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Materials and Design 103 (2016) 6370

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Materials and Design


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/matdes

Microstructure and mechanical properties of ultrasonic assisted


underwater wet welding joints
Q.J. Sun a,b,, W.Q. Cheng b, Y.B. Liu a,b, J.F. Wang a,b, C.W. Cai c, J.C. Feng a,b
a
b
c

State Key Laboratory of Advanced Welding and Joining, Harbin Institute of Technology, No. 92 West Dazhi Street, Harbin 150001, China
Shandong Provincial Key Laboratory of Special Welding Technology, Harbin Institute of Technology at Weihai, No. 2 Wenhuaxi Road, Weihai 264209, China
School of Information and Electrical Engineering, Harbin Institute of Technology at Weihai, No. 2 Wenhuaxi Road, Weihai 264209, China

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 26 February 2016
Received in revised form 5 April 2016
Accepted 6 April 2016
Available online 11 April 2016
Keywords:
Underwater welding
FCAW
Ultrasonic
Microstructure
Mechanical properties

a b s t r a c t
A new weld method, ultrasonic assisted underwater wet welding process (U-FCAW), was explored in order to
achieve high performance welding joints. The addition of ultrasonic can form an acoustic eld between the workpiece and the ultrasonic radiator. The joints were welded by ultrasonic assisted underwater wet welding process
(U-FCAW) and underwater ux cored arc welding (FCAW), respectively. The effect of ultrasonic on the arc stability, microstructure and mechanical properties, such as tensile, bending and hardness distribution, was investigated. The results indicated that arc stability improved when ultrasonic was applied. The amount of
martensite (M) and upper bainite (BU) was decreased, while the granular bainite (BG) and acicular ferrite
(AF) increased, when ultrasonic was applied during welding. The tensile strength and the bending properties
were substantially enhanced. The fracture occurrence of the welded joints during tensile testing was transferred
from the joint to base metal, compared to FCAW. A 46% and 48% increase was found in the tensile strength of the
upper and lower layers, respectively. The maximum angle during bending test was increased from 21 to 84.
2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
Underwater wet welding is widely used in offshore industries such as
marine construction, engineering pipelines repairing and nuclear power
plants. It is performed in water without using any additional auxiliary
equipment and has a lower cost compared to other underwater
welding methods [1]. However, underwater wet welding has its
limitations, mainly attributed to the poor arc stability and high martensite content, therefore, resulting to low tensile strength and poor
bending resistance [2].
Previous studies on underwater wet welding have been focused on
the metallurgical aspects of the welds, obtained with different compositions of the electrode rod, coating or waterproof materials [35]. Santos
et al. developed the oxyrutile electrode for AWSD3.6 Class A welds, combining lower porosity and superior performance regarding toughness
and ductility [6]. N. Guo et al. studied the effect of Ni on the microstructure and mechanical properties of underwater wet welded joints. It
was found that the addition of Ni was helpful for suppressing the formation of the coarse strip PF in the columnar grain zone of the
welded metal [7]. In addition, some researchers have attempted to
use auxiliary equipment to improve underwater wet joint properties
[89]. Fydrych et al. used the temper bead welding technique to
Corresponding author at: Shandong Provincial Key Laboratory of Special Welding
Technology, Harbin Institute of Technology at Weihai, NO.2 West Culture Road, Weihai
264209, PR China.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.matdes.2016.04.019
0264-1275/ 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

improve steel weldability in water environment and decreased the


maximum hardness of heat-affected zone of S355J2G3 steel joints
from over 400 HV10 to below 350 HV10 [10]. H. T. Zhang et al. developed the real-time induction heating-assisted underwater wet welding
method, decreasing the content of martensite and upper bainite (BU)
phases and increasing the pro-eutectoid ferrite and acicular ferrite
phases, thereby improving the mechanical properties of the wet welded
joint [11]. Gao et al. proposed the grinding + underwater ultrasonic impact treatment (UUIT) method and improved fatigue performance by
61% to 217 MPa [12].
Ultrasonic assisted underwater wet welding was developed in this
paper. Ultrasonic is a type of high frequency mechanical wave, which
was widely used in traditional welding, operating in air and has a positive effect on welded joints. The weld microstructure was rened when
ultrasonic wave was directly applied on the workpiece [1316]. The
welding arc was altered and the weld penetration increased when ultrasonic was used in TIG welding [1719]. When ultrasonic was applied in
GMAW method, the ultrasonic was applied on the metal transfer process by means of an acoustic eld formed in air around the arc. The
metal transfer frequency increased with the radiation force was brought
into the metal transfer process [2021]. Although ultrasonic assisted
welding process performed in air conditions was examined by many
previous studies, there is little discussion focused on the ultrasonic
assisted underwater wet welding. Moreover, there are almost no reports on the effects of ultrasonic assisted underwater wet welding on
arc stability and mechanical properties of welded joints, during real-

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Q.J. Sun et al. / Materials and Design 103 (2016) 6370

time welding process. Water has higher density than air does, therefore,
the ultrasonic wave would have a more effective propagation in water.
Since the ultrasonic wave can generate a more effective acoustic eld,
the bubbles generated during wet welding process could stay for a longer time under the ultrasonic radiation force, which could therefore improve the stability of the arc in the bubbles. The microstructure and
mechanical properties of welded joints could be improved as a result
of the increased arc stability. Thus, ultrasonic assisted underwater wet
welding should be comprehensively investigated to understand these
effects on the underwater wet welded joints.
The aim of the present work is to study the ultrasonic assisted underwater wet welding (U-FCAW). In this study, E40 steel was welded
by ultrasonic assisted underwater wet welding (U-FCAW) and traditional underwater ux cored arc welding (FCAW) respectively. The arc
stability was studied and the microstructures of weld center and fusion
zone are analyzed. The tensile and bending properties, and the hardness
distribution were also investigated.
Fig. 1. Schematic of ultrasonic assisted underwater wet welding (U-FCAW).

2. Materials and experimental procedures


3. Results and discussion
The base metal was E40 steel with dimensions of 200 50 8 mm. A
single-V weld groove was performed with a 30 angle with a 2-mm root
face and 2-mm root opening. The ller material was E81T1-ClA4-Ni2 of
AWS A5.36, which the diameter is 1.2 mm. The chemical compositions
of base metal and ller material are shown in Table 1.
The schematic of ultrasonic assisted underwater wet welding (UFCAW) is shown in Fig. 1. The equipment includes a welding system,
an ultrasonic system and a composite welding torch. The composite
welding torch can be divided into an ultrasonic transducer, an ultrasonic
radiator and a wire conductive rod. The ultrasonic transducer transforms electrical signals into ultrasonic vibration and the wavelength is
amplied by the ultrasonic radiator. The ultrasonic wave emits from
the bottom of the ultrasonic radiator. The welding wire is fed through
the wire conductive rod, which is in the axial hole of the ultrasonic
transducer and ultrasonic radiator.
The welding process was carried out by ultrasonic assisted underwater wet welding (U-FCAW) and traditional underwater ux cored arc
welding (FCAW) under the same welding parameters. The welding current was 170 A and the arc voltage was 36 V. The welding process was
performed in fresh water at a depth of 0.3 m. The ultrasonic frequency
was set at 15 kHz. The radiation height (H) (the distance between the
ultrasonic radiator and the workpiece) is an important ultrasonic parameter, related to the ultrasonic eld. Ultrasonic assisted arc welding
studies examined the effects of different radiation height (H) on ultrasonic eld and welding quality in air conditions [17,20]. Hence, the result could show the effect of radiation height (H) on the arc stability
and the process of weld formation, then, the optimum parameters can
be selected.
The arc was obtained by a high speed camera (Olympus ISPEED3,
Japan). The morphology of the microstructure of the fractured surfaces
was observed by optical microscopy (Olympus GX51, Japan). The tensile
and bending tests were conducted on a universal testing machine
(WOW-50, China) with a capacity of 30 kN, at room temperature. The
fracture analysis was performed by scanning electron microscopy
(TESCAN VEGA) and the corresponding energy dispersive X-ray spectra
were attached. The hardness tests were performed on a universal testing machine (HVST-1000Z, China).

Table 1
Chemical composition of base metal and ller material (wt.%).

E40
E81T1-ClA4-Ni2

Mn

Si

Cr

Ni

0.15
0.058

1.06
1.06

0.25
0.34

0.13
0.012

0.65
0.0057

0.04
0.021

0.01
2.37

3.1. Arc stability


The arc morphology was observed by a high-speed camera. Fig. 2
shows the method of image processing of the arc. A lower contrasted
area is around the arc, as shown in Fig. 2(a). In order to achieve a clear
welding arc, the iterative threshold method was developed to process
the binary image. Fig. 2(b) is the arc image after processing. Fig. 3
shows the arc image of different radiation height (H) values. It can be
observed from Fig. 3 that the FCAW welding is an unstable process.
The arc that was affected by ambient water is relatively easy to extinguish, leading to a serpentine weld. However, the arc of U-FCAW
welding process becomes more stable, especially when the radiation
height (H) ranges from 50 mm to 70 mm, where the arc size actually decreases uniformly. The serpentine phenomenon in the weld formation
disappears when the radiation height (H) is lower than 70 mm. However, weld spattering increases as the radiation height (H) decreases. In
underwater wet welding, the bubbles induced by water vapor and
gases can isolate the arc from the surrounding water. The arc burn in
bubble during welding process. The bubble is detached and rise up in
the water periodically, due to the difference of gas and water densities,
during the underwater wet welding process. Consequently, the arc extinguishes when the bubble detaches from the molten pool and the
new bubble has yet not increased in size. Ultrasonic can provide an additional downward force, thus decreasing the detachment rate of the
bubble. The time of instability is signicantly decreased as a result of a
lower arc extinguish rate. Arc stability is clearly improved with the
use of ultrasonic and the weld formation has been improved at a certain
height of the radiator (H) region.
3.2. Cross section parameters
Fig. 4 demonstrates the effect of ultrasonic radiation height (H) on
weld geometry. The colorful bar in the image shows the average weld
width, reinforcement and penetration of FCAW. The pink line describes
the penetration that varies with ultrasonic radiation height (H). The
penetration was substantially increased when the ultrasonic wave was
applied in the underwater wet welding process. The penetration was increased up to 126% when the radiation height (H) was 20 mm. With the
assistance of the ultrasonic, the arc extinction was decreased, a downward ultrasonic force and increased heat input lead to the increased
penetration. The red line shows the weld width of different radiation
height (H). Ultrasonic has some inuence on weld width, which can increase it by 20% when the radiation height (H) is 20 mm. The blue line
represents the reinforcement of the U-FCAW welded joint. Compared

Q.J. Sun et al. / Materials and Design 103 (2016) 6370

65

Fig. 2. The method of image processing of the arc. (a) Unprocessed arc picture; (b) processed arc picture.

Fig. 3. Arc image of different radiation height (H) values.

to the blue bar, the reinforcement has decreased by up to 16% when the
radiation height (H) is 100 mm. Thus, combining the above results of
weld formation, the optimum radiation height (H) is 70 mm, in which
the minimum weld spattering and the maximum arc stability can be obtained. Thus, the results of the microstructure and mechanical properties have been conducted at a 70 mm of the radiation height (H =
70 mm).

welded joint is composed of pro-eutectoid ferrite (PF), granular bainite


(BG) and acicular ferrite (AF), as presented in Fig. 5(b). With the assistance of ultrasonic, the prior austenite grain size grows up and the

3.3. Microstructure
The microstructures of welded metal with the different welding
methods are presented in Fig. 5. It can be observed from Fig. 5(a) that
the FCAW welded metal is composed by pro-eutectoid ferrite (PF),
upper bainite (BU) and martensite (M). Some granular pro-eutectoid
ferrite (PF), with a width of 1020 m, is distributed at the boundaries
of the austenite-ferrite interface. The cooling rate of the molten metal
increases signicantly with the water quenching. An amount of side
plate ferrite (SPF) grows into the austenite-ferrite interface. These parallel ferritic plates are mixed with the cementite form the upper bainite
(BU). Upper bainite (BU) and martensite (M) are directional phases,
which will induce the degradation of toughness of welded metal and
deteriorate mechanical properties. The microstructure of U-FCAW

Fig. 4. The effect of ultrasonic radiation height (H) on weld geometry.

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Fig. 5. The microstructure of welded metal with different welding methods (a) FCAW welded metal, (b) U-FCAW welded metal.

Fig. 6. The microstructure of weld interface with different welding methods (a) FCAW weld interface, (b) U-FCAW weld interface.

microstructure in the welded metal has changed. The granular proeutectoid ferrite (PF), with the width of 1020 m, transforms to strip
pro-eutectoid ferrite (PF), with the width of 510 m. Upper bainite
(BU) is decreased and is replaced by granular bainite (BG). The lath

martensite (M) disappears, while the acicular ferrite (AF) appears. As


the austenite is cooled below 900 C, ferrite nucleates at the austenite
grain boundary between 770 C680 C and then grows inwards. This
ferrite is called pro-eutectoid ferrite (PF). When the temperature

Fig. 7. The fracture position of tensile specimens of the welded joints.

Fig. 8. Typical fracture surface of different welding methods (a) FCAW, (b) U-FCAW.

Q.J. Sun et al. / Materials and Design 103 (2016) 6370

67

Fig. 9. The dimensions of the layered welded joints tensile specimens and the position of the specimen extraction.

continues to decrease between 700 C650 C, the ferrite continues to


nucleate inwards, in a lath ferrite morphology. This lath ferrite has a
poor toughness due to the high density of dislocations. When the temperature was decreased to 500 C, the transformation of acicular ferrite
appears. However, with the increasing cooling rate, atomic diffusion is
limited, bainite is formed at 550 C-Ms and martensite is formed
under Ms [11]. Ultrasonic can improve arc stability, as a result of the decrease in the arc extinguishment. The cooling rate of molten pool decreases, as the arc continues burning, thus the transformation of
bainite and martensite decrease and the transformation of acicular ferrite increase. The acicular ferrite has excellent plasticity and toughness.
The mechanical properties were satisfactory, compared with traditional
underwater weld metal.
Fig. 6 shows the microstructure of the weld interface with and without ultrasonic assisted. The red line indicates the weld interface of the
joint. It can be observed from Fig. 6(a) that lath martensite (M) and
Widmansttten (W) structure are the primary structures in the coarse
grained HAZ. The ferrite is initially precipitated in the coarse grained
austenite grain boundary, and then grows into the austenite in the
form of a reticular structure. These structures provide a path for crack
growth, the mechanical properties of the joint were deteriorated. However, with the assistance of ultrasonic, granular bainite (BG) and acicular ferrite (AF) appear and grain coarsening is inhibited, as shown in
Fig. 6(b), decreasing the tendency to crack formation.
3.4. Mechanical properties
The mechanical properties of both FCAW welded joints (1#) and UFCAW welded joints (2#) were studied. The tensile tests of the welded

joints and layered welded joints were performed at room temperature.


The bending properties and the hardness were also tested. The effect of
ultrasonic on the tensile and bending properties was studied.
3.4.1. Tensile testing
Three tensile specimens of the welded joints were prepared from
each welding method was performed using a universal testing
machine, with a loading rate of 5 mm/min. Fig. 7 shows the fracture
position of the tensile specimens of the welded joints. It can be
observed that the tensile specimens of FCAW welded joints were
fractured in the weld interface, while two of the tensile specimens
of U-FCAW welded joints were fractured in the base metal and the
other in the weld interface.
To study the fracture mechanism, SEM was carried out to analyze the
fracture morphology. Fig. 8 shows the typical fracture surface of the different welding methods. It can be observed that a cleavage fracture mode
is dominant in Fig. 8(a), due to the river pattern appearance. The appearance of cleavages indicates is a low energy fracture that propagated along
well-dened, low-index crystallographic planes. The branches of the
river pattern are joined in the direction of crack propagation. The lath
martensite (M) and Widmansttten (W) structure in the HAZ is detrimental structures as they can create an easy path for crack propagation.
Once a crack occurs during tensile testing, it can propagate along the
paths of the lath martensite (M) and Widmansttten (W) structure.
Therefore, the tensile strength of FCAW welded joints is very low. With
the assistance of ultrasonic, granular bainite (BG) and acicular ferrite
(AF) are the primary structures. These are the typical structure of ductility that could block the crack propagation. Therefore, the fracture surface
is characteristic of ductile fracture. The cleavage planes have disappeared

Fig. 10. The fracture position of the tensile specimens of the layered welded joints.

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Q.J. Sun et al. / Materials and Design 103 (2016) 6370

Fig. 11. Tensile strength of layered welded joints.

and dimples were appeared instead. The particle phase is distributed in


the inter-tear edges. The tensile strength has improved.
In order to have a better understanding to the welding tensile behavior, layered welded joints were extracted for tensile testing. Fig. 9
shows the dimensions of the layered welded joints tensile specimens
and the location of the specimen extraction. Four specimens of each
set of layered welded joints from each welding method were tested,
using a universal testing machine. Fig. 10 displays the fracture position
of the tensile specimens of the layered welded joints. It can be observed
from Fig. 10 that all the FCAW layered welded joints were fractured in
the weld interface, while the upper layered of U-FCAW welded joints
were fractured in the base metal; the under layered specimens were
fractured in the weld interface. Fig. 11 shows the tensile strength of layered welded joints. It can be observed from Fig. 11 that the average tensile strength of the upper layered of FCAW weld specimens is 338 MPa,

approximately 63% of the base metal (540 MPa), while the average tensile strength of the under layered specimens is 267 MPa, approximately
49% of the base metal (540 MPa). Unfused toot and pore is easy to appear in underwater wet welding. Some crack extensions were largely
developed from the unfused sections of the butt weld during tensile
testing [22]. Hence, the tensile strength of the under layered specimens
is lower than that of the upper layered specimens. However, with the
assistance of ultrasonic, the tensile strength was gradually increased.
The average tensile strength of the upper layered of ultrasonic underwater wet weld specimens is 495 MPa, approximately 92% of the base
metal (540 MPa), and the average tensile strength of under layered
specimens is 395 MPa, approximately 73% of the base metal
(540 MPa). One reason is that ultrasonic can improve arc stability,
thereby increasing the content of acicular ferrite (AF), another reason
is that the penetration increase has been discovered that leads to unfused toot in weld interface had disappeared.
In order to observe the fracture mechanism, SEM was used to analyze the fracture morphology. Fig. 12 shows the typical fracture surface
of layered weld specimens. It can be seen that the quasi-cleavage fracture is dominant in Fig. 12(a), due to a high volume of cleavage planes.
The cleavage planes demonstrate very low crack propagation energy.
Consequently, the tensile strength is very low. On one hand, unfused
and slag are adverse to the toughness of the joint, due to the formation
of easy crack propagation paths. Once the crack occurs, it rapidly propagates in a straight line along the unfused and slag zone. On the other
hand, the width of HAZ increases as the weld depth increases, thereby,
increasing the hardened structure. Intergranular fracture is the primary
fracture, as shown in Fig. 12(b). Therefore, the tensile strength of under
layered specimens is the lowest. With the assistance of ultrasonic, the
arc stability improves, increasing the content of the acicular ferrite
(AF) and penetration, which leads to unfused zone and slag
disappearing. As a result, the cleavage planes decrease and dimples appear. In particular, the cleavage planes disappeared in the upper layered
ultrasonic underwater wet welding specimens fracture.

Fig. 12. Typical fracture surface of layered weld specimens. (a) Upper layered specimens fracture of FCAW, (b) under layered specimens fracture of FCAW, (c) upper layered fracture of UFCAW, (d) under layered fracture of U-FCAW.

Q.J. Sun et al. / Materials and Design 103 (2016) 6370

69

of FCAW due to the slag defects. The hardness values of the weld zone
with the ultrasonic assistance are relatively lower due the decrease in
the amount of lath martensite (M) and Widmansttten (W) structure
while the amount of the granular bainite (BG) and acicular ferrite (AF)
was increased. The results indicated that ultrasonic has a signicant effect on the maximum hardness. The hardness of the welded metal indicated that the application of ultrasonic decreases the hardness of the
joints.
4. Conclusions

Fig. 13. Angle of bending (1#) FCAW, (2#) U-FCAW.

3.4.2. Bending testing


Three bending specimens of the welded joints from each welding
method were tested to measure the bending ductility, at room temperature. Fig. 13 shows the angle of bending for the joints. According to the
results, the maximum angle of the FCAW welded joints is 21, which
means bending ductility is very low. The formation of upper bainite
(BU) and martensite (M) in welded metal are hardened phases. However, with the assistance of ultrasonic, granular bainite (BG) and acicular
ferrite (AF) are the primary phases in the weld metal, which provide increased toughness and ductility. The angle of bending values was substantially increased. The bending angle can reach up to 84. In
conclusion, the welded joint ductility has been improved with the assistance of ultrasonic.

3.4.3. Hardness distribution


Vickers hardness testing was carried out with a load of 3 N and a
loading time of 10 s. Fig. 14 shows the results of hardness measurements. Decreased hardness values of the welded metal conrmed the
abovementioned microstructural changes. It can be seen that the hardness of the HAZ was higher than that of the welded metal and the width
of under layered HAZ is wider than the upper layered HAZ. This is one of
the reasons that the tensile strength of under layered specimens is
lower than that of the upper layered specimens. The HAZ and welded
metal hardness decreased with the assistance of ultrasonic. The maximum hardness values of HAZ is 450 HV at the under layered samples

Fig. 14. Results of hardness measurements.

(1) Ultrasonic assisted underwater wet welding equipment was developed, including a welding system, an ultrasonic system and a
composite welding torch. An ultrasonic radiation force was
formed on the bubbles during real-time welding process. Ultrasonic energy can be effectively applied to improve arc stability
and to enhance the mechanical properties of the joints.
(2) The arc stability was increased with the assistance of ultrasonic.
The effects of ultrasonic parameter, H, on weld appearance and
cross section were studied. Ultrasonic increased penetration
and reduced the serpentine welding type. Weld spattering was
increased as the radiation height (H) decreased. The optimum
H value was 70 mm.
(3) With the ultrasonic assistance, the content of martensite (M) and
upper bainite (BU) was decreased, while that of the granular bainite (BG) and acicular ferrite (AF) was increased. The mechanical
properties, such as tensile strength and bending property were improved with the assistance of ultrasonic. The fracture occurrence of
the welded joint during tensile testing was transferred from the
joint to the base metal, compared to FCAW. The tensile strength
of upper and under layer was 338 MPa and 267 MPa, respectively,
which was increased with the assistance of ultrasonic by 46% and
48%, i.e. to 495 MPa and 395 MPa, respectively. The maximum
angle of bending testing was increased from 21 to 84.

Acknowledgement
The authors greatly acknowledge the nancial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 51475104,
51435004), the Major State Basic Research Development Program of
China (973 Program) (no. 2013CB035500), and the Postdoctoral Science Foundation of China (no. 2014M560259).
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