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Effect of Process Parameters on Weld Profile and Solidification Structure for Laser Joining of Austenitic Stainless Steel Sheets

Vplyv procesných parametrov na zváraný profil a tuhnutie štruktúry austenitických nehrdzavejúcich oceľových tabúľ pri spájaní laserom
K. R. Balasubramanian, G. Buvanashekaran, K. Sankaranarayanasamy Abstract
Laser welding of AISI 304 austenitic stainless steel are carried out to evaluate the weld bead profile and solidification structure as a function of process parameters. Selection of proper process parameters is important to obtain the desired weld bead profile and quality. Laser beam power, welding speed and beam angle are selected as process parameters. Butt welding trials are conducted based on BoxBehnken design using 2 kW Nd:YAG laser source in the continuous wave mode on 1.6 mm thick sheet. Beam power is found to be the major process parameter influencing on weld bead profile followed by welding speed. Destructive tests are conducted to assess the weld strength and ductility and are found to be acceptable. The microstructures of all laser beam welds are found to be austenite with a few percent of delta ferrite at dendrite boundaries. Keywords: Austenitic stainless steel, Nd:YAG Laser, Box-Behnken design, weld bead profile, mechanical properties, solidification structure, heat input. the welding field which requires high precision and quality, including aviation and spaceflight, automobile, microelectronics, light industry, medical treatment and nuclear industry [1]. LBW offers, among others, the following advantages: deep penetration, narrow heat affected zones and reduced tendency to spiking, under-bead spatter, incomplete fusion and root bead porosity. Today, the automobile and aerospace industry relies on lasers for a clean and noncontact source for joining of thin section sheets. The weld bead geometry and strength of the joint mainly depends on the welding process parameters. Hence selection of process parameters is important to obtain the desired weld joint with good quality. Accuracy of welding depends on the material preparation, the joint fit-up and the laser beam-to-joint alignment. The shape of a laser weld bead profile depends on the power density of the incident beam. At low power densities of around 104 W/cm2, laser energy will be absorbed only at the surface resulting in conduction mode welding and no keyhole is formed [2]. As the power density reaches of the order of 107 W/cm2, the irradiated surface becomes molten rapidly and subsequently vaporizes, resulting in a plasma-filled cavity known as a keyhole [3]. The application of high energy density laser beam to generate a keyhole has tremendous industrial implication. Welding quality is strongly characterized by the weld bead geometry and hence the weld bead geometry plays an important role in determining the mechanical properties of the welded joints. Therefore, the selection of the welding process parameters is very essential for obtaining optimal weld bead geometry [4]. AISI 304 stainless steel is selected for the experimental study as it has many industrial applications and advantages. It is a superior absorber of laser light, has low thermal conductivity, high resistance to corrosion and high stability at elevated temperature. It has excellent formability and weldability characteristics [5-6]. Laser beam power, welding speed and beam angle are selected as process parameters to perform butt welding trials on 1.6 mm thick sheet using Nd:YAG laser source. Weldment quality is analyzed by destructive tests and found to be acceptable. Microstructural analysis is performed for all laser beam welds and observed to be austenite with a few percent of delta ferrite at dendrite boundaries.

Príspevok prezentuje zváranie austenitických nehrdzavejúcich ocelí AISI 304 laserom, pričom hodnotí zvarový lem a štruktúru tuhnutia ako funkciu procesných parametrov. Výber vhodných parametrov je dôležitý pre získanie požadovaného profilu a kvality. Výkon laserového lúča, rýchlosť zvárania a uhol lúča sú vybrané ako procesné parametre. Vykonané skúšky tupého zvárania sú založené na BoxBehnken-ovej konštrukcii s použitím laserového zdroja 2kW Nd:YAG v režime kontinuálnych vĺn na tabuli on hrúbke 1,6 mm. Výkon lúča sa ukazuje ako hlavný procesný parameter vplývajúci na zvarový lem nasledovaný zváracou rýchlosťou. Vykonanie deštruktívnych testov potvrdilo akceptovateľnosť zvarov z hľadiska ich pevnosti a húževnatosti. Mikroštruktúra všetkých laserových lemov sa ukázala ako austenitická s malým percentom delta feritu na dendritických hranách. Kľúčové slová: austenitická nehrdzavejúca oceľ, Nd: YAG Laser, Box-Behnken-ova konštrukcia, profil zvaraného lemu, mechanické vlastnosti, štruktúra tuhnutia, tepelný vstup.

1 Introduction
Laser beam welding (LBW) comes under the fusion joining process uses the laser beam energy to melt and subsequently solidify the two mating surfaces. LBW can be successfully used to join many metals to themselves as well as to join dissimilar metals and composites. LBW has some excellence, such as high energy density, focalization, high efficiency and strong applicability, and is widely applied in

2 Experimental work
The experimental trials are conducted using solid-state Nd:YAG Laser machine available at Welding Research Institute, Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited, Tiruchirapalli. The source is 2000W CW Nd:YAG laser system interfaced with the SIEMENS 840 SINUMERIC CNC controller. Special provisions are made to supply the inert gas at the interaction


where (k) is the factor number and (cp) is the replicate number of the central point. Shielding gas protects the transmission of the laser beam when it comes to focus on the work and ensures good weld penetration by minimizing beam expansion and scattering. allowing high power density to be achieved. In the present study butt joint experimental trials are conducted based on Box-Behnken design to identify the influence of process parameters on weld bead geometry and in mechanical and metallurgical properties. The laser is then transmitted via fibre optic cable to the laser head. the high production rate achievable with the laser beam welding is attractive for many applications.. 1 Schematic sketch of laser welding system Obr. Fig. which can be tilted to the desired angle. and an antireflection (AR) coated cover slide to safeguard the focusing lens from the back reflections. Then disc polishing and electrolytic etching are done for the measurement and recording of the output parameters such as depth of penetration and bead width. The nature of the laser beam enables it to be focused on a small spot. The head consists of collimation and focusing lens. In laser welding the shielding gas is supplied to protect the weld keyhole and molten metal from oxidation and thus avoid porosity and oxide inclusions [8]. The laser head is fixed with fibre optic cable coupling. fifteen experimenttal trials are conducted. The overall microstructure of the solidified zone is controlled by the thermal field in the melt pool. Besides that. The work table can be moved in the X-Y directions under the CNC controller.1 Macrostructure of laser beam welds Figure 2 (a) shows the photo macrograph of a butt welded specimen operated under the parameter set: 1250 W. The heat affected zone is found to be small. The size of the sheets taken for butt joint welding trials are of 60 mm long x 20 mm wide x 1. 1 Schematická skica laserového zváracieho systému 3 Results and discussion 3. 2 31 . The chemical composition of material AISI 304 stainless steel selected for conducting the welding trials is given in table 2. (mm/min) 750 Beam angle (BA). 85o (forward angle). 2 / Obr. Metallographically prepared laser welded samples are observed through a microscope for its microscopic and macroscopic investigation. 90º and 750 mm/min on the stainless steel substrate showing deep penetration welding mode. which is the main feature of laser in representing its potential as a welding All the welding trials are conducted at Transverse Electromagnetic Mode (TEM00).6 mm thick. Laser beam from the laser source is transported through fibre optic cable on to the work piece. a series of ripples shown in figure 2 (b) covering the entire bead which is induced by surface tension gradients established during welding [4]. 400. Box–Behnken design requires an experiment number according to N = k2 + k + cp. The energy emitted out of fibre with a uniform power density across the fibre diameter will converge to a spot when it is focused. i. Table 1 Process variables and experimental design levels Tab 1 Procesné premenné a experimentálne návrhové stupne Variables -1 Beam Power (BP). Accordingly for three factors with three levels as given in table 1. After completion of wel- (b) Top surface of weld bead (b) Vrchná plocha zváraného lemu Fig. which can be caused by vapours and gases around the weld keyhole. Table 2 Chemical composition of AISI 304 stainless steel sheet Tab 2 Chemické zloženie nehrdzavejúcej ocele AISI 304 (a) Macrograph of bead profile (a) Makrograf profilu lemu Figure 1 shows the schematic sketch of laser welding experimental set up with fibre optic assembly and the CNC work table. 600 and 800 grit silicon carbide emery sheets. (degrees) 85 0 1000 1000 90 +1 1250 1250 95 ding. the solidified bead shows a characteristic appearance. The laser beam is oriented at three different angles. The samples are successively polished with 200. During welding. Experimental design is an essential tool in the engineering world for improving the performance of a manufacturing process [7]. 90o (straight) and 95o (backward angle) with respect to direction of welding to predict the impact of laser beam angle on bead geometry. where the intensity is concentrated at the centre which is confirmed by using Spiricon Industrial Laser Beam Analyzer (BA500). Two transverse specimens are randomly cut from each trial welded sheets and both the specimens are taken for metallographic investigation. Argon gas is used as a shielding medium with a flow rate of 5 l/min to avoid surface contamination. (Watts) 750 Welding speed (WS). the sheets are cut for metallographic investigation.e.

As a result. Near the root of the bead. No welding cracks or porosities are found in any of the welds. brighter regions are available than the area adjacent to the fusion boundary. which is dark etched as shown in figure 4. the electromagnetic force may have overcome the surface tension force. 3. Even then. 3. where it shows reasonable increase of depth of penetration compared to 85º and 95º positions. Based on the Schaeffler diagram. In the columnar structured areas. tion of composition. any local perturbation in the weld pool can cause the flow field to change dramatically. the interaction time of laser beam onto the metal surface is more resulting in high depth to width ratio. the arc shape of the curve infers that the depth of penetration is maximum when the welding is performed at 90º. layers are observed which is the solidification pattern of laser welding. However. In cellular structured areas. Laser welding penetration is achieved by the stage by stage channel opening. 3.2 Effect of laser power Increase in laser beam power results in more penetration and increase in width of the bead. The laser power and welding speed have to be optimized in order to obtain desired weld quality. 3 Fig. due to more heat input. Under normal weld solidification conditions. resulting in lack of symmetry [9].The weld bead dimensions for all the specimen coupons are obtained using longitudinal metallographic sections of the welds digitally imaged using an image inspection system.3 Effect of welding speed A lower welding speed results in a considerable increase in the fusion zone size due to increase in heat input. namely. In the centerline of the weld bead. suggesting an unsteady fluid flow in the weld pool. The microstructures of all laser beam welds were always austenite with a few percent of delta-ferrite at the dendritic boundaries. it is better to perform welding when the beam angle is at 90º. The columnar structure is observed in the weld metal adjacent to the fusion boundary and a cellular grain growth area is observed in the weld bead centerline in all the laser weld beads. about 2 or 3 vol % ferrite are expected to exist in the austenitic matrix [11-12]. the electromagnetic and the surface tension gradient forces. as the temperature drops below the peritetic transformation it tends to transform into austenite (γ) [10]. It is identified that no weld solidification cracking are observed in any of the welds tested. delta ferrite is observed in the interdendritic regions. This is the evidence for the presence of more ferrite in the centerline of the weld.5 Microstructure of laser beam welds Considering the effect of laser power. 4 Microstructure of the bead showing fine cellular grains Obr. It is known that during the solidification of austenitic stainless steels. lack of symmetry at the root side is observed particularly at higher welding speed. influencing convective heat transfer. At low welding speed. which may be due to the welding conditions provided and good crack resistance of the base metal. ferrite is present in the intercellular regions. the coarser is the dendritic structure due to decreasing cooling rate. thereby. which looks like grain boundaries of equiaxed grains. 4 Mikroštruktúra lemu so znázornením jemných bunkových zŕn 32 . The existence of delta-ferrite was confirmed by electron probe microanalysis (EPMA). At these locations. with a shift from primary ferrite to primary austenite [13]. the effect of laser power was relatively less than that of welding speed. 3/ Obr. The influence of beam angle on depth of penetration compared to beam power is not significant. the higher the laser power. the solidification mode in austenitic stainless steels is primarily a func- (b) contour plot of depth of penetration (b) vrstevnice hĺbky penetrácie Fig. Figure 3 (b) shows the contour plot. However. This is due to the presence of two strong and opposing forces.4 Effect of incident beam angle The response surface graph showing the interaction effect of beam power and beam angle on depth of penetration is given in the figure 3 (a). the first phase to solidify is ferrite δ. The amount of deltaferrite was estimated using Cr and Ni equivalents of weld metal chemical composition. As the beam power increases the depth of penetration also increases for butt joint. which is characteristic of high power beam process. (a) Response surface and (a) Reakčná plocha a 3. The results indicate that the development of the weld pool is essentially symmetrical about the axis of the laser beam when it is performed at 90º beam angle (straight) for butt joint.

root fusion and penetration of a welded joint is most frequently checked by means of a bend test. in terms of ductility of the weld metal and HAZ as well as test for opening of defects particularly lack of side wall fusion. 320 300 280 260 240 BM BM BM FZ FZ FZ S E Hardness (HV) 36 J/mm 60 J/mm 100 J/mm S 220 200 -1.0).6 Mechanical properties To determine the mechanical properties of the weldment the specimen is prepared as per the ASTM standards (AWS B4. 6 Priebeh mikrotvrdosti 4 Conclusions Butt joint experimental trials are conducted based on Box-Behnken design. 287 and 299 VHN for high heat input.3 0. For high heat input the hardness value is found to be maximum. Bend tests are performed on face and root surfaces. 60 J/mm and 100 J/mm. indicating that the weld joint is stronger than the base material. Figure 6 (a) shows the microhardness traverse in horizontal direction for butt joint and in the fusion zone it varies between 266 and 271 VHN for low heat input. A dominant austenitic structure with no solidification cracking is obtained in all the welds. Figure 5 (b) shows the butt joint bend test specimen of face and root exhibiting no crack or open discontinuity with smooth bead finish. The microstructures of all laser beam welds are austenite with a few percent of delta ferrite at dendrite boundaries.8 -0.7 Microhardness analysis Microhardness test is conducted to characterize the strength property of the welded material using Shimadzu microhardness tester with an indenter load of 100 g. Columnar structure is observed in the weld metal adjacent to the fusion boundary and a cellular grain growth area is observed in the weld bead centerline in all the laser weld beads. This is the evidence of more ferrite in the centerline of the weld. In the centerline of the weld bead. 5 The quality of the weld. brighter region are seen than the area adjacent to the fusion boundary. The survey is carried out along the transverse and longitudinal directions and plotted in graphical form.. Angle of bend is 180º. 36 J/mm.Base Metal 0. 279 and 290 VHN for 3. The hardness variation in the base metal is around 229 to 242 VHN. (b) vertical direction (b) vertikálny smer Fig. The bending test at room temperature showed no cracks in all joints as a result of high ductility at the weldment.3.7 1. 280 and 290 VHN for medium heat input and 33 . Figure 6 (b) shows the microhardness traverse in vertical direction for butt joint welding and in the fusion zone it varies between 265 and 273 VHN for low heat input. The hardness variation in the base metal is around 229 to 242 VHN. Tensile test results of all laser butt welds with complete penetration showed that failure has taken place in the base metal shown in figure 5 (a). The microhardness measurements shows that in the fusion zone it varies between 265 and 271 VHN for low heat input.2 E FZ -Fusion Zone BM . Microhardness measurements are conducted on the welded sheets performed at various heat inputs viz. Tensile test is carried out to determine the ultimate tensile strength and yield strength under static loading of base metal and the welded joints. Tensile test results show that fracture occurred in the base material. 5 / Obr. The interaction and individual effect of process parameters on the responses are studied. 6 Microhardness traverse Obr.2 Distane (mm) (a) horizontal direction (a) horizontálny smer (a) Fractured tension test specimens (a) Zlomená vzorka po teste v ťahu (b) bend test specimens (a) Zlomená vzorka po teste v ťahu Fig.3 -0. Bend tests are carried out to test weld quality and the result showed no open discontinuity. Transverse tension test and bend test are selected for determining the testing of weldment as these are the suitable service weldability tests [14]. 280 and 290 VHN for medium heat input and 287 and 299 VHN for high heat input.

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