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So you want to be a certified welding inspector?

A good welder doesn't necessarily make the best inspector

By Dan Davis
July 8, 2010
Not many people who enter the welding profession think about their long-term career path. A certified welding
inspector may be the next logical step for the right welder.

Figure 1
A certified welding inspector has to know when he doesnt understand something completely and consult a
reference to ensure hes making the right call. Photo courtesy of Knight School of Welding.
Sometimes welders get to the point in their careers when they wonder what the next step is. Some want to leave
the daily gymnastics required to prep, weld, and clean fabrications. Others want more responsibility and more
money. The life of a certified welding inspector may be right for them.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the mean annual wage of a welder in architectural and
structural metals manufacturing, as of May 2009, was $33,330. That manufacturing segment employs the
largest number46,350of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers, the name the BLS uses to describe the
particular job area. If you look closely at a manufacturing segment in which inspection is a key component of
production, such as aerospace product and parts manufacturing, you see that the mean annual wage jumps
dramatically, to $47,330 for inspectors, when compared to the wage paid to welders. Manufacturers see welding
inspection as a much-needed skill for which they are willing to pay.
The jobs are available as well. A quick look at the American Welding Society job board at the time of this
writing showed 10 out of 24 job openings were for inspectors or quality control personnel. A search on revealed 55 welding inspector jobs. The job locations spanned the U.S.
Good compensation and plenty of opportunities for those interested in becoming a certified welding inspector
(CWI) are expected to continue for the foreseeable future. That, however, doesnt mean that every welder is
suitable for the job.

Time to Hit the Books

David Tofaute, the executive director of the Knight School of Welding, Louisville, Ky., is candid when talking
to students interested in the schools 80-hour CWI course.
Its something that a lot of schools typically dont do because its so intense, he said.
The course stretches for two weeks, but even when that is done, the instructors might stretch it out a day or two
(see Figure 1). [The students] are like deer in the headlights, Tofaute said.
So what does a CWI have to know? It helps to know a little bit about everything. Depending on which codes
(for example, D1.1:2008 applies to structural steel; API 1104 covers welding pipelines) would-be inspectors are
interested in, they need to know exactly what is stated in the code and how to find sections of the code quickly
to verify quality welds or substantiate the need for rework. They need to know about welding processes,
terminology, and symbols and how different materials react during the welding process. They need to learn
about nondestructive testing and visual clues that suggest a weld is acceptable or not.
Paul Cameron, a senior welding engineer for McNeilus Truck and Manufacturing Inc., Dodge Center, Minn.,
and author of the Arc Welding 101 column in Practical Welding Today, was a welder for 13 years before he
decided to take the next step. He knew that climbing up the career ladder would require a lot of extra work, but
he didnt let it deter him from his goal.
In 1993, as a third-shift welder, I took the AWS CWI seminar. I took what I learned, studied, studied, and
studied, and six months later took and passed the exam, Cameron said.

Figure 2
Being a welder is a helpful step on the way to becoming a CWI, but its not required. For example, if a person
has an associates degree or higher in engineering technology, engineering, or a physical science; has three
years of work experience; and has passed a vision test, he or she is qualified to take the CWI exam.

Experience Counts
As Cameron found out, welding experience is helpful. AWS actually stresses some sort of work-related
background before taking the CWI exam (see Figure 2).
Those with at least a high school diploma and at least a years worth of engineering or technical school
coursework need at least four years of work experience. Those who didnt graduate high school or have not
obtained a general equivalency degree need at least nine years of work experience if they have finished at least
the eighth grade and 12 years of work experience if their academic career finished before completion of the
eighth grade.

AWS is serious enough about the work experience requirement that it asks for written verification of
documented employment when someone submits an application to take the CWI exam. If acquiring the proof of
employment experience is not possible, then the applicant has to provide a detailed affidavit that confirms any
previous work experience.
Cameron added that a varied work experienceor an unstable work history as one human resources
representative described itmay help as well. With experience in oil rig fabrication, mining equipment repair,
construction, and manufacturing, Cameron said he has worked with just about every welding process
imaginable and has learned to weld to multiple codes.
Many welders will work in a single industry with a limited number of processes their whole life, he said. A
pipefitter may never pick up a MIG or flux-core gun. An ironworker may never manipulate a TIG torch. A
production MIG welder may never pick up a print. Each can be a very successful CWI within their industry, but
outside their industry, they may feel like a fish out of water.

Communication Is Key
So the would-be CWI needs to know about quality weld joints, welding codes, and testing methodologies, but
all that knowledge does no one any good if it cant be communicated clearly. The information needs to be
reported to the welding department in a clear and accurate manner that leaves out the vague language and sticks
to the basic facts.
Cameron shared the details of how a report should be written after recently receiving a report that described a
set of bend coupons for a welder qualification test. The original report read: One coupon looked good. The
other had a couple of places that didnt. Cameron offered this alternative: Coupon 1, root bend, one
discontinuity less than 132. Acceptable. Coupon 2, root bend, one discontinuity greater than 132, but less than
18. One discontinuity greater than 18. No corner cracks. Unacceptable.
CWIs also have to step up and deliver news that may not be welcome. Thats why it helps to communicate in
respectful tones. No one likes to be told they made a mistake.
Tofaute said the schools CWI recently certified a weld for a nearby manufacturer, but the quality control
inspector for the client company questioned the validity of the inspection because the part failed an internal
quality test. The client company sent the part back, and the CWI at the Knight School of Welding discovered
that the part was painted. Apparently the manufacturer tested the part after it was painted. The CWI had to place
the phone call that notified the quality control inspector that he has to test the part before finishing occurs, not
Its like talking to a doctor, Tofaute said. When you call a certified welding inspector, hes not always going
to give you the answer that you want to hear.

Independence Every Day

The ability to communicate clearly can keep a production floor running smoothly, but if the communication
isnt based on an honest assessment of a weld, everything is at risk. Tofaute said that a CWI has to be
independent by nature, and that personality trait needs to be evident before taking the CWI exam. Because he
will be speaking with other welders, a supervisor, and engineers on a regular basis, and lawyers, scientists, and
the company president on a not-so-frequent basis, a CWI needs to be able to speak the truth without feeling
pressure to alter the story for the audience.

This can mean that a CWI does not accept gratuities of any kind from customers. That includes even the random
invitation to lunch or dinner.
I still accept these invitations, but I make it clear that I can attend only if Im paying my own way. Folks find it
odd, but it is something that works for me, Cameron said.
Actually, the AWS code of ethics for welding inspectors clearly states that they shouldnt accept any
compensation and should avoid any type of conflict of interest with the employer or client. This keeps not only
the welding inspector clear of potentially dubious practices, but also keeps the public safe. The AWS code of
ethics sums it up nicely: Welding inspectors shall act to preserve the health and well-being of the public by
performing duties required of welding inspection in a conscientious and impartial manner to the full extent of
the inspectors moral and civic responsibility and qualification.

Study, Study, Study

If a welder has the welding knowledge, the commitment to study, the ability to communicate, and a willingness
to be honest and independent, a CWI might be a logical career move. Before embarking on a new career path,
however, the welder should keep in mind the need to hit the books to attain this certification.
The AWS requires a minimum score of 72 percent in each of the three sections of the test: Part A, a two-hour,
150-question, closed-book test on fundamentals; Part B, a two-hour, hands-on test of 46 questions that requires
the test-taker to use visual inspection tools and a sample code book; and Part C, a two-hour, open-book test of
40-60 questions that calls for finding the right code in the right code book. If the test-taker fails any part of the
exam, he has to wait a year and also take 40 hours of additional professional training before retaking the exam.
There is one test for which a would-be CWI doesnt have to study: the vision test. The candidate has to prove
near vision acuity, either with or without corrective eyeware, on Jaeger J2 (the eye chart used in most
optometrists offices) at not less than 12 inches, according to Section 6.1 of AWS B5.1, Specification for the
Qualification of Welding Inspectors.
In short, the CWI candidate has to have good vision to see what lies before him and the work that will be
required to achieve the official certification.

Upfront welding inspection considerations

By Carl Smith
July 7, 2010
Welding inspection involves much more than simply checking the accuracy of welds after they are made.
Inspectors must be knowledgeable about codes, standards, materials, and other fabricating processes.
Welding inspection is not something to be taken lightly. Lives can depend on the accuracy of the inspection.
Failed welds that cause the loss of life or property make the news and technical journals. These failures
sometimes are blamed on the welding inspector. If the inspector had done his job properly, the harmful event
could have been avoided. In some cases this claim is justifiable; inspectors make mistakes just like any other
person in the fabrication chain. However, an inspector cannot inspect quality into the product. The quality of a
weldment must be established at the very beginning of the project and followed through to the end. If any step
in the job is not established and carried out with quality as the top priority, the possibility of failure exists.
In years past, poor welds caused many more catastrophic failures than occur today. Boilers exploded, ships
sank, buildings and bridges collapsed, and pipelines blew up frequently. These disasters became far less
frequent as codes and standards were established.

Which Code or Standard?

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) worked diligently to establish rules for fabricating
boilers, pressure vessels, and piping. The American Welding Society (AWS) established rules for structural
fabrication and erection. The American Petroleum Institute (API) continually is quality and safety for pipelines
and related facilities.
One of the first things an inspector must know is which code or standard should be used for the inspection
criteriaboth the code of construction and the code to qualify the welding procedures and welders. These
requirements must be outlined in the job specifications. The inspector should not make assumptions or rely on
his judgment to set the standard. If it is not written in the specifications or on the drawings, the inspector should
not proceed without clarification.
It must be noted that the ASME Section IX is only for welding procedure and welder qualification. It may not
be used as a code of construction. The AWS D1.1 code may be used for welding procedure and welder
qualification and as a code of construction. The API 1104 is for welding and nondestructive testing of pipelines
and related facilities.
Before any welding begins, the inspector must verify that the welding procedures are in compliance with the
applicable code or standard. Sometimes a customer establishes a standard that is not referenced to a particular
code. This is often the case with very large companies, such as Siemens and General Electric. In these cases, the
customer standard prevails.
Each contractor or company is responsible for establishing welding procedures. No code that I am aware of
allows a company to outsource a test for welding procedures. However, prequalified welding procedures are
available from the AWS. The user must demonstrate that the company is able to perform to these procedures.
Most companies require fabricators to establish and test their own procedures. The API 1104 code does not
recognize prequalified procedures. All codes require destructive tests for the qualification of procedures, and
each code has different procedure testing requirements (Figure 1).

The welding inspector must verify that the welders are qualified and certified to the proper code or standard.
Welder qualification is established by testing. A welder who successfully performs a test and receives a
certification document is referred to as a certified welder.
Essential and nonessential variables are listed in each of the codes. Some of the essential variables common to
all the codes are position, vertical progression, weld deposit thickness, and others related to the specific process.
Nonessential variables do not require requalification, but essential variables do. The inspector may require a
welder to perform a demonstration for a reasonable cause, such as multiple failures and poor workmanship.
The inspector must observe the joint design to be sure that the procedures cover the type of weld specified on
the drawing. If the procedures and welders are qualified only for welds with backing, then no open-root welds
are permitted. If the procedures and welders are qualified for welds without backing, then welds with or without
backing can be used. This variable is common to all the codes (Figure 2).

Figure 2

Material Information
Material traceability is an absolute necessity for all jobs. If a failure occurs and liability is involved, proof of
material quality can hold the key to the cause of the failure. The inspector can only recommend certain
additional tests to ensure that the material is of sufficient quality for the use. I always advise a client to require
an ultrasonic examination on any material that is 1 in. thick or thicker.
If a plate has lamellar inclusions, they should be detected and reported before any work is done to the material.
Material suppliers are required to replace flawed material, but it is extremely difficult to convince a supplier to
pay for any work that was done before flaws were discovered.
The inspector must check the material test report (MTR) to make sure that it meets the code requirements.
Usually the ASTM is referenced for AWS work, and the ASME Section II, Parts A and B, are referenced for
ASME fabrications. Even when low-carbon materials are being welded, care must be taken to compare the
chemical, physical, and mechanical properties to the proper standard. The API piping standard is API 5L.
The inspector may question the material selection, but may not reject the material if it meets the job
specifications. The specification for material type is to be determined by the customer (usually the engineering
department or an outsourced engineering firm).

Tracking the Job

The inspector should request a shop traveler -- a step-by-step guide that begins when the job is designed by
engineering and proceeds all the way through packaging and shipping. Used for tracking inspections in process,
the guide enables the inspector to establish hold points when necessary. An inspector should sign off on each
step of the fabrication. If a part is cut, bent, or rolled incorrectly, the condition must be recorded and held as

nonconforming until a decision is made by the customer. The decision may be to rework, use as is, or scrap.
This decision is not to be made by the inspector, but the inspector must record the matter and secure it in the
permanent job records.

Inspection Tools
Inspectors use tools, such as these recommended and assembled in a kit by AWS (Figure 3). These tools, along
with the inspectors knowledge of codes, standards, materials, and processes, help determine the quality,
durability, and safety of welded products and structures.

Building a stronger welding program

Annual Welding Rodeo combines community outreach, fun, and vocational education in two-day sculpture
By Don Knight
June 7, 2010
Bellingham Technical College launched its Welding Rodeo in 2002 to spur enrollment and raise its public
profile. Now one of the premier welding competitions in the Pacific Northwest, the event has helped the school
triple its enrollment in welding and expand its program/skill offerings.

Old cylinder tops, valves, and scrap metal donated from local industry contribute to the Welding Rodeos
Bellingham Technical College (BTC) held its 9th annual Welding Rodeo May 21 - 22, 2010, on its campus in
Bellingham, Wash. First modeled after the SkillsUSA contest, the Welding Rodeo has evolved into a sculpture
competition in which teams compete by creating artwork from scrap heaps of twisted steel and metal.
Thousands of people attend each year, and the finished works go up for auction at the end of the event. The
auction generates scholarship funds for BTCs welding program. What started out as a skills competition has
transformed into a major part of the schools and the communitys identity.
Bellingham isnt easy to find, but now were on the map, said Jer Donnelly, BTC welding instructor.
Everyone knows the Welding Rodeo. You go down to Seattle and mention it and people say, Oh yeah, we
know about that. It has a life of its own now. Its amazing. And weve brought a lot of attention to this campus.
A lot of people have come to this campus that didnt even know we were here.

Raising Its Profile With Local Industry

Bellingham is the last major American city on Interstate 5 before you reach the Canadian border. Located 90
miles north of Seattle, this community is known more for its picturesque vistas of Mount Baker and Bellingham
Bay than as a hotbed for metalworking.

Figure 1
To make the eagles wings, the team created a cardboard template and traced the wing pattern with a Magic
Marker. Using a plasma cutter, the artist can precisely and quickly cut out several wings.
Thats one of the big things that drove the Welding Rodeo, said Donnelly, bringing awareness to the public
about the industry. As soon as you say welding to some people, their faces go blank. All they think of are
people that swing hammers and make sparks. Bringing people on campus and showing them this beautiful, firstclass facility is important.
It was also recruiting-oriented, said Don Anderson, BTC welding technology instructor. In our first year, a
lot of programs were on edge. When enrollment starts going down and you look at the programs welding
wasnt growing at the time. It was scary.
Bellinghams curriculum offers three certificates: a certificate in basic welding skills, a certificate in industrial
welding, and an Associate Degree in applied sciencewelding technology-aluminum/steel fabrication and
aluminum welding, pipe welding, structural fabrication. Its training facility features 54 permanent welding
booths outfitted with multiprocess and stick welding equipment and an additional 50 temporary booths to fit
current demand. Enrollment has tripled since the department moved into a new facility in 2005, and the
program has gained two full-time instructors for a total of four and two part-time instructors.
We certify them to Washington Association of Building Officials (WABO) standards, which is based on AWS
D1.1, said Anderson. We morphed from there because our local industry told us they wanted more fabrication
skills, more well-rounded individuals, but they also want specialization. The industries locally are primarily
boat building, fabrication shops, and refineries. Refineries need pipe welders, and so we decided that we needed
a full-bore pipe welding program. And the shipbuilding and repair industry here largely has gone to aluminum,
so we needed an aluminum welding program. And then we have the structural steel needs. So that pretty much
dictated to us that we needed to expand our program and give people hands-on training in everything.
Both Donnelly and Anderson, who founded the event together, believe that the Welding Rodeo at least partially
created the visibility and excitement that has vaulted the welding program to the third-ranked program at the
school (behind IT and nursing).
I really wonder, if we didnt have the Welding Rodeo here, if wed have this new building, said Donnelly. I
dont think we would have.

Community Involvement at Heart of Event

Figure 2
Smart teams in the Welding Rodeo start with a plan that includes drawings, dimensions, and even a small-scale
The Welding Rodeo has exposed locals to the colleges state-of-the-art facility and opened doors to students
who may not have pursued welding as a career before, including a substantial enrollment and participation by
new female welders. Some participants have even moved on to become members of the BTC staff: The winning
artist from the first years event, Mary Kuebelbeck, is now a welding instructor.
We made a 14-foot giraffe, said Kuebelbeck. There were five teams at the time, and the city of Bellingham
purchased the giraffe. It currently sits on the library lawn and is part of the City of Bellinghams art collection.
The event has grown considerably since that first year when Kuebelbeck won. The 2010 event featured two
days of action: one day of high school/college competition and one day of professional competition. As the
community involvement has grown, so has participation from the industry. Local welding distributors and
equipment manufacturers donate equipment and supplies and run booths at the event. Miller Electric Mfg. Co.
has supplied welding, plasma cutting, and personal protection equipment for use during the competition.

Figure 3
Working on a table, the artist puts the finishing touches on the aluminum eagle. Notice how the repeated wing
patterns create an illusion of feathers.
That first year we went around and begged and borrowed from different shops, said Donnelly. This year
people are throwing money at us for scholarships and letting us know that they want to be a part of the event.
Shops are donating metalthey have set the stuff aside all year long. They send teams to compete. Its a great
community event.
Overall, the Welding Rodeo has provided the right mix of fun and education, and it has accomplished the goals
that Donnelly and Anderson set out with from day one: raise visibility and educate the public on the skill, pride,
and art of one of the most important and misunderstood trades in the industry.

When visitors come to a community technical college, we want to expose them to a real-life career, said
Central Welding Supplys Marshall Judy, who heavily supports the Welding Rodeo with equipment and time
and is also a BTC welding program advisory board member. These are good-paying jobs that people can
support families with and have life-long careers. The Welding Rodeo has shown the community this by
[connecting with event attendees].
Interested in organizing your own Welding Rodeo? The welding instructors at BTC will gladly share the
template for their success so that other educational institutions can raise the visibility of welding in their
communities. Contact BTC by following the link to the Welding Rodeo. Also use this link to view slide shows of
winning artists.

Welding Rodeo Tips From Former Champion Mary Kuebelbeck

Mary Kuebelbeck won the inaugural Welding Rodeo in 2002 and has cemented herself as a fixture on
Bellingham Technical Colleges campus. Kuebelbeck is an exhibiting artist with a background in structural
steel, sheet metal, and fabrication who now teaches full-time. While she stopped competing in 2007, she is still
an avid promoter of the event and has offered up a few tips to would-be sculptors participating in similar
1. Be Prepared: If youre smart, your team will have a plan. It may have even made some patterns for
cutting (Figure 1). Youll certainly have some type of blueprint with some dimensioning on it. The
really smart teams will actually make a maquette, or model (Figure 2), prior to the event.
2. Do Not Work on the Ground: You want to work on a table (Figure 3). Get yourself off the ground
because youll be very sore by the end of the day. Have a canopy, both for rain and for sun.
3. Beware Postlunch Productivity Decline: Get most of your stuff done before lunch because, once
youre done with lunch, youre really tired, you start to feel all of your aching bones, and you just dont
work as fast. Your brain isnt making all those quick decisions, and you start to doubt yourself a little
bit. The audience gets bigger and bigger, so people distract you.
4. Pick a Leader: There are a lot of split-second decisions to be made. You just have to make those
decisions and keep rolling and keep moving forward. You cant stop and have a four-person discussion
about one thing. Its best to have one leader, or one leader at the beginning of the day and one leader at
the end of the day.
5. Have Fun: There are definitely parts of the day when we get a little testy with one another, but when the
event is over and youve seen what youve accomplished, the feeling is just so great.

How to relieve stress in welding

Back to basics on stress relief and reducing distortion
November 2, 2009
Relieving residual stress through welding technique as well as temperature control can greatly reduce weld

It's a shame arc welding works so well. It's proven, cost-effective. For many applications, nothing comes close,
at least not yet. Why is it a shame? Because at the microlevel arc welding induces some serious stress, thanks to
dramatic temperature changes measured in thousands of degrees.
The welding gun deposits filler metal that becomes molten and expands from its previously cool state as wire or
rod. Immediately after being deposited and subsequent fusion between the base and weld metal, the metal cools
quickly. The high-yield-strength weld filler metal contracts, or shrinks, pulling the lower-yield base metal with
it. Clamped tight, the metal may stay in place until after welding, but this doesn't make the contracting force go
away. The cooled weld metal still wants to shrink. When the metal is unclamped, the weld metal pulls at the
base metal, and the weld distorts. The degree to which this occurs depends on the weld joint geometry, part
design, and material grade and thickness. Generally, the higher the metal's carbon content, and the more
restrained a joint is, the greater the stress.
Of course, the metallurgical picture is much more complicated, but that's the basic idea.
Industry has numerous ways to reduce such weld stress. Any method must accomplish at least one of two
things: control temperature and refine the welding procedure, both of which counteract those unavoidable forces
that come from fusing two metals together with an electric arc.
For this month's "How To" feature, The FABRICATOR spoke with three experts. For heating and welding
technique, we spoke with Carl Smith, longtime quality manager and welding technician at Kanawha
Manufacturing Co. We also spoke with two experts about some nontraditional stress relief technologies: Tom
Hebel, vice president of Bonal Technologies, and Bill Kashin, territory manager for Bolttech Mannings.

1. Refine the Welding Procedure

Setup; electrode selection; along with weld type (fillet, groove, butt, etc.), size, and orientation all affect how a
weld joint reacts to stress.

Prebending or presetting. The base metal can be set up in such a way to compensate for weld shrinkage. For
example, when two workpieces are preset with one end of the joint together and the far end of the joint slightly
apart, the cooling weld metal pulls the two workpieces until, by the end of the weld, the joint is in the proper
Balance the weld. Double-sided welds, such as double V-groove joints, balance induced stresses and often
result in an assembly that's more stable. "This is especially true on thicker material," said Smith. "Two half-inch
welds on either side of a 1-inch plate balances the weld and minimizes distortion."
Backstepping. Backstepping is a bit like moonwalking with a welding gun. You start several inches from the
beginning of the joint and weld back to the edge; then go farther up the joint and weld back to where you
initially struck your previous arc; then go farther up the joint and again weld back to the previous welded
segment; and so on until the joint is complete. This counteracts shrinkage by focusing the initial stresses away
from the workpiece edges.
Intermittent welding. When intermittent or stitch welding meets the design requirements, it not only helps
reduce distortion, but also uses less weld metal.
Consumables. In wire welding, "you can make a 0.035-inch wire lay down just as much as a 0.045-inch wire,"
Smith said. "You can just crank the wire feed speed." He added that lower heat input required to melt the
smaller wire outweighs any heat reduction benefit that might occur with a faster travel speed using a larger
Weld metal: More isn't better. Codes spell out specific weld size requirements, including the maximum
allowable height of the bead above the plate. The trick is to lay just enough weld metal to create the strongest
jointand no more. A highly convex bead doesn't make a weld stronger, but it does increase shrinkage forces,
because more high-tensile weld metal is pulling on the base metal as the weld cools.
Here, technique factors in. "A multipass weld with stringer beads will create less distortion than a weave bead,"
Smith said.
The stringer bead technique generally allows faster travel speeds, which lowers heat input. Each pass of the gun
lays down less weld metal, which in turn helps control the weld size better.
Welders usually weave only as a last resort, Smith said. "The cover pass on a weave bead can look better than a
stringer bead, but if a welder knows what he's doing and places his stringer bead properly, he can make it look
just as good as a weave bead."
Exceptions abound, of course. Pipeline welders often weave downhill, but the beveled opening in a pipeline is
usually much smaller than on conventional plate. And "round pieces do not distort nearly as badly as flat pieces
anyway," Smith said.
Still, when it comes to controlling distortion, stringer beads usually are best. "Each bead has its own level of
stress," Smith explained. "The wider the bead, the more stress you're going to put into the weld, so you're going
to have more 'pull,' more distortion than a smaller bead."
Fit-up: Small root is best. Solidifying weld metal pulls the base metal, and that effect is exacerbated with an
excessively wide root opening, especially in large weldments and in areas of poor fit-up. "Some situations don't
work with a tight root," Smith said, "but usually, with today's welding machines, you can get by with a 1/16inch root opening" in many applications.

Weld from most restrained to least restrained area. This follows similar principles to that of prebending and
presetting, Smith said. Consider a frame with a crosspiece going down the center. The crosspiece, surrounded
by the frame, is the most restrained of all pieces in the assembly. So this crosspiece should be welded first. The
centerpiece, if welded first, is less restricted by the surrounding metal and has freedom to move and expel
residual stress before you go on to weld the frame.

2. Control Temperature
Preheating, maintaining temperature between weld passes (interpass temperature), and postweld heat treating
(PWHT) work toward one goal: to control changes in heat levels. The more control you have over heat, the
more you can counteract stress, and the less chance there is for weld distortion, especially in highly restrained
joints. When you slow the cooling rate, you reduce shrinkage stresses and provide more time for hydrogen to
dissipate, reducing the chance for under-bead cracking.
Material factors. Predicting necessary minimum preheats, interpass temperature, and PWHT depends on the
application and how restrained the joint in question is. Specific material properties affect how drastically metal
will distort. These include the coefficient of thermal expansion (how much the metal expands when heated),
thermal conductivity (how fast it dissipates heat), yield strength, and modulus of elasticity (material stiffness).
As a starting point, refer to the AWS D 1.1 structural welding code, Welding Handbook, guidelines published
by the steelmaker, and other sources for recommended minimum preheat and interpass temperatures for specific
alloys. Generally, higher carbon content equates to higher minimum preheat and interpass temperatures.
Most preheating, interpass heating, and PWHT do not require maintaining a precise temperature, as long as you
maintain a minimum temperature. There are exceptions, though, including quenched and tempered steels. These
come to the welding station already heat-treated by the steelmaker, so preheating at a too-high temperature can
destroy the material properties; in other words, quenched and tempered steel will no longer be tempered. "For
instance," Smith said, "the ASTM A514 and A517 alloys should never be preheated to more than 150 degrees F
above the recommended [minimum] preheat."
Stainless steels can be particularly touchy. "We keep interpass temperatures below 350 degrees F," Smith
explained. "We use distilled water in a spray can. Water on carbon steel causes it to crack. But it has no effect
on stainless steel, as long as you use distilled water, which doesn't have any chlorine in it." Stainless's nickel
and chromium content make the metal particularly sensitive to distortion, because the elements don't dissipate
heat quickly.
As a rule, metals that dissipate heat quickly require higher preheats. Heat-treatable aluminum alloys can be
preheated to 300 to 400 degrees F as an extra precaution against cracking and, most important, to dissipate
hydrogen. Aluminum oxide on the base and weld metals attracts moisture, which introduces hydrogen (the H in
H2O). Because aluminum dissipates heat rapidly, hydrogen becomes trapped as the weld metal quickly cools.
The slow cooling created thanks to the preheat gives time for that hydrogen to bake out of the weld. "This is
why a welder may often say he's 'boiling the water' out of the material," Smith said.
High-alloy materials such as chrome-moly also dissipate heat quickly and generally require high preheat
temperatures. Preheating even the tack welds often is best practice, Smith said. Cracks can start in the tack and
"come right through the weld and all the way to the top." He added that certain chrome-moly applications
require preheats of about 400 degrees F and a postweld holding temperature of about 600 degrees F prior to
stress relieving.
Copper, which dissipates heat extremely quickly, requires a very high preheat "just to allow the welding filler
metal to flow into the joint and form a good bond," Smith said. Copper more than 1 in. thick may require

preheats up to 1,200 degrees F. (See Streamline Stress Relief section for ways to apply such high preheats
directly to the workpiece, without an oven.)
Coffee break effects: Keep it hot. Imagine you preheat a joint with a torch, weld a few feet, stop, take a short
break, and then resume without picking up the preheat torch and heating the joint area again. To minimize
distortion, you should pick up the preheat torch again to bring that material back up to the required interpass
temperature. "You need to maintain the interpass temperature throughout the weld," Smith explained, adding
that heat cycling is especially dangerous with chrome-moly and quenched and tempered materials.
Torch preheating. When preheating with a torch, "we recommend 6 inches on either side of the weld" for large
workpieces, Smith said, adding that the width of the applied preheat and specific method used depends on the
workpiece material and geometry.
Torch styles vary, but Smith's welders use a multiflame torch with a swirl tip and propylene gas. "The
propylene gas is not as highly concentrated as acetylene," he said, "and we don't want to concentrate the heat
while we're preheating."
PWHT doesn't replace preheat. Postweld heat treatment and preheat complement each other, explained Smith,
but they don't replace one another. It's true that in some cases localized preheat can serve as a PWHT substitute
when moving the workpiece to an oven for PWHT isn't practical (think offshore oil rigs). PWHT doesn't
function as a preheat substitute because it does nothing to reduce the stresses that occur just after you strike an
arc on cold, unpreheated base metal. By the time PWHT is applied, it's too late to correct the problem.

3. Streamline Stress Relief

"Over the years welders have perfected techniques to relieve stress and minimize distortion: preheating in an
oven or with a torch, using heat blankets, and when necessary sending parts to an oven for postweld heat
treatment. Note one common thread among all these methods: time. But certain technologies take alternative
approaches that streamline the operation and even improve weld quality.
Various alternatives are available, including induction-heating methods. Here, we discuss two options:
resistance heating and vibration.
Resistance heat control. A resistance heating pad incorporates resistance heating elements that can raise the
workpiece temperature to the appropriate level before, during, and after welding, to comply with standard
preheat, interpass, and PWHT practices (see Figure 1 and Figure 2). The pad incorporates interlocking beads
woven together using a high-resistance wire. The unit can heat up to 1,850 degrees F. (Smith's company has
used this technology to preheat thick copper plate to more than 1,000 degrees F.)
A temperature controller uses a system of thermocouples spot welded to the part to read the actual metal
temperature, which is monitored throughout the operation. Welders don't have to use temperature crayons to
measure the preheat temperature. The pad also doesn't have to be removed during welding.
As Bill Kashin of Bolttech Mannings explained, "Say you're welding two pieces of pipe together, and the code
says you need to preheat it to 400 degrees F. You would attach the thermocouple, attach the heating pad, put
insulation on to protect yourself, and raise the temperature up to 400 degrees F. When the heater gets to that
temperature, it will cycle on and off to hold that temperature until you're finished welding."
Readings from the machine also can be saved as a record of the part's temperature before, during, and after
welding, helpful for code-level or insurance-related work, such as repair jobs at power plants.

The pads are designed to wrap around the workpiece, with a piece of removable insulation over the joint. For
preheat, the entire workpiece is covered. You then remove the insulation from the weld joint area and start
welding. When you take a break, you put the insulation back over the joint to help maintain the preheat
temperature. The heater pads can then be added to the weld area for stress relief, eliminating the need to transfer
the part to a furnace for PWHT.
Vibratory stress relief. Another technique uses something that doesn't seem to be related, but it is: vibration (see
Figure 3).
"Heat is vibration, according to physics," said Tom Hebel of Bonal Technologies. The more something is
heated, the faster its molecules vibrate. "We induce a vibration into the part, and the part responds as if it has
the same internal action when the part is heated up for heat treatment. It's a cool process, but internally, there's
If you vibrate metal at a certain frequency during welding, it complements the weld heat that vibrates the
molten metal at the molecular level. It's roughly analogous to shaking a can of dissimilar-shaped beads or a
vibratory bowl feeder in a stamping operation, which gets everything to settle and "pack down." The vibration
level, Hebel said, is very specific: in the lower, or sub-harmonic, portion of the harmonic curve, just before the
amplitude quickly rises and reaches the part's natural resonance.
The device induces vibration into the workpiece and monitors the workpiece's reaction. The more vibration
that's put into the part, the more it will absorbup to a point. "At a certain point any additional energy will
cause the workpiece to throw off the energy," he said.
The trick, Hebel explained, is to induce a vibration frequency that's at a specific point below its resonance point.
It's here that the vibration has the greatest dampening effect, at which point it neutralizes the stress induced by
the weld's heat.
Most commonly, the vibratory device is applied after welding to relieve stress, essentially replacing PWHT. But
it also can be applied during welding to improve weld quality through grain refinement and stress reduction. In
fact, applying the right vibration during welding can eliminate the need for PWHT completely, unless
tempering of the heat-affected zone is required.
"When you weld you induce thermal stress," Hebel said. "So when you weld-condition [using sub-harmonic
vibration during welding], you're eliminating the effect of thermal stress as it's induced. So after welding, if the
effects of thermal stress aren't there, why send the part to a furnace for stress relieving""
In certain applications, Hebel said, it can replace low-temperature preheating requirements, between 250 and
300 degrees F. "Because of the accelerated motion in the base material, the weldment 'thinks' it's preheated."
Usually, though, the vibratory weld conditioning complements existing preheat procedures to increase weld
Hebel compares a large steel part with welding-induced stress to an out-of-tune instrument. After welding,
temperature drops sharply. At this point within and around the heat-affected zone, the part's natural harmonic
curve shifts slightly, "out of tune" with the rest of the assembly. Counteracting that effect with induced
vibration during and after welding relieves stress as evidenced by the harmonic curve moving back "in tune"
with the rest of the assembly.

Welding Update for Infrastructure: No nonsense

with NDT
Nondestructive testing methods in infrastructure
May 18, 2009

Infrastructure is defined as the basic physical systems that serve a community's population, such as roads,
bridges, utilities, water, and sewage. These systems are essential for enabling productivity in the economy, so it
is crucial to ensure they are fit for use. Nondestructive testing (NDT) techniques determine whether a
component has reached its useful service life and needs repair or replacement.
In-service load conditions produce incremental movement in materials and structural members. Whenever a
force is applied to a member, it becomes stressed. The stresses cause strains, or movements, which are
explained by the material properties. In-service conditions cause stress, strain, distortion, fatigue, and corrosion,
which can manifest as discontinuities or defects.
A discontinuity is an interruption of the typical structure of a material, such as a lack of homogeneity in its
mechanical, metallurgical, or physical characteristics. A discontinuity is not necessarily a defect. A defect is
discontinuity that either by nature or by accumulated effect renders a part unable to meet minimum applicable
acceptance standards or specifications. In other words, the part is rejected.

NDT Methods
NDT locates discontinuities or defects in critical areas without causing structural damage.
Two fundamental categories of discontinuities that are located by NDT are surface and subsurface
Surface discontinuities, including cracks, porosity, slag inclusions, excess reinforcement, inconsistent weld bead
profile, undercut, and blisters, usually can be identified by visual testing. To enhance surface VT, magnetic
particle testing or liquid penetrant testing is employed.
Visual Testing (VT). VT is the most basic, cost-effective NDT method. It should take place prior to, during,
and after welding. Many standards require it before other methods because there is no point in submitting an
obviously bad weld to sophisticated inspection techniques. Welding codes always state that welds subject to

nondestructive examination shall have been found acceptable by visual examination. VT requires good eyesight
in the technician and sufficient light, a weld size gauge, a magnifying glass, and a 6-in. metal ruler.
Magnetic Particle Testing (MT). Magnetic particle testing detects surface and near-surface defects in
ferromagnetic materials only. Defects in magnetized materials will distort the magnetic field, causing a leakage
field. When fine ferromagnetic particles are applied to the surface, they concentrate at the defect by getting
caught in the leakage field.
Liquid Penetrant Testing (PT). PT detects surface-breaking defects in any nonporous material. A liquid
penetrant is applied to the surface and is drawn into defects by capillary action. Once a preset dwell time has
passed and excess penetrant removed, a developer is applied to draw out the penetrant from the defect. Visual
inspection is then performed.
PT also reveals surface cracks and pinholes that are not visible to the naked eye. It is used to locate leaks in
welds and can be applied with austenitic steels and nonferrous materials on which magnetic particle inspection
would be useless.
The NDT technician may use VT, MT, or PT during the welding operation to assist the welder in revealing
discontinuities (for example, performing MT on the weld after backgouging to ensure sound weld metal has
been obtained before welding the second side).
Subsurface discontinuities include underbead cracks, wormhole porosity, lack of fusion, slag inclusions, voids,
and laminations. Radiographic testing (RT) or ultrasonic testing (UT) help to locate these volumetric
discontinuities which are not visible on the surface.
Ultrasonic Testing (UT). UT detects discontinuities within the internal structure of welds. The advantage of
this testing method is its ability to help establish internal integrity without destroying the welded component.
UT is used on ferrous and nonferrous materials and is suited for testing thick sections accessible from one side
only. It can also locate fine linear or planar defects. UT uses mechanical vibrations similar to sound waves but
at a higher frequency. A beam of ultrasonic energy is directed into the object. The beam travels through the
object with insignificant energy loss, until it is intercepted and reflected back to the UT instrument screen by a
UT generally uses the contact pulse reflection technique, in which a transducer converts electrical energy into
mechanical energy. The transducer is excited by a high-frequency voltage that causes a piezoelectric crystal to
vibrate mechanically. The crystal probe becomes the source of ultrasonic mechanical vibration. These
vibrations are transmitted into the item through a couplant fluid. When the ultrasonic wave pulse strikes a
discontinuity in the test item, it is reflected back to its point of origin. Thus, the energy returns to the transducer,
which also serves as a receiver for the reflected energy.
The detection, location, and evaluation of discontinuities become possible because the velocity of sound
through a material is considered constant, making distance measurement possible, and the relative amplitude of
a reflected pulse is proportional to the size of the reflector.
One of the most useful characteristics of UT is its ability to determine the exact position of a discontinuity in a
weld. NDT technicians performing the tests are required to be qualified as a level II in accordance with ASNT
standards. This method requires a high level of operator competence and depends on establishing and applying
test procedures.

Radiographic Testing (RT). RT uses X-rays produced by an X-ray tube or gamma rays produced by a
radioactive isotope to test welds that can be accessed from both sides. Though it is slow and expensive, it
detects porosity, inclusions, cracks, and voids inside the metal or welds.
In this method, penetrating radiation is passed through a solid object onto photographic film, creating an image
of the item's internal structure. The amount of energy absorbed by the object depends on its thickness and
density. Energy not absorbed by the object causes exposure of the radiographic film. These areas will be dark
when the film is developed. Therefore, areas of the object where the thickness has been changed by
discontinuities, such as porosity or cracks, will appear as dark outlines on the film. Low-density inclusions, such
as slag, will appear as dark areas on the film, while high-density inclusions, such as tungsten, will appear as
light areas.
All discontinuities are detected by viewing the weld shape and variations in the density of the processed film.
This permanent film record of weld quality is easy to interpret by personnel who are properly trained. Only
qualified personnel should conduct radiography and radiographic interpretation because X-ray and gamma
radiation can be hazardous.

Putting NDT to Work

During bridge fabrication, the American Welding Society (AWS) has outlined the percentage of welds that must
be tested (D1.5, "Bridge Welding Cod2008, Section 6.7"). For existing bridges, in-service engineering
examinations follow NDT guidelines provided for new construction in the bridge code.
The code states that NDT (RT or UT) in addition to VT is to be performed to comply with the code by the
following frequency requirements:
One hundred percent of each joint subject to calculated tension or reversal of stress, except on welds in vertical
butt joints in beams or girder webs as follows:
1/6 of the web depth beginning at the point or point of maximum tension.
25 percent of the remainder of the web depth needs to be tested.
If unacceptable discontinuities are found in spot RT or UT, the entire length shall be tested. The requirements
for RT and UT shall apply equally to shop and field welds. MT of fillet welds and partial-penetration groove
welds joining primary components of main members shall be tested.
When inspecting infrastructure, the certified welding inspector needs to know the original requirements of the
component being examined. For instance, the inspector has to make certain that the size, length, and location of
all in-service welds conform to the requirements of the code and original detail drawings, and that unspecified
welds have not been added without approval of the engineer.
The expected quality of every in-service component is that every significant feature continues to meet the
original designer's intent. NDT examinations provide reliable confirmation of fitness-for-service quality in
accordance with the intent of the original designer.