- Review Article
- Open Access
Welding of dissimilar non-ferrous metals by GMAW processes
© Mvola et al.; licensee Springer 2014
Received: 2 September 2014
Accepted: 26 September 2014
Published: 17 October 2014
For many years, the manufacturing industry has shown interest in the opportunities offered by welding of dissimilar metals. The need for appropriate and effective techniques has increased in recent decades because of efforts to build light and strong vehicles with reduced fuel consumption. In addition, the thermal conductivity, corrosion resistance, and recyclability are other reasons to weld dissimilar non-ferrous metal. Early gas metal arc welding (GMAW) processes had limited control of the heat input, a prerequisite for effective welding of dissimilar metals, but the advanced GMAW processes of the past decades offer new perspectives. The objective of this paper is to review the main principles of the fusion welding of dissimilar metals. The study briefly investigates the challenges in welding the main possible combination of categories of non-ferrous metal. Some experiments performed on dissimilar metals using GMAW processes are then reviewed, highlighting those made using advanced GMAW processes. The study collates data from the scientific literature on fusion dissimilar metal welding (DMW), advanced GMAW processes, and experiments conducted with conventional GMAW. The study shows that the welding procedure specification is a crucial factor in DMW. Advanced GMAW processes have significant potential in the fusion welding of dissimilar non-ferrous metals of different grades. Accurate control of the heat input allows more effective prediction of the intermetallic properties and better control of post-heat treatments. Increased understanding of advanced GMAW processes will permit the development of more accurate specifications of welding procedures for DMW. Process flexibility and adaptability to robotic mass production will allow a wider range of applications and the avoidance of costly alternative methods.
Welding of dissimilar metals has become a critical technology in many areas, for example, Mg-Al for weight reduction in motor vehicles (Praveen and Yarlagadda 2005; Aizawa et al. 2007). Effective integration of efficient quality welding technologies for dissimilar metals will be a key component in the successful weld quality of transportation and power plant systems in the future (Hwan-Tae and Sang-Cheol 2012; Budkin 2011). The welding of dissimilar metals by melting one of the metals is efficient if the welding conditions that determine the duration of the interaction between the solid and liquid metal are strictly controlled (Budkin 2011).
The feasibility of welding processes and the properties of welded joints are influenced by many factors, for example, the alloyed element migration, the microstructure gradient, and residual stress across the different regions of the weld metal (Praveen and Yarlagadda 2005; Sun and Karppi 1996). If the welding process is not well controlled, weld defects, such as excessive dilution, cracks, and residual stresses, may develop in the weld metal, which may lead to a considerable decrease in the weld metal properties. The process of joining dissimilar metals is very sensitive because reactions between metal composition atoms can yield extremely brittle intermetallic compounds (IMCs). Friction stir welding (Aonuma and Nakata 2010), laser welding (Borrisutthekul et al. 2005), and laser-TIG (Liu et al. 2006) hybrid welding processes have been used to join dissimilar metals. Unfortunately, these methods involve expensive equipment and complex welding procedures (Zhang and Song 2011).
This paper aims to investigate and identify key improvements in the mechanical properties and microstructure compounds of dissimilar ferrous and non-ferrous metal welds. The information helps lay a baseline for advanced welding process specifications and demonstrates the potentially significant contribution that advanced gas metal arc welding (GMAW) processes can bring to this category of welding.
The study gathers key data from scientific publications related to dissimilar metal welding with both traditional GMAW processes and the latest innovations of advanced GMAW. The analysis is carried out by assessing the significant progress in joint quality made over the past decades as a result of advanced process GMAW. The paper discusses the results obtained, provides guidance on applications, and evaluates the benefits that may accrue from yet unexplored combinations. This study contributes to the development of improved welding procedure specifications for dissimilar metals welded with advanced GMAW processes.
Dissimilar metal welding
Considerations for welding procedures (O'Brien 2011 )
- In contrast to similar material welding, the differences between the base metal and the weld metal must be carefully analyzed.
- The most important consideration is the weld metal composition and its properties.
- The combination of metal joints depends upon the mechanical and physical properties, microstructural stability, and resistance to oxidation and corrosion in-service.
- The mechanical and physical properties of the weld metal as well as those of the two heat-affected zones must be suited for the intended service.
Filler metal selection
- The selected filler metal must be compatible with the base metals to be joined so that the four major areas (metallurgical compatibility, mechanical properties, physical properties, corrosion properties) of requirements are met by the welds produced.
- Filler metal selection can best be accomplished by using a combination of scientific principles and manufacturing and service experience of the industrial disciplines involved.
- Because of its effect on the dilution and heat input, welding process selection constitutes an important factor in dissimilar metal welding. In GMAW, the metal transfer control and the shielding gases need to be determined.
Difficulties in dissimilar non-ferrous metal welding
Combinations of DMW of non-ferrous metals
Aluminum to titanium
This combination has not been accomplished successfully by conventional arc welding processes.
These metals form intermetallic compounds during fusion that are exceedingly brittle (Ti3Al, TiAl, and TiAl3).
Titanium to nickel
An attempt to weld Ti and Ni using TIG was not successful. However, the use of columbium or copper alloy as an insert led to a joint without harmful intermetallic compounds.
These metals form brittle intermetallic compounds with almost every element contained in the alloys (Ni, Fe, Cr, Mn, and Si).
Titanium to copper
The joints with the highest tensile strength and ductility were those produced with Ti-30Cb and Ti-3Al-6.5Mo-11Cr
The physical properties of titanium differ greatly from those of copper.
Mikhailov et al. (1965)
The solubility of copper in α-titanium is low.
Copper to aluminum
Before GMAW welding, a layer of a silver-based filler metal (Ag-15.5Cu-17.5Zn-18Cd) was deposited on the surfaces of the copper work piece.
The use of this combination is limited by the formation of brittle intermetallic compounds during the fusion process.
The chemical compound CuAl2 contains 54.1% copper and will form a eutectic reaction with a solid solution of copper in aluminum.
Copper alloys to nickel
Copper and nickel are mutually soluble in each other.
Welding these two metals and their alloys does not present serious problems.
Copper-nickel or nickel-copper filler can be used.
Magnesium to aluminum
Due to the brittleness of the intermetallic compound, the intermetallic formation has to be controlled and kept as low as possible.
The intermetallic compound is found in the phase diagram between Mg and Al: Al2Mg2, Al12Mg17, and Al30Mg23, even at relatively low temperatures.
There is a small difference in the melting point between magnesium and aluminum.
Aluminum and titanium fusion welds form intermetallic compounds (TiAl3, Ti2Al20) that are exceedingly brittle, which decreases the mechanical properties of Ti/Al joint. An improvement in welding technology and proper filler wire (Al-Cu-La wire) has resulted in tensile strength enhancement (Korenyuk 1975).
Titanium is difficult to fusion weld to a nickel base alloy because it forms brittle intermetallic compounds with almost every element contained in such alloys (Ni, Fe, Cr, Mn, and Si). However, the use of buttering (columbium or copper alloy) and better control of welding parameters can improve mechanical properties of the joint (Gorin 1964; Lv et al. 2012).
The physical properties of titanium differ greatly from those of copper. Moreover, the solubility of copper in α-titanium is low. The joint with pure copper and titanium alloy (Ti-30b and Ti-3Al-6.5Mo-11Cr) and titanium- and copper-based alloy (Cu-0.8Cr) exhibited the best tensile strength and ductility (Mikhailov et al. 1965).
Aluminum to copper dissimilar welds are also limited by the formation of brittle intermetallic compounds. The weld with GMAW can be successful with a buttering of silver-based metal and a consumable aluminum-based metal (Cook and Stavish 1956).
Magnesium-aluminum fusion welding results to intermetallic compounds (Al3Mg2, Al12Mg17, and Al30Mg23) (Zeng et al. 2001). Due to brittleness of intermetallic compounds (IMCs), the intermetallic compound formation has to be controlled and kept at their minimum possible during welding process (O'Brien 2011).
An abundant literature focuses on gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), laser beam welding (LBW), and friction stir welding (FSW). Although the productivity of GTAW is less than that of GMAW, and LBW and FSW are expensive and not very versatile, the research gives an indication of the properties of the joints formed and allows for an objective analysis by making possible a comparison with available experience of advanced GMAW processes.
Dissimilar welding of aluminum and magnesium
Dissimilar welding of aluminum grades
Welding of aluminum of different grades is of interest in several manufacturing industries. In vehicle manufacture, for example, it can constitute an alternative to dissimilar metal welding of steel to aluminum, the aim of which is to reduce the weight and fuel consumption of the structure (Hirsch 1996). In shipbuilding, the high corrosion resistance and specific properties of aluminum are considered desirable: for example, single- and multiple-hull high-speed ferries employ several aluminum alloys in sheet and plate section all welded together (Kaufman 2003).
Pulsed GMAW for welding 6061 and 7075 (EN AW-AlZn5.5MgCu according to EN 573-3) alloys in various combinations was investigated by Sevim et al. (2012). Their study used an advanced synergic pulsed GMAW process that applies a digital power source with software to control the welding operation. It was shown that pre-welding aging heat treatment improves the mechanical properties of the weld.
The effects of the pulsed current of GTAW and post-weld aging treatment on the tensile properties of argon arc-welded high-strength 7075 Al alloy were studied in Balasubramanian et al. (2007). The enhancement in strength was approximately 25%, compared with continuous current gas metal arc welding joints, and an additional enhancement in strength of 8% to 10% was obtained by the post-weld aging treatment. In addition, the pulsed current effect on 6061 Al was investigated in Kumar et al. (2007), where it was found to improve the mechanical properties of the welds compared to continuous current welds due to grain refinement occurring in the fusion zone.
Dissimilar welding of aluminum and copper
Interest in welding aluminum and copper is due to the need to optimize the characteristics of high-power electronics systems. Copper provides excellent electrical conductivity, even though it is expensive. Aluminum has good electrical conductivity, is affordable, and lighter than copper. The association of both metals could result in significant cost savings. Moreover, the use in motor vehicles of auxiliary motors and other electronic devices is increasing with the growing popularity of hybrid systems; the cables and cable systems in such arrangements weigh about 15 to 45 kg (Wetzel 2012). Thus far, very little attention has been paid to GMAW processes in the welding of aluminum and copper, although new advanced GMAW technology potentially offers significant gains.
Dissimilar welding of copper and magnesium
Dissimilar joining of magnesium alloys to copper is of great industrial significance for it allows design engineers to utilize the excellent properties of both materials. An effective joint of copper and magnesium not only meets the requirements of heat conduction, electrical conduction, wear resistance, and corrosion resistance but also satisfies the demand for light weight and high strength. Therefore, this joint may have broad application prospects, among others, in the aerospace, shipbuilding, and instrument fields.
Dissimilar welding of titanium and copper
Dissimilar welds between titanium and copper may have broad application in the aerospace, shipbuilding, and instrument fields. However, the mutual solubility of titanium and copper is limited. Moreover, because of the large differences between the thermophysical properties of the two materials and the formation of brittle Ti-Cu IMCs at elevated temperatures, the joining of titanium to copper is a great challenge.
Joining a titanium alloy to a copper alloy has been investigated for various processes, for instance, mechanical, solid state, fusion, and brazing joining. For example, Shiue et al. (2004a, b) reported the microstructure and properties of joints between commercial pure titanium plate and oxygen-free copper plate by infrared brazing. The joint was primarily composed of Cu4Ti and Cu2Ti phases, and three interface reaction layers, CuTi2, CuTi, and Cu4Ti3, were observed after infrared brazing.
Dissimilar welding of titanium and nickel
Due to the excellent characteristics of good corrosion resistance, high strength, and creep resistance, titanium alloys have been widely used in the industry. One of the biggest application areas is in the aerospace industries, for instance, as static and rotating components in turbine engines. Nickel alloys of high-temperature ability are also widely used in the aerospace industries. Their superior mechanical properties and oxidation resistance at elevated temperatures make nickel alloys suitable for high-temperature aero engines and gas turbines.
A lot of research has been conducted into welding both materials by laser-based processes (Chatterjee et al. 2006; Chen et al. 2010); however, no systematic studies have so far been done concerning the use of advanced adaptive GMAW, although unsuccessful joints were reported by conventional GTAW (Gorin 1964). The progress achieved with the application of laser welding and other studies focusing on the microstructure of Ti/Ni DMW provide pertinent information for forecasting possible results if heat input is carefully controlled.
Comparison and benefit
Comparison of advanced GMAW concepts when used in DMW
Effect on the joint
Observations of applicability
Advanced and adaptive GMAW
Wave form control
If restricted to the wave form, the technique may only affect control of heat input and stability of the arc.
-Thickness control of IMCs
Very good capability
-Better heat treatment
Wave form and filler control
If restricted to the wave form and alternative wire motion, the technique may only affect control of heat input and stability of the arc.
-Thickness control of IMCs
High, excellent capability
-Better heat treatment
Limitations in control dramatically affect control of heat input, stability of the arc, and regulation of the flow gas.
-Highest thickness IMCs
-Difficult to manage heat treatment
This study investigated advanced and adaptive GMAW processes as applied to dissimilar welding and discussed fusion welding of dissimilar non-ferrous metal to improve welding procedure specifications. Based on the review of previous studies, the following conclusions can be drawn:
The welding quality of dissimilar non-ferrous metals is enhanced by using an appropriate process. Mg/Al dissimilar metals could be successfully joined by CMT welding, with pure copper as a filler metal. A variety of Al-Cu intermetallic compounds were formed, and the bonding strength of the joint was 34.7 MPa. Fractures occurred in the fusion zone of the Mg side, where the value of micro-hardness was highest. The fractures occurred in locations with embrittlement compounds. AZ31 magnesium and 2B50 wrought aluminum alloys were successfully fusion-welded using an advanced GMAW CP.
The melting zone and HAZ of the GMAW welds had different widths with heat-treated 6061 and 7075 alloys in various combinations. The hardness value of the welded metals can increase significantly depending on the aging temperature and time. The tensile strength and hardness values of the weld increase with the intermetallic formation accomplished. Joining aluminum and magnesium alloys is feasible with zinc foil as the interlayer, the presence of which prevents weld burn-through and macroscopic cracking.
Welding of Al-Cu dissimilar joints using GMAW processes has not been studied intensively, although potential cost savings in car construction are significant. The occurrence of the intermetallic phase cannot be avoided; however, the use of advanced technology can reduce the interface layer thickness. A matching electrode or an interface matching material could be used to mitigate the intermetallic phase. The expected result would increase the tensile strength of the joint.
Welding of Cu-Mg joints can be successfully achieved directly between both metals; however, the joint is weakened as a result of intermetallic phases - the larger the intermetallic compound layer, the weaker the joint. The properties of the welded metals can improve significantly if the IMC layers are kept at the minimum. An alternative to weld directly Cu to Mg will be to use an iron interface between both metals, which increases the strength of the weld joint.
Ti and Cu can be welded successfully by advanced welding GMAW technology. When applied on a lap joint, the process results in acceptable joint properties in terms of the mechanical properties and low diffusion of the intermetallic compound. The position of the base metal affected the weld appearance. The weld with Cu on top provided a better bead appearance, whereas when it was put on the bottom, the dilution crossed the thin plate section.
Ti and Ni have been successfully welded by the laser process. Available experience does not give enough information directly related to the GMAW process that is applicable to both metals. Studies have given some indication about the evolution of the microstructure of Ti-Ni dissimilar metal welds, and it has been shown that the NiTi solid stage phase has excellent ductility. However, prediction of the occurrence of IMCs during welding is not straightforward. The success of the Ti-Ni joint relies on restriction of intermetallic diffusion. Thus, by using the ability of advanced GMAW to control the heat input, it can be expected that the IMC interface layer could be kept at a minimum.
Fusion welding of dissimilar non-ferrous metals is very difficult for most combinations because there are only few solid-state compounds in the binary diagram phases. The conventional GMAW process produces variable non-ferrous welds because of poor quality control of heat input and arc stability. Inadequate control does not allow the process to meet the narrow range of solubility between non-ferrous metals (e.g., Al/Ti, Ti/Ni, and Al/Mg). Enhanced control found with advanced GMAW gives the possibility to define and meet the welding parameters required. Best results are achieved by significantly reducing the intermetallic compound layers.
Selection of the welding process is a key factor when welding dissimilar non-ferrous because the heat input affects dilution and alloy element migration. The greater flexibility and sensitivity of adaptive GMAW allow a reduction in the dilution and residual stress caused by differences in the thermal coefficients.
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