Urbanization and waning interest in vehicle ownership point to new transport opportunities in megacities around the world. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) – characterized by autonomous, ride-sharing-friendly EVs – can be the comfortable, economical, sustainable transport solution of choice thanks to the benefits that today’s steel offers.
The WorldAutoSteel organization is working on the Steel E-Motive program, which delivers autonomous ride-sharing vehicle concepts enabled by Advanced High-Strength Steel (AHSS) products and technologies.
The Body structure design for this vehicle is shown in Figure 1. It also indicates the specific joint configuration of 5 layers AHSS sheet stack-up as shown in Table 1. Resistance spot welding parameters were developed to allow this joint to be made by a single weld. (The previous solution for this welded joint is to create one spot weld with the bottom 3 sheets indicated in the table and a second weld to join the top 2 sheets, combining the two-layer groups to 5T stack-up.)
NOTE: Click this link to read a previous AHSS Insights blog that summarizes development work and recommendations for resistance spot welding 3T and 4T AHSS stack-ups: https://bit.ly/42Alib8
Table 1. Provided materials organized in stack-up formation showing part number, name, grade, gauge in mm, and coating type. Total thickness = 6.8 mm
The same approach of utilizing multiple current pulses with short cool time in between the pulses was shown to be most effective in this case of 5T stack-up. It is important to note that in some cases, the application of a secondary force was shown to be beneficial, however, it was not used in this example.
To establish initial welding parameters simulations were conducted using the Simufact software by Hexagon. As shown in Figure 2, the final setup included a set of welding electrodes that clamped the 5-layer AHSS stack-up. Several simulations were created with a designated set of welding parameters of current, time, number of pulses, and electrode force.
Figure 2. Example of simulation and experimental results showing acceptable 5T resistance spot weld (Meets AWS Automotive specifications)
Thanks is given to Menachem Kimchi, Associate Professor-Practice, Dept of Materials Science, Ohio State University and Technical Editor – Joining, AHSS Application Guidelines, for this article.
Modern car bodies today are made of increasing volumes of Advanced High-Strength Steels (AHSS), the superb performance of which facilitates lightweighting concepts (see Figure 1). To join the different parts of a car body and create the crash structure, the components are usually welded to achieve a reliable connection. The most prominent welding process in automotive production is resistance spot welding. It is known for its great robustness, and easily applicable in fully automated production lines.
Figure 1: AHSS Content in Modern Car Body.W-7
There are, however, challenges to be met to guarantee a high-quality joint when the boundary conditions change, for example, when new material grades are introduced. Interaction of a liquefied zinc coating and a steel substrate can lead to small surface cracks during resistance spot welding of current AHSS, as shown in Figure 2. This so-called liquid metal embrittlement (LME) cracking is mainly governed by grain boundary penetration with zinc, and tensile stresses. The latter may be induced by various sources during the manufacturing process, especially under ‘rough’ industrial conditions. But currently, there is a lack of knowledge, regarding what is ‘rough’, and what conditions may still be tolerable.
Figure 2: Top View of LME-Afflicted Spot Weld.
The material-specific amount of tensile stresses necessary for LME enforcement can be determined by the experimental procedure ‘welding under external load’. The idea of this method, which is commonly used for comparing cracking susceptibilities of different materials to each other, is to apply increasing levels of tensile stresses to a sample during the welding process and monitor the reaction. Figure 3 shows the corresponding experimental setup.
Figure 3: Welding under external load setup.L-51
However, the known externally applied stresses are not exclusively responsible for LME, but also the welding process itself, which puts both thermally and mechanically induced stresses/strains on the sample. Here, the conventional measuring techniques fail. A numerical reproduction of the experiment grants access to the temperature, stress and strain fields present during the procedure, providing insights on the formation of LME. The electro-thermomechanical simulation model is described in detail in Modelling RSW of AHSS. It is used to simulate the welding under external load procedure (see Figure 4).
Figure 4: Simulation Model of Welding Under External Load.
The videos that can be found in the link above show the corresponding temperature and plastic strain fields. As heat dissipates quickly through the water-cooled electrode, a temperature gradient towards the adjacent areas and a local temperature maximum on the surface forms. The plastic strains accumulate mainly at the electrode indentation area. The simulated strain field shows a local maximum of plastic deformation at the left edge of the electrode indentation, amplified by the externally applied stresses and the boundary conditions implied by the procedure. This area correlates with experimentally observed LME cracking sites and paths as shown in Figure 5.
The simulation shows that significant plastic strains are present during welding. When external stresses (in reality e.g. due to poor part fit-up or distorted parts) contribute to the already high load, LME cracking becomes more likely. The numerical simulation model facilitates the determination of material-specific safety limits regarding LME cracking. Parameter variations and their effects on the LME susceptibility can easily be investigated by use of the model, enabling the user to develop strict processing protocols to reduce the likelihood of LME. Finally, these experimental procedures can be adapted to other high-strength materials, to aid their application understanding and industrial set-up conditions.
Figure 5: LME Cracks in Cross Section View at Highly Strained Locations.
For more information on this topic, see the paper, co-authored by Fraunhofer and LWF Paderborn, documented in Citation F-23. You may also download the full report documenting the WorldAutoSteel LME project for which this work was conducted.
Modelling resistance spot welding can help to understand the process and drive innovation by asking the right questions and giving new viewpoints outside of limited experimental trials. The models can calculate industrial-scale automotive assemblies and allow visualization of the highly dynamic interplay between mechanical forces, electrical currents and thermal flow during welding. Applications of such models allow efficient weldability tests necessary for new material-thickness combinations, thus well-suited for applications involving Advanced High -Strength Steels (AHSS).
Virtual resistance spot weld tests can narrow down the parameter space and reduce the amount of experiments, material consumed as well as personnel- and machine- time. They can also highlight necessary process modifications, for example the greater electrode force required by AHSS, or the impact of hold times and nugget geometry. Other applications are the evaluation of whole-part distortion to ensure good part-clearance and the investigation of stress, strain and temperature as they occur during welding. This more research-focused application is useful to study phenomena arising around the weld such as the formation of unwanted phases or cracks.
Modern Finite-Element resistance spot welding models account for electric heating, mechanical forces and heat flow into the surrounding part and the electrodes. The video shows the simulated temperature in a cross-section for two 1.5 mm DP1000 sheets:
First, the electrodes close and then heat starts to form due to the electric current flow and agglomerates over time. The dark-red area around the sheet-sheet interface represents the molten zone, where the nugget forms after cooling. While the simulated temperature field looks plausible at first glance, the question is how to make sure that the model calculates the physically correct results. To ensure that the simulation is reliable, the user needs to understand how it works and needs to validate the simulation results against experimental tests. In this text, we will discuss which inputs and tests are needed for a basic resistance spot welding model.
At the base of the simulation stands an electro-thermomechanical resistance spot welding model. Today, there are several Finite Element software producers offering pre-made models that facilitate the input and interpretation of the data. First tests in a new software should be conducted with as many known variables as possible, i.e., a commonly used material, a weld with a lot of experimental data available etc.
As first input, a reliable material data set is required for all involved sheets. The data set must include thermal conductivity and capacity, mechanical properties like Young’s modulus, tensile strength, plastic flow behavior and the thermal expansion coefficient, as well as the electrical conductivity. As the material properties change drastically with temperature, temperature dependent data is necessary at least until 800°C. For more commonly used steels, high quality data sets are usually available in the literature or in software databases. For special materials, values for a different material of the same class can be scaled to the respective strength levels. In any case, a few tests should be conducted to make sure that the given material matches the data set. The next Figure shows an exemplary material data set for a DP1000. Most of the values were measured for a DP600 and scaled, but the changes for the thermal and electrical properties within a material class are usually small.
Figure 1: Material Data set for a DP1000.S-73
Next, meaningful boundary conditions must be chosen and validated against experiments. These include both the electrode cooling and the electrical contact resistance. To set up the thermal flow into the electrode, temperature measurements on the surface are common. In the following picture, a measurement with thermocouples during welding and the corresponding result is shown. By adjusting the thermal boundary in the model, the simulated temperatures are adjusted until a good match between simulation and experiment is visible. This calibration needs to be conducted only once when the model is established because the thermal boundary remains relatively constant for different materials and coatings.
Figure 2: Temperature measurement with thermocouples during welding and the results. The simulated temperature development is compared to the experimental curve and can be adjusted via the boundary conditions.F-23
The second boundary condition is the electrical contact resistance and it is strongly dependent on the coating, the surface quality and the electrode force. It needs to be determined experimentally for every new coating and for as many material thickness combinations as possible. In the measuring protocol, a reference test eliminates the bulk material resistance and allows for the determination of the contact resistances using a µOhm-capable digital multimeter.
Finally, a metallographic cross-section shows whether the nugget size and -shape matches the experiment. The graphic shows a comparison between an actual and simulated cross section with a very small deviation of 0.5 mm in the diameter. As with the temperature measurements, a small deviation is not cause for concern. The experimental measurements also exhibit scatter, and there are a couple of simplifications in the model that will reduce the accuracy but still allow for fast calculation and good evaluation of trends.
Figure 3: Comparison of experimental and virtual cross-sections.F-23
After validation, consider conducting weldability investigations with the model. Try creating virtual force / current maps and the resulting nugget diameter to generate first guesses for experimental trials. We can also gain a feeling how the quality of each weld is affected by changes in coatings or by heated electrodes when we vary the boundary conditions for contact resistance and electrode cooling. The investigation of large spot-welded assemblies is possible for part fit-up and secondary effects such as shunting. Finally, the in-depth data on temperature flow and mechanical stresses is available for research-oriented investigations, cracking and joint strength impacts.
Note: The work represented in this article is a part a study of Liquid Metal Embrittlement (LME), commissioned by WorldAutoSteel. You can download the free report on the results of the LME study, including how this modelling was used to verify physical tests, from the WorldAutoSteel website.
This article summarizes the findings of a paper entitled, “Prediction of Spot Weld Failure in Automotive Steels,”L-48 authored by J. H. Lim and J.W. Ha, POSCO, as presented at the 12th European LS-DYNA Conference, Koblenz, 2019.
To better predict car crashworthiness it is important to have an accurate prediction of spot weld failure. A new approach for prediction of resistance spot weld failure was proposed by POSCO researchers. This model considers the interaction of normal and bending components and calculating the stress by dividing the load by the area of plug fracture.
Lee, et al.L-49 developed a model to predict spot welding failure under combined loading conditions using the following equation, based upon experimental results .
Where FS and FN are shear and normal failure load, respectively, and n is a shape parameter.
Later, Wung and coworkersW-38 developed a model to predict the failure mode based upon the normal load, shear load, bending and torsion as shown in Equation 2.
Here, FS, FN ,Mb and Mt are normal failure load, shear failure load, failure moment and failure torsion of spot weld, respectively. α, β, γ and μ are shape parameters.
Seeger et al.S-106 proposed a model for failure criterion that describes a 3D polynomial failure surface. Spot weld failure occurs if the sum of the components of the normal, bending and shear stresses are above the surface, as shown in the Figure 1.
Figure 1: Spot weld failure model proposed by Seeger et al.S-106
The failure criterion can be expressed via Equation 3.
Here, σN , σB , and τ are normal, bending and shear stress of the spot weld, respectively. And nN, nB and nc are the shape parameters. Toyota Motor CorporationL-50 has developed the stress-based failure model as shown in Equation 4.
Hybrid Method to Determine Coefficients for Failure Models
This work used a unique hybrid method to determine the failure coefficients for modeling. The hybrid procedure steps are as follows:
- Failure tests are performed with respect to loading conditions.
- Finite element simulations are performed for each experiment.
- Based on the failure loads obtained in each test, the instant of onset of spot weld failure is determined. Failure loads are extracted comparing experiments with simulations.
- Post processing of those simulations gives the failure load components acting on spot welds such as normal, shear and bending loads.
These failure load components are plotted on the plane consisting of normal, shear and bending axes.
The hybrid method described above is shown in Figure 2.L-48
Figure 2: Hybrid method to obtain the failure load with respect to test conditions.L-48
New Spot Weld Failure Model
The new proposed spot weld failure model in this paper considers only plug fracture mode as a normal spot weld failure. Secondly normal and bending components considered to be dependent upon each other. Stress generated by normal and bending components is shear, and shear component generates normal stress. Lastly authors have used πdt to calculate the area of stress instead of πd2/4. The final expression is shown in the Equation 5.
Here τn is the shear stress by normal load components, σS is the normal stress due to shear load component. And , , c, α and β are coefficients.
This work included verification experiments of 42 kinds of homogenous steel stack-ups and 23 heterogeneous stack-ups. The strength levels of the steels used was between 270 MPa and 1500 MPa, and thickness between 0.55 mm and 2.3 mm. These experiments were used to evaluate the model and compare the results to the Wung model.
Overall, this new model considers interaction between normal and bending components as they have the same loading direction and plane. The current developed model was compared with the Wung model described above and has shown better results with a desirable error, especially for asymmetric material and thickness.
As with resistance spot welding in automotive applications, projection welding also is used to join two overlapping sheets of relatively thin metal. The process involves pressing a projection or number of projections in one of the plates and welding the two plates together at the projection locations.
The method can also be used for welding metal sheet to the ends of bars, rods or pipes, or for welding bolts, nuts, and other attachments to sheets. Such attachments are being used widely in the automotive industry. Wire grids (i.e. the crossing points of the wires) are also particularly suitable for projection welding (it is also called cross wire welding).
A modern car body may contains some 300 welded and punched fasteners, such as bolts, nuts, and studs. The quality of the attachment of these fasteners to the stamped body components is critical for the final product’s safety and reliability. Crucial components such as the front and rear axles are mounted to such fasteners, the seat belts and steering column are anchored to them, and they provide grounding for electrical wires.L-25
As noted, projection welding is similar to resistance spot welding. However, in the Resistance Spot Welding process, the size of the contact surface of the electrode cap tip determines the current flow, whereas in projection welding, the current flow is constricted to the embossed or machined projection as shown in Figure 1. Both AC and DC power sources are suitable for fastener welding. The heat balance for projection welding is affected by the following factorsA-11:
- Projection design and location
- Thickness of the sheet to which the fastener is attached
- Thermal and electrical conductivities of the metals being welded
- Heating rate
- Electrode alloy type
As compared to Resistance Spot and Seam Welding, Resistance Projection Welding is capable of welding much thicker parts, as well as parts with a significant thickness mismatch. As a result, it is often considered as a potential replacement for arc welding processes such as GMAW. One of the reasons for this is the drastic reduction in welding time that can be achieved. For example, a typical automotive part that might require several minutes or more of welding with the GMAW process may have the potential to be welded in less than a few seconds with the Resistance Projection Welding process. This is because the entire weld or multiple welds can be made at the same time in a single fixture. Another advantage of the process, relative to spot welding, is that there is less wear and tear on the electrodes.
Different types of projections made by different methods are shown in Figure 2. It is important to note that the types of projections that are extensions of the part are known as solid projections (2-B and 2-D) and can only be produced by a machining or forging process, whereas the other projections are more easily produced by stamping with a punch and die. Projections produced with a punch and die usually involve the formation of a molten nugget during welding but not always. The solid projection designs mostly result in solid‐state welds that occur via a forging action as the projection is heated and pressure applied. A common Projection Welding application that uses solid projections involves the attachment of a wide variety of nuts, bolts, and fasteners. Many fasteners used on automobiles are attached this way.
Figure 1: Welding current flow concentration due to projection geometry.
Figure 2: Typical projection types and designs.
This article summarizes a paper entitled, “RSW of 22MnB5 at Overlaps with Gaps-Effects, Causes, and Countermeasures”, by J. Kaars, et al.K-12
This study aims to elaborate on the influencing mechanisms of gaps on the welding result. Welding experiments at artificial gaps and finite element analysis (FEA) of the welding process have been used to investigate the matter. In both methods, the same configuration of two 1.5-mm-thick 22MnB5+AS150 welded with electrodes of the type ISO 5821 B0-16-20-40-6-30 was considered. Tensile tests yielded an ultimate tensile strength (UTS) of the press-hardened material of 1481 ± 53 MPa with a strain to fracture of 7.5 ± 0.26%. A microsection of the coating morphology after heat treatment can be found in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Morphology of the Aluminum-Silicon Coating.K-12
To set up an artificial and reproducible gap between the sheets, a dedicated fixture was used. It is displayed in Figure 2. All welding experiments were carried out with a 6-kN electrode force.
Figure 2: Fixture for Welding at Artificial Gaps, Definition of Quantities.K-12
In Table 1, the parameter variations of the gaps investigated in this work are presented.
Table 1: List of Gap Parameters Investigated.K-12
A 7-kN maximum denting force was observed at the gap (10|60). With a gap of (10|40) the gap could not be closed with the machines’ 8-kN clamping force capacity. In comparative tests on mild steel for deep drawing a clamping force of about 2 kN was required to overcome the gap (10|60) (see Figure 3). The main effects diagram of the denting force clearly shows that the average denting force gets smaller with increasing support width and becomes larger with increasing gap clearance.
Figure 3: Main Effects Diagram of the Denting Force.K-12
In Figure 4, the achieved nugget diameters at different gaps using a constant machine setting of Iw,f = 6.4 kA are displayed.
Figure 4: Effect of Gaps on Nugget Diameter, Absolute and Relative Results.K-12
A two-staged welding program, starting with a preheat current followed by a larger finishing current proved to yield the best welding results with the material used, cf., Figure 5. In Figure 5, the applied welding current program along with the measured and computed total resistance curve is displayed.
Figure 5: Exemplary Total Resistance Curve of a Weld without Gap, Measured and Computed Results.K-12
The FEA model can represent the welding process in terms of nugget diameter, dynamic resistance curve, and total electric energy with great accuracy. In Figure 6, the partial resistances of the weld as computed by FEA are composed.
Figure 6: Partial Electrical Resistances at Different Gap Configurations.K-12
In the top section of Figure 7, the computed sheet thickness curve during the process for different gaps is presented. Increased electrode indentation during welding at gaps is the reason for reduced resistance and, therefore, results in reduced nugget diameters. The lower section of Figure 7 shows the plastic strains in the sheets along with a visibly reduced sheet thickness.
Figure 7: Dynamic Sheet Thickness (up) and Plastic Strain in millimeters at Different Gaps (low, to scale).K-12
Additional welding experiments were performed to clarify, if increased welding current can counter the gap effect and maintain the energy level of the weld. The results are shown in Figure 8. They prove that increased weld current is sufficient to not only maintain the nugget diameter at gaps, but moreover increase it.
Figure 8: Nugget Diameter and Energy of Spot Welds near the Splash Limit at Overlaps with Gap.K-12
Results of further investigations on the weldability lobe of the joint are composed in Figure 9.. It is visible that with increasing gap the current range shifts toward larger currents and gets narrower.