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The effect of repeated post-weld heat treatment on low-carbon steel ASTM


Article  in  Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers Part L Journal of Materials Design and Applications · January 2014
DOI: 10.1177/1464420714530596


0 438

5 authors, including:

Mark Ruddy John Gibbons

University College Dublin Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland


Kenneth T Stanton
University College Dublin


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Technical Note

Proc IMechE Part L:

J Materials: Design and Applications
The effect of repeated post-weld 2015, Vol. 229(6) 522–525
! IMechE 2014
heat treatment on low-carbon Reprints and permissions:

steel ASTM A216WCB DOI: 10.1177/1464420714530596

Cathal D’Arcy1, Mark Ruddy1, John Haines2, John P Gibbons1

and Kenneth T Stanton1

The subject of this study is the effect of repeated post-weld heat treatment on valves made of low-carbon steel, ASTM
A216WCB. Post-weld heat treatment is a common technique used to alleviate detrimental stresses induced in the
vicinity of the weld as a result or the weld process. This investigation was set out to characterise the effect of such heat
treatments in the bulk material away from the weld site if carried out as part of a regular industrial maintenance routine.
By exposing the steel to varying numbers of heat treatments up to a maximum of 20 cycles and performing tensile
testing, hardness tests and metallographic analysis, it was possible to quantitatively assess the mechanical properties of
the material. The objective was to determine whether the material’s properties were altered beyond the requirements of
the applicable standard for the alloy. A 3.7  C/min ramp rate and a hold temperature of 615  C  15  C were used for
each heat treatment cycle. The study found that A216WCB’s hardness decreased by 6%, to 141 Hv after 20 heat
treatment cycles. Tensile tests showed that there was a decrease in yield strength of 2.98%, to 300.6, while ultimate
tensile strength fell by 6.9% to 483.3 MPa after 20 cycles. The ultimate tensile strength values were approaching those
listed in the material standard for A216WCB, whereas yield strength values were well within the minimum specified by
the standard.

Low-carbon steel, A216WCB, post-weld heat treatment, mechanical properties, analysis of variance

Date received: 25 September 2013; accepted: 13 March 2014

temperature, tensile and compressive stresses can be

Introduction relieved in this way.
Low-carbon steels such as ASTM A216WCB are par- Cols2 and Gndz and Acarer3 have investigated the
ticularly suited to use in high-temperature service effects of different heat treatments on physical and
components that may be fabricated or repaired with mechanical properties of various steels. Numerous
fusion welding techniques. Often due to the nature of studies4–6 have used standard methods such as tensile
the use of ASTM A216WCB, there is a need for repair and hardness tests along with microscopy to charac-
of the component. This may be achieved by using terise mechanical and physical properties. The effects
techniques such as metal active gas welding to replace of prolonged PWHT, 40 h, on a welded ASTM A302
the loss of parent material as a result of erosion steel joint have been investigated by Smith et al.7 This
processes in elbows, Ts and valves. research showed that as a result of PWHT the HAZ
The heat-affected zone (HAZ) around the weld site toughness increased, while prolonged heat treatment
will experience elevated temperatures during the weld- was shown to result in a decrease in yield strength of
ing process, which if heated above the lower critical 7.8%, without a corresponding decrease in toughness.
temperature (&723  C) can cause microstructural
changes. Furthermore, during cooling, tensile stresses 1
School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, University College
are generated in the weld material with corresponding Dublin, Belfield, Dublin, Ireland
compressive stresses in the base material. These stres- Aughinish Alumina Ltd., Askeaton, Ireland
ses can reach levels equal to the yield strength of the
Corresponding author:
material.1 Post-weld heat treatment (PWHT) is fre- Kenneth T Stanton, School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering,
quently utilised to alleviate such stresses: by heating University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
and holding the material below the lower critical Email:

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D’Arcy et al. 523

Many investigators have looked at the effects of vari- applied uniaxial tensile stress. Tests were carried out
ous processing techniques on the microstrcture of using an Instron 250 kN testing machine (InstronÕ ,
low-carbon steel8–10 but these steels were highly Wycombe, UK).
alloyed with other elements such as chromium and The grain size was determined using the linear
nickel. ASTM A216WCB has been previously char- intercept method. Samples were mounted in Bakelite
acterised in response to a failure of a value at a and ground in stages using P-320, P-500 and P-1000
nuclear power plant.11 It was found that a soaking SiC paper. Polishing was carried out using a 1 mm
temperature of 650  C for 2 h provided optimal relief diamond solution after which the sample was etched
conditions for AISI 1020.12,13 using 2% Nital solution. A typical microstructure is
This study will attempt to build on the previously shown in Figure 1(a). A minimum of five samples
mentioned work by presenting the effects of repeated were used for grain size determination for each
PWHT for ASTM A216WCB. The tensile properties condition.
of A216WCB, as calculated by the 0.2% proof stress Mounted samples were further used for the deter-
method, are given in its standard as14: mination of Vickers hardness testing with a 10 kg
load, and a minimum of 10 measurements were
. Tensile strength: 485–655 MPa; taken for each heat treatment condition.
. Yield strength (min): 250 MPa.
Results and discussion
The results for the composition analysis are given in
Materials and methods
Table 1 and the alloy is seen to conform to the
Samples of ASTM A216WCB were cut from the sides standard.
of the main body of a single 24-inch angle valve The plot in Figure 2(a) illustrates the mean value of
(Poyam, Spain). To minimise the possibility of micro- the grain sizes with a 95% confidence interval for each
structural changes occurring as a result of the cutting of the heat treatment cycles. As can be seen, the
process and influencing the findings, oversized sam- results show little change in grain size as a function
ples were first cut using an oxy-acetylene torch and of heat treatment. The number of grains intersected
then reduced to a suitable specimen size by a power was found to be half the recommended number; how-
hacksaw. This was done in order to remove any area ever, at lesser magnifications, it was difficult to deter-
of the material that may have been affected by the mine the grain structure and count the grains.
flame cutting. In order to ensure there were no regions
of significant porosity or shrinkage voids, radiog-
raphy was carried out. This would ensure uniformity
for the purposes of tensile testing.
Optical emission spectroscopy15 was carried out on
a sample in order to verify that the valve material was
A216WCB and to obtain a detailed characterisation
regarding the wt. % composition.
To replicate the heat treatment cycles which the
steel may experience in service, five batches, each con-
taining four samples underwent the heat treatment.
Each batch was put through a varying number of
cycles designed to represent steel which has experi-
enced multiple repairs. The cycle amounts chosen
were 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20. Each cycle underwent a
3.7  C/min ramp rate and a hold temperature of
615  C  15  C for 1 hour. An upper limit of 20
cycles was used as any in-service component is
highly likely to be repaired this many times. A
Carbolite RHF 1200 furnace interfaced via a
Eurotherm controller was used to conduct the heat
treatment. A type K thermocouple was used to
record the temperature profile of the components
during heat treatment. Subsequent to heat treatment,
the blocks were sent to be machined (C.N.C Precision,
Worcester, UK) into samples suitable for tensile test-
ing (Figure 1(b)). Tensile testing was carried out Figure 1. (a) Micrograph showing dark areas of pearlite and
according to ASTM E 8 M-04 to provide information lighter areas of ferrite prior to heat treatment; (b) tensile test
on the strength and ductility of A216WCB under an samples before and after testing.

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524 Proc IMechE Part L: J Materials: Design and Applications 229(6)

The initial grain size measured was 13.8 mm, and sam- treatment cycles. Figure 2(c) shows the data for the
ples having undergone 20 heat treatment cycles had a mean yield strength plotted graphically. Overall sam-
mean grain size of 14.1 mm. ples endured varying degrees of extension prior to fail-
The trend for hardness is easier to determine. It can ure. This is probably a consequence of fine porosity
be seen from Figure 2(b) that the hardness of the introduced during casting.
material has decreased over the 20 cycles. In fact, Ultimate tensile strength (UTS) was also deter-
the hardness decreases from initial value of 150 Hv mined, Figure 2(d). There is also a clear trend in the
to 141 Hv, representing a 6% decrease. UTS data with a decrease of 6.9% over the 20 cycles
There is a clear trend and an overall decrease in the performed. With reference to the UTS listed in the
yield strength of 2.98% over the range of heat standard, at 20 cycles, the UTS has approached the
lower bound of the stated standard of 485 MPa.
Elongation of the samples was also investigated
Table 1. Elemental composition of samples as determined and most of the samples were within the 22% min-
using optical emission spectroscopy. imum stated in the standard; samples that did not
Actual reach this minimum were same that did not follow
Elements Standard (0.01) the trend in plastic deformation as described above.
To verify the significance of the data, analysis of
Carbon, max 0.30 0.212 variance (ANOVA) and regression analysis were per-
Manganese, max 1.0 0.901 formed. The regression analysis reveals that there are
Phosphorous, max 0.04 0.019 definite trends for the hardness, yield strength and
Sulphur, max 0.04 0.011 UTS. The regression confidence values for the ana-
Silicon, max 0.60 0.70 lyses were 46.5%, 40.2% and 56.5%, respectively,
Specified residual elements and for each of these, the p-value as determined by
Copper, max 0.30 0.023 ANOVA analysis was <0.0001, confirming that the
Nickel, max 0.50 0.112 trends are significant. For the hardness, yield strength,
Chromium, max 0.50 0.216 and UTS data, the regression equations for each of
Molybdenum, max 0.20 0.027 the plots are as follows
Vanadium, max 0.03 0.001
Hv ¼ 149:279  0:429N ð1Þ

Figure 2. (a) Mean grain sizes; (b) mean hardness values; (c) mean yield strength; (d) mean UTS values. Error bars are 95%
confidence intervals.

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D’Arcy et al. 525

y ¼ ð310:95  0:557NÞ MPa ð2Þ 5. Zaefferer, Ohlert SJ and Bleck W. A study of micro-
structure, transformation mechanisms and correlation
UTS ¼ ð520:433  1:737NÞ MPa ð3Þ between microstructure and mechanical properties of
a low alloyed trip steel. Acta Mater 2004; 52:
where N is the number of heat treatment cycles.
6. Padilha AF, Machado IF and Plaut RL.
Microstructures and mechanical properties of Fe15 aus-
Conclusions tenitic stainless steels containing different levels of nio-
bium additions submitted to various processing stages.
With a decrease in yield strength and hardness, it J Mater Process Technol 2005; 170: 89–96.
would be expected to indicate an increase in grain 7. Smith C, Pistorius PGH and Wannenburg J. The effect
size; however, in this case, it has been shown that of a long post weld heat treatment on the integrity of a
there was no significant observable change in grain welded joint in a pressure vessel steel. Int J Press Vessels
size. A possible explanation for this would be that Piping 1997; 70: 183–195.
the PWHT allowed recovery and some recrystallisa- 8. Yu H, Chen Q, Kang Y, et al. Microstructural research
tion which has reduced the strength of the material. on hot strips of low carbon steel produced by a compact
strip production line under different thermal histories.
The Vickers hardness values obtained proved both
Mater Char 2005; 54: 347–353.
accurate and statistically significant. Hardness was 9. Erolu M and Aksoy M. Effect of initial grain size on
found to fall in a relatively linear manner of &6% microstructure and toughness of intercritical heat-
over 20 heat treatment cycles. Over 20 heat treat- affected zone of a low carbon steel. Mater Sci Eng: A
ments, tensile tests verified that there was a decrease 2000; 286: 289–297.
of 2.9% in yield strength to 300.9 MPa, while UTS fell 10. Chen LX, Bhandhubanyong P, Vajragupta W, et al.
by 6.9% to 483.3 MPa, both of which were statistic- Plastic properties of low-carbon steel sheets. J Mater
ally significant. It can thus be concluded that stress- Process Technol 1997; 63: 95–99.
relieving heat treatments if carried out on multiple 11. Liu CB, Jiang SL and Zheng YG. Experimental and
occasions do reduce the strength and hardness of computational failure analysis of a valve in a nuclear
ASTM A216WCB but not below the lower level of power plant. Eng Fail Anal 2012; 22: 1–10.
12. Olabi AG and Hashmi MSJ. The microstructure and
the ASTM standard up to 20 cycles.
mechanical properties of low carbon steel welded com-
ponents after the application of PWHTs. J Mater
Funding Process Technol 1996; 56: 88–97. International
This work received financial support from Aughinish Conference on Advances in Material and Processing
Alumina Ltd. Technologies.
13. Olabi AG and Hashmi MSJ. Stress relief procedures for
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