Laser welding and cladding : the effects of defects on fatigue behaviour

Abstract: The thesis focuses on weld defects in laser processed materials (for laser welding, laser hybrid arc welding and laser cladding) and their effect on the fatigue life of components. Component properties were studied with particular emphasis on the macro and micro surface geometry, weld defects and clad defects. The influence of these defects on fatigue life was analyzed by; the nominal and effective notch stress method, fatigue life prediction using Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics (LEFM), fatigue testing, metallurgical analysis, fractography, elastic and elastic-plastic Finite Element Analysis (FEA). A simplified Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) analysis was also carried out to better understand the formation of undercuts during the welding process. The main objective is to gain an understanding of the impact of laser weld and clad defects on the fatigue behaviour of components.In the first two papers, fatigue testing involving the bending of laser hybrid arc welded eccentric fillet joints was carried out. Based on measurements of the weld surface geometry the crack initiation location and the crack propagation path were studied, experimentally and in conjunction with FE stress analysis. The competing criteria of throat depth and stress raising by the weld toe radii and by the surface ripples are explained, showing that the topology of surface ripples can be critical to fatigue behaviour. LEFM analysis was conducted to study the effect of Lack of Fusion (LOF) on fatigue life. Cracking starts and propagates preferentially from the lower toe of the top surface for this eccentric weld, even in cases of LOF. In the third paper two-dimensional linear elastic FEA was carried out for laser welding of a high strength steel beam. The impact of the geometrical aspects of joint design and of the weld root geometry on the fatigue performance was studied. Critical geometrical aspects were classified and then studied by FE-analysis with respect to their impact on the fatigue behaviour. In the fourth paper the melt pool flow behaviour during the laser hybrid arc welding process was analyzed by CFD simulation. The melt velocity behind the keyhole was measured from high speed imaging as a starting value for the simulation. It was found that a high speed flow in the thin topmost layer of the melt transferred its momentum to an underlying flow which is faster than the welding speed and this delays the lifting of the depressed melt.In the fifth and sixth papers FEA of different macro stress fields and of stress raisers produced by defects was studied in laser clad surfaces for four different fatigue load conditions. Defects were categorized into zero-, one- and two-dimensional types. Pores intersecting or just beneath the surface initiated fatigue cracking, accompanied by two circular buckling patterns. For a four-point bending load involving a surface pore on a spherical rod, the critical range of azimuthal angle was identified to be 55º. The performance of as-clad surfaces was found to be governed by the sharpness of surface notches. Planar defects like hot cracks or LOF are most critical if oriented vertically, transverse to the bar axis. A generalized theory was established, showing that the combination of the macro stress field with the defect type, position and orientation, determines whether it is the most critical stress raiser.