Welding of Ti-6Al-4V: Influence of welding process and alloy composition on microstructure and properties

Abstract: Titanium alloys are widely used for components in the fan and compressor sections of aeroengines mainly because of their superior strength-to-weight ratio. Large static compressor components can be manufactured by welding together smaller subcomponents, which has potential to provide benefits such as higher buy-to-fly ratio and improved performance of the components. This is the background for why welding and the mechanical properties of welds have been investigated in this project. The aim of the work was to study what kind of microstructures and defects are formed in welding of Ti-6Al-4V with different welding processes and how these aspects affect the mechanical properties of the welds. Furthermore, the influence of chemical composition of the alloy on the formation of microstructures and defects was studied. The welding processes compared were electron beam welding, laser beam welding, plasma arc welding and TIG welding. High energy beam welding processes rendered a finer weld microstructure in comparison to the coarser microstructure produced by arc welding processes. The finer weld microstructure was found to be beneficial for tensile ductility and low cycle fatigue performance. Porosity was observed in welds produced by all the processes. Large pores and pores located close to the specimen surface the most detrimental to the fatigue strength.  Fatigue life in the welds produced by arc weld processes was more sensitive to porosity than in the high energy beam welds. The finer microstructure has a higher resistance to micro crack initiation and growth which contributed to the better fatigue performance of welds produced by electron beam welding and laser beam welding. The alloy composition had a significant influence on the microstructure of the welds and the formation of defects. A small boron addition induced significant grain refinement in weld in boron alloyed material. Narrow columnar prior-β grains were formed in the fusion zones of the boron alloyed welds. The α colonies and α plates were also refined, as compared to the standard Ti-6Al-4V welds. In the cast base material, the TiB particles were located along the prior-β grain boundaries restricting the grain growth in the heat affected zone. In the fusion zone of welds, TiB particles had decreased in size and formed networks of stripes along the interdendritic regions. EBSD combined with prior-β grain reconstruction was an effective method to reveal the prior-β grain structure in the different weld zones. A significant batch to batch variation in amount of porosity was observed in laser welding of Ti-6Al-4V. The most significant factors affecting formation of porosity were the material batch, pulse length and welding speed. The material batches that were most susceptible to formation of porosity had increased amount of carbon and oxygen. The formation of porosity could be minimized in all material batches by optimizing the welding parameters.