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Job knowledge 58:

Welding processes Others


Butt fusion welding of plastics
Introduction
The heating phase, sometimes referred to
as 'bead up', is where the pipe ends are
pressed against a heated plate for a period
of time. This is followed by the 'heat soak'
phase where the pressure is reduced to
just hold the pipe ends on the hot plate.
This allows time for the heat to soak into
the material at the pipe ends.
After the heat soak phase, the hot plate is
removed and the pipe ends brought
together. The time taken to do this is
called 'dwell time' and needs to be as
short as possible. The final phase is the
welding/cooling time, predetermined
subject to pipe diameter and wall
thickness.
Machine set up
Before making any pipe welds, the butt fusion welding machine needs to be checked
for smooth running and set up for the pipe materials to be welded.
Selection of the correct clamps or inserts, ensuring all fixings are tight, to
reduce the possibility of misalignment due to axial movement.
Correct temperature of the hot plate, for the material being welded; this
should be checked with a surface temperature probe and digital thermometer
in several positions after a stabilisation period of at least 20 minutes.
Between welds the hot plate should be covered by a heatproof bag to protect
it from surface contamination and to prevent heat loss.
Check the planer blades used to trim and square the pipe ends; they need to
be sharp, undamaged and firmly fixed to the planer surface to avoid slippage
of the planer during rotation.
Check all moving parts for smooth operation and, if using a hydraulic machine,
check the hoses and fittings for signs of leakage.



Fig.1. Aligning and clamping the
pipes



Preparing the pipe
Prior to welding, correct preparation of the
pipes is necessary. When measuring pipe
lengths, allowance should be made for the
trimming and melting sequences to
guarantee correct lengths after welding.
Before clamping the pipes into the
machine, the ends should be checked for
irregular shape, damage, or embedded
grit. The maximum allowable depth of this
must be less than 10% of the wall
thickness. Damaged or deeply scored pipe
should be discarded. Any loose
contamination can be removed by wiping
the pipe ends with a lint-free cloth on
both inner and outer surfaces.
Once cleaned, the pipes are clamped into
the machine. To help alignment, it is good
practice to clamp the pipes in such a way
that their stamped markings are in line.
This also helps with identification at a
later date if required.
Once securely fitted in the clamps, the pipe ends should be brought into contact
with the rotating planer tool until continuous shavings are cut from each end. The
planing process ensures the pipe ends are smooth and square ready for the
welding phase. Loose shavings should be removed from the machine and inside
the pipes taking care not to touch the planed ends. This ensures that no grease or
dirt is transferred from hands to pipe ends. The pipes should then be checked for
alignment and adjustments made to the clamps where necessary to ensure there
is minimal mismatch in diameter.








Fig.2. Planing the pipe ends so they
are ready for welding



Welding
Before the welding sequence, heating and cooling times and fusion pressures should
be noted for the specific pipe diameter and written down for quick reference during
the welding cycle. Some machines have all the relevant tables on them for
convenience. A timer or stopwatch should be
available for accurate timing.
The heatproof bag should be removed from
the hotplate, and the temperature should
be checked using a digital thermometer
and surface probe.
It is good practice to complete a dummy
weld before undertaking actual welding.
This is to ensure the surface area of the
hotplate in contact with the pipe ends is
totally clean of any dust particles or other
contaminants.
Place the hotplate between the pipe ends,
ensuring that it is properly located and
square to the pipe faces. Move the pipes
into contact with the surface applying an
axial force. The force should be applied
smoothly making sure that the required
pressure is not exceeded. The force needs
to be held securely, allowing the formation
of a bead of molten material around the
pipe.
The bead needs to be even around the pipe
circumference, on both sides of the
hotplate. This is the 'bead up' phase of the
process.
The means of applying the force will vary
with the type of equipment. On certain
types of machine the force will be applied
by mechanical means using a spring loaded
mechanism with the force being maintained
by a locking screw. On other types of
equipment, hydraulic rams are used with
the pressure maintained by switching
valves in the hydraulic power pack.
When the required bead has been achieved,
the pressure is reduced for the heat soak
phase. The pipes rest on the hot plate
which allows the heat to permeate the material, reducing the possibility of cold
welds.
This time will vary subject to pipe diameter and wall thickness, therefore
manufacturers recommended times should be used.





Fig.3. The hotplate is positioned
between the pipes

Fig.4. Bead formation needs to be
monitored carefully



When this phase is completed, the pipe faces
are moved away from the hotplate as
smoothly as possible to ensure that none of
the molten bead sticks to the surface and
the hotplate is removed. The pipes are then
brought together as smoothly and quickly as
possible to minimise the possibility of
temperature drop, taking care not to exceed
the required force.
The welding/cooling phase begins when the
required force has been achieved. The weld
force should be maintained throughout this
phase, to ensure maximum weld strength
On completion of the cooling time, the
pressure can be reduced to zero, and the
pipe removed from the clamps. The
finished weld can now be visually inspected
for uniformity and alignment.








This article was written by Andy Knight.
E-mail: andy.knight@twi.co.
Copyright 2004 TWI Ltd
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Fig.5. The pipes should be kept
clamped during the
welding/cooling phase