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STEEL CONSTRUCTION: FABRICATION AND ERECTION

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STEEL CONSTRUCTION:
FABRICATION AND ERECTION

Lecture 3.3: Principles of Welding


OBJECTIVE/SCOPE
To present an overall view of the implications of making joints by welding.
PREREQUISITES
Lectures 3.1: General Fabrication of Steel Structures
RELATED LECTURES
Lecture 3.4: Welding Processes
SUMMARY
This lecture describes the basic principles involved in making a welded joint. It discusses
the structure and properties of both the weld metal and the heat affected zone. It explains
the necessity for edge preparations when butt welding, and gives examples of the types
used. It outlines how the welding procedure can be varied to meet the needs of the
particular joint being made.
ABBREVIATIONS
MAG Metal Active Gas Welding (sometimes referred to as MIG Metal Inert Gas
Welding)
MMA Manual Metal Arc Welding
SAW Submerged Arc Welding
HAZ Heat Affected Zone

1. INTRODUCTION
Welding offers a means of making continuous, load bearing, metallic joints between the
components of a structure.
In structural work, a variety of welded joints are used; these can all be made up from the
basic configurations shown in Figure 1, which are classified as follows:

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butt joints.

tee joints.
lap joints.
corner joints.

As illustrated in Figure 2, a welded joint is made by fusing (melting) the steel plates or
sections (the parent metal) along the line of the joint. The metal melted from each
member at the joint

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unites in a pool of molten metal which bridges the interface. As the pool cools, molten
metal at the fusion boundary solidifies, forming a solid bond with the parent metal, see
Figure 3. When the solidification is complete, there is continuity of metal through the
joint.

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2. METHODS OF MAKING A WELDED JOINT


Two types of weld are in common use: butt welds and fillet welds. In the former the weld
metal is generally contained within the profiles of the welded elements; in the latter,
deposited weld metal is external to the profile of the welded elements.

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Obviously the complete length of joint cannot be melted simultaneously. In practice a heat
source is used to melt a small area and is then moved along the joint line, progressively
fusing the parent metal at the leading edge of the weld pool, as shown in Figure 4. At the
same time, the metal at the trailing edge of the pool solidifies. The most commonly used
heat source, in structural work, is a low voltage (15 to 35 volt), high current (50 to 1000
amp) arc. As shown diagrammatically in Figure 5, the arc operates between the end of a
steel electrode (rod) and the work piece. It melts both the parent metal and the electrode;
molten metal from the electrode is thereby added to the weld pool.
The molten steel in the pool will readily absorb oxygen and nitrogen from the air, which
could lead to porosity in the solidified weld and possibly to metallurgical problems. Figure
6 shows how this is avoided by covering the pool with a molten flux, as in Manual Metal
Arc (MMA) and Submerged Arc Welding (SAW), or by replacing the air around the arc
by a non-reactive gas, as in Metal Active Gas (MAG) Welding or cored wire welding.

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3. STRUCTURE AND PROPERTIES OF WELDS


The solidified weld metal has a cast structure and has properties characteristic of cast
steel, i.e. higher ratio of yield to ultimate strength than structural steel. The weld metal is a
mixture of parent metal and steel melted from the electrode. In structural work the
composition of the electrode is usually chosen so that the resultant weld metal is stronger
than the connected elements. Occasionally, specific conditions may override this chocie.
For example, when joining stainless steel to carbon-manganese steel, a highly alloyed
electrode must be used to avoid cracking in the weld metal.
When the weld pool is cooling and solidifying, the majority of the heat flows through the
parent metal alongside the joint. The steel is thus subjected to heating and cooling cycles
similar to those experienced in heat treatment practice. As shown in Figure 7, the structure
of the steel will be changed in this region (called the heat affected zone, HAZ). This must
be taken into account in the design in terms of notch toughness (Charpy value), etc.

The structure of the HAZ will be controlled by:

the composition of the steel (carbon equivalent).


the cooling rate in the HAZ.

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In turn the cooling rate is determined by:

arc energy, i.e. heat input to the joint.


type of joint.
thickness of steel.
temperature of steel plate or section prior to welding, e.g. preheat.

A method of determining the interaction of these factors in relation to the avoidance of


cracks in the HAZ is given in the sample chart shown in Figure 8.

In addition to its effect on the cooling rate, preheat is used to:

Disperse hyrodgen from the weld pool and HAZ. Hydrogen in the HAZ increases
the risk of cracking if hardening has occurred. The hydrogen comes principally
from the flux. An appropriate electrode, correctly stored, will reduce the risk of
hydrogen pick-up.
Remove surface moisture in high humidity conditions or on site.
Bring the steel up to 'normal' ambient conditions (20C).

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4. EDGE PREPARATION FOR BUTT WELDS


For square edge preparations the depth of melting into the plate is called the Depth of
Penetration, see Figure 9a. As a very rough guide, the penetration is about 1mm per 100
amp. In manual welding the current is usually not more than 350 amp; more commonly
150-200 amp. This means that the edges of the plate must be cut back along the joint line
for continuity through the thickness to be achieved (Figure 9b). The groove so formed is
then filled with metal melted from the electrode (Figure 9c). Various edge profiles are
used and are illustrated in Figure 10; the edges may be planed, sawn, guillotined or flame
cut.

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The first run to be deposited in the bottom of the groove is called the root run. The root
faces must be melted to ensure good penetration, but at the same time the weld pool must
be controlled to avoid collapse, as seen in Figure 11. This task requires considerable skill.
The difficulties can be eased by using a backing strip.

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The choice of edge preparation depends on:

type of process.
position of welding (Figure 12).
access for arc and electrode.
volume of deposited weld metal which should be kept to a minimum.
cost of preparing edges.
shrinkage and distortion (Figure 13).

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5. WELDING PROCEDURES
The term welding procedure is used to describe the complete process involved in making a
weld. It covers choice of electrode, edge preparation, preheat, welding parameters
(voltage, current and travel speed), welding position, number of weld runs to fill the
groove, and post-weld treatments, e.g. grinding or heat treatment. Welding procedures
may be devised to meet various needs, e.g. to minimise costs, control distortion, avoid
defects or achieve good impact properties. Specific aspects of the weld procedure are
worth detailed comment.

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5.1 Current
The current controls heat input. The minimum value is fixed by the need to fuse the plate
and to keep the arc stable; the specified minimum, however, may be higher to avoid HAZ
cracks. The maximum current depends on operating conditions. Usually, as high a current
as possible is used to achieve faster welding, and hence lower costs. The use of maximum
current may be restricted by position; in the overhead position, for example, currents
above 160 amps cannot be used. High currents usually give low impact properties. Note
that the current used is chosen to match the electrode diameter.

5.2 Welding Position


The effect of position on current is noted above. Welding in the overhead position requires
greater skill to avoid defects, such as poor profile, and should only be used when
absolutely necessary. Vertical welding is slower than welding in the flat position but
requires less skill than the overhead position.

5.3 Environment
If on site welding is necessary the following points must be considered:

in cold weather the steel may need to be heated to bring it up to 20C.


overnight condensation and high humidity can lead to porosity.
care must be taken to ensure the electrodes are kept dry in the stores.
it is often difficult to achieve accurate fitting of the joint; variable and/or large gaps
may result in defective welds, distortion and increased costs.

6. SHRINKAGE
During cooling, the hot metal in the weld zone contracts, causing the joint to shrink. The
contraction is restrained by the cold metal surrounding the joint; stresses are set up which,
being in excess of the yield stress, produce plastic deformation. This can lead to the
distortion or buckling shown in Figure 13. Distortion can be reduced by choice of edge
preparation and weld procedure; examples are shown in Figure 14.

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When the plastic deformation has ceased, the joint is left with the residual stress pattern of
Figure 15 with tension in the weld metal and HAZ, and compression in the surrounding
steel. The significance of these residual stresses is discussed in other lectures.

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7. CONCLUDING SUMMARY

A welded joint is made by fusing parent metal from both components being joined,
usually with added weld metal.
The properties of both the weld metal, which has melted and solidified, and the
surrounding heat affected zone may differ from those of the parent metal.
Welding procedures should be properly specified to give a satisfactory welded
joint. The major parameters are: welding position, electrode type, edge preparation,
preheat, voltage, current, travel speed, number of runs and post-weld heat
treatments.
Hot metal in the weld zone contracts during cooling causing residual stresses.
Distortion will occur if appropriate control is not exercised.

8. ADDITIONAL READING
1. Hicks, J. "Welding Design", Granada.
details of joints and welds.
strength of welded joints.

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effects of welding on metallurgical structures, heat affected zones, HAZ cracking.
edge preparation.
welding positions - definitions and comments.
2. Gourd, L. M. "Principles of Welding Technology", Edward Arnold, 1980.
formation of a weld.
types of heat source.
strength of welded joints.
effects of welding on metallurgical structure, heat affected zones, HAZ cracking.
edge preparation.
comments on residual stresses.
control of distortion.
3. Milner, D.R. and Apps, R. L. "Introduction to Welding and Brazing", Pergamon.
effects of welding on metallurgical structure, heat affected zones, HAZ cracking.
control of distortion.
4. Pratt, J. L. "Introduction to the Welding of Structural Steelwork",
Steel Construction Institute - Publication No 014.
5. British Standard BS 5135: 1986, "Metal Arc Welding of Carbon and Carbon
Maganese Steels", British Standards Institution, London.