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Effect of toe treatments on the fatigue resistance of structural steel welds Clegg, R.E., McLeod,A.J. and Ruddell,W.

ABSTRACT Toe grinding is effective in being able to improve the fatigue resistance of structural steel welds, but it can also lead to eye injuries if not done correctly and presents a health and safety hazard. In this project, the effects of seven toe treatments on the fatigue resistance structural steel welded plates were investigated to determine whether alternative toe treatments were as effective in improving fatigue resistance as toe grinding. S-N curves were developed for each of the toe treatments by testing samples in bending at three different load levels using a replication of 70% and a load ratio R = 0.1. It was found that the best performing treatments were toe grinding, hammer peening and ultrasonic impact treatments (UIT) and there was no statistical difference between these three treatments. Thermal stress relieving did not improve the fatigue resistance of the samples significantly and the stress levels for failure were approximately 60% of the toe ground samples. Some improvement in fatigue resistance was found in samples where the weld toes were TIG dressed and where the toes were polished with a sanding disc but the results were inferior to those found for the toe ground samples and the peened samples. KEYWORDS Fatigue, toe treatment, welding, post weld heat treatment AUTHOR DETAILS Dr. Richard Clegg is Principal Consultant with Bureau Veritas Asset Management and Reliability Services in Brisbane. At the time the work was carried out for this paper he was Professor of Industrial Materials Science and Director of the Process Engineering and Light Metals Centre at Central Queensland University in Gladstone. He is also Editor-in-Chief of Engineering Failure Analysis and Case Studies in Engineering Failure Analysis. Dr.Alan McLeod is Senior Research Fellow in Engineering Failure Analysis at Central Queensland University in Gladstone. Bill Ruddell is welding supervisor for BMA Coal in Mackay.


a number of methods of improving the fatigue resistance of weld toes in structural steel plates are investigated with the aim of being able to compare the effectiveness of the treatments in resisting fatigue. welds in fatigue prone situations are often treated to reduce the susceptibility of the welds to cracking. Toe grinding with a burr was found to improve fatigue strength at 2 × 106 cycles by between 50 and 200% [1].1 INTRODUCTION It is well known that welded components have a reduced fatigue life when compared with hot rolled or forged plate. one of the methods currently recommended for reducing fatigue susceptibility of welds is toe grinding. The effect of toe grinding is to alter the geometry at the toe of the weld in order to reduce the stress concentrating effect [2] and also to remove any small. small slag intrusions can be found at the toe of welds. even in well made welds. (after [1]). the residual stresses in the weld may adversely affect the fatigue resistance of the weld. The toe treatments tested in this paper are highlighted in red. First. As a result. there have been some questions regarding the safety of this operation as under certain circumstances toe grinding may lead to eye injuries if the toe grinding is not carried out correctly. There are several reasons for this. thermal stress relieving and peening. [1] have surveyed a number of weld detail fatigue life improvement techniques and classified the toe treatment methods as shown in Figure 1. the microstructure of the weld at the toe may be more susceptible to fatigue than the parent plate and often. These treatments can include toe grinding. Burr grinding Grinding Methods Disc grinding Waterjet eroding Weld Geometry Improvement Methods Special Welding Techniques Remelting methods Plasma Dressing Weld Pro ile !ontrol Special "lectrodes Shot peening #ammer peening Peening Methods $eedle peening Mechanical Methods %ltrasonic peening Initial overloading &verloading methods Residual Stress Method 'ocal compression Thermal Stress Relie (i)ratory Stress Relie TIG dressing Stress relie methods Spot heating Gunnert*s Method "+plosive Treatment Figure 1 Classification of some weld improvement methods. the weld geometry can lead to stress concentrations at the toe of the weld. Third. Kirkhope et al. As a result. In this project. Second. However. In the coal mining industry. new and safer methods of treating the toe of the welds to improve fatigue resistance are needed. sharp slag intrusions that 2 .

For a plate of 16 mm thick and 150 mm wide. For a nominal load of 20 kN this would induce a bending moment of 800N-m in the central section of the plate. Although thermal stress relieving is known to reduce residual stresses in welds. However. some authors have indicated that the effect of peening may relax as fatigue loading is applied due to plasticity effects which lead to changes in residual stress profiles [5. 16 100 dia x 16 450 x 150 x Strain gauge typ 86 typ Figure 2 Test piece design (schematic). The rig was designed so that the distance between rollers was 80 mm. Peening has also been demonstrated to improve fatigue resistance. there are few studies that directly compare the toe treatments studied here. Seven treatments were investigated and these are outlined below. Although this is only a surface stress.1 PROCEDURE Design of test specimens The test specimens were designed to be tested in four point bending and the design is as shown in Figure 2 and a schematic of the loading configuration is shown in Figure 3. 6]. it is considered to be the stress than will control the fatigue resistance of the plate in the region of the toe of the welds. The four point bend rig was designed with central roller supports in order to permit some self-alignment of the rig. Thermal stress relieving is also often used to reduce susceptibility to fatigue. there is still a lack of specific data to enable the development of design rules.often occur at the weld toe. This is termed the “Nominal Plate Stress” in this report. Martinez and Blom [4] showed that improvements of between 60 and 110 % of fatigue life could be achieved by TIG –dressing of the weld toe. To this end. There was some concern that conventional cruciform specimens machined from welded sections may not retain the residual stress profiles of the original welds and so circular double plate samples were manufactured.6. Test specimens were designed specifically to ensure that the as-welded residual stresses in the samples were retained during testing and not compromised by subsequent cutting of the samples. Whilst considerable evidence is present in the literature to suggest that toe treatments can improve fatigue resistance. The stresses in the plate were checked with a sample fitted with strain gauges. a series of fatigue samples were prepared to study the phenomenon and S-N curves for each of the cases were developed. These were designed so that the formation of fatigue cracks in the welds would not be affected by end effects in the samples resulting from specimen preparation and would not be affected by welding stop-starts if these are placed outside of the region of highest fatigue loading. 3 . the fatigue endurance is improved by a factor of at least 4. with significant improvements reported [1]. Zhang and Maddox [3] showed that the effect of toe grinding could be well predicted using a fracture mechanics approach and that for fillet welds. the extreme fibre stress in the plate would be 125 MPa over the central span of the four point bend rig. 2 2.

showing von Mises stresses. Total strain gauged specimen.3.2 Finite Element Modelling and Prediction of Deflection In order to better predict the behaviour of the specimen. although accurate modelling of the weld toe was not carried out. a ¼ model of the specimen and loading train was modelled in Comsol Multiphysics 4.58 mm in the z direction as a result of a load of 20kN. The model incorporated the loading fixture and the model was loaded to an equivalent total load of 20kN in a square patch on the top arm of the loading fixture. The FEA modelling also predicted that the bending stresses in the plate were approximately 125 MPa and that failure of the welded specimen would be in the area of the toe of the weld in the plate on the side of the circular doubler plate. The FEA model showed that there was a significant stress concentration in the weld toe as expected. The plate stresses were confirmed using a Figure 4 Quarter model of the test rig and specimen. By examining the load-deflection-frequency curves of the Instron 1273.500 x 150 x 50 200 80 50 dia x 150 typ 300 x 150 x 50 Figure 3 Loading configuration for the specimens. it was estimated that the maximum frequency for testing would be limited to 5 hz and hence this was set as the target frequency for all testing. nominal load was 20kN. 4 . Subsequent testing of the specimens confirmed the deflection predictions. The lower arm of the four point bend rig was fixed and the rig and specimen was allowed to deform in the z direction in the model. 2. Tetrahedral solid elements were used and the model contained 47126 elements. The model of an uncracked specimen was found to deflect approximately 0.

Figure 5 Images of the weld toes tested. 5 .

A 16 mm thick circular doubler plate 100 mm dia was fixed centrally to the base plate with a 16 mm lap weld so that no weld touched the edge of the base plate and stress was low where the weld was near the edge of the base plate. 5. 4. The indentation shall be centred on the weld toe so that metal on each side (both weld metal and base metal) is deformed. The test plan involved three different stress levels with each stress level tested in triplicate. A ball diameter of 6 mm was used in this project.5mm from the toe. was recorded but the load-deflection data was also recorded at a number of cycle points during the tests. ramp up and down at 50° C / hour.4 Fatigue test procedure Test pieces were placed in four-point bending in a jig where the loads were applied by hardened bearing rollers 50mm dia x 150mm long. The preset force range was maintained throughout the test. Seventy test pieces were fabricated by the same welding shop. Grinding shall be carried out to a minimum depth of 0. The treatments were: 1.25mm. 7. 6 .2.5 mm the specimen was deemed to have failed. The tool is to be a high-speed rotary burr grinder for use the tip radius shall be at least 5mm. In addition to the four rollers which applied loads to the test piece. the deflection of the sample increased for the applied load and this was used to detect the cracking of the samples. Testing was carried out in an Instron 1273 servo-hydraulic machine with Instron 8800 cycle control and monitoring software. sometimes modified down to allow for equipment limitations as maintenance was required. and mill scale. Hammer peen the base plate toe only. The TIG toe dress shall observe the same requirement for stop-start location. resulting in a smooth surface free from obvious individual blows. The steel hammer bit shall have a hemispherical tip with a diameter between 6mm and 12mm. The test pieces underwent seven different treatments. The weld profile before blend grinding should allow for meeting final weld size after blend grinding.3 Fabrication of test pieces The specimen base plate was 16 x 150 x 450 mm AS 3678-350 plate.0 mm below the plate surface. TIG toe dress the base plate toe only. The tip of the electrode shall be kept sharp and clean. Ultrasonic Impact Treatment (UIT) stress relief treatment applied to the base plate toe only. two more rollers at top and bottom centre equalised loads to either side of the jig. As-welded. The hammer should be held at 45° to the plate surface and approximately perpendicular to the direction of travel. The indentation should be approximately 0. 2. The cyclic frequency was generally 5Hz. Images of the weld toes are shown in Figure 5.5mm to 1. The weld shall be checked visually with MPI prior to peening. As-welded and thermally stress relieved. At termination of the test. Four rollers bore on the flat surfaces of the test piece but in the apparatus they were cradled in grooves. 6. All testing was carried out at room temperature. slag. Machine a toe groove at base plate toe. As cracks formed and grew. Once the crosshead deflection increased by more than 0. Toe grinding shall be done along the centreline of the weld toe. 2. The presence of cracking was confirmed in a number of samples using magnetic particle inspection and one of the cracks is shown in Figure 6. The load range was applied with R = Pmax/Pmin = 0. The axis of the burr shall be at approximately 45° to the main plate. Blend grind to a smooth surface to comply with AS1554 Part 5. Nf. dwell at 590° C for 1 hour. the number of cycles to failure. The surface to be welded shall be free from rust. Blend Grind the full weld by sanding with a flapper disk. the angle of the burr axis shall be a maximum 45° of th e direction of travel to ensure that the grinding marks are nearly perpendicular to the weld toe line. The tip shall be located horizontally 0. 3.8 mm-1. TIG dressing consists of remelting the existing weld metal to a depth of approximately 2mm along the weld toe without the addition of filler metal.

some more investigation into the method of termination of the tests was carried out in order to more fully understand the relationship of compliance to crack growth and variation with stress range.5E-06 developed FEA model (see 2.0E-06 analysis. Although this does not accurately represent the 2. However. The relationship between compliance 3. the stiffness (or compliance of the specimens) would change and so for a given load. an estimate of the Figure 7 Typical compliance vs number of cycles curve.Cracking was detected by measuring changes in the compliance of the specimens. crack length vs compliance curves for the specimens can be made using finite element 3. Figure 6 Cracking formed at the toe of the weld. This was chosen simply as it was readily set as a cycle stop signal and indicated the definite presence of a crack. the results are able to provide an order of magnitude estimate of 1. C= δ P (1) The compliance of the specimen. In some 3. As the specimens cracked. Compliance (C) is defined as the ratio of the crosshead movement (δ) to the load (P).00E-05 vs crack length is difficult to determine 0 50000 100000 150000 200000 analytically. could be monitored historically with good accuracy after testing using stored Specimen data 3. The height of the Change in compliance (mm/N) Specimen Compliance (mm/N) Figure 8 Relationship between change in compliance and crack depth for the FEA model.0E-07 Multiphysics 4. the specimen would deflect more. Modelling was carried out using Comsol 5. a change in the maximum deflection of approximately 0.2. A straight crack was inserted at the toe 0.40E-05 hence the progress of a crack. above). The increase in movement for the same force range occurred because the compliance of the specimen increased as a crack grew.5E-06 the effect of crack growth on the compliance of 1.2 mm and this was considered 7 .0E-06 cracks developed in the samples.30E-05 load-deflection data.5 mm was chosen as the point at which the test was terminated. as crack shapes are Cycles complex and not known prior to the analysis. However. but increased towards the end of the test. and 3. cylinder was 0.3 using the previously developed ¼ model. indicating the presence of cracking. This was done by inserting cracks that were segments of a circle into the previously 2. As can be seen the compliance of the specimen was stable in the initial 3. up to 1/3 of the life of the test was taken up with crack growth.0E+00 of the weld by using a 200 mm radius circular 0 5 10 cylinder placed at a distance of 200 mm from the Crack Depth. Figure 7 shows a Uncracked… typical compliance vs number of cycles curve.10E-05 tests. In these tests. a (mm) surface of the specimen.20E-05 stages of the tests.0E-06 the specimen.

The resultant compliance curve is shown in Figure 8. In this work. 8 . the crack was grown from a = 0 to 8 mm at 1 mm increments. c = 36 mm or a full crack length of approximately 70 mm. As the crack depth. The results of this comparison are shown in Figure 9. Therefore. the surface crack length also increased. this compliance would have reflected the growth of two cracks – one at each end of the welded patch. However. The advantage of the second method would be that in each case.thin enough to simulate the thickness of a crack. only one side of the circular welded doubler plate cracked. whilst the compliance method may be a more complete method of determining the end of life of the sample. the change in compliance was halved to represent cracking only in one area. However in most cases. an increase in compliance of 5e-7 mm/N represents a crack depth of 3. the difference between the two curves was not great. the compliance method was applied to Series 4 and Nf was defined as the number of cycles taken to produce a change in compliance of 5e-7 mm/N. the compliance based method of determining the end of life provided slightly shorter lives than for the deflection based method. Based on this modelling. however for the purposes of this report.5 mm.3 mm and a ½ surface crack length. In order to compare the two methods. Crack length was increased by progressively increasing the radius of the cylinder. the test would be terminated once the crack had grown to a specified size – in this case and equivalent FE model crack of approximately 70 mm on the surface and 3 mm deep and the results should be more consistent than the current approach. increased. the displacement method of determining end of life is considered to be adequate for the purposes of this paper. the modelling is considered to be accurate enough to indicate that a change in compliance of 5e-7 mm/N would result in a crack of measureable size. An alternate method would be to determine the number of cycles until the compliance increased to 5e7. a. In the FEA modelling of the cracked component. 450 440 Nominal Plate Stress Range (MPa) 430 420 410 400 390 380 370 360 350 10000 100000 Nf (cycles) 1000000 Compliance based Deflection based Figure 9 Comparison of compliance based deflection based method of assessing end of life (Series 4). As a first approximation. As a result. the End of Test criterion was that the specimen deflection increased by 0. More accurate modelling of the crack surface will provide a more accurate representation of the relationship between crack size and compliance. As this was a quarter model and was symmetrical about the centreline of the sample. As can be seen. it is not considered to provide sufficiently improved data to warrant the reanalysis of the data. The compliance was determined by determining the ratio of the deflection of the top arm at the point of loading to the load. This relationship is purely a result of the modelling technique and so is only an approximation to the real crack geometries.

Nominal Plate Stress Range. The independent variable was force range. log Nf. This resulted in the power law relationship: Nf=A. improved performance were Series 5 and Series 6. 9 . The poorest performers were Series 1 and Series 2. derived from log Nf = log A + m log . and the same value was obtained. and the dependent variable was cycles to failure. TIG toe dressing (5) and polishing with a flapper sanding disc (6).P.Pm.5 Statistical analysis The test results were fitted to a log-log regression line of the type y=mx+c. The next group of two conditions with similar. The results are summarised in Figure 10 and Figure 11. ∆σ and cycles to failure Nf are given numerically in Table 1 which also shows the standard deviation. 3 3. log . The results fell into three groups.2. 450 Nominal Plate Stress Range (MPa) 400 350 Series 1 Series 2 Series 3 250 Series 4 Series 5 200 Series 6 Series 7 150 10000 100000 Nf (cycles) 1000000 300 Figure 10 Summary of experimental data . Values of standard deviation were calculated for some test series from the formula given by Lee and Taylor [7]. which overlapped each other within statistical significance. However these treatments had wide distributions and the upper halves of the distributions overlapped the top series.P This regression analysis was performed by Microsoft Excel array function “LINEST” which also gave standard deviation of log Nf.mean curves.1 RESULTS Fatigue test results The fatigue test force range .P. the as welded (1) and the thermally stress relieved (2) test pieces.

0223 0.0541 41.1758 -0.000 cycles.39×10 12 18.0613 62.Table 1 Test results for all test pieces with statistical analysis Nomin al Plate Stress Range (MPa) Number of cycles to failure.3569 0.0741 43.37 3.5 287.94 8.7 -7.3720 0. s(200k) Mean stress range to cause failure at 200.2 -3.64×1016 -5.0076 0.84×10 18 11.99 9.45 2.0440 0.81×10 18 437.1637 -0.0334 0.5 362.25 2.2393 -0.14 1.5895 0.1 -5.5 2045285 515532 695213 494356 194178 206290 274863 121290 218721 153263 252749 238217 156089 138692 105209 2000000 (*) 1021165 325 325 325 362.81 5.5 225 225 225 250 250 250 287.0963 55.75 5.0 -7.0275 0.22 1. kN sd(4) Absolute value of standard deviation.69×10 13 117465 84372 104040 12. kN Series 1 9 tests Series 2 8 tests (X) Series 5 6 tests (X) Series 7 8 tests (X) 30 36 36 36 40 40 40 46 46 46 52 52 52 58 58 58 64 64 64 70 70 70 Log(A) A m sd(1) sd(2) sd(3) s(200k) 187.7 sd(4) 3. Nf Series 3 9 tests Series 4 9 tests Series 6 9 tests Force range ∆P.81 6.5 437.65×10 11 14.5 13.5 287.5647 0.4436 0.56 3.2430 0. kN 10 .44×10 14 16.1069 -0.0300 0.06 3.1025 -0.0500 61.11 3.84 Notes (*) Unbroken – not used in statistical analysis (X) Some tests were ruled out because of equipment malfuntion or test piece peculiaritiies m A Coefficient in the finite fatigue life equation N=As m m Exponent in the finite fatigue life equation N=As sd(1) Standard deviation on N as specified in Lee and Taylor for log-log regression lines sd(2) Standard deviation on S (log-log) sd(3) Standard deviation as a decimal fraction of mean stress range.9 -4.0667 57.0242 0.1749 -0.5 400 400 400 57120 64751 86368 575528 337203 235613 212710 175576 502704 218640 132122 223456 328314 136200 328314 (X) 273101 143719 128353 116045 361225 97786 132034 58206 505360 1000000 278605 394715 227432 132681 334161 143771 947459 873886 169637 217967 166915 166659 182843 207674 53006 71403 75515 18.5 437.0579 -0.8 -6.0174 63.2604 0.5 362.

The statistical scatter found in the test specimens is shown in the probability distribution curve shown in Figure 11. Also. an unexpected result was that post weld heat treatment did not improve the fatigue life over that of the as welded plates. 4 and 7. These treatments also 11 . However.050 0. but the mean is lower and the distribution is tighter. the effects on fatigue resistance are similar.250 Probablility 0. This has to be confirmed by sectioning of the welds. which shows the mean life values for each series as calculated from the test results.150 0.Comparison of treatments at a life of 200. 4 and 7). The PWHT performance was similar to that of the as-welded plates. putting the area into compression at the surface. The TIG toe dressing was comparable with the flapper disk-polished finish. showing statistical spread. One treatment used a conventional air tool with a 6 mm dia ball (3) and the other employed Ultrasonic Impact Treatment (UIT)(4). 4 DISCUSSION The stresses predicted using calculations and FE analysis predicted well the stress values measured using strain gauges. There was no statistically significant difference between Series 3. It may be that the fatigue resistance of the welds was controlled by toe intrusions and whilst the peening would have put the toe intrusions in compression.300 0. MPa 450 500 Figure 11 Comparison of all series at 200. validating the experimental approach taken. the PWHT would not have affected the toe intrusions.350 0.000 150 200 250 300 350 400 Nominal plate stress range. whereas peening is predominantly aimed at changing the residual stress profile at the toe of the weld. The results demonstrated that toe grinding provided significant benefit in improving fatigue resistance when compared with the as-received welds and that the two peening methods provided a similar level of improvement.000 cycles 0. its distribution of results lying entirely within the range of results of the more superficial treatment. The best performance was achieved by undercutting with a tungsten carbide burr and peening by two different techniques (Series 3.000 cycles. This was interesting in that toe grinding and peening target two different issues in the weld.100 0. The difference in the seven test series can be seen clearly in Figure 10.400 1 As welded 2 PWHT 3 Hammer peen 4 UIT Peen 5 TIG toe dress 6 Polish 7 Underflush with burr 0. A major effect of toe grinding is to remove the toe intrusions and improve the stress concentration effect at the toe. The level of replication in the test program allowed a reasonable statistical analysis of the data.200 0.

6 REFERENCES ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: The authors wish to acknowledge the support of BMA Coal. Marine Structures 12 447-474. Elsevier. Hattingh D G. International Journal of Fatigue 11 (1) 29-36. REFERENCES: 1 2 Kirkhope K. James M N. Lombard H. Ferreira J A M and Branco C A M 1989 Influence of the radius of curvature at the weld toe in the fatigue strength of fillet welded joints. 175-191. The poorest performers were Series 1 and Series 2. The mechanical treatments improved the fatigue life further as might be expected: In order of peak distribution. International Journal of Fatigue 23 S31-S37. Engineering Failure Analysis 14 (2) 384-395. who sponsored the work and supplied the samples. the best was hammer peening followed by UIT and burr cutting underflush. Pan. International Journal of Fatigue 31 1124-1136. Part 1: review. There was no statistical difference between these two series. Martinez L L and Blom A F 1997 Influence of life improvement techniques on different steel grades under fatigue loading.overlapped upwards into the mechanical treatments but the width of their distributions would imply a poor low-life tail which would not allow the upper end of the range to translate into reliable performance. Zhuang W Z and Halford G R 2001 Investigation of residual stress relaxation under cyclic load. However these treatments overlapped the top series too. Asquith A. Caron L Basu R I and Ma K-T 1999 Weld detail fatigue life improvement techniques. The best performance was achieved by undercutting with a tungsten carbide burr and peening by two different techniques (Series 3. The top three treatments overlapped and no statistical difference could be seen between these treatments. Zhang Y-H and Maddox S J 2009 Fatigue life prediction for toe ground welded joints. 103111. One treatment used a conventional air tool with a 6 mm dia ball and the other employed ultrasonic Impact Treatment (UIT). Fatigue Design of Components: European Structural Integrity Society 22. Series 4 and Series 7). Hughes D J.. Lee Y-L and Taylor D 2005 Stress-based fatigue analysis and design. In Lee. the as welded and the thermally stress relieved test pieces. TIG toe dressing and polishing with a flapper sanding disc. Bell R. The next group of two conditions with similar. Amsteram. However the distributions indicate that these processes cannot be separated at the 50% level as measured by area under the curves. 5 CONCLUSION The results fell into three groups. Chen Z.J. 3 4 5 6 7 12 . Hathaway and Barkey (eds) Fatigue Testing and Analysis. Yates J R and Webster P J 2007 Residual stresses and fatigue performance. improved performance were Series 5 and Series 6.