Quenching and partitioning (QP) steels are one of several third generation advanced high strength steel formed by controlled martensite phase fractions and retained austenite. Researchers from the University of Shanghai Jiao Tong tested the effect of HAZ softening in a QP1180 lap joint with the GMAW cold metal transfer (CMT) process.W-1 The steel was welded with ER130s electrode. The fusion zone consisted of chiefly acicular ferrite. The supercritical zone consists of martensite, which is harder than the base metal. There is a drop in hardness (100 HV) in the subcritical zone, and there is a noted lack of retained austenite present in the microstructure. Precipitates are also present in the subcritical zone. The intercritical HAZ only experiences mild softening; where fresh martensite has formed. The softening in the subcritical HAZ presents room for failure that must be accounted for when planning welding using CMT.
Figure 1 shows the different microstructures in detail throughout the weld and the base metal. In the softening zone shown in Figure 2 correlates to the tempered sorbite region in Figure 1 (part f). The hardness maps shows that the fusion zone is approximately as hard as the base metal, with the supercritical HAZ having the highest hardness values before rapidly softening in the intercritical and subcritical HAZ zones. The softened region must be accounted for in designing CMT or other high heat input welded components.