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International Journal of Machine Tools & Manufacture 44 (2004) 14311439 www.elsevier.


Weld bonding of stainless steel

I.O. Santos a, W. Zhang b, V.M. Gonc alves a, N. Bay b, P.A.F. Martins a,
a b

cnico, Departamento de Engenharia Meca nica, Av. Rovisco Pais, 1049-001 Lisboa, Portugal Instituto Superior Te Institut for Produktion og Ledelse, Danmarks Tekniske Universitet, Bygn. 425, dk-2800 Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark Received 16 January 2004; received in revised form 24 May 2004; accepted 2 June 2004

Abstract This paper presents a theoretical and experimental investigation of the weld bonding of stainless steels with the purpose of setting up the major technological parameters that are needed for its industrial implementation. Several commercial adhesives, with varying working times under dierent surface conditions are investigated for assembling standard test specimens. The numerical simulation of the process based on the commercial nite element program SORPAS is successfully utilized to help establish the most favourable welding parameters that allow spot-welding through the adhesives. The relative performance and quality of the resulting weld bonded joints is evaluated against alternative solutions based on adhesives or conventional spot-welding by means of macroetching observations, tension-shear tests and peel tests. # 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Weld bonding; Hybrid joining process; Experimentation; Finite element method (FEM)

1. Introduction Weld bonding is an innovative and promising metal joining technology in which structural adhesives are applied to the faying surfaces of the metal parts to be joined and subsequently spot-welded through before curing of the adhesive is accomplished (Fig. 1). The structural adhesive must have good wetting and ow characteristics in order to obtain a good quality bond of the faying metal surfaces, and premature curing, during or prior to spot welding, must be avoided since it can signicantly increase the electrical contact resistance. High values of the electrical contact resistance may result in excessive heat generation in the vicinity of the interface followed by subsequent metal expulsion, or it may simply impede the current running through. The squeezing time and the load size to be applied by the electrodes prior to welding should also be taken into consideration due to their inuence on adhesive ow in order to ensure that the faying surfaces will contact each other during welding.
Corresponding author. Tel.: +351-21-841-7561; fax: +351-21-8419058 E-mail address: (P.A.F. Martins).

As far as the authors are aware, the rst overview of weld bonding was given by Schwartz [1], who pointed

Fig. 1. Schematic outline of the weld bonding process.

0890-6955/$ - see front matter # 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.ijmachtools.2004.06.010


I.O. Santos et al. / International Journal of Machine Tools & Manufacture 44 (2004) 14311439

out its potential benets against alternative joining technologies. However, the process remained unattended and little understood until very recently due to lack of systematic theoretical and experimental investigations. Recent contributions to remedy the aforementioned situation were due to the experimental work of Charbonnet et al. [2] and the metallurgical and theoretical studies of Darwish et al. [3,4]. Charbonnet et al. utilized three kinds of zinc coated mild steels, a single-part epoxy adhesive and a singlepart rubber sealer, to demonstrate that the weld bonded parts behave in a manner similar to continuous adhesive joints, thereby increasing their overall performance when compared to conventional spot welded joints. The work has furthermore proved that already existing spot welding machines can be utilized for weld bonding applications. Darwish et al. studied the microstructure of weld bonded nuggets and carried out nite element investigations of the mechanical behaviour of joints with dissimilar plate thicknesses to demonstrate the advantages of weld bonding compared to spot-welding in terms of improved strength and distributing the stresses of loaded joints. It can thus be concluded that the weld bonding technology has great advantages compared to alternative processes such as spot-welding and adhesive bonding. However, despite such advantages, most of the industrial applications are still restricted to aerospace applications. Its utilization by other industries (e.g. automotive and train industry) is still in an early stage and will most likely be much more widespread when more knowledge based on systematic investigations of the process have been obtained. The aim of the present work is therefore a comprehensive investigation of weld bonding comprising numerical simulation of the process, experimental joining of metal parts and subsequent testing under laboratory controlled conditions. The numerical simulation of weld bonding by FEM, which seems to be the rst of its kind, was performed by means of the commercial program SORPAS [5] originally developed for resistance welding taking into account the electrical, thermal, mechanical and metallurgical characteristics of the material as well as the technological features of the machines.
Table 1 Type and main characteristics of the adhesives applied in the investigation Adhesive A B C Type Two component epoxy Two component liquid epoxy Two component methacrylate Viscosity (Pa.s) Not available 120/75 80110/5070

2. Experimental procedures Experimental tests were designed in order to evaluate the performance of weld bonded joints against conventional spot-welded and adhesive bonded joints in such a way that basic conditions found in mass production plants could be reproduced. One grade of stainless steel, three dierent structural adhesives, varying working times and dierent surface conditions were employed in the experimental tests. Evaluation of the overall quality and mechanical strength of the weld bonded joints was performed by means of destructive and non-destructive tests. 2.1. Sheet material, adhesives and surface conditions The sheet material employed in the experiments was an AISI 301 stainless steel commonly utilized by the railway industry. The geometry and dimensions of the test specimens are shown in Fig. 2. Besides the shown thickness of 2 mm, 1.5 mm sheets were employed. In case of weld bonding, adhesives were applied before spot welding. Three dierent structural adhesives (epoxy and methacrylate based) were selected (Table 1). The viscosity controls the amount of adhesive dispersed on the surfaces. The working time is the time between application of the adhesive and weld bonding, and the maximum working time indicates the end of its capability to bond. The curing time is the time required for fully curing or setting of the bond system. After curing, the adhesives act as good electrical insulators impeding the current to run through, implying that weld bonding will no longer be possible. The conditions which exist in a production plant are not necessarily ideal for adhesive bonding, due to the risk of contamination with oil, water vapour, dirt, ngerprints etc., and to scatter in time between appli-

Fig. 2. Geometry and dimensions of the test specimens utilized for adhesive bonding, spot-welding and weld bonding.

Maximum working time (min) 180 65 1520

Curing time 7 days 5h 3540 min

All values are for room temperature.

I.O. Santos et al. / International Journal of Machine Tools & Manufacture 44 (2004) 14311439


cation and weld bonding. It was therefore decided to setup a testing methodology in which weld bonding was carried out at three dierent working times, (immediately after its application, t0 , after half of the maximum working time of the adhesive, t0:5 , and at the maximum working time, t1 , and three dierent surface conditions: (1) as received; (2) cleaned and degreased with acetone; and, (3) contaminated with mineral oil. 2.2. Welding equipment The welding tests were performed in a TECNA 1430 resistance welding machine equipped with a piezo electric force transducer mounted below the lower electrode, a resistive displacement transducer and a Rogowski coil for measuring the welding current. The voltage drop across the electrodes is measured using two wires each connected to one of the two electrodes. A PC-based data acquisition system in the form of a National Instruments DAQ-700 data acquisition card and a Labview computer software was used to record and store all the transducer signals. The welding machine has a maximum force of 1885 daN, a supply pressure of 6.5 bar and a nominal welding power of 250 kVA. The electrodes have a truncated cone shape with a at circular contacting area of /8 mm in diameter chosen in accordance with the ISO 5182 standard. The weld nuggets are characterized by elliptical shapes with heights varying from 7080% of the thickness of the sheets and lengths approximately equal to the contacting area of the electrodes (i.e. /8 mm). Appropriate welding parameters, selected for each of the process conditions listed in Section 2.1, were determined via preliminary tests and the nite element program SORPAS (Table 2). They were further optimized by rened experimental testing. 2.3. Destructive and non-destructive tests The quality of each weld bonded joint was compared with alternative bonded and spot-welded joints by means of destructive and non-destructive testing. Two commonly applied methods of destructive testing were adopted, i.e. tension-shear testing (Fig. 3, left) and peel testing (Fig. 3, right). The former corresponds to the test procedure applied in the train manufacturing industry and indicates the maximum shear load that

Fig. 3. Destructive testing of bonded, spot-welded and weld bonded joints: (left) Tensionshear test, (right) Peel test.

the joint can withstand before joint failure or fracture in the basic material occurs, while the latter is commonly used for observing the shape and size of the torn-out nugget. Both tests were carried out on an Instron 4507 testing machine using a 1.3 mm/min crosshead speed (pulling rate) and a frequency of data acquisition equal to 10 Hz. Additionally, macrographs of cross sections through the weld nugget of the spot-welded and weld bonded specimens were made to determine the nugget diameter and penetration. Non-destructive techniques based on visual inspections of the surfaces of the spot-welded and weld bonded joints were also employed to identify possible inappropriate choice of welding parameters, improper maintenance of the electrodes or malfunctioning of the resistance welding machine.

3. Theoretical background The theoretical modelling of the spot-welding and weld bonding processes was performed using the nite element program SORPAS developed at Technical University of Denmark [5]. The program is specically developed for numerical simulation of resistance projection welding and spot welding processes. It is based on a numerical coupling between an electrical, a ther-

Table 2 Preliminary welding parameters determined by preliminary tests and nite element analysis Thickness (mm) 1.5 2 Electrode force (kN) 6.5 6.5 Current (kA) 7.4 8.5 Squeezing time (s) 0.4 0.4 Welding time (s) 0.16 0.16 Holding time (s) 0.2 0.2


I.O. Santos et al. / International Journal of Machine Tools & Manufacture 44 (2004) 14311439

mal, a metallurgical and a mechanical nite element model. 3.1. Electrical model The electrical model calculates the distribution of the voltage and the current as well as the heat generated in the specimens and electrodes. The governing equation in a continuous medium with an arbitrary volume, V , bounded by a closed surface, S, follows the Laplace equation, r r2 U 0 1

nite element mesh for performing the electrical, thermal and mechanical analysis. Eq. (5) can be expressed in the abbreviated form as, _ Q KT CT 6

where U is the potential eld to be determined and r is the electric conductivity. Applying the classical nite element discretization procedure, eq. (1) can be written in matrix form as, r MMT U dV qn N dSq 0 2
V m Sq

where K is the heat conduction matrix, C is the heat capacity matrix and Q is the heat ux vector that includes the contribution of the net heat generated inside the workpiece by (i) electrical resistance heating, _ as well as _ r _ I 2 R, and (ii) plastic deformation r  e r the boundary terms due to the heat exchanged through the faying surfaces (that may include adhesives) and between the test specimens and the environment. After obtaining the temperature eld, the metallurgical model is applied in order to determine the material properties that are temperature dependent. 3.3. Mechanical model The mechanical model calculates the deformation and geometry of the specimens, the contact areas at the interfaces and the distribution of stress and strain. The governing equation is based on one of the extremum principles of metal plasticity, whose weak form leads to the following equation in terms of the arbitrary variation of the velocity, _ dV K _ V dV _ V de  d Ti dui dS 0 7 r e e

where N is the matrix containing the shape functions of the element, M rN, and qn is the potential ux along the boundary surface Sq . Eq. (3) can be expressed in the abbreviated form as, KUQ 3

where K is the electrical conductance matrix, and Q is the array of boundary conditions. After obtaining the distribution of the potential eld, _ the current distribution I and the heat generation r I 2 R can easily be calculated. 3.2. Thermal model The thermal model calculates the heat transfer and the temperature distribution. The equation governing the conduction of heat in a continuous medium with an arbitrary volume, V , bounded by a closed surface, S , can be expressed in rate form as follows, _ r _0 k r2 T q c T 4

where V is the control volume limited by the surfaces SU and SF , where velocity and traction are prescribed respectively, and K , is a large positive constant penalis_ V , in order ing the volumetric strain rate component, e to enforce incompressibility. At elemental level expression (7) results in the following set of nonlinear equations,
M  X m1 V m

where k is the thermal conductivity, qc is the specic _ is the heat generation rate. Applyheat capacity and r ing the classical Galerkin method, the heat transfer eq. (4) at elemental level can be written in matrix form as, _ dV _ N dV k MMT T dV qc NNT T r V m V m V m qn N dSq 0 5


 r K v dV K _  e ) 0

V m

CT BvCT B dV 8

N T dS

where K BT D B, N is the matrix containing the shape functions of the element, B is the velocity-strain rate matrix, C is the matrix form of the Kronecker symbol and D is the matrix relating the deviatoric stresses with the strain rates according to the Levy Mises constitutive equations. Eq. (8) can also be written in the following simplied form,
M X  Pn1 K m Q fvn g fFgg f r m1

where M rN, qn is the heat ux along the boundary surface Sq and T is the nodal temperature vector. The latter is interpolated using identical shape functions to those utilised for the electrical and mechanical models, since the numerical model of SORPAS uses the same

where the term inside the square brackets is the generalized stiness matrix, v represents the unknown velo-

I.O. Santos et al. / International Journal of Machine Tools & Manufacture 44 (2004) 14311439


city and F is the nodal force vector, Pn1 F

V m

4. Results and discussion CT BCT B dV 4.1. Comparison between numerical modelling and experiments 10 Fig. 5 presents a comparison between the macrographs of spot-welded and weld bonded joints and the corresponding distribution of temperature predicted by the nite element analysis. Both experiments were performed with 2 mm stainless steel sheets (Fig. 2) The specimens were weld bonded as received (without surface preparation). The faying surfaces were initially brought into contact by applying an electrode force of 6.5 kN, which was built up to the specied level after 30 ms. Just afterwards, a welding current (AC) equal to 8.29 kA was applied to the specimens, with welding time corresponding to 8 cycles, which was sucient to reach the desired shape and size of the weld nugget. For the weld bonded joint, the adhesive type B (see Table 1) was applied and welding was carried out immediately after application, i.e. working time = t0. The numerical estimates provided by SORPAS are in good agreement with the experimental results both in terms of the size of the nugget diameter (3.85 and

1 _ n1  e N T dS

K dV

V m


The deformation of the specimens being spot-welded or weld bonded is obtained from the velocity eld. 3.4. Modelling conditions Assuming axi-symmetric conditions, the nite element models for spot-welding and weld bonding were accomplished by discretizing a cross section through the meridian plane of the electrodes and specimens by means of four-node quadrilateral elements. Fig. 4 presents a typical nite element model utilized in the numerical simulation of the spot-welding and weld bonding processes. The initial mesh contains approximately 930 elements and, in case of weld bonding, the structural adhesive was added as an additional electrical contact resistance term.

Fig. 4. Finite element model applied in numerical simulation of the spot-welding and weld bonding processes: (left) Initial mesh, (right) Mesh at the end of the welding stage.


I.O. Santos et al. / International Journal of Machine Tools & Manufacture 44 (2004) 14311439

Fig. 5. Macrograph (20) and theoretical distribution of temperature ( C) predicted by the nite element program SORPAS for a weld bonded test specimen (adhesive type B) with 2 mm plate thickness.

4.16% error in spot-welding and weld bonding, respectivley), and in terms of the optimum value for the AC current, which was computed as 8.263 kA and 8.175 kA for spot-welding and weld bonding, respectively, i.e. close to the experimental value of 8.29 kA. The resemblances found in the welding parameters of the two joining processes are due to the fact that structural adhesives do not inuence the spot-welding mechanism, when welding-through is performed immediately after its application. In such cases, the main function of the spot weld is to provide handling strength until the adhesive cures. 4.2. Destructive testing The load-displacement curves obtained by tensionshear tests of joints produced by adhesive bonding, spot-welding and weld bonding using adhesive B, Table 1, are plotted in Fig. 6. Three dierent regions (regions 1, 2 and 3) are distinguished in the load-displacement curve of the weld bonded test specimens. In the rst region the load increases steeply as the adhesive and the spot weld begin to deform. Subsequently, in region 2, the load starts growing non-linearly at a considerably lower rate due to a progressively reduction of the bonding strength of the adhesive and to an increasing plastic deformation of the spot weld.

In this region, it is noticed that the weld bonded specimens give higher load than both the adhesive bonded and the spot welded joints. This is due to the combined contribution of the adhesive bond and the spot weld. A peak load of 16 kN is obtained after which a major part of the adhesive fractures resulting in a momentary drop of the load to a value corresponding to that transferred by spot welding at a similar displacement. In region 3 the load starts growing moderately, but faster in the spot welded case due to some residual areas of adhesive bonding, until reaching a maximum value of 18 kN at the point where the spot weld nugget breaks. After fracture the load decreases abruptly with increasing displacement rupturing the remaining adhesive bonds. It is noticed that load-displacement curves of weld bonded specimens produced with dierent working times t0 and t1 of the adhesive show almost no dierences in the ultimate load, see Fig. 6, but the adhesive with working time t1 fractures earlier than that of working time t0 as observed in region 2. This behaviour was also found for the other adhesives. The macrographs depicted in Fig. 7, representing experiments with adhesive A, conrm that no signicant dierences were observed in the weld nuggets when comparing weld bonding immediately after application of the adhesive (t0 ) and at the limit of its working time (t1 ).

I.O. Santos et al. / International Journal of Machine Tools & Manufacture 44 (2004) 14311439


Fig. 6. Load-displacement curves in tensile-shear testing of three dierent types of joints. Test specimens (2 mm thickness) were applied as received, i.e. with no surface cleaning. Photos show the faying surfaces of the test specimen after complete separation of the two parts.

The penetration of the weld nugget into the base material is adequate and no defects such as porosities in the adhesive due to burning o, or metal particles inside the bonding area due to expulsion of the nugget, are observed. Fig. 8 illustrates the result of an inappropriate weld bonding procedure. In this case, welding was performed after exceeding the working time t1 of the adhesive. As a result it is noticed that the welding was unsuccessful, due to lack of adhesive ow during the initial loading phase impeding appropriate squeezing out of the adhesive. Remaining adhesive in the nugget area acted as an electrical insulator preventing the current to run through, thus impeding an appropriate weld to be formed. Fig. 9 shows the load-displacement curves obtained from tension-shear tests for the joints produced by adhesive bonding and weld bonding, using the methacrylate based adhesive C. The most important conclusion derived from Fig. 9 is that methacrylate based weld bonded joints have poorer performance than conventional spot-welded joints.

Fig. 8. Macrograph (20) of a weld bonded joint using adhesive A showing improper weld formation due to exceeding of the adhesive working time.

The photographs of the joint interfaces after fracture included in Fig. 9 reveals the existence of a large part of the faying surfaces with burned o adhesive caused by the high temperatures during welding. The decrease of the eective contact area of the methacrylate adhesive due to burn oi was experimentally measured as h ( Dburnoff Dspot =Dspot 100% 9:8%. Comparing Figs. 6

Fig. 7. Macrographs (20) of two weld bonded joints using adhesive A: (left) Joint welded immediately after application of adhesive (t0 ), (right) Joint welded at maximum working time of the adhesive (t1 ). Note: The test specimens (2 mm thickness) were assembled as received, i.e. without surface cleaning.


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Fig. 9. Load-displacement curves in tensile-shear testing of three dierent types of joints, i.e. spot welded, adhesive bonded and weld bonded. Test specimens (2 mm plate thickness) were bonded as received, i.e. without surface cleaning, welding was carried out immediately after application of adhesive (t0 ). Photos show the faying surfaces of the test specimen after complete separation of the two parts.

and 9, a dierence between the evolutions of the loaddisplacement curves of bonded and weld bonded joints based on epoxy or methacrylate adhesives is also observed after mechanical failure. Since epoxy is a rigid polymer, the load-elongation curve in Fig. 6 falls abruptly to zero after fracture initiation. On the contrary, methacrylate based joints (bonded or weld bonded) still contain some strength after fracture initiation (refer to Fig. 9) due to the elastomer characteristic of this adhesive. Fig. 10 presents a comparison between tension-shear tests of weld bonded joints with adhesive A produced with three dierent surface conditions. It is noticed that the joint produced without cleaning provides better

tension-shear resistance than the one cleaned and degreased with acetone or the one contaminated with oil. The presence of oil on the surface before application of the adhesive will create a weak boundary layer reducing the adhesion strength. In contradiction to expectations, degreasing with acetone reveals a similar eect, which may also be due to a reaction between remnants of acetone with the adhesive forming a weak boundary layer. The load-displacement curves obtained from peel testing of three dierent weld bonded joints are plotted in Fig. 11. No dierences in peel strength are found since the performance in peeling is set by the weld nugget. In fact, adhesive joints are designed to withstand

Fig. 10. Load-displacement curves in tensile-shear testing of weld bonded joints using adhesive A obtained from tensile-shear tests. The three joints made in 2 mm plates were welded after three dierent surface dressing procedures.

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Fig. 11. Load-displacement curves in peel testing of weld bonds with three dierent adhesives. Test specimens (1.5 mm thickness) were applied without surface cleaning, immediately after the application of adhesive (t0 ).

shear, compressive and tensile forces, but they should not be subjected to peeling forces in service. In other words, it can be stated that variations as regards type of adhesive and initial surface conditions have no inuence on the peel strength since the maximum peeling load of a weld bonded joint is expected to be equal to that obtained from a conventional spot-welded joint.

sives since the resistance to peeling is mainly set by the weld nugget. The working time of the adhesive was disclosed as a fundamental process parameter for ensuring the overall success of the weld bonded part since it inuences the way electrical current will run through the faying surfaces of the metal parts to be joined. In practical terms, the adhesive should be chosen with a working time appropriate to the production requirements, since it is mandatory to carry out weld bonding before reaching the maximum working time of the adhesive. Surface conditions of the parts to be joined must also be taken into consideration. The presence of residual oil on the surface before application of the adhesive will create a weak boundary layer reducing the adhesion strength. Numerical simulations of the spot-welded and weld bonded joints using the commercial nite element program SORPAS helped establish the optimum welding parameters, saving time and costs associated with the experimental tests.

Acknowledgements s Santos is grateful to the Portuguese Welding Ine Institute (ISQ) for the research fellow grant.

5. Conclusions Weld bonding is an alternative technology for joining stainless steel parts to solutions based on structural adhesives or conventional spot-welding. The paper focused on the assessment of weld bonded joints assembled with three commercial adhesives, using varying working times and dierent surface conditions. Epoxy based weld bonds performed better than conventional spot-welded joints in tension-shear tests while methacrylate based weld bonded joints showed a poorer performance. No signicant dierences in peel strength were found between the three types of adhe-

[1] M.M. Schwartz, Metals Joining Manual Book, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1979. [2] P. Charbonnet, A. Clad, H. Fant-Jaeckels, J.L. Thirion, Weld bonding: A very well adapted joining technique to decrease the tallurgieCIT, 543, weight of steel structures, La Revue de Me April 2000. [3] S.M. Darwish, A. Ghanya, Critical assessment of weld-bonded technologies, J. Mat. Proc. Technol. 105 (2000) 221. [4] S.M. Darwish, Weld bonding strengthens and balances the stresses in spot-welded dissimilar thibkness joints, J. Mat. Proc. Technol. 134 (2003) 352. [5] W. Zhang, Design and Implementation of Software for Resistance Welding Process Simulations. SAE 2003 World Congress, Detroit, USA, 2003.