This article summarizes a paper entitled, “High Strength Steel Spot Weld Strength Improvement through in situ Post Weld Heat Treatment (PWHT)”, by I. Diallo, et al.D-9
The study proposes optimal process parameters and process robustness for any new spot welding configuration. These parameters include minimum quenching time, post weld time, and post-welding current.
Three different chemical compositions are considered in this study and are listed in Table 1.
Table 1: Chemical composition and metallurgical data of products tested. Formulas used to calculate Ms, Ac1 and Ac3 are from “Andrews Empirical Formulae for the Calculation of Some Transformation Temperatures.”D-9
Welding configurations and process parameters are described in Table 2.
Table 2: Welded configurations and welding parameters used in reference cases.D-9
Cross Tensile Strength for MS1500EG 1.5 mm homogenous configuration is seen in Figure 1. Table 3 lists the reference data for the other configurations in this study.
Figure 1: Cross Tensile Strength for MS1500EG 1.5 mm homogenous configuration as a function of plug (closed symbols) or weld (open symbols) diameter.D-9
Table 3: Average α and plug ratio along the welding range for reference configurations.D-9
Figure 2 and 3 depict micrographs of welds after PWHT applied on 36MnB5 2 mm homogeneous configuration. These micrographs illustrate the evolution of the microstructure during PWHT and are labeled accordingly. Figure 4 shows the microhardness profiles in the welds described in Figure 3. It is clear that the Mf temperature was reached in the entire weld before application of PWHT.
Figure 2: Micrograph of reference weld for 36MnB5 2mm homogeneous configuration.D-9
Figure 3: Micrographs of welds after post weld heat treatment applied on 36MnB5 2 mm homogeneous configuration with 70 periods of quenching and post welding current of a) 54%Iw, b) 62%Iw, c) 65% d) 67%Iw, e) 71%Iw and f ) 78%Iw.D-9
Figure 4: Microhardness profiles in welds after post weld treatment applied on 36MnB5 2mm homogeneous configuration with 70 periods of quenching ; these measurements correspond to micrographs shown in Figure 2 and Figure 3.D-9
Similar methodology was performed on partial quenching examples with AISI coating and electrogalvanized coating. Table 4 lists the minimum quenching times that were determined experimentally for each configuration.
Table 4: Minimum quenching times determined experimentally and through Sorpas simulation.D-9
For selection of post weld time, a slightly different methodology was performed. Optimal quenching time was determined and used to construct the evolution of post weld current range as a function of post weld time as described in Figure 5. This figure shows that post welding current range is stable between 60 and 30 periods of post weld time.
Figure 5: Evolution of post welding current range as a function of post weld time for three welding current levels.D-9
Notch tip hardness measured after different post welding currents has been reported in Figure 6. From this result, a notch tip tempering range is found to be between 400 °C and Ac1.
Figure 6: Relationship between measured notch tip hardness and post-welding current (Usibor1500 AlSi 1.5mm, LWR).D-9
Using the notch tip tempering range, a post welding current range can be calculated from Sorpas calculations in Figure 7.
Figure 7: Experimental and numerical post welding current ranges for Usibor1500 AlSi 1.5 mm configuration (above: LWR, below: HWR).D-9
Results are displayed in Figure 8 for post weld time for MS1500 EZ with low welding current LWR.
Figure 8: Evolution of post welding current ranges for different post welding times in LWR.D-9
Figure 9 displays results for MS1500 EG 1.5mm configuration.
Figure 9: MS1500 EG 1.5 mm configuration experimental and simulated post welding current ranges (LWR).D-9
The same methodology was applied to other configurations and the results are displayed in Table 5.
Table 5: Post weld times selected.D-9
Interpolation between experiments was carried out to create a robustness and performance tempering map that is displayed in Figure 10. The map shows tremendous improvement of cross tension strength can be achieved through PWHT. Additionally, the optimal post welding current is around 65% of welding current, and the CTS level reached for LWR and HWR without PWHT is very similar.
Figure 10: Tempering map for Usibor ® AlSi 1.5 mm homogeneous configuration, drawn after experimental results shown on Figure 9.D-9
Figure 11 displays cross-tension results for Usibor1500 AlSi using the optimized cycle [Metallurgical Post Weld Heat Treatment (MPWHT)].
Figure 11: Comparison of CTS along the welding current range, with and without MPWHT.D-9
Table 6 and Figure 12 display all the reference and MPWHT spot weld performance after Cross-Tension testing.
Table 6: ɑ coefficients and plug ratios for reference and with post treatment for all the configurations.D-9
Figure 12: ɑ coefficients and plug ratios for reference and with post treatment for all the configurations.D-9
MPWHT, aiming at tempering the martensite formed during spot welding of Advanced High-Strength Steels, has been studied for several configurations both experimentally and numerically. The methodology proposed in this study is available to determine the optimal process parameters and the process robustness for any new configuration. Among the major results brought by this study:
- A minimum quenching time is necessary to fully transform the weld into martensite before post weld heat treatment; this time can be determined based on metallographic observations, and depends strongly on sheets thickness, chemistry and coating.
- The post weld time is not very sensitive to the configuration welded; 0.6 s seems a reasonable time, although it may be reduced further.
- The post welding current can be simply expressed as a percentage of the welding current, the efficient level being then constant along the welding current range.
- A range of post welding currents can be determined, allowing an efficiency of the post weld heat treatment process. Tempering maps allow common visualization of the welding current and post welding current ranges in two dimensions, to characterize the whole process robustness.
- MPWHT is very efficient in improving the mechanical weld performance in opening mode; cross-tension strength can be doubled in some cases; the process efficiency depends on the chemistry of the grades.
- In case of heterogeneous configuration, the so-called “positive deviation” can give a good performance to the weld even without MPWHT, limiting the improvement brought after post treatment.
The joint strength in the peeling direction begins to decrease when the Base Metal (BM) strength exceeds 780 MPa. It has been found that the Cross-Tension Strength (CTS) of HSS joints could be improved by using appropriate conditions for post-heat conduction. Unlike the conventional tempering process in which the weld is tempered after a sufficient cooling time (i.e., after completion of martensite transformation of the weld), the post-heat conduction process incorporates a short cooling time; hence, it will not cause significant decline in productivity. The post-heat conduction process is described in detail below.
Figure 1 illustrates the effect of cooling time on CTS. It is clear that CTS reaches a peak for a cooling time of 6 cycles and improves when the post-heat conduction time is increased, even when the cooling time is increased to 35 cycles. With the aim of investigating why CTS improved, as described above, the conditions of solidification segregation were analyzed, for example, Mn, Si, and P. An example of P segregation is shown in Figure 2. When post-heat conduction was not performed at all or was performed using the conditions under which CTS did not improve [as shown in Figure 2 (b)], the segregation of P in the same part decreased markedly. One reason for this is thought to be as follows. The element that was solidification- segregated during regular conduction was diffused during the post-heat conduction. As described in the preceding section, it is believed that the toughness of the nugget edge increased, thereby helping to enhance CTS.
Figure 1: Effect of cool time on CTS (HS, 2-0-mm sheet thickness, 5-√t nugget diameter).N-5
Figure 2: Effect of post-heat conditions on microstructure and solidification segregation at edge of nugget.N-5
The effect of post-heat conduction in easing such solidification segregation is supported by other researchers. It should be noted that the hardness of the nugget interior remains the same, regardless of whether the post-heat conduction is implemented. Therefore, the above improvement in CTS cannot be attributed to the effect of tempering. Conversely, the application of post-heat conduction increased the degree and width of softening of the HAZ. From the standpoint of fracture mechanics, the degree of influence of the widening of soft HAZ on the improvement in CTS was estimated to be about 4%. Therefore, the improvement in CTS by post-heat conduction can be attributed mainly to the enhancement of fracture toughness by the easing of solidification segregation.
Figure 3 shows comparison of CTS between with and without pulse pattern at the nugget diameter. The strength became higher when welded with pulse pattern, especially when the pulse current was between 8 and 9 kA. These results suggest that the pulsation pattern achieved adequate reduction in solidification segregation and soften the HAZ.
Figure 3: Comparison of CTS with and without pulse pattern.J-1