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Weldability of Steel

Weldability is the capacity of a material to be welded under a specific set of fabrication and design conditions and to perform as expected during its service life. Generally speaking, weldability is considered very good for low-carbon steel (carbon level, < 0.15% by weight), good for mild steel (carbon level, 0.15 to 0.30%), fair for medium-carbon steel (carbon level, 0.30 to 0.50%), and questionable for high-carbon steel (carbon level, 0.50 to 1.00%). Because weldability normally decreases with increasing carbon content, special precautions such as preheating, controlling heat input, and postweld heat treating are normally required for steel with a carbon content reaching 0.30%. In addition to carbon content, the presence of other alloying elements will have an effect on weldability. In lieu of more accurate data, the table below can be used as a guide to determine the weldability of steel [Blodgett, undated].

Element
Range for Satisfactory Weldability (%)
Level Requiring Special Care (%)
Carbon
0.06–0.25
0.35
Manganese
0.35–0.80
1.40
Silicon
0.10 max.
0.30
Sulfur
0.035 max.
0.050
Phosphorus
0.030 max.
0.040

A quantitative approach to determine the weldability of steel is to calculate its carbon equivalent value. One definition of the carbon equivalent value Ceq is




A steel is considered weldable if Ceq 0.50% for steel in which the carbon content does not exceed 0.12%, and if Ceq 0.45% for steel in which the carbon content exceeds 0.12%.

The above equation indicates that the presence of alloying elements decreases the weldability of steel. An example of high-alloy steels is stainless steel. There are three types of stainless steel: austenitic, martensitic, and ferritic. Austenitic stainless steel is the most weldable, but care must be exercised to prevent thermal distortion, because heat dissipation is only about one third as fast as it is in plain carbon steel. Martensitic steel is also weldable, but prone to cracking because of its high ability to harden. Preheating and the maintaining of an interpass temperature are often needed, especially when the carbon content is above 0.10%. Ferritic steel is weldable, but decreased ductility and toughness in the weld area can present a problem. Preheating and postweld annealing may be required to minimize these undesirable effects.

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