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FABRICATION OF

ALUMINUM STRUCTURES

ROEBERT A SIELSKI
9-18-07
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 1
Fabrication of Aluminum Structure
Presented to the Southwest Section
The Society of Naval Architects
and Marine Engineers
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Robert A. Sielski
Naval Architect Structures
40391 Camino Montecito
Indio, California 92203
760-200-3193
RSielski@aol.com
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 2
Background on Aluminum at Sea
Aluminum used for ships and craft for more
than a century
Early vessels (yachts, patrol craft)
Severe corrosion problems
Use of copper-strengthening alloys
Mixed with steel frames
Practically dissolved at the pier
Lesson learnedTest new alloys and systems
before using
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 3
Background on Aluminum at Sea (Cont.)
US Navy deckhouses
Aluminum used since 1930s
Relatively good service
Some corrosion (exfoliation)
Fatigue problems sometimes
severe
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 4
Background on Aluminum at Sea (Cont.)
High-speed vessels
Beginning in 1950s
Crew boats, fishing vessels, pleasure craft
US Navy derivative craftSwift boats
US Navy high-speed vessels
Beginning in 1960s
Hydrofoils, air-cushion vehicles, surface effects ships
Vessels didnt always find use in fleet, but aluminum
made them possible
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 5
Background on Aluminum at Sea (Cont.)
Commercial high-speed vessels since 1980s
Mostly ferries
Increasingly larger
Japanese superliner Ogasawara
Surface Effects Ship
LBP 126.8 m
14,500 GT
Speed 39 kts
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 6
Background on Aluminum at Sea (Cont.)
US Navy adaptation of commercial HSVs
Commercial vessels designed for coastal and inland
waters
High sea states are not encountered
US Navy requires unlimited service
30-year lifetime
Little service experience for such conditions
Require knowledge of operating envelopes
New ship designs are extrapolation of existing designs
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 7
Material Property And Behavior
Research on marine applications of
aluminum
Began in 1930s, including corrosion studies
US Navy extensive research 1960s to early
1980s
Declined after then
Some new alloys developed and new
applications recently
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 8
Chemical Composition of Aluminum Alloys
0.10 0.20 0.25 0.60-1.20 0.40-1.00 0.10 0.50 0.70-1.30 6082
0.10 0.10 0.10 0.45-0.90 0.10 0.10 0.35 0.20-.60 6063
0.15 0.25 0.04-0.35 .80-1.20 0.15 .15-.40 0.70 .40-.80 6061
0.10 0.20 0.30 .40-.70 0.50 0.30 0.35 .50-.90 6005A
0.20 0.25 0.05-0.20 4.70-5.50 0.50-1.00 0.10 0.40 0.25 5456
0.20 0.25 0.05-0.20 2.40-3.00 0.50-1.00 0.10 0.40 0.25 5454
0.15 0.40 0.25 4.00-5.20 0.70-1.00 0.20 0.25 0.25 5383
0.15 0.25 0.05-0.25 3.50-4.50 0.20-0.70 0.10 0.50 0.40 5086
0.15 0.25 0.05-0.25 4.00-4.90 0.40-1.0 0.10 0.40 0.40 5083
0.20 0.40-0.90 0.25 5.00-6.00 0.60-1.20 0.25 0.50 0.45 5059
Ti Zn Cr Mg Mn Cu Fe Si Alloy
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 9
Aluminum Alloys
Used in Marine Service
5xxx-series
Magnesium is principal alloying agent
Many have a significant amount of manganese
Work hardening
Number followed by H and up to 3-digit number
H1 only strain hardened
H2 strain hardened and then slightly annealed
H3 strain hardened and then has the properties stabilized by
either low-temperature treatment, or by heat introduced during
fabrication
O Annealed condition
Example: 5083-H116
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 10
Aluminum Alloys
Used in Marine Service
ASTM B 928
Developed because of stress-corrosion cracking of 5083-H321
5059-H116 5059-H321 5083-H116
5083-H321 5086-H116 5383-H116
5383-H321 5456-H116 5456-H321
Need not be B-928 if:
5xxx alloys containing less than 3 percent Mg
Tempers not susceptible to sensitization
Annealed (-O temper)
Must order to B 928
alloy and temper not sufficient
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 11
Aluminum Alloys
Used in Marine Service
6xxx series
Magnesium and silicon as principal alloying
agents
Heat-treatable
T and following number indicates type of heat
treatment
T6 is most common
Example: 6061-T6
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 12
Material Property And Behavior (Cont.)
Corrosion Resistance
Sensitization
Can be problem with high-magnesium 5xxx-series
alloys
Can lead to stress corrosion cracking and
exfoliation
Can occur from:
Thermal and mechanical processing at mill
Welding during production
Exposure to higher temperatures in service.
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 13
Sensitized Aluminum
Sensitized Material Unsensitized Material
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 14
Sensitized 5083 Plate Showing both Stress
Corrosion Cracking and Pitting Corrosion
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 15
Effective Diffusion Rate Diagrams for
Sensitization of 5083 and 5456
(Catherine Wong, NSWCCD)
360
280
140
180
F
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 16
Diffusion Rate Diagrams for
Sensitization of 5454-H117
(Vassilaros and Czyryca, 1979)
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 17
Yield Strength of Selected
Welded Aluminum Alloys (ksi)
26 24 19
AWS Hull
Welding
26 22 US Navy
19 18 14
Aluminum
Association
17 13 DNV
26 24 19 ABS
5456-H116 5083-H116 5086-H116 Alloy/Source
26 24 19
AWS Hull
Welding
26 22 US Navy
19 18 14
Aluminum
Association
17 13 DNV
26 24 19 ABS
5456-H116 5083-H116 5086-H116 Alloy/Source
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 18
Comparison of Stress-Strain Behavior
of Aluminum and Steel
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 19
Similarities between Fabricating with
Aluminum and Steel
Transition from steel to aluminum
No significant changes in facilities or personnel
Many shipyards that build with both materials at the same time
Significant differences
Welding in an enclosed area is a necessity for aluminum
Electromagnetic devices for material handling and for holding
work in place are useless
Oxyacetylene, gas or carbon arc cutting not used on aluminum
Workers need to learn new procedures
Same welders generally dont work on both at the same time
Closer link required between design and fabrication
Design often changed to fit the advantages and limitations of
construction capabilities
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 20
Fabrication Facilities
Should be fabricated in enclosed conditions
Temporary shelters or permanent buildings
Coefficient of thermal expansion about twice as great
as the coefficient of steel
Dimensions will vary greatly as the temperatures change
Localized changes in temperature (direct sunlight) induce
warping of structural assemblies
Protection from wind for shielding gas when
welding
Moisture and high humidity has serious effect on
the quality of aluminum welds
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 21
Shipyard Facilities for Fabricating Aluminum
(How not to do it)
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 22
Shipyard Facilities for Fabricating Aluminum
(How not to do it)
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 23
Shipyard Facilities for Fabricating Aluminum
(www.Austal.com)
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 24
Shipyard Facilities for Fabricating Aluminum
(www.Austal.com)
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 25
Shipyard Facilities for Fabricating Aluminum
(www.Austal.com)
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 26
Cutting and Forming Aluminum
Aluminum is softer than steel
Easily cut with steel cutting tools
Sawing, machining, and other mechanical means of cutting performed
with ease
Sawing performed with blades that have relatively coarse teeth
Blades should have a high speed
Band saws and hand-held or stationary rotary saws
Jigsaws and saber saws are used for cutting curved shapes
Hole saws for circular openings
Saw-cut edge is generally suitable for welding
Smooth first by filing, planing, routing, sanding, polishing, or milling
prior to solvent cleaning
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 27
Cutting and Forming Aluminum (Cont.)
Hacksaw not recommended except for small, thin pieces
Time-consuming
Does not present a very smooth edge
Shears for cutting plate up to 4.8 mm (0.188 in) thick
Edge should be dressed and cleaned prior to welding
Do not shear exposed edges on alloys with magnesium content
greater than 3 percent
5083, 5086, or 5456, 5383, 5059, etc.
Edge can become sensitive to stress-corrosion cracking
Nibbler (similar in action to a shear) is used for curved
edges
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 28
Numerically Controlled Cutting
Numerically controlled cutting machines
Fastest and most accurate method of cutting aluminum
Cut edge is ready for welding, with only cleaning
required
Intricate shapes can be easily obtained
Cut outs through which structural shapes can be passed
Used today in even small boatyards
Economical to have an outside shop prepare plates
Requires additional advanced planning
All openings and cutouts made at one time
Not when workers are fitting systems such as piping and
electrical systems.
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 29
Numerically Controlled Cutting (Cont.)
Plasma-arc cutting
Either dry or wet
Dry cutting has plate usually positioned above a pond of water
Wet cutting the plate is submerged
Fluid Jet Cutting
Jet of water includes abrasive particles
Very high pressure stream from a nozzle
Very clean and accurate cut
No heat-affected zone
Plates from 1 mm to 100 mm (0.04 in to 4 inches) thick
Cut at rates of 3,500-mm/min. (140 in/min.) for the thinner sheet
30-mm/min. (1.2 in/min.) for the thicker plate
683 sources listed at www.Thomas net.com
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 30
Water Jet Cutting
(www.kustomwaterjet.com)
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 31
Water Jet Cutting
(www.kustomwaterjet.com)
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 32
Water Jet Cutting
(www.calypsowaterjet.com)
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 33
Bending Aluminum Plates
5xxx-series aluminum alloys are work hardened
Overworking in forming operations can have a deleterious effect on
mechanical properties
Plates can be easily bent in a press- brake
Minimum bend radii should be no less than those recommended by the
AWS guide
Minimum Bend Radii for Cold Bends in Aluminum Alloys as a
Multiple of Plate Thickness, t (AWS, 2004)
5t 4.5t 3.5t 3t 2.5t 6061-T6
4t 3t 2.5t 2t 1.5t 5456-H116
4t 3t 2.5t 2t 2 5454-H34
4t 3t 2.5t 2t 1.5t 5083-H116
4t 3t 2.5t 2t 1.5t 5086-H116
13 / 0.50 9.5 / 0.375 6.4 / 0.25 4.8 / 0.188
3.2 / 0.125
Base Metal Thickness (mm / in) Alloy
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 34
Forming Plate
Plates can be curved with rollers
Warped shapes with different curvatures at opposite ends
Forming compound curvature is extremely difficult
If small amount of cross-curvature is needed
Plate is rolled to the principal direction of curvature
Forced into position against hull framing members
Difficult operation
Scantlings of framing members may have to be selected for
forming forces
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 35
Forming Plate (Cont.)
Roll forming compound curvature
Loose filler material such as sawdust or soft wood shavings
applied at rolls
Curved rollers also used to form compound curvature
Either process requires a great deal of skill
Orange peel sections
Triangular plates
Given single curvature or
Some compound curvature using a press
Joined together to form approximation of the desired shape
Compound curvature usually avoided in the hull form
Limitation of aluminum
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 36
Forming Plate by Furnacing
(Hay and Holtyn, Naval Engineers Journal,1980)
If thick plates are to be heated for shaping
Must be soaked in a furnace for several hours at
desired temperature
Maximum temperature should be less than 260 C
(500 F)
70-mm (2.75-in) plate of 5456-H116
Held at a temperature of 245 C (475 F)
No significant affect on condition of the matrix and grain
boundary precipitate
Yield strength decreased to 165 MPa (23.6 ksi)
Compared to the specified minimum yield strength of 200 MPA
(29.0 ksi).
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 37
Forming Plate by Furnacing (Cont.)
12 40.0 25.0 3.0014.000
12 41.0 29.0 1.5013.000
12 44.0 31.0 1.2511.500
12 46.0 33.0 0.5001.250
10 46.0 33.0 0.0630.449
Elongation (%) Ultimate
Strength (ksi)
Yield Strength
(ksi)
Thickness
Range (in)
Reduction of Mechanical Properties of 5456-H116 with
Increased Thickness (Hay and Holtyn, 1980)
Strength of thicker plates closer to specified values.
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 38
Forming Plate by Furnacing (Cont.)
Above 400 F the Mg solubility is so high that the
beta phase starts to dissolve so there is no problem
with sensitization from the process.
May disrupt the stability of the Mg in solution so the
material may sensitize more quickly in service.
Cooling rate between 400 and about 100 F must
be fast enough to lock in the supersaturated Mg.
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 39
Line Heating to Form Plate
Not an approved process
Would require research program to develop
Temperature controls similar to flame straightening would
be used
If extensive shaping of plates is be required
May be better with annealed temper
5083-0 plate
less strength than the work-hardened tempers
design calculations should reflect the reduced strength.
Careful control of the shaping process is required because it could
lead to sensitization of material previously not sensitized.
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 40
Forming Structural Shapes
Aluminum structural shapes are easily formed in
light sections
Deeper sections are more difficult to bend without
causing buckling of flanges or webs
Bend tee stiffeners by cutting V-notches in the webs
or cutting the flanges
Holes should be drilled at the ends of the notches prior
to forming to prevent cracking
Not used if design is based on the unwelded strength
of the shape
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 41
Forming Structural Shapes (Cont.)
Special rollers with slots to support webs of tees
and angles
Heating may be necessary
When there is a considerable amount of curvature
(transverse frames)
Cut plate to the shape of the hull to form the web
Inside edge straight or curved for welding a flange
Can also bend edge to form flanged plate
Least expensive alternative
Cost of numerical cutting is low
Shipyard labor is saved
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 42
Structural Assembly
Pre-outfitted structural assemblies
Aluminum compared to steel
Larger subassemblies can be built of the same weight
More care required in handling larger assemblies
Temporary welded handling pads a necessity for handling
aluminum subassemblies
Lighter scantlings
Ineffectiveness of electromagnetic handling devices
Distortion of aluminum subassemblies can be greater than with
steel subassemblies
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 43
Structural Assembly (Cont.)
Temporary stiffening members to hold the
subassembly prior to its being welded into the
other structure
Aluminum welding not tolerant of gaps, especially
uneven gaps
Greater care must be taken with the fit-up of joints prior
to welding
Punch marks or scribe marks can cause problems
Sites of fatigue crack initiation
Should be welded over
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 44
Panel Construction
Special aluminum panel lines for this purpose
Plates are butt welded to form large panels
Stiffeners welded first in mechanized stations
Frames are fitted over the stiffeners and welded
Curved hull sections formed by laying the plates
in jigs
Butt weld plate
Fit the stiffeners and frames
Stick construction
Bulkheads and frames are first laid up and tack welded
together
Stiffeners are then fitted to the frames
Entire assembly is welded
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 45
Stick Construction (Cont.)
Plating laid over the stiffening
Welded to the frames and stiffeners
Avoids having to construct jigs to handle curved
sections
More advantageous for one-off designs
Better access to the details of stiffener-frame
intersections
Details easier to weld
Small stiffeners typical of smaller craft
Alignment of intercostal members easily accomplished
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 46
Egg Crate Detailing
Good through-thickness properties
No concern for innerlaminar exclusions
Cruciform welds will not to fail by splitting the intervening plate
Better suited for stick-type construction

9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 47
Guidance on Welding Aluminum
American Welding Society Committee D.3 on Welding in
Marine Construction
Guide for Aluminum Hull Welding (AWS, 2004)
Thoroughly reviews welding aluminum for marine fabrication
The Aluminum Association
Welding Aluminum: Theory and Practice
American Bureau of Shipping Part 2, Aluminum and
Fiber Reinforced Plastics
Part of the Rules for Materials and Welding
Military Standard MIL-STD-1689
David W. Taylor Naval Ship Research and Development
Center
Guide for the Use of Aluminum Alloys in Naval Ship
Construction (Beach et al., 1984)
Volume on fabrication
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 48
Welding Distortion of Aluminum
Comparison of aluminum to steel
Elastic modulus of aluminum is one-third that of steel
Coefficient of thermal expansion is about twice as
much
Strains from cooling of welds and surrounding areas produce
lower residual stress
Reduced elastic modulus
When residual stresses do occur
Tend to produce greater distortion than in steel structure
Buckling of plating
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 49
Comparison of Aluminum Distortion to Steel
(Cont.)
Aluminum conducts heat anywhere from 2.5 to
9 times faster than steel
Area heated during welding processes is greater
Not as intense
Aluminum structure tends to distort more
during welding
Tolerances for ship construction reflect this
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 50
Comparison of distortion at a fillet weld
(Masubuchi, 1990)
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
0 10 20 30
Thickness (mm)
A
n
g
u
l
a
r

C
h
a
n
g
e

(
R
a
d
i
a
n
s

x

1
0
-
3
)
Aluminum Steel
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 51
Tolerances
Aluminum more prone to distortion from welding
than steel
Tolerances for fairness in aluminum structure not as
strict as for steel
Unfairness in aluminum plating
ABS Rules for Materials and Welding (Aluminum)
Similar to MIL-STD-1689
Greater tolerances are permissible in aluminum
12.7 mm (0.50 in) strength deck plate on 610 mm (24
in) stiffener spacing:
Tolerance = 9.5 mm (0.375 in) for aluminum
Tolerance = 6.4 mm (0.25 in) for steel
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 52
Tolerances (Cont.)
Fairness of frames and stiffeners
Primary strength structure
Subject to dynamic loading, such as bottom slamming
MIL-STD 1689 and the ABS aluminum rules have the
same tolerance
Unfairness < 530 l / d
w
(mm)
l is the span in meters
d
w
is the depth of the web in mm
Tolerances for plate and stiffeners determined by
surveys
Tolerances achieved in normal shipbuilding practice
Effects of tolerances on structural strength not as
extensively studied for aluminum as for steel
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 53
MIL-STD 1689 Plate Tolerances
Aluminum plate in critical areas Aluminum plate in secondary areas
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 54
Flame-Straightening
(Hay and Holtyn, Naval Engineers Journal,1980)
Generally not permitted in aluminum
Special permission required
Classification society
U.S. Navy.
5xxx-series aluminum should not be heated to above
288 degrees Celsius (550 degrees Fahrenheit)
should not be permitted to remain at that temperature
for any length of time.
Aluminum does not glow when it is heated
Use temperature-sensitive crayons (Temple sticks)
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 55
Flame-Straightening (Cont.)
Two operators generally required
first operator has crayons that melt at 288 C (550 F) and an
oxy-acetylene torch to heat the plate.
The second individual has a device for providing a fine spray
of water and air.
Constantly check temperature with the crayon
When it melts
immediately cool the plate to 66 C (125 F)
Extreme care to prevent overheating required
Lowers mechanical strength
Reduces the corrosion resistance
Neither can be easily determined by quality control means.
Should have effective diffusion rate diagram for
specific alloy to determine temperature and time
limits.
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 56
Other Means of Straightening Plate
Weld beads to straighten
Lay weld beads in a pattern on the surface of the plate
Not generally permitted as it reduces strength of plate
Radical distortions in plating
Cut slit in plate
Straighten plate or possibly distort it in the opposite direction
Reweld
Special permission may be required for such an
operation
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 57
Minimizing Distortion During Welding
Plate should not be free to rotate about the axis of
the weld during welding
Design of the joint should be symmetrical
Welding procedures should be symmetrical
Minimum welding heat should be used
Excessive filler material should be avoided
Fillet welds should be made with minimum heat
input
Fillets should be no greater than required for
strength
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 58
Minimizing Distortion During Welding
(Cont.)
Fit-up should be made as accurate as possible to
minimize weld size
Minimize root gaps and irregularities in the root gaps
Sequence of welding is very important
Butts and seams in plating should progress outward
from the center
Butts in strakes of plating welded before the
longitudinal seams
Beneficial to weld only small portions at a time
Welding short intermittent beads
Returning to the weld seam after structure farther away has
been welded
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 59
Recommended Welding Sequence for Butt
Welds (AWS, 2004)
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 60
Minimizing Distortion During Welding
(Cont.)
Intermittent fillet welds
Smaller craft
Non-critical structure
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 61
Summary
Fabricating structure with aluminum is similar to
steel construction
More difficulties involved
Cutting aluminum generally not as fast as steel
cutting
Faster with plasma arc or water jet
Aluminum can be formed into different shapes
Heating is very difficult
Compound curvature of plates should be avoided
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 62
Summary (Cont.)
Welding aluminum more expensive than
welding steel
More joint preparation and cleanliness required
Need for shielding gas
Somewhat slower welding speeds
Aluminum more prone to distortion during
welding
9/18/ 2007 Aluminum Fabrication 63
Summary (Cont.)
More care needed with welding procedures to
reduce distortion
When distortions occur
More difficult to remove
Limitations on the use of heat on aluminum
Extruded panels reduce construction cost
Many welds of stiffeners to plate are eliminated.
Less distortion