Microstructural laser weld automotive steel

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Microstructural laser weld automotive steel

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journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/matdes

joints with linear and circular beads in thin low carbon steel sheets

D. Benasciutti a,, A. Lanzutti b, G. Rupil c, E. Fraenkel Haeberle c

a

Dipartimento di Ingegneria Elettrica Gestionale Meccanica (DIEGM), Universit di Udine, via delle Scienze 208, 33100 Udine, Italy

Dipartimento di Chimica Fisica e Ambiente, Universit di Udine, via del Cotonicio 108, 33100 Udine, Italy

c

F.I.S.A. Fabbrica Italiana Sedili Autoferroviari S.r.l., via G. De Simon, 33010 Osoppo, Udine, Italy

b

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:

Received 24 December 2013

Accepted 5 May 2014

Available online 13 May 2014

Keywords:

Laser-welded lap joint

Low carbon steel

Microstructure

Micro-hardness

Static strength

a b s t r a c t

This paper presents a microstructural and mechanical characterisation of laser-welded lap joints in low

carbon steel thin sheets. Different combinations of steel types (DC05, S355MC) and thickness values are

used to assemble welded specimens with linear and circular weld bead. Metallurgical observations and

micro-hardness tests are used to characterise the weld microstructure. Mechanical response in tensile

test is then used to evaluate the static strength, rotation angle of weld bead and failure mode of welded

specimens. Lap-joints with circular weld showed a lower rotation angle compared to linear welds. The

fracture in all tested specimens occurred at the base metal, far away from the weld. A simplied mechanical model is nally proposed to derive theoretical formulae for estimating the tensile strength of welded

joints as a function of material properties and weld geometry. The analytical results are in good agreement with experimental ndings and they estimate an increased strength for circular welds, compared

to linear weld with same lateral width. A design chart is also derived to allow a design of laser-welded

joints with virtually equal strength of base metal and weld zone.

2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

Laser welding is becoming an attractive and economically

advantageous joining technique in several engineering elds. The

main advantages are low process cost, high welding speed and

concentrated heat power, which gives reduced distortions and

narrow weld bead with limited microstructure changes in the

heat-affected zone. Laser welding has largely been applied, for

example, in the automotive industry to manufacture parts of car

such as doors, front and side panels, side beams and wheel arches

[1]. Applications of laser welding are partly documented also in

railway industry, as possible replacement of resistance spot welding to increase surface quality of welded assembly on rail vehicle

side panels [2].

A lap joint is a geometry commonly adopted in various welded

assemblies and its characteristics have been investigated in the

literature. Experimental studies of laser-welded lap joints, with

various combinations of metals and alloys, have been focused on

microstructural and metallurgical characteristics [35], as well as

on mechanical strength under static [613] and fatigue loadings

[5,14,15]. For example, Sokolov et al. [3] presented an experimental

Corresponding author. Tel.: +39 (0) 432 558048; fax: +39 (0) 432 558251.

E-mail address: denis.benasciutti@uniud.it (D. Benasciutti).

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.matdes.2014.05.005

0261-3069/ 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

(20 and 25 mm). Microstructure and hardness proles were used

to characterise welded joints and to suggest preferable welding

parameters. Hardness trends were use to identify microstructural

changes in the joint. They found an increase of hardness in welded

region, compared to base metal. An increase in welding speed also

induces an overall increase in hardness and a reduction in the

width of heat-affected zone. Yilbas et al. [4] investigated laser

welds of low carbon steel plates with numerical simulations and

experimental tests. Finite element analyses were used to compute

the temperature distribution and the residual stresses in weld

zones, which were in good agreement with measurements. The

metallurgical and morphological modications in the weld were

also examined. Farabi et al. [5] characterised the microstructure

and mechanical properties of laser joints in dual phase steel

DP600. They found a considerable increase of hardness in the

fusion zone, due to the large amount of martensitic structure promoted by rapid cooling during welding. On the other hand, a softer

zone was observed at the outer heat-affected zone (HAZ), due to

tempering of the pre-existing martensite. This soft zone was the

position where all specimens fractured in tensile tests. In fatigue

tests, welded joints showed a slightly lower fatigue limit compared

to base metal. At high stress amplitudes, however, they showed

comparable fatigue strength within the experimental scatter.

206

The strength of welded joints has been investigated by theoretical and numerical approaches, as well as by experimental studies.

For example, Ha and Huh [6] carried out experimental tests to

formulate an analytical failure criterion for laser weld under combined normal and shear loading. Their study pointed out also the

change in failure mechanism (from base metal to interfacial failure), as a function of the loading angle. Ono et al. [7] presented

an experimental characterisation of static and fatigue strength of

laser-welded lap joints in thin steel sheet. They also proposed a

simple analytical model to estimate the strength and fracture position, based on weld joint properties. Miyazaki and Furusako [8,9]

developed a similar model to estimate static failure evaluation,

which also included the failure in the portion adjacent to the weld.

Numerical simulations with nite elements were also

attempted to evaluate the weld strength under tensile loading.

For example, Terasaki and Kitamura [10] adopted an elasticplastic

nite element model to check whether the equivalent plastic strain

can be used to estimate the static tensile strength of lap joints.

Comparison with experimental results showed that the equivalent

plastic strain is only suitable to estimate base metal failure, while

weld shear failure has to be assessed by conventional failure theories that assume a constant shear stress. Pan and co-workers

[11,12,15] proposed a non-homogeneous elasticplastic model to

simulate the mechanical response and failure mode of lap joints

in high strength low alloy (HSLA) steel. Results from nite

elements analysis were in good agreement with experimental

observations. The main limitation of nite elements modelling,

however, is that numerical simulation can continue until numerical instability occurs. Therefore, the simulated loaddisplacement

curves are monotonically increasing, without any maximum load

that can be used to dene the joint strength.

In the context of previous literature studies, this work presents

the preliminary results of a research project aimed to characterise

the microstructure and the mechanical strength of laser-welded

lap joints in steel sheets, to assess their possible application in railway industry. The interest is focused on laser welds made of thin

low carbon steel sheets with different thickness and chemical composition. A deep drawing DC05 steel and S355MC high strength

structural steel, with thickness values in the range of 1.0

1.5 mm, are considered. Two different weld geometries (linear

and circular) are also compared, see Fig. 1. The linear weld has a

straight weld bead, perpendicular to specimen longitudinal axis.

A circular weld, instead, has a weld bead that forms a circumference located at the specimen centre.

Metallurgical analyses, micro-hardness measurements and

mechanical tensile tests were carried out to characterise the microstructure and mechanical properties of laser-welded lap joints

with different weld geometry. The proposed experimental characterisation suggests that laser welding of dissimilar low carbon thin

steel sheets could be a suitable joining technique for structural

applications in railway industry.

2. Materials and experimental procedure

Microstructure and mechanical properties of laser-welded lap

joints are investigated. Microstructure is characterised by metallurgical analysis and micro-hardness measurements. Mechanical

behaviour is studied by tension tests, which provide the tensile

strength, longitudinal deformation and rotation angle of the weld

bead, as well as typical failure mechanisms.

2.1. Base materials and laser-welded lap joints

Two types of steel (DC05, S355MC) are used in welded

joints. The DC05 material (EN 10130:2006 [16]) is a cold rolled,

(a)

linear weld

(b)

circular weld

Fig. 1. Geometry of laser-welded lap joint with (a) linear and (b) circular weld

geometry.

non-ageing low carbon steel especially suited for deep drawing and

other demanding forming applications. The S355MC steel (material

n. 1.0976) (EN 10149-2:2013 [17]) is a thermo-mechanically rolled

steel with high yield stress and high impact strength properties.

Table 1 lists the nominal mechanical properties and chemical

compositions of DC05 and S355 steels used in this study.

The laser-welded lap joints were obtained by welding two overlapping thin sheets with a bre laser. The welding parameters are

summarised in Table 2. No post-weld heat treatment was applied

after welding.

Several preliminary tests were performed to arrive at the optimised welding parameters given in Table 2. In fact, previous

parameters [18] gave unsatisfactory welded specimens, characterised by incomplete penetration, inhomogeneous microstructure

and insufcient mechanical strength compared to base metal

(e.g. failure occurred at weld bead). On the other hand, it is not

the aim of the present work to further investigate the correlation

between welding parameters and weld properties.

Fig. 1 shows the geometry and Fig. 2 a top-view of the welded

specimens considered in this study. Different combinations of

sheet thickness and metal types were used (see Table 3): a thickness of 1.0 and 1.2 mm for DC05 steel, 1.5 mm thickness for

S355MC steel.

Specimens were shaped by laser cutting after welding. The

overlapped welded sheets prior to laser cutting had a rectangular

geometry, with same width and length as nal welded specimens:

length 231 mm, width 30 mm (linear weld) and 35 mm (circular

weld). Two different weld geometries (linear and circular) were

considered, both positioned at the overlap centre. The central

straight portion of the specimen with reduced cross section has a

length of 100 mm, while the width is 15 mm (for linear weld)

and 20 mm (for circular weld). The linear weld has a length equal

to the sheet width and is positioned transversely to the longitudinal specimen axis. Instead, the diameter of circular weld (15 mm)

is lower than sheet width, which assures that the weld is

completely inside the metal sheet and it is not cut during specimen

shaping by laser cutting. The overlap length is 100 mm. Two doublers, 40 mm long, were positioned at both ends of the welded

207

Table 1

Chemical composition (wt%) and mechanical properties of DC05 and S355MC steels used in laser-welded lap joints.

Material

Elongation, A (%)

Mn

Si

Al

Ti, V

DC05

S355 MC

163

369

283

457

42

30

0.056

0.096

0.057

0.326

0.269

0.040

0.007

0.006

0.011

0.005

0.022

0.060

Table 2

Welding parameters used in the present study.

Laser power (kW)

Welding speed (m/mm)

Feeding bre diameter (lm)

Collimation (mm)

Focal length (mm)

Focal point position (mm)

Shielding gas

2

2

100

110

200

190

Nitrogen

the weld. In circular weld, the cutting direction was aligned to

the diameter of the weld line, along the specimen longitudinal axis.

The metallurgical samples cut from welded joints were embedded into a hard epoxy resin and then grounded and polished, using

a diamond polishing suspension, in order to obtain a mirror like

surface. The samples were then etched with Nital 2 etchant for

30 s in order to highlight the microstructure of material.

2.3. Micro-hardness of laser-welded joints

Micro-hardness tests were carried out by using a Vickers indenter, with an applied load of 200 g for 15 s. The indentations were

positioned at regular intervals of 200 lm in the transverse direction across the weld zone, from the fusion zone up to the base

metal. Micro-hardness values were measured at the centre of both

the upper and lower sheets of laser-welded lap joints.

2.4. Tensile tests

Fig. 2. Top views of laser-welded lap joint with (a) linear and (b) circular weld

geometry.

Table 3

Combination of sheet thickness and steel type in laser-welded lap joints analysed in

this study.

Specimen code

Thickness

(steel type)

Thickness

(steel type)

Weld geometry

1.5_1.0_L

1.2_1.0_L

1.5_1.2_C

1.5_1.0_C

1.5 mm

1.2 mm

1.5 mm

1.5 mm

1.0 mm

1.0 mm

1.2 mm

1.0 mm

Linear

Linear

Circular

Circular

(S355MC)

(DC05)

(S355MC)

(S355MC)

(DC05)

(DC05)

(DC05)

(DC05)

the standard EN ISO 6892-1 [19] for tension testing of metallic

materials. Steel sheets were shaped by laser cutting into dog-bone

specimens, with a width of 15 mm and a gauge length1 of 100 mm,

see Fig. 3.

The specimens of base metal sheets were intentionally designed

to have identical dimensions of lap joints with linear weld, see

Fig. 1(a), to allow a comparison of loaddisplacement curves. As

for laser-welded specimens, two thickness values were considered

depending on steel type: 1.2 mm for DC05 steel, 1.5 mm for S355

steel. Tensile tests of base metal were carried out using a

servo-hydraulic MTS testing machine, with a 10 kN load cell. The

cross-head speed was 0.1 mm/min, in the elastic range, and

1 mm/min in the plastic range of the tensile curve. In the elastic

range the test were performed in strain control mode, using an

MTS extensometer (model MTS 636.11F-24), while in the plastic

range in displacement control (LVDT sensor of the instrument).

Tensile tests of laser-welded lap joints were carried out on a

MTS810 machine, under displacement control mode, with a speed

of 1 mm/min. Three tensile tests were replicated for each welded

sample conguration listed in Table 3.

3. Results and discussion

3.1. Metallurgical observations

bending in tensile loading, due to the non-aligned grips. Lap joints

with comparable dimensions were investigated in similar studies

in the literature [7,8,12].

The weld microstructure was characterised by metallurgical

analyses of samples cut from welded specimens. To this end,

laser-welded lap joints were sectioned close to the weld zone by

an abrasive cut-off machine. The region of the cut was chilled by

cross section for welded joints with both linear and circular weld

geometry.

Different zones with different microstructures characterise the

welded specimen: base metal (BM), heat-affected zone (HAZ) and

fusion zone (FZ). All examined specimens showed a fully

penetrated weld bead, with an average width of about 1 mm (i.e.

1

According to the standard EN ISO 6892-1 Metallic materials tensile testing

[19], the gauge length is the length of the portion of the test specimen on which

elongation is measured at any moment during the test.

208

Fig. 3. Specimen geometry used in tensile test of base metals. Thickness is 1.2 mm

for DC05 steel and 1.5 mm for S355MC steel.

average width ranging from 300 to 400 lm. In our specimens, a

larger width of FZ is generally observed in the sheet closer to the

laser source (top part in the gures), due to a focalisation phenomenon of laser welding. Instead, the HAZ has almost the same width

in both upper and lower sheet.

For laser joints with linear welds, the FZ of 1.5 mm sheets

(S355MC steel) has a mixed-microstructure formed by low-carbon

bainitic structures, surrounded by pro-eutectoid a-ferrite. Instead,

the FZ of joints in DC05 steel is predominantly formed by ferritic

structures, with some grains of low-carbon bainite. In all welded

joints examined, the HAZ is characterised by large a-ferrite

columnar-shaped grains. For 1.5 mm sheet, very small low-carbon

bainitic zones are occasionally observed.

Due to their particular geometry, the metallurgical samples cut

from laser joints with circular welds have two distinct welded

regions, see Fig. 6(a). The microstructure of HAZ is very similar to

that described for linear welds. Instead, the FZ has a bainitic

structure that is softer compared to that of linear weld (see

micro-hardness values commented later on). This particular

behaviour could be correlated to an excess of ferrite, if compared

to the microstructure observed for linear welds. The softer

microstructure of circular welds could be explained by a slower

cooling rate in weld material, promoted by the particular circular

geometry of the weld. In fact, during welding the heat remains

entrapped inside the circular region and it then gives higher temperatures for longer time, with a reduced cooling rate on the weld

material.

3.2. Micro-hardness tests

The micro-hardness proles are plotted in Fig. 7 (for linear

weld) and Fig. 8 (for circular weld), with values for both the upper

and lower sheet in welded specimen.

well as on the position in the weld region as a result of different

microstructures. The hardness of BM ranged in values 7480 HV

for DC05 steel and 112125 HV for S355MC steel, respectively.

The hardness of BM is generally independent of sheet thickness,

although for DC05 steel the 1.2 mm sheet seems to have slightly

higher values compared to 1.0 mm sheet, see top/bottom values

for 1.2_1.0_L welded joint in Fig. 7.

In all joint types, an increase of micro-hardness is observed in

FZ, due to harder microstructures that are promoted by melting

and subsequent rapid cooling during welding, and which have

already been observed in previous metallurgical examinations. In

some analysed specimens, the micro-hardness appears to decay

towards the centre of FZ, while it increases at the edges. Examples

are specimens 1.5_1.0_L (top sheet), 1.5_1.2_C (top sheet) and

1.5_1.0_C (left weld in top sheet). This hardness drop indicates a

softening behaviour, which has also been observed in other studies

[24,20] where it was attributed to a self-annealing effect occurring at the centre of weld zone due to a reduced cooling compared

to base metal, while higher cooling rates characterise the edges of

weld zone. This remark could explain why this hardness decay has

mostly been observed in the top sheet that is closer to laser source,

where higher temperatures are observed [4,21].

The width of hardness prole in FZ is generally higher in the top

sheet, compared to bottom one, due to a larger FZ caused by the

focalisation of laser beam, as mentioned above. The difference is

more evident in circular welds (see Fig. 8), although a slight difference is also observed in linear weld (Fig. 7). This particular trend

can be correlated to the different width of weld zone, which is

inuenced by the position and thickness of welded sheets. In particular, a larger FZ characterises the top sheet directly exposed to

laser source (see also micrographs in Figs. 46). Furthermore, a larger thickness for top sheets also promotes a faster cooling during

welding and thus harder microstructures. On the other hand, an

inuence of steel type (S355MC always in top sheet) cannot be

excluded at all.

A rapid decrease of hardness occurs within the HAZ around the

FZ. This can clearly be observed for both linear and circular welds.

However, in circular weld joints the metal enclosed by the circular

weld line tends to have a slightly lower micro-hardness compared

to base metal, see Fig. 8(a) and (b). This decrease, although not very

pronounced, can easily be detected, especially for the upper sheet

in S355MC steel that is directly exposed to the laser source. This

lower hardness values, observed in the HAZ enclosed by the weld

circle, characterise the softer microstructures that are induced

by the lower cooling rate promoted by the circular weld geometry,

as discussed in the previous section.

Fig. 4. (a) Optical micrograph of the etched cross section of a 1.5 mm/1.0 mm laser joint with linear weld (top sheet: 1.5 mm, S355MC steel; bottom sheet: 1.0 mm, DC05

steel) and (b) microstructure of FZ, HAZ and BM.

209

Fig. 5. (a) Optical micrograph of the etched cross section of a 1.2 mm/1.0 mm laser joint with linear weld (top sheet: 1.2 mm, DC05 steel; bottom sheet: 1.0 mm, DC05 steel)

and (b) microstructure of FZ, HAZ and BM.

Fig. 6. (a) Optical micrograph of the etched cross section of a 1.5 mm/1.0 mm laser joint with circular weld (top sheet: 1.5 mm, S355MC steel; bottom sheet: 1.0 mm, DC05

steel) and (b) microstructure of FZ, HAZ and BM.

Typical stressstrain curves for base metal steels are shown in

Fig. 9. Both steels exhibit high-ductility behaviour, with DC05 steel

for DC05 and 24% for S355MC steel, respectively). Conversely, the

S355MC steel shows, as expected, the highest strength compared

to DC05 material.

210

450

250

1.2_1.0_L (top)

400

1.2_1.0_L (bot)

1.5_1.0_L (top)

200

bottom (DC05)

1.5_1.0_L (bot)

175

150

125

100

S355MC steel

350

stress (MPa)

Micro-hardness, HV200

225

top (S355MC)

300

250

200

DC05 steel

150

100

top (DC05)

50

75

0

0.00

bottom (DC05)

50

-2

-1.5

-1

-0.5

0.5

1.5

0.10

0.20

0.30

0.40

0.50

strain (-)

Fig. 9. Engineering stressstrain curves for DC05 and S355MC base metals.

geometry.

7

1.2 mm (DC05)/1.0 mm (DC05) - linear weld

200

6

5

1.5_1.2_C (bot)

force (kN)

Micro-hardness, HV200

1.5_1.2_C (top)

175

150

top (S355MC)

125

4

B

75

0

bottom (DC05)

50

-10

-5

sample A

sample B

sample C

DC05 (t=1.2 mm)

DC05 (t=1.0 mm, L=50 mm)

2

100

10

(a)

5

20

(a)

30

40

50

displacement (mm)

10

6

200

175

force (kN)

Micro-hardness, HV200

1.5_1.0_C (top)

1.5_1.0_C (bot)

150

top (S355MC)

4

B

sample A

sample B

sample C

DC05 (t=1.2 mm)

DC05 (t=1.0 mm, L=50 mm)

125

1

100

bottom (DC05)

75

10

20

(b)

30

40

50

displacement (mm)

(b)

50

-10

-5

10

Fig. 8. Micro-hardness values for laser-welded specimens with circular weld

geometry.

shown in Fig. 10 (for linear weld) and Fig. 11 (for circular weld).

All plots also show for comparison the tensile test curve for

DC05 steel, together with a tensile curve (dashed line) normalised

to thickness and width of welded sheets, as explained below. A

summary of experimental results is also given in Table 4. For each

tested specimen, the table gives the maximum load, the deforma-

Fig. 10. Loaddisplacement curves for welded specimens with linear weld: (a)

1.2 mm/1.0 mm sheets and (b) 1.5 mm/1.0 mm sheets. The tensile curve (grey

continuous) of DC05 steel and the scaled tensile curve Fnor/DLnor (grey dashed) are

also shown.

tion and rotation angle at fracture. The maximum load per unit

sheet width is also calculated, to allow a comparison between linear and circular welded specimens that have different width Ws of

metal sheet.

In all welded joints, the fracture occurred at base material, far

away from the weld. This conrms that a full penetrated bead,

characterised by an increased micro-hardness and thus by an

increased yield strength compared to base metal, is the strongest

part of the welded specimen. As expected, welded specimens in

two steels S355MC/DC05 failed at the weakest metal (DC05), while

of total sheet length. The sheet in the welded joint then behaves

with a reduced gauge length, compared to the sheet used in base

metal tensile test. Therefore, for a comparison with base metal it

is necessary to introduce a scaled displacement in Eq. (1) to

account for the different gauge length in welded specimens. For

example, by scaling the elongations to a reference length of

50 mm (i.e., half of gauge length 100 mm), the base metal curves

shifts on the left, more close to the curves of welded joints

(although a better agreement is observed only for circular weld).

It can be concluded that the overlap conguration of lap joints

reduces the deformation capability of the specimen under shear

loading, compared to a homogeneous metal sheet with identical

width and length.

The Fnor/DLnor curve dened in Eq. (1) is plotted as a dashed line

in Figs. 10 and 11, while the last column in Table 4 lists the

maximum tensile load scaled to unit width (to allow a comparison

with theoretical estimations in Table 5). A quite good agreement is

generally observed between the normalised tensile curve and the

experimental results.

During the tests, the weld bead rotates as the applied displacement increases, due to the offset of the applied load. The rotation

angle is inuenced by the weld geometry and by the thickness of

welded sheets as well. An average angle at failure of 30 was

observed for 1.2 mm/1.0 mm specimens, while a slightly lower

value of 16.3 was registered for 1.5 mm/1.0 mm specimens, indicating that a larger sheet thickness gives a higher rotation stiffness

and then a reduced rotation of weld bead. Other studies in literature report rotation angles for linear welds of about 4550 for

completely failed specimens [12], while angles less than 25 are

reported in [7]. Instead, experimental tests conrmed that specimens with circular welds give much smaller rotations (of about

34), see Table 4.

9

1.5 mm (S355)/1.2 mm (DC05) - circular weld

8

7

force (kN)

5

4

DC05 (t=1.2 mm)

sample A

sample B

sample C

DC05 (t=1.2 mm)

DC05 (t=1.2 mm, L=50 mm)

2

1

0

10

20

(a)

30

40

50

displacement (mm)

7

6

C

force (kN)

5

A

4

B

3

sample A

sample B

sample C

DC05 (t=1.2 mm)

DC05 (t=1.0 mm, L=50 mm)

2

1

0

10

20

(b)

30

40

50

displacement (mm)

Fig. 11. Loaddisplacement curves for welded specimens with circular weld: (a)

1.5 mm/1.2 mm sheets and (b) 1.5 mm/1.0 mm sheets. The tensile curve (grey

continuous) of DC05 steel and the scaled tensile curve Fnor/DLnor (grey dashed) are

also shown.

Some samples of fractured specimens are given in Figs. 12 and 13.

Experimental results then conrmed that the strength of tested

welded specimens is controlled by base metal. However, a direct

comparison with the tensile curve for base metals is not possible,

because of different thickness and width used in welded specimens, compare Figs. 1 and 3.

A comparison could be attempted, instead, by scaling the values

F/DL of the tensile curve for DC05 base metal to thickness and

width of welded specimen (the same normal stress is thus

obtained):

F nor

W 1 t1

F

W 0 t0

DLnor

50

DL

100

211

In the above expression, W0 = 15 mm and t0 = 1.2 mm are, respectively, the width and thickness of base metal sheet. Instead, width

W1 and thickness t1 refers to welded specimens and they depends

on weld geometry (see second and third column in Table 4): in

linear welds W1 = 15 mm and t1 = 1.0 mm, while in circular welds

W1 = 20 mm and t1 = 1.2 mm (for 1.5_1.2_C) and t1 = 1.0 mm (for

1.5_1.0_C). Note that in linear welds only the thickness t1 is

changed, while in circular welds both thickness t1 and width W1

are different compared to base metal specimen.

As shown in Figs. 10 and 11, all tested welded joints showed a

high ductility at failure, with values, however, that are lower than

base metal. Similarly to strength, also the elongation of welded

specimens cannot be directly compared to base metal. This can

be explained by the overlap length of 100 mm in welded joints,

joints

The determination of tensile strength and failure criterion for

laser-welded lap joints is a critical issue. International design codes

do not give any theoretical approach to assess the mechanical

strength of laser-welded lap joints in thin sheets. For example, Landolfo et al. [13] proposed to adopt the indications of Eurocode 3

Part 1-3 [22] for seam and spot welds to estimate the load bearing

capacity of laser welded connections.

On the other side, interesting experimental and numerical

studies on the mechanical behaviour of laser-welded lap joints

were also proposed in the literature. For example, Ha and Huh

[6] formulated an analytical failure criterion for laser weld under

combined normal and shear loading based on experimental results.

However, even though the stress failure surface has been dened

analytically, the actual distribution of normal and shear stress on

a given welded joint, as a function of the applied load and joint

stiffness, would remain somehow to be determined.

An alternative approach to evaluate the mechanical response of

laser welds is nite elements modelling. Typically, a two-dimensional elasticplastic model, with explicit representation of the

weld bead, has been used to simulate the weld joint behaviour

[1012]. The numerical model can simulate the rotation angle of

weld bead and the loaddisplacement curve, as well as the plastic

strain distribution and the expected failure locations. However, the

approach seems not fully capable to identify a unique failure

criterion to estimate the failure load of welded joint. For example,

Terasaki and Kitamura [10] concluded that the equivalent plastic

strain calculated by nite elements analysis is only suitable to predict base metal strength, while weld shear strength must be

assessed by conventional failure theories. Similarly, the numerical

212

Table 4

Experimental results of tensile tests on lap joints with linear and circular weld bead.

a

b

Specimen

code

Thickness, t

(mm)a

Width, Ws

(mm)

Sample

1.5_1.0_L

1.0

15

1.2_1.0_L

1.0

1.5_1.2_C

1.5_1.0_C

Experimental data

Maximum load

(kN)

Deformation at fracture

(mm)

(deg)

(N/mm)b

A

B

C

4.41

4.13

4.60

28.7

28.7

27.9

12

21

16

294

275

307

15

A

B

C

4.51

4.50

4.10

30.4

30.5

30.5

33

32

32

301

300

273

1.2

20

A

B

C

7.37

7.82

7.78

22.1

22.7

20.2

5

4

4

368

391

389

1.0

20

A

B

C

5.43

5.34

6.23

24.7

22.7

23.6

3

4

3

271

267

312

The values are normalised to sheet width Ws given in the third column.

observed experimentally, even if they do not quantify the weld

limit load (the nite elements simulation can continue until

numerical instability takes place, so that the simulated load

displacement curves are monotonically not decreasing without a

maximum load). Otherwise, one should use a more sophisticated

approach to estimate the failure position in the welded joint, as

for example that based on J-integral calculations proposed by Asim

et al. [12]. However, the fracture toughness that denes the critical

J-value is a quantity not generally available, nor easy to be estimated experimentally.

Last, but not least, it goes without saying that the application of

a two-dimensional elasticplastic model to analyse complex threedimensional structures containing many welds would not be

straightforward, other than computationally quite demanding.

Instead, models with shell elements, without explicit weld bead

modelling, have been adopted with thin sheets (an example is

proposed in [23] for fatigue analysis). For such shell models,

however, a suitable criterion (based, for example, on a simplied

theoretical model) should be given to estimate the weld strength.

The question then arises whether an elasticplastic nite elements modelling could be appropriate, or whether a simplied

theoretical model could be equally effective for estimating the

mechanical strength of laser-welded lap joint conguration under

tensile loading.

In the context of an easy design approach, the above considerations

seem to justify the use of a simplied theoretical model to estimate

the tensile strength of lap joints, as a function of weld geometry and

mechanical properties, as suggested in literature [7,8].

Fig. 14 shows the deformed conguration of a lap joint under

tensile loading and the stress state at each part of the joint. The

base metal sheets, far away from the weld, can reasonably be considered to be under a uniaxial tensile stress, just like a sheet in the

tensile test. The offset position of welded sheets gives, instead, a

load misalignment that produces a bending moment, when the

specimen is subjected to remote tensile loading. This bending

moment gives a bending stress distribution in the sheet portion

adjacent to the weld (heat-affected zone). In addition, the weld

bead rotates of an angle h when increasing the tensile load F. As a

result, the weld bead is subjected to a combined normal and shear

stress, which are the dominant stress components irrespective of a

more complex stress eld that can exist around the weld [6].

The tensile strength of the welded specimen is then controlled

by the lowest strength value among base metal, weld material

and heat-affected zone.

The ultimate (or limit) load for failure at base metal sheet under

tensile loading is:

F BM ru;b W s t

2

2

Ws (mm) is the width and t (mm) the thickness of base metal sheet.

The ultimate load of weld bead can be estimated by considering

the normal and shear stress produced by the cross-tension force

Fsin h and shear tension force Fcos h on the weld under a rotation

angle h. In a joint with linear weld, the normal and shear stresses

on the weld due to an applied load F are:

F sin h

rw;lin W

N=mm2

w tw

F cos h

sw;lin W w tw N=mm2

where the weld has thickness tw (mm) and length Ww (mm), while h

is the rotation angle under the applied force F. The thickness tw is

the weld size (weld width), which depends on laser welding parameters; it can be measured, for example, by metallurgical observations on welded joint samples. Stress components can be

assumed, with reasonable accuracy, as uniformly distributed over

the weld, as conrmed by nite element simulations [6]. The

strength condition against weld fracture is:

F p

HV w

sin 2 h 3 cos 2 h 6 ru;w 9:8

W w tw

3

4

Since ru,w is difcult to be determined experimentally (especially

for weld beads lower than 1 mm), expression (4) correlates ru,w

to the hardness HVw (kg) of weld metal, as often suggested in the

literature [710,24]). In expression (4), the equivalent von Mises

stress req is used to combine the normal rw and shear sw stresses

on the weld. The condition req = ru,w in Eq. (4) gives the limit load

for weld failure in linear weld:

HV w W w tw

F w;lin 3:267 p

sin 2 h 3 cos 2 h

stresses (for simplicity assumed, uniformly distributed over the

weld) are expressed as:

h

rw;cir Fpsin

N=mm2

dtw

h

sw;cir Fpcos

N=mm2

dt w

213

b

haz

w,lin

w,lin

Fig. 14. Stress state at each part in a lap joint with linear weld. The weld has

thickness tw and width Ww (orthogonal to load direction).

Fig. 12. Typical failures in tensile test of welded samples with linear weld.

Thickness values: (a) 1.5 mm/1.0 mm and (b) 1.2 mm/1.0 mm. Arrows indicate the

location of failure.

Fig. 13. Typical failures in tensile test of welded samples with circular weld.

Thickness values: (a) 1.5 mm/1.2 mm and (b) 1.5 mm/1.0 mm. Arrows indicate the

location of failure.

where d (mm) is the diameter of the weld line and tw (mm) the

thickness of weld bead. After calculating the equivalent stress req,

the limiting condition req = ru,w gives the following ultimate load

for failure at the circular weld:

HV w pdtw

F w;cir 3:267 p

sin 2 h 3 cos 2 h

with the same thickness tw. Then, as shown by expressions (5) and

(7), it is then expected to have a higher strength (about three times

greater) than linear weld with equal lateral width (d = Ww). In fact,

obtained, which conrms the advantage provided by a circular

weld. In addition, as conrmed by the experimental results, the

circular welds also have a higher stiffness that gives a smaller rotation angle h compared to linear welds.

The two Eqs. (3) and (6) compute the weld stresses as a function

of the rotation angle h. As h increases during loading, the weld

stress changes from pure shear (for h = 0) to pure normal stress

(for h = 90), which tries to open the weld joint (peeling stress).

The shear stress is predominant for small h. In this study, where

lap joints were subjected to tensile loading, the condition h = 90

was not reached, because fracture occurred at much smaller

angles.

As shown by Eqs. (5) and (7), the weld strength depends on the

rotation angle h of the non-load carrying sheets. For a given applied

load F, the angle h depends on overall deformation of the welded

specimen, which is a function of its geometrical and mechanical

properties (the system is statically indeterminate). Large displacements compared to sheet thickness have also to be considered and

they make the analysis even more complex. A simple analytical

expression that correlates h to F is generally not known, as it is

rather difcult to be derived analytically. An approximate best-t

regression equation is proposed in [8] for lap joint with linear

weld:

h 45; 000

F 1:5

0:5

W 1:5

w tw t

r2:75

u;b

The experimental results in this study show a maximum rotation angle at failure of about 30 for linear welds and 34 for circular welds, see Table 4. Other studies in literature report rotation

angles of about 4550 for completely failed specimens [12], while

angles less than 25 are reported in [7]. Instead, larger angles (of

about 38.8) are estimated by Eq. (8) for linear weld. Fig. 15 shows

a typical trend of angle h calculated by Eq. (8) for a linear and

circular weld. In circular welds the angle h in Eq. (8) has been calculated by taking tw = d, to account for the much wider overlap

region where metal sheets are joined together, compared to linear

weld. Accordingly, a much lower rotation angle is estimated for

circular weld, as it also observed experimentally.

Table 5

Tensile strength (per unit width of metal sheet) at each joint portion, estimated by the theoretical model described in Section 4.

Specimen code

1.5_1.0_L

1.2_1.0_L

1.5_1.2_C

1.5_1.0_C

190

175

160

160

b

c

BM

HAZ

WM

BM

HAZ

WM

WM (small h)

283

283

283

283

452

427

403

403

621

572

523

523

283

283

340

283

292

290

482

402

372

340

712

711

358

330

711

708

a

Values are divided by the width Ws of base metal sheet.

b

Calculated by a numerical procedure using Eq. (5) (linear weld) and Eq. (7) (circular weld), with h given by Eq. (8).

c

Calculated by the approximated analytical expressions in Eq. (9), assuming small h.

283

283

340

283

50

100

150

200

250

300

Fig. 15. Trend of angle h vs. applied load (normalised to sheet width), for a linear

weld (1.5_1.0_L) and circular weld (1.5_1.0_C), as calculated by Eq. (8).

Eqs. (5) and (7), combined with Eq. (8), require a numerical

solution to compute the strength Fw of weld bead. However, the

assumption of a small h allows Eqs. (5) and (7) to be simplied

to the following closed-form expressions:

with an error of about 4% for h 20 and 18% for h 45 compared to Eqs. (5) and (7), respectively. This means that expressions

(9) are on the safe side, because they estimate a lower strength

compared to the exact solutions (5) and (7).

The ultimate load FHAZ for failure at the heat-affected zone

under bending moment can be estimated by the modelling

approach proposed in [8,9], which has been shown to provide

results in reasonable agreement with experiments. The approach

is briey summarised in Appendix A.

The maximum bending stress rhaz,max at the outermost surface

in the metal sheet:

rhaz;max

n

t=2 d

E

6 ru;haz

Ri t=2 d

10

metal in HAZ. In the above expression (10), Ri is the curvature radius

of the inner surface, t is the sheet thickness and d is the distance

between the neutral plane and the thickness centre, see Fig. 16.

The mechanical properties of HAZ are inhomogeneous, as they gradually change from those of weld metal to base metal when moving

away from weld zone. The tensile strength of HAZ is then estimated

as an average ru,haz = (ru,b + ru,w)/2 of the strengths of base and

weld metals [8,9]. On the other hand, as suggested in [25] (see

Par. 9.3.2 in Chapter 9), the strength ru,haz may further be increased

Rm

Ri

Re

r

F

rlin

F 0w;lin

F BM

(r)

haz,max

HV w

p

3HV BM

Ww

tw

tw

c1 c2;lin

Ws

t

t

11

rcir

F 0w;cir

F BM

HV w

p

3HV BM

tw

tw

c1 c2;cir

Ws

t

t

pd

12

weld and base metal, while t, tw indicate the thickness for base

metal sheet and weld zone. The hardness ratio c1 is a coefcient

that depends on properties of welded joint materials and on the

hardness increment due to laser welding. A hardness ratio HVw/

HVBM of about 2.22.6 is commonly observed in welded joints,

which gives a coefcient c1 = 1.271.5. Instead, coefcients c2,lin,

c2,cir are function of welded joint conguration (weld geometry

and dimension).

2.5

bisector

tw,lim

2

1.5

base metal

failure

1

0.5

line

weld

metal

n=

10

rli

20

w

ith

30

area in bending into account.

The maximum bending stress rhaz,max in Eq. (10) is a monotonic

function of the applied load F. This relationship, however, is

dened only implicitly through the quantities Ri and d, which both

depend on F and h through Eqs. (14) and (15) in Appendix A. As a

result, the limit load Fhaz for fracture at HAZ can only be evaluated

by numerical calculation, because no closed-form expression can

be derived.

Table 5 lists the ultimate load (per unit width Ws) of welded

specimens with linear and circular weld, estimated by the theoretical model described above. Separate values for base metal, weld

bead and heat-affected zone are also indicated. The strength of

weld bead is estimated by Eqs. (5) and (7) as a function of h, as well

as by the approximate expressions (9).

The accuracy of the analytical model can be assessed by comparing the experimental and analytical strengths given in the last

column of Tables 4 and 5, respectively. As can be seen, in all

welded specimens the analytical model correctly estimates that

fracture would occur in base metal, as it was observed

experimentally.

The results in Table 5 could also be used to compare the difference in strength between base metal and weld metal as a function

of weld bead geometry (see the columns labelled BM and WM). As

can be seen, the larger difference observed in circular welds means

a higher safety margin for fracture at weld metal, compared to base

metal failure.

The analytical expressions previously derived could provide

useful guidelines in the design of welded lap joints, based on the

strength ratio of weld and base metal. For linear weld the ratio is:

lin

e

40

214

LINEAR

WELD

weld

failure

base metal

failure

weld failure

with

r cir=

CIRCULAR

WELD

Fig. 17. Relationship between sheet thickness t and weld thickness tw. The limit

weld thickness is tw,lim = 2 mm. Markers are the experimental points (d linear

welds; h circular welds). Failure regions are also indicated.

strength of HAZ, as no analytical closed-form expression is available. On the other hand, for the welded specimens under study

the strength of HAZ is always greater than base metal, see Table 5.

In Eqs. (11) and (12), a strength ratio rlin = 1 (or rcir = 1) would

indicate that the welded specimen has virtually an equal strength

for weld and base metals, while whatever value but unity would

suggest that fracture prevalently occurs at weld metal (for r < 1)

or at base metal (for r > 1).

Expressions (11) and (12) suggest that to design a joint with

equal strength for weld and base metal, the weld thickness tw

has to increase linearly with sheet thickness t. Fig. 17 shows an

example of design chart, which is calibrated on the characteristics

of the laser welds analysed in this study. For any joint conguration, the symbol t in the x-axis of Fig. 17 indicates the thickness

of DC05 steel sheet, where fracture occurred (in the graph, the line

for S355MC steel sheet is not shown for more clarity). Based on the

hardness values in Figs. 7 and 8, a coefcient c1 = 1.44 (linear weld)

and c1 = 1.27 (circular weld) is calculated.

Due to the higher strength of weld metal compared to base

metal, the weld thickness tw can be lower than any t sheet thickness (the inclined lines are below the bisector). Furthermore, the

design chart conrms the higher strength of circular welds compared to linear welds. In fact, at a given weld thickness tw, circular

welds can tolerate a higher sheet thickness t. Conversely, at any

given sheet thickness t, the circular weld geometry requires a

lower weld thickness tw to attain the same base metal strength.

The weld thickness tw, however, cannot increase indenitely

and becomes saturated with increasing plate thickness, as laser

welding gives weld beads approximately of several millimetres

even for thick plates. For example, Sokolov et al. [3] report an average weld width below 2 mm for butt-joints in thick plates of

20 mm. This effect has also been emphasised by Ono et al. [7],

who indicated a saturated thickness of about 1.2 mm above which

fracture always occurred in weld metal. The limit weld thickness

clearly depends on the material type and weld geometry, thus a

unique value cannot be given for all joint congurations. In

Fig. 17, a limit weld thickness tw,lim = 2 mm is assumed, which

could be used to nd a limit sheet thickness above which weld failure would occur: t = 2.9 mm for linear weld, t = 7.2 mm for circular

weld (not visible in the gure, because of x-scale axis).

Finally, Fig. 17 also indicates the regions where different types

of fracture would occur, according to the proposed model. As can

be seen, the markers of the welded joints tested experimentally

correctly fall within the region of base metal failure, which actually

conrm the reliability of the proposed theoretical design approach.

5. Conclusions

This paper presented a microstructural and mechanical characterisation of laser-welded lap joints in thin low carbon steel.

Welded specimens with linear and circular weld bead were studied. Characterisation was based on metallurgical observations,

micro-hardness measurements and tensile tests, which gave information on the ultimate tensile strength, rotation angle of the weld

bead and fracture mode of welded specimens. The main ndings of

this study can be summarised as follows:

Micro-hardness proles in all tested joints conrmed an increment of hardness in the weld zone and heat-affected zone.

All tested specimens fractured in the base metal, far away from

the weld zone. This means that the overall joint strength is controlled by base metal strength, which is consistent with a fullpenetrated weld zone characterised by higher micro-hardness

(and hence higher static strength) compared to base metal.

215

lower rotation angle under loading, compared to linear welds.

A maximum rotation angle at failure of about 30 for linear

welds and 34 for circular welds was observed.

A simple theoretical model was proposed to estimate the

strength of base metal, heat-affected zone and weld zone in

laser-welded lap joints, as a function of material properties

and weld geometry. For the weld bead, the analytical results

estimate an increased strength (of about three times) of circular

welds, compared to linear weld having an equal lateral width.

The proposed model is also able to estimate the overall strength

of the welded specimen and to locate the nal fracture. Analytical estimations are shown to agree with experimental results. A

design chart is nally derived, which allows a proportion of

laser-welded lap joints with virtually equal strength of base

metal and weld zone.

Acknowledgements

The nancial support of this research by F.I.S.A. Fabbrica Italiana Sedili Autoferroviari S.r.l., under contract CV12_045 FISA SRL,

is greatly acknowledged.

Appendix A. Bending stress in lap joint

This Appendix briey summarises the main results of the theoretical model proposed in [8,9] to estimate the static strength of

HAZ under the bending moment produced by the load eccentricity.

The model assumes a bending deformation with constant curvature radius. The circumferential strain at a plane at a distance r

from the curvature centre is:

er

r Re

Re

13

(where the strain is zero), Ri is the curvature radius of the innermost

surface, d is the distance between the neutral plane and the geometrical centre of the sheet, t is the sheet thickness (see Fig. 16). The

curvature radius is found to be related to the rotation angle h

[8,9] as:

Ri

1 cos h

14

n1 )

n (

n1

W wE

1

t

t

F

d

d

n 1 Ri t=2 d

2

2

15

The expressions (8), (14), and (15) can be used to compute the rotation angle h, curvature radius Ri and distance d for each value of the

applied force F. Both h and d are monotonically increasing functions

of F, while Ri is a decreasing function of F (when F = 0, it is d = 0 and

Ri = 1).

The bending stress at position r is calculated as r(r) = Ee(r)n,

where E is the modulus of elasticity (Youngs modulus) and n is a

work hardening exponent. They are estimated as E = ru,haz(e/n)n,

n = ln (1 + uel,haz), based on the uniform elongation uel,haz (which

is the average between the uniform elongation of base metal and

weld metal) and tensile strength ru,haz (e is the base of natural

logarithm).

The maximum bending stress occurs at the outermost surface of

the sheet (where r = Ri + t):

rhaz;max E

n

t=2 a

Ri t=2 a

16

216

however is dened implicitly through Eqs. (8), (14), (15), and

(16). The joint is expected to fail in HAZ when the stress rhaz,max

exceeds the tensile strength ru,haz of this region.

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