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Key Concepts in Welding Engineering

by R. Scott Funderburk

Fundamentals of Preheat
Preheating involves heating the base
metal, either in its entirety or just the
region surrounding the joint, to a spe-
cific desired temperature, called the
preheat temperature, prior to welding.
Heating may be continued during the
welding process, but frequently the
heat from welding is sufficient to main-
tain the desired temperature without a
continuation of the external heat
source. The interpass temperature,
defined as the base metal tempera-
ture at the time when welding is to be
performed between the first and last
welding passes, cannot be permitted
to fall below the preheat temperature.
Interpass temperature will not be dis-
cussed further here; however, it will be When Should Preheat restraint or section thickness increases,
the need for preheat also increases.
the subject of a future column. Be Used?
Preheating can produce many benefi-
cial effects; however, without a working In determining whether or not to pre- What Preheat
heat, the following should be consid-
knowledge of the fundamentals
ered: code requirements, section Temperature Is
involved, one risks wasting money, or
even worse, degrading the integrity of thickness, base metal chemistry, Required?
the weldment. restraint, ambient temperature, filler Welding codes generally specify mini-
metal hydrogen content and previous mum values for the preheat tempera-
cracking problems. If a welding code
Why Preheat? must be followed, then the code gen-
ture, which may or may not be
adequate to prohibit cracking in every
There are four primary reasons to uti- erally will specify the minimum preheat application. For example, if a beam-
lize preheat: (1) it slows the cooling temperature for a given base metal, to-column connection made of ASTM
rate in the weld metal and base metal, welding process and section thick- A572-Gr50 jumbo sections (thickness-
producing a more ductile metallurgical ness. This minimum value must be es ranging from 4 to 5 in [100-125
structure with greater resistance to attained regardless of the restraint or mm]) is to be fabricated with a low-
cracking; (2) the slower cooling rate variation in base metal chemistry; hydrogen electrode, then a minimum
provides an opportunity for hydrogen however, the minimum value may be prequalified preheat of 225°F (107°C)
that may be present to diffuse out increased if necessary. is required (AWS D1.1-96, Table 3.2).
harmlessly, reducing the potential for However, for making butt splices in
cracking; (3) it reduces the shrinkage When there are no codes governing jumbo sections, it is advisable to
stresses in the weld and adjacent the welding, one must determine increase the preheat temperature
base metal, which is especially impor- whether preheat is required, and if so, beyond the minimum prequalified level
tant in highly restrained joints; and (4) what preheat temperature will be to that required by AISC for making
it raises some steels above the tem- appropriate. In general, preheat usu- butt splices in jumbo sections, namely
perature at which brittle fracture would ally is not required on low carbon 350°F (175°C) (AISC LRFD J2.8).
occur in fabrication. Additionally, pre- steels less than 1 in (25 mm) thick. This conservative recommendation
heat can be used to help ensure spe- However, as the chemistry, diffusible acknowledges that the minimum pre-
cific mechanical properties, such as hydrogen level of the weld metal, heat requirements prescribed by AWS
weld metal notch toughness.

Welding Innovation Vol. XIV, No. 2, 1997

D1.1 may not be adequate for these The three basic steps of the hydrogen full material volume surrounding the
highly restrained connections. control method are: (1) Calculate a joint is heated, it is recommended
composition parameter similar to the practice to heat the side opposite of
When no welding code is specified, carbon equivalent; (2) Calculate a sus- that which is to be welded and to mea-
and the need for preheat has been ceptibility index as a function of the sure the surface temperature adjacent
established, how does one determine composition parameter and the filler to the joint. Finally, the interpass tem-
an appropriate preheat temperature? metal diffusible hydrogen content; and perature should be checked to verify
Consider AWS D1.1-96, Annex XI: (3) Determine the minimum preheat that the minimum preheat temperature
“Guideline on Alternative Methods for temperature from the restraint level, has been maintained just prior to initi-
Determining Preheat” which presents material thickness, and susceptibility ating the arc for each pass.
two procedures for establishing a pre- index.
heat temperature developed primarily Summary
from laboratory cracking tests. These How Is Preheat • Preheat can minimize cracking
techniques are beneficial when the
risk of cracking is increased due to the Applied? and/or ensure specific mechanical
chemical composition, a greater The material thickness, size of the properties such as notch toughness.
degree of restraint, higher levels of weldment and available heating equip- • Preheat must be used whenever
hydrogen or lower welding heat input. ment should be considered when applicable codes so specify; when
choosing a method for applying pre- no codes apply to a given situation,
The two methods outlined in Annex XI heat. For example, small production the welding engineer must deter-
of AWS D1.1-96 are: (1) heat affected assemblies may be heated most effec- mine whether or not preheat is
zone (HAZ) hardness control and (2) needed, and what temperature will
hydrogen control. The HAZ hardness be required for a given base metal
control method, which is restricted to Preheat must be used and section thickness.
fillet welds, is based on the assump- whenever applicable • Annex XI of AWS D1.1-96 provides
guidelines for alternative methods of
tion that cracking will not occur if the
hardness of the HAZ is kept below
codes so specify... determining proper amounts of pre-
some critical value. This is achieved heat: the HAZ hardness control
by controlling the cooling rate. The tively in a furnace. However, large method, or the hydrogen control
critical cooling rate for a given hard- structural components often require method.
ness can be related to the carbon banks of heating torches, electrical • Preheat may be applied in a fur-
equivalent of the steel, which is strip heaters, or induction or radiant nace, or by using heating torches,
defined as: heaters. electrical strip heaters, or induction
or radiant heaters. Carbon steels do
(Mn + Si) (Cr + Mo + V) (Ni + Cu)
CE=C + + + Preheating carbon steel to a precise not require precise temperature
6 5 15
temperature generally is not required. accuracy, but maximum and mini-
From the critical cooling rate, a mini- Although it is important that the work mum preheat temperatures must be
mum preheat temperature can then be be heated to a minimum temperature, followed closely for quenched and
calculated. AWS D1.1-96 states that it usually is acceptable to exceed that tempered steels.
“Although the method can be used to temperature by approximately 100°F
determine a preheat level, its main (40°C). However, this is not the case
value is in determining the minimum for some quenched and tempered For Further Reading...
heat input (and hence minimum weld (Q&T) steels such as A514 or A517, ANSI/AWS D1.1-96 Structural Welding Code: Steel.
size) that prevents excessive harden- since welding on overheated Q&T The American Welding Society, 1996.
Bailey, N. Weldability of Ferritic Steels. The Welding
ing” (Annex XI, paragraph 3.4). steels may be detrimental in the heat Institute, 1995.
affected zone. Therefore, Q&T steels Bailey, N. et al. Welding Steels Without Hydrogen
Cracking. The Welding Institute, 1973.
The hydrogen control method is based require that maximum and minimum Graville, B.A. The Principles of Cold Cracking Control
on the assumption that cracking will not preheat temperatures be established in Welds. Dominion Bridge Company, Ltd., 1975.
Stout, R.D. and Doty, W.D., Weldability of Steels.
occur if the amount of hydrogen and closely followed. Welding Research Council, 1971.
remaining in the joint after it has cooled The Procedure Handbook of Arc Welding. The James
down to about 120°F (50°C) does not When heating the joint to be welded, F. Lincoln Arc Welding Foundation, 1994.

exceed a critical value dependent on the AWS D1.1 code requires that the
the composition of the steel and the minimum preheat temperature be
restraint. This procedure is extremely established at a distance that is at
useful for high strength, low-alloy steels least equal to the thickness of the
that have high hardenability. However, thickest member, but not less than
the calculated preheat may be some- 3 in (75 mm) in all directions from the
what conservative for carbon steels. point of welding. To ensure that the

Welding Innovation Vol. XIV, No. 2, 1997