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The fatigue of laser welded lap joints in zinc coated

automotive sheet steel

TWI Technology Briefing 882-2007
By S Lockyer and G Verhaeghe
In the automotive industry, the body-in-white structure is fabricated from zinc coated steel sheet
conventionally joined by resistance spot welding, although laser welding is becoming more common. The
advantages of laser welding over resistance spot welding are single-sided access, reduced flange widths,
increased torsional stiffness, less thermal distortion, high speed automated processing and design flexibility.
However, when welded in a lap joint configuration, zinc coated steels tend to produce spatter and can give rise
to relatively high levels of porosity due to the vaporisation of the zinc. This usually occurs if the sheets are
clamped tightly together and when the coating thickness on the sheets is in excess of 5m. A common solution
is to create a gap at the joint interface enabling the zinc vapour to escape. At the same time, the joint gap can
result in the formation of other weld imperfections and little information exists on the effect of those weld
imperfections on the in-service performance of joints of this type.
Quantify the effect of influence and root concavity on the fatigue performance of laser welded lap joints in thin
gauge zinc coated automotive sheet steel.
Experimental approach
Lap joints were produced using a Laser Ecosse AF8 8kW CO2 laser. The influence of weld imperfections on the
fatigue performance was investigated by comparing good quality welds and welds containing underfill and root
concavity. The welded joints were subjected to fatigue tests and the results compared to data from published
Discussion of results
The fatigue strengths of laser welded lap welds in galvanized and galvannealed sheet steels investigated in this
study were similar to those reported in the literature for similar steels. The present results confirm that the
fatigue strength of laser welded lap joints in zinc coated steel sheet is reduced as a result of the use of a joint
gap. This is attributable to both the increased secondary bending due to the presence of the gap and the
introduction of weld imperfections, such as underfill and root concavity, which are a direct consequence of
having the gap. It would appear from the present test results that of these weld profile imperfections, underfill
had the most significant effect.
The following conclusions can be drawn from the results of this investigation on the fatigue strength of laser
welded lap joints in two zinc coated sheet steels.
1. Good quality welds in both the galvanized and galvannealed sheet steels gave similar results in terms of
fatigue strength.
2. The presence of Category C underfill had only a small effect on the fatigue strength in both sheet steels,
whereas the presence of Category D underfill reduced the fatigue strength by approximately 15%.
3. The presence of both Category C underfill and root concavity resulted in a reduction in the fatigue
strength similar to the presence of Category D underfill.
4. Fatigue data were below the published data for laser welds in uncoated sheet steel but similar to the
published data for laser welds in galvanized sheet steel.
The results demonstrate that whilst the introduction of a gap during the laser welding of lap joints in zinc
coated sheet steel removes porosity, it can lead to the formation of other defects that can reduce the fatigue
strength. Therefore it is recommended that for fatigue sensitive applications, that the stringent Category B in
BS EN ISO 13919-1:1996 is adopted.