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Variables Affecting the Mechanical Properties of Carbon Steel Welds

When engineers design a structure — whether it be a bridge, building or vehicle — they do so


according to the strength of the base material. Every finished product must meet certain
requirements, including how much weight it can withstand and the amount of force it can resist.
During the welding process, it is usually important the filler metal match or slightly overmatch the
base material’s mechanical properties to achieve those requirements and to prevent weld failures
that could be potentially catastrophic.
To that end, filler metal manufacturers rigorously test products to guarantee they meet minimum
specifications, based on American Welding Society (AWS) and other industry standards. Filler metals’
typical mechanical values will be some degree higher than the AWS minimums.
There are welding variables, however, that can impact the finished weld properties, even when
using the same filler metal. Mechanical properties such as tensile strength, ductility and yield
strength (see additional information section below) can vary greatly from weld to weld as a result.
Consider this example: An American Welding Society (AWS) E71T-1 gas-shielded carbon steel flux-
cored wire typically provides 74,000 psi tensile strength. Changing the shielding gas and welding
parameters can make the weld possess over 90,000 psi tensile strength — with that same filler
metal. Understanding the ways in which variations in heat input and shielding gases, in particular,
affect weld deposit properties is important. It helps ensure the weld stands up to the necessary
strength and quality requirements.

Heat input and mechanical properties


Changes in heat input can cause significant variances in the ductility of a weld, as well as its tensile
and yield strengths. A material’s strength and its ductility are related. As strength increases, ductility
decreases, and vice versa. The general rule is that higher strength equals increased brittleness;
however, higher strengths may be required in certain applications.

The strength of the weld deposit increases with lower heat inputs. Using a lower heat input will
generally result in smaller welds and requires more weld passes to fill the joint. As well as the
changes in strength, lowering heat input will also reduce ductility, which can make the finished weld
more susceptible to cracking.

On the other hand, completing a weld with higher heat input results in larger weld deposits and
requires fewer passes to fill a joint. This improves ductility and resistance to cracking, but lowers
tensile and yield strength — a disadvantage if the reduction is enough to cause the weld to fall
below minimum requirements.

As an example, an AWS E71T-1C or E71T-1M carbon steel wire, when used with a low heat input of
30 kilojoules per inch, produces a tensile strength of 93,800 psi, a yield strength of 89,300 psi and an
elongation of 24 percent. Compare that to the same wire used with a high heat input of 80 kilojoules
per inch, which produces a tensile strength of 81,500 psi, yield strength of 70,200 psi and elongation
of 29 percent. See Figure 1.

Figure 1
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There are pros and cons with each of the heat input options; the optimal choice depends on the
application’s requirements. For the best results, consult the filler metal manufacturer’s
recommended parameters for a specific product to help avoid issues caused by excessively high or
low heat inputs. These recommendations suggest heat input ranges to produce the desired strength
and ductility results.

The impact of shielding gas


In addition to heat input, shielding gas selection affects the mechanical properties of a weld. There
are some general factors to consider when using argon mixtures versus straight CO2 shielding gas.
The scenarios are very similar to those regarding heat input variations, with the same relationship
between strength and ductility.

Shielding gas with higher argon content results in welds with higher tensile and yield strengths and
lower ductility. Again, the higher strength may or may not be needed for the application, and the
disadvantage is that the weld is more susceptible to cracking.

Conversely, higher CO2 content in a shielding gas mixture improves ductility and crack resistance but
lowers the tensile and yield strengths. As a result, the weld may fail minimum requirement
standards if the numbers drop below necessary levels.

Consider the different variances produced in this example: The same E71T-1C or E71T-1M wire
mentioned previously used with 100 percent CO2 gas provides a tensile strength of 84,000 psi, yield
strength of 77,000 psi and 28 percent elongation. The same wire used with a gas mixture of 75
percent argon/25 percent CO2 results in tensile strength of 90,000 psi, yield of 83,000 psi and
elongation of 26 percent. See Figure 2.

Figure 2
There are more factors to selecting shielding gas than just this consideration, however. Shielding gas
selection factors in weldability, fume requirements, arc qualities and more. The change in
mechanical properties that shielding gas can cause, however, should always be considered, as it
directly affects the weld quality.

Heat input and shielding gas – a combined affect


Because high heat input and CO2 can have a similar effect on mechanical properties (reducing
strength and increasing ductility), and lower heat inputs and high argon content gas will do the
opposite (push strength up and ductility down), these variables can be used together to compound
these effects or to offset each other.

For example, in an application where a high heat input is causing strength to drop, selecting a gas
with a higher argon content can help increase strength levels. Conversely, lower heat input may
cause a lack of ductility and CO2 shielding gas can be used to minimize that effect.

Using the same carbon steel gas-shielded wire as in the previous examples, a high heat input with
100 percent CO2 combination results in a tensile strength of 81,500 psi, yield strength of 70,200 psi
and 29 percent elongation. That compares to a low heat input with 75 percent argon gas, which
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results in 104,400 psi tensile strength, 98,600 psi yield strength and 22 percent elongation (which is
the minimum requirement). See Figure 3.

Figure 3
Whether or not combining these factors to work together is the right solution depends upon the
filler metal, as some are more or less affected than others. Also, certain filler metals are formulated
for dual gas usage, while others can only be used with a single gas.

Understanding the dynamics

There are no absolutes regarding the choice of high heat or low heat, or using an argon or
CO2 shielding gas — which option is the better choice all depends on the needs and requirements of
the specific application.That makes it especially important to understand the relationship between
these variables, and the impact each has on the mechanical properties of the weld. Knowing how to
adjust heat and the impact of shielding gas to help produce the desired effect can help welding
operators refine their process ― and ul mately improve their results.

Additional Information;
Tensile strength is the maximum force required to produce failure

Ductility refers to how much the material can stretch before it fractures

Yield strength is the force required to cause a material to plastically deform or yield

Heat input kilojoules/inch = amps x volts x 60/1000 x (travel speed in inches/min)

Elongation is a measurement of a material’s ductility expressed in a percentage