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.

Figure 1: a) Base metal with retained austenite between martensite lathes, b) fusion zone with acicular ferrite and ferrite, c) coarse martensite grains in supercritical HAZ, d) fine martensite grains and ferrite in supercritical HAZ, e) intercritical HAZ with fresh martensite and untransformed martensite, f) softest region in subcritical HAZ; shows tempered sorbite, g)zoomed in region of subcritical zone with precipitates, h) subcritical HAZ with 350-360HV hardness, i) hardness  with 380-390HV.W-1

Figure 1: a) Base metal with retained austenite between martensite lathes, b) fusion zone with acicular ferrite and ferrite, c) coarse martensite grains in supercritical HAZ, d) fine martensite grains and ferrite in supercritical HAZ, e) intercritical HAZ with fresh martensite and untransformed martensite, f) softest region in subcritical HAZ; shows tempered sorbite, g)zoomed in region of subcritical zone with precipitates, h) subcritical HAZ with 350-360HV hardness, i) hardness  with 380-390HV.W-1

 

Figure 2: a) macrostructure of the CMT-welded QP1180 joint, b) hardness chart through joint, c) hardness map in upper sheet, d) hardness map in lower sheet. 1) fusion zone, 2) supercritical HAZ, 3) intercritical HAZ, 4) subcritical HAZ, BM = base metal.W-1

Figure 2: a) macrostructure of the CMT-welded QP1180 joint, b) hardness chart through joint, c) hardness map in upper sheet, d) hardness map in lower sheet. 1) fusion zone, 2) supercritical HAZ, 3) intercritical HAZ, 4) subcritical HAZ, BM = base metal.W-1

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