity is strongly related to temperature. FE simulation of temperature field 3. 4. Smaller meshes were used at the zone of strong variation of temperatures and deformations. For the test steel. Hardness distribution of the FBW joint. U is the potential and ρE the resistivity of materials. (1) is the axial symmetrical boundary. the resistivity is increased. In the computation. where the resistivityρe is in m. and the heat transfer equation gave out the heat generation. k the heat transfer coefficient and qv the heat source intensity.864 and elements of 36. a commercial software ANSYS is used with compiled program. (4) is the boundary of water-cooled copper jig. Wang et al. there is equation of J = U/ρc. where ρe is the electrical resistivity. Materials properties Electrical resistivity of materials will directly affect the heating during the FBW process. Computational model. qv = (∂U/∂r)2 + (∂U/∂z)2 ρe (3) . As the FBW process is an instantaneous heat transfer problem with interior heat source. where J is the current density. 3. In the model.W. and temperature T is in ◦ C [7]. (3). The values of qv for each element will be obtained from electrical potential field via finite element analysis. 3. thermal–electrical coupling was described by the electrical potential equation and heat transfer equation. the electrical voltage distribution in the body meets the Laplace equation for given electrical current.

In a computation. Heat exchange coefficient at boundaries with temperature.05e − 2T + 52. S is the welded cross-section. In the simulation. The heat exchange co- where K7 is a factor of steel property. Rc = 9500K7 × 10−6 Ω S 2/3 vf 1/3 j (6) The specific heat c and densityρm are described by c = 1. Heat sources are concentrated at the butt region of the work pieces. ρm = 7860 (T > 850 ◦ C). a grain structure is mapped onto a discrete lattice. the elements used in this section was killed after the flash simulation is finished in this time section and the simulation results were accumulated to the next increment step. k = 27.218e − 10−1 T + 451. for example. Then. where N is the total number of grain orientations.875e − 10(T − 800) + 1. cm2 .14e − 5T 2 − 4. cm/s2 . each layer is 1 mm and the meshes are with 10 layers.21 (T > 800 ◦ C) ◦ efficient at water-cooling boundary is assumed to be constant of 3800 W/m2 ◦ C. Wang et al. (750 ◦ C < T ≤ 850 ◦ C).4. k = −3. the enthalpy of the steel at different temperature is computed from the following equation: H= ρc(T ) dT (5) The heat exchange coefficients at the surface of the steel bar and copper jig are shown in Fig.10]. and K7 = 1 for low carbon steel. First.9e − 10T + 1. vf the flash velocity. So-called live-death element method is that first the time sections was divided by whole demanded flashing time. the first layer of 1 mm is killed. Monte Carlo simulation of microstructure 4. Contact resistance was deduced by the following formula [8]. ρe = 2.08T − 1092.3 (600 ◦ C < T ≤ 750 ◦ C). respectively. but the first layer is not included in the next step computation. repeat this process till the end of the whole computation time or flash process. Contact resistance is dependent on the number of liquid bridges and the current line shrinkage in the butt interface. 3. where the heat transfer coefficient is in W/(m◦ C). In the simulation computation the time of 1 s corresponds to 1 mm. if flash length was 10 mm. A/mm2 . 5. Then the results are added to the next computation. The heat generated from contact resistance makes the proportion of 85–90% of the whole heat output. k = −3. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 161 (2005) 497–503 ρe = 8. 4.46T + 5315.56e − 13T 2 + 4.186e − 3T + 49. E.1. Live-death element method and flash velocity are matched each other to simulate the metal melting and flash process. MC simulation of grain growth The MC methodology to simulate the grain growth has been described in detail in the literature [9.46 (T ≤ 400 ◦ C).7 (T ≤ 400 ◦ C). Then. Contact resistance The heating of FBW is derived from the co-effect of selfbody resistance and contact resistance.29e − 4T 2 + 3. Grain boundary segment is defined to lie between two sites of unlike orientation.5 (400 ◦ C < T ≤ 600 ◦ C) c = 3.54e − 7 (T < 800 C).49e − 5T 2 − 1. It is related to flash velocity and weld section. The coupling step length is dependent to the relation between the real flash distance and time.094e − 6 (T ≥ 800 ◦ C) The heat transfer coefficient k of the steel is indicated by the following relations. heat flow density was used in the interface of the butt joint. Each grain is then represented by a collection of lattice. Only the essential of MC model is addressed here.4 c = 5.500 W.0 c = 672. Each of the lattice sites is assigned a random orientation number between 1 and N. When having finished the first 1 s computation. is calculated by the Fig. .39 (400 ◦ C < T ≤ 800 ◦ C). The local interaction energy. 5. j the current density. In the entire processing of flash welding.77e − 4T 2 + 476. second. Flash time is 10 s under the condition of uniform flash process. c = 7. where the specific heat and density of the steel are in J/(kg ◦ C) and kg/m3 . contact resistance exists from the process beginning to the end.

W. which are obtained . In Monte Carlo model. we divide actual time into a series isothermal element. The total value of tMCS can be described as follows: (tMCS )nn1 = L0 K1 λ n where J is a positive constant which sets the scale of the grain boundary energy. Site selection probability p(r) is defined as: tMCS p(r) = max (15) tMCS where tMCS is the MC simulation time at any site in max the region and tMCS is the maximum value of MC simmax ulation time in the domain. and Q are obtained from experimental data. However. K1 and n1 are the model constants. respectively. tMCS .3. 4. we must build the relationship between MC simulated time. E was introduced by the following formula: n K (K1 λ)n exp − Q RTi ti (14) E=J i=1 (δSi S0 − δSi Sn ) = J(n1 − n2 ) (11) where S0 is orientation before original orientation change. the tMCS calculated from Eq. the grain size variation with tMCS is largely independent of material properties and actual-time grain growth kinetics and is only dependent on the grid system. Ti the mean temperature in a time interval. grains must grow at higher rates in regions of higher temperature in the welded joint. n1 and n2 are the number of neighbor grains which have different orientation change. Successful transitions at the grain boundaries to orientations of nearest neighbor grains thus correspond to boundary migration. 4. (14) is varied at different site. We assumed this model to have N grid points. Under non-isothermal condition it must be integrated over the entire thermal cycle by summing the grain growth in short time intervals at different temperature. (14). Thus the probability to select each grid point is the same in traditional MC calculations. Wang et al. The probability of orientation change is defined as p = 1. Both tMCS and tMCS can be calculated from Eq. The experimental data-based (EDB) model proposed by Gao [11] was adopted to relate tMCS and actual time in this simulation. is a dimensionless quantity. Successful orientation change on the grain boundary means grain boundary migration. The kinetics of grain boundary migration are simulated by selecting a site randomly and changing its orientation to one of the nearest neighbor orientations based on energy change due to the attempted orientation change. Since the thermal cycle in the welded joint is a function of the distance from the welded interface. λ the discrete grid point spacing in the MC simulation. time was defined as Monte Carlo Step (MCS) or MC simulation time (tMCS ). / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 161 (2005) 497–503 501 Hamiltonian: n E = −J j=1 (δSi Sj − 1) (7) by regression analysis of the data generated from MC simulation. where a steep temperature gradient exists. a concept of site selection probability is introduced. Relationship between simulated grain size and simulated time is defined as follows: log L λ = log(K1 ) + n1 log(tMCS ) (13) where K is a constant and Q the activation energy. kB T E>0 (9) (10) + where E is the change of energy due to the change of orientation.2. In addition the tMCS cannot be directly applied in the MC algorithm. both K. actual time and temperatures. The velocity vi of boundary migration is defined as vi = C 1 − exp − Ei kB T (12) where Ei is the local chemical potential on grain boundary and C the grain boundary migration rate. δ the Kronecker’s delta function: δSi Sj δSi Sj =1 =0 (Si = Sj ) (Si = Sj ) (8) where Si is the orientation at a randomly selected site i and Sj are the orientations of its nearest neighbors and n the total number of the nearest neighbor sites. we know that maximum Austenite grain size of actual HAZ in the welded joint is smaller where L is the simulated grain size measured by mean grain intercepts. To solve this problem. In order to describe a course of heating and cooling. Relation between MC simulation time and actual time In the MC model. Thus the spatial variation of thermal cycle is included in the site selection probability. because the choice of grid point for updating orientation number is random in the MC technique. The MC simulation time. tMCS the MC simulation time or MC simulation iteration steps. kB the Boltzman constant and T the temperature. One MCS means attempt of N orientation changes. Sn is orientation after original orientation change. p = exp E≤0 − E . Effect of hot pin on austenite grain growth By early research. The tMCS variation can thus be transformed into the variation of site selection probability and applied in MC model. ti . To get the MC model for welds.

the thermal pinning effect tends to restrict the grain growth within the region with a sharp temperature gradient. Fig. This effect is related to temperature gradient. HAZ microstructure Fig. the grain size was measured near the fusion boundary of welded joints. From the figure. Thermal cycle with distance to the interface of welded joint. In addition. Monte Carlo method is an effective way to take research on hot pin effect in HAZ. and is so-called hot pin effect. / Journal of Materials Processing Technology 161 (2005) 497–503 Fig. the difference of grain boundary transfer rate in the different position is considered by the transfer from t to tMCS simulation relation and the site selection probability. Comparisons of temperature distribution between simulation and experiment. To view the simulation results quantitatively. Fig. Wang et al. 6. m) 110 111 0. Conclusion (1) Model for simulating a DC FBW processing was built by considering the electrical–thermal coupling. . 6. By the Monte Carlo method. 5. That is. Comparison of simulated grain growth in and without consideration of heat pinning. 7. the grain growth in former condition is slower than the latter one. 8 shows the comparison of simulated grain structure in HAZ and bulk metal heating. the measured and simulated results are basically in agreement. Distribution of temperature field Fig. That is because the growth of large grain in the HAZ is blocked by its neighbor small grains. the severely blocked grain growth is in the HAZ. The mean lineal intercept processing is used to measure the Austenite grain size for both simulated and practically welded microstructures. The larger the temperature gradient is. 8. The grain growth due to heat pinning is smaller than that of bulk metal heating.1. Even the measured values show some dispersion.2. Simulation results 5. on Fig. Table 3 shows the comparison of simulated grain size and experimental grain size near the fusion line.9 than physical simulated one. we can see the effect of hot pin on grain growth clearly.502 W. and this variation may occur in boundary of only one grain. Table 3 Grain size of simulated and experimental microstructure at HAZ near fusion line Simulation Experiment Error (%) SS400 bar (grain size. 6 shows the comparisons between temperature distribution of simulation and experiment. 5. Then. 7 shows temperature history of measured and simulated results in the welded joint for the ultra-fine grain steel bar. Grain boundary transfer rate varies greatly in the large temperature gradient.

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