Weld Distortion

Beginning w elders and even those that are more experienced commonly struggle w ith the problem of w eld distortion, (w arping of the base plate caused by heat from the w elding arc). Distortion is troublesome for a number of reasons, but one of the most critical is the potential creation of a w eld that is not structurally sound. This article w ill help to define w hat w eld distortion is and then provide a practical understanding of the causes of distortion, effects of shrinkage in various types of w elded assemblies and how to control it, and finally look at methods for distortion control. What is Weld Distortion? Distortion in a w eld results from the expansion and contraction of the w eld metal and adjacent base metal during the heating and cooling cycle of the w elding process. Doing all w elding on one side of a part w ill cause much more distortion than if the w elds are alternated from one side to the other. During this heating and cooling cycle, many factors affect shrinkage of the metal and lead to distortion, such as physical and mechanical properties that change as heat is applied. For example, as the temperature of the w eld area increases, yield strength, elasticity, and thermal conductivity of the steel plate decrease, w hile thermal expansion and specific heat increase (Fig. 3-1). These changes, in turn, affect heat flow and uniformity of heat distribution.

Fig. 3-1 Changes in the properties of steel w ith increases in temperature complicate analysis of w hat happens during the w elding cycle - and, thus, understanding of the factors contributing to w eldment distortion.

Reasons for Distortion To understand how and w hy distortion occurs during heating and cooling of a metal, consider the bar of steel show n in Fig. 3-2. As the bar is uniformly heated, it expands in all directions, as show n in Fig. 3-2(a). As the metal cools to room temperature it contracts uniformly to its original dimensions.

Fig. 3-2 If a steel bar is uniformly heated w hile unrestrained, as in (a), it w ill expand in all directions and return to its original dimentions on cooling. If restrained, as in (b), during heating, it can expand only in the vertical direction - become thicker. On cooling, the deformed bar contracts uniformly, as show n in (c), and, thus, is permanently deformed. This is a simplified explanation of basic cause of distortion in w elding assemblies.

But if the steel bar is restrained -as in a vise - w hile it is heated, as show n in Fig. 3-2(b), lateral expansion cannot take place. But, since volume expansion must occur during the heating, the bar expands in a vertical direction (in thickness) and becomes thicker. As the deformed bar returns to room temperature, it w ill still tend to contract uniformly in all directions, as in Fig. 3-2 (c). The bar is now shorter, but thicker. It has been permanently deformed, or distorted. (For simplification, the sketches show this distortion occurring in thickness only. But in actuality, length is similarly affected.) In a w elded joint, these same expansion and contraction forces act on the w eld metal and on the base metal. As the w eld metal solidifies and fuses w ith the base metal, it is in its maximum expanded from. On cooling, it attempts to contract to the volume it w ould normally occupy at the low er temperature, but it is restrained from doing so by the adjacent base metal. Because of this, stresses develop w ithin the w eld and the adjacent base metal. At this point, the w eld stretches (or yields) and thins out, thus adjusting to the volume requirements of the low er temperature. But only those stresses that exceed the yield strength of the w eld metal are relieved by this straining. By the time the w eld reaches room temperature - assuming complete restraint of the base metal so that it cannot move - the w eld w ill contain locked-in tensile stresses approximately equal to the yield strength of the metal. If the restraints (clamps that hold the w orkpiece, or an opposing shrinkage force) are removed, the residual stresses are partially relieved as they cause the base metal to move, thus distorting the w eldment.

Shrinkage Control - What You Can Do to Minimize Distortion

To prevent or minimize w eld distortion, methods must be used both in design and during w elding to overcome the effects of the heating and cooling cycle. Shrinkage cannot be prevented, but it can be controlled. Several w ays can be used to minimize distortion caused by shrinkage: 1. Do not overw eld The more metal placed in a joint, the greater the shrinkage forces. Correctly sizing a w eld for the requirements of the joint not only minimizes distortion, but also saves w eld metal and time. The amount of w eld metal in a fillet w eld can be minimized by the use of a flat or slightly convex bead, and in a butt joint by proper edge preparation and fitup. The excess w eld metal in a highly convex bead does not increase the allow able strength in code w ork, but it does increase shrinkage forces. When w elding heavy plate (over 1 inch thick) bevelling or even double bevelling can save a substantial amount of w eld metal w hich translates into much less distortion automatically. In general, if distortion is not a problem, select the most economical joint. If distortion is a problem, select either a joint in w hich the w eld stresses balance each other or a joint requiring the least amount of w eld metal. 2. Use interm ittent w elding Another w ay to minimize w eld metal is to use intermittent rather than continuous w elds w here possible, as in Fig. 3-7(c). For attaching stiffeners to plate, for example, intermittent w elds can reduce the w eld metal by as much as 75 percent yet provide the needed strength.

Here. and the w elded plates assume the desired flatness. Figure 3-7(e) illustrates this. are show n in Fig. presetting or prespringing the parts to be w elded. show n in Fig. clamping them tightly together. the general progression of w elding may be. thereby increasing total shrinkage w hen many passes are used.is lengthened w hen the plates are preset. are preferable to a greater number of passes w ith small electrodes w hen transverse distortion could be a problem.or use constructively . 3-7(d). 3-7 Distortion can be prevented or minimized by techniques that defeat . 3-7(f). preset in this manner. The top of the w eld groove . Balance w elds around the neutral axis This practice. Thus the completed w eld is slightly longer than it w ould be if it had been made on the flat plate. say.the effects of the heating and cooling cycle.the effects of the heating and cooling cycle. Fig. 3-7(j). Fig. Fig. Use as few w eld passes as possible Few er passes w ith large electrodes. I thought that this w as referring to overhead or vertical w elding positions. Backstepping may not be effective in all applications. and it cannot be used economically in automatic w elding. 3-7 Distortion can be prevented or minimized by techniques that defeat . from left to right. 3-7(i). allow ing the w eld to relieve its longitudinal shrinkage stresses by shortening to a straight line.Fig. the heated edges expand.w hich w ill contain the bulk of the w eld metal . Several assemblies. 3. too. Fig. offsets one shrinkage force w ith another to effectively minimize distortion of the w eldment. expansion along outer edges CD brings the plates back together. the plates expand less and less because of the restraint of prior w elds. 37(g). 7. Use backstep w elding In the backstep technique. 3-7 Distortion can be prevented or minimized by techniques that defeat . w hich temporarily separates the plates at B. The w elds are . As each bead segment is placed. is a simple example of the use of opposing mechanical forces to counteract distortion due to w elding. The required amount of preset for shrinkage to pull the plates into alignment can be determined from a few trial w elds. Both design of the w eldment and w elding sequence can be used effectively to control distortion. 6. design of the assembly and proper sequence of w elding are important factors. Prebending. Place w elds near the neutral axis Distortion is minimized by providing a smaller leverage for the shrinkage forces to pull the plates out of alignment. This separation is most pronounced as the first bead is laid. Shrinkage caused by each pass tends to be cumulative. the plates return to the flat shape. The tw o actions coincide. But as the heat moves out across the plate to C. When the clamps are released after w elding. 5. Another common practice for balancing shrinkage forces is to position identical w eldments back to back.or use constructively .or use constructively . w hich is not the case) before w elding can make shrinkage perform constructive w ork.the effects of the heating and cooling cycle. Anticipate the shrinkage forces Presetting parts (at first glance. but each bead segment is deposited from right to left as in Fig. 4. Fig. 3-7(h). With successive beads.

Thus. the utility of the technique is limited. Copper tubes are brazed or soldered to copper holding clamps. in a fillet w eld. distortion. and the w ater is circulated through the tubes during w elding. 2. engineering approval should be obtained. the fillet w eld size (in inches) is equal to the square root of the quantity of the heat input (kJ/in) divided by 500.completed on both assemblies and allow ed to cool before the clamps are released. In general. 3-7 Distortion can be prevented or minimized by techniques that defeat . Other Techniques for Distortion Control Water-Cooled Jig Various techniques have been developed to control distortion on specific w eldments. 1 is balanced by the shrinkage in w eld No. 35 volts. In heavy w eldments. Sometimes tw o identical w eldments are clamped back to back. peening the bead stretches it and makes it thinner. before a large volume of surrounding metal heats up and expands. in fact. and 3 ipm requires 87. because of the possibility of covering a crack and interfering w ith inspection. it is necessary to use other means to counteract the shrinkage forces in the w eld metal. Strongback The "strongback" is another useful technique for distortion control during butt w elding of plates. consists of making intermittent w elds according to the sequences show n in Fig. restraining forces arising from the arrangement of members in the assembly. The use of mechanized w elding equipment reduces w elding time and the amount of metal affected by heat and. as in Fig. For example. consequently. particularly. Prebending can be combined w ith this method by inserting w edges at suitable positions betw een the parts before clamping. restraining forces imposed by clamps. It w as mentioned earlier in this section that the restraining force provided by clamps increases internal stresses in the w eldment until the yield point of the w eld metal is reached. Fig.500 joules of energy per linear inch of w eld (also know n as heat input). The w elding process used. type and size of electrode. In these examples. 9. w elded. This does not occur. Fig. 3-34(a). or fixtures. thus.400 joules per linear inch. as in Fig. depositing a given-size w eld on thick plate w ith a process operating at 175 amp. Essentially. Plan the w elding sequence A w ell-planned w elding sequence involves placing w eld metal at different points of the assembly so that.000 psi. Another example. how ever. If these natural balancing forces are not present. 3-7(l). In general. Clamps. Before peening is used on a job. peening is not permitted on the final pass. (note: I don't w ant to use the w ords "excessive" and "more than necessary" because the w eld size is. and speed of travel. In sheet-metal w elding. 8. a root bead should never be peened. For typical w elds on low -carbon plate. tied to the heat input. and 8 ipm requires 81. as the structure shrinks in one place. it is desirable to finish the w eld quickly. 3-7(k). this stress level w ould approximate 45. 10. and fixtures that lock parts into a desired position and hold them until w elding is finished are probably the most w idely used means for controlling distortion in small assemblies or components. Generally. But this method must be used w ith care.or use constructively . because of the danger of either concealing a crack or causing one. The restraint of the clamps also helps minimize distortion. thus relieving (by plastic deformation) the stresses induced by contraction as the metal cools. even though there have been instances w here betw een-pass peening proved to be the only solution for a distortion or cracking problem. For example. 25 volts. Minim ize w elding tim e Since complex cycles of heating and cooling take place during w elding. jigs. it counteracts the shrinkage forces of w elds already made. jigs. Another method for removing shrinkage forces is by thermal stress relieving . and because of the undesirable w ork-hardening effect. .the effects of the heating and cooling cycle. affect the degree of shrinkage and distortion of a w eldment. and then stress-relieved w hile being held in this straight condition. and since time is required for heat transmission. a w ater-cooled jig (Fig. follow ed by controlled cooling. for example. since the strain (unit contraction) from this stress is very low compared to the amount of movement that w ould occur if no restraint w ere used during w elding. This can be accomplished by balancing one shrinkage force against another or by creating an opposing force through the fixturing.controlled heating of the w eldment to an elevated temperature. The w eld made w ith the higher heat input generally results in a greater amount of distortion. Clips are w elded to the edge of one plate and w edges are driven under the clips to force the edges into alignment and to hold them during w elding. w elding current. the shrinkage in w eld No. The opposing forces may be: other shrinkage forces. Rem ove shrinkage forces after w elding Peening is one w ay to counteract the shrinkage forces of a w eld bead as it cools. the time factor affects distortion. Thus these tw o w elds are most likely not the same size. 3-33 A w ater-cooled jig for rapid removal of heat w hen w elding sheet meta. The residual stresses that w ould tend to distort the w eldments are thus minimized. An example of this is w elding alternately on both sides of the neutral axis in making a complete joint penetration groove w eld in a butt joint. 3-33) is useful to carry heat aw ay from the w elded components. A w eld w ith approximately the same size produced w ith a process operating at 310 amp. or the force from the sag in a member due to gravity. One might expect this stress to cause considerable movement or distortion after the w elded part is removed from the jig or clamps. the rigidity of the members and their arrangement relative to each other may provide the balancing forces needed.

Sum m ary: A Checklist to Minim ize Distortion Follow this checklist in order to minimize distortion in the design and fabrication of w eldments: Do not overw eld Control fitup Use intermittent w elds w here possible and consistent w ith design requirements Use the smallest leg size permissible w hen fillet w elding For groove w elds. stress relief by heating is not used for correcting distortion.Fig. This generally means high deposition rates and higher travel speeds Use w elding positioners to achieve the maximum amount of flat-position w elding. how ever. and strongbacks to maintain fitup and alignment Prebend the members or preset the joints to let shrinkage pull them back into alignment Sequence subassemblies and final assemblies so that the w elds being made continually balance each other around the neutral axis of the section Follow ing these techniques w ill help minimize the effects of distortion and residual stresses. Consider double-sided joints instead of single-sided joints Weld alternately on either side of the joint w hen possible w ith multiple-pass w elds Use minimal number of w eld passes Use low heat input procedures. 3-34 Various strongback arrangements to control distortion during butt-w elding. The flat position permits the use of large-diameter electrodes and highdeposition-rate w elding procedures Balance w elds about the neutral axis of the member Distribute the w elding heat as evenly as possible through a planned w elding sequence and w eldment positioning Weld tow ard the unrestrained part of the member Use clamps. fixtures. use joints that w ill minimize the volume of w eld metal. . Therm al Stress Relieving Except in special situations. w hen stress relief is necessary to prevent further distortion from occurring before the w eldment is finished. There are occasions.