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Technical Know ledge > Technical Know ledge > Job Know ledge > A general review of geometric shape imperfections - types
and causes - Part 1
Job Know ledge

A general review of geometric shape imperfections - types

and causes
Job Knowledge 67
Part 1. Introduction
In the job know ledge series w elding imperfections such as cracks, lack of fusion, penetration and porosity have
been discussed. This article looks at those imperfections related to poor geometric shape and w ill concentrate
on the follow ing:

Excess w eld metal

Linear misalignment
Incompletely filled groove

Such imperfections might be considered as anomalies in the joint and they w ill alw ays be present to some
degree so that it becomes necessary to separate the acceptable from the unacceptable. This is done by
follow ing guidance given by the application standard, w hich w as the basis for the component design, and/or by
direction, as set out in the job contract. Examples of standards that might be referred to are:

PD 5500 Specification for unfired fusion w elded pressure vessels.

BS EN ISO 5817 W elding. Fusion-w elded joints in steel, nickel, titanium and their alloys (beam w elding
excluded). Quality levels for imperfections
AW S D1.1 Structural w elding code - Steel

Excess weld metal

(also called cap height, overfill or reinforcement)

Fig.1. Excess weld metal

This is w eld metal lying outside the plane joining the w eld toes. Note that the term 'reinforcement', although
used extensively in the ASME/AW S specifications is avoided in Europe as it implies it adds strength to the
w elded joint, w hich is rarely the case.

Common causes
This imperfection is formed w hen excessive w eld metal is added to the joint, w hich is usually a result of poor
w elder technique for manual processes but may be due to poor parameter selection w hen the process is
mechanised. That is, too much filler metal for the travel speed used. In multi-run w elding a poor selection of
individual bead sizes can result in a bead build-up pattern that overfills the joint. Different processes and
parameters (eg voltage) can result in different excess w eld metal shapes.

The acceptability of this imperfection is very dependent on the application in w hich the product w ill be used.
Most standards have limit, related to material thickness (eg 10%), but also have a maximum upper limits. Both
the ratio and the maximum may be related to the severity of service that the component is expected to see. The
follow ing table gives examples taken from BS EN ISO 5817.

Excess weld metal limits for quality levels:

Severity of service Moderate, D Stringent, B
Limit (up to maximum) h = 1mm + 0.25 b h = 1mm + 0.1 b
Maximum 10 mm 5 mm
Transition required smooth smooth

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Transition required smooth smooth
W here: h = height of excess & b = w idth of bead (see figure 1)
An important reason for limiting the height of excess w eld metal is that it represents a non-value added cost.
How ever, it must be remembered that the height of the w eld cap influences the resultant toe blend. A sharp
transition causes a local stress concentration that can contribute to loss of strength, w hich is particularly
important in fatigue situations. As a result most specifications state that 'smooth transition is required'.

If the imperfection is a result of w elder technique then w elder retraining is required. For mechanised techniques
an increase in travel speed or voltage w ill help to reduce cap height.


Fig.2. Undercut

This is an irregular groove at the toe of a run in the parent metal.

The figure show s undercut at surface of a completed joint but it may also be found at the toes of each pass of a
multi-run w eld. The latter can result in slag becoming trapped in the undercut region.

Common causes
W hen arc and gas w elding, undercut is probably the most common shape imperfection. W ith single-sided pipe
w elds it may also be found at the bore surface. It may also be seen on the vertical face of fillet w elds made in
the horizontal vertical position.
A w ide spreading arc (high arc voltage) w ith insufficient fill (low current or high travel speed) is the usual cause.
How ever, w elder technique, especially w hen w eaving, and the w ay the w elding torch is angled can both cause
and be used to overcome undercutting (ie angled to push the w eld metal to fill the melted groove). High w elding
current w ill also cause undercut - this is generally associated w ith the need for a high travel speed to avoid
overfilling of the joint.

Largely because this imperfection is w idespread, most standards permit some level of undercut although they
do require that a 'smooth transition is required. The limits in BS EN ISO 5817 range from 0.5mm (stringent) to
1mm (moderate) for thickness (t) greater than 3mm (more stringent limits are required for t 0.5 to 3mm), w hile
AW S D1.1 has a limit of 1mm.
Measuring undercut can be a problem because of the small size of the imperfection compared w ith the general
environment w here there can be mill scale, irregularities in the surface and spatter.
In critical applications the imperfection can be 'corrected' by blend grinding or by depositing an additional w eld

This imperfection may be avoided by reducing travel speed and/or the w elding current and by maintaining the
correct arc length.

Overlap (cold lapping)

Fig.3. Overlap

This is an imperfection at a toe or root of a w eld caused by metal flow ing on to the surface of the parent metal
w ithout fusing to it. It may occur in both fillet and butt w elds.

Common causes
This is often caused by poor manipulation of the electrode or w elding gun, especially w hen the w eld pool is
large and 'cold', w here the w elder allow s gravity to influence the w eld shape before solidification. Tightly
adherent oxides or scale on the metal surface can also prevent the w eld metal fusing w ith the parent metal to
cause the overlap imperfection.

Avoidance is achieved through an acceptable level of w elder skill and a reduction in w eld pool size (obtained by
reducing current or increasing travel speed). Adequate cleaning of the parent plate is also important.

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Standards rarely allow the presence of this imperfection, unless the length is short (eg BS EN ISO 5817 for
moderate quality level D). Overlap can be very difficult to detect, especially if it is extremely small.

Linear misalignment

Fig.4 Linear misalignment

(Also know n in the USA as high-low ).

This imperfection relates to deviations from the correct position/alignment of the joint.

Common causes
This is primarily a result of poor component fit-up before w elding, w hich can be compounded by variations in the
shape and thickness of components (eg out of roundness of pipe). Tacks that break during w elding may allow
the components to move relative to one another, again resulting in misalignment.

The acceptability of this defect is related to the design function of the structure or pipe line either in terms of the
ability to take load across the misalignment or because such a step impedes the flow of fluid.
Acceptance varies w ith the application:
BS EN ISO 5817 relates misalignment to w all thickness but sets maximum limits (eg for material thickness t>3mm
and moderate limits of imperfections D, = 0.25 x t, w ith a maximum of 5mm).
AW S D1.1 allow s 10% of the w all thickness up to a maximum of 3mm.
The consequence of linear misalignment can, w hen w elding is carried out from one side, be lack of root or
sidew all fusion to give a sharp continuous imperfection along the higher w eld face toe. In some situations linear
misalignment in the bore of a pipe can lead to in-service problems w here turbulence of the carrier fluid in the
pipe creates subsequent erosion.

Incomplete filled groove

Incomplete filled groove

This is a continuous, or intermittent, channel in the surface of a w eld, running along its length, due to insufficient
w eld metal.

Common causes
This problem arises w hen there has been insufficient filler metal (current or w ire feed too low or too high a
travel speed) so that the joint has not been sufficiently filled. The result is that the thickness of w eldment is less
than that specified in the design, w hich could lead to failure.

Most standards w ill not accept this type of imperfection, except perhaps over short lengths and even then a
smooth transition is required. The designer expects the joint to be adequately filled, but not too much so (see
excess w eld metal).
Often the presence of this imperfection is an indication of poor w orkmanship and could suggest that further
training is required.

Part 2 looks at shape imperfections such as excess penetration and root concavity and highlights shape
imperfections related to fillet w elded joints.

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