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IFractured kiln welding

by Castolin Eutectic, Switzerland

It is not often a simple assessement to know the best solutions for fractured or cracked kiln tyres. Welding is one option, entire kiln tyre replacement is another. In this article, Castolin Eutectic investigate the repair route with a choice of welding alloys and procedures, plus analysis of how a suitable electrode is more likely to prevent repeat cracking.

Reliable welding

Specialised in maintenance and repair, Castolin Eutectic has developed during its 100 years of experience, a wide range of technologies and alloys to combat

industrial wear and tear. One of the major successes achieved in the cement industry is the use of a special welding electrode Xuper NucleoTec 2222 to repair cracked or fractured kiln tyres. There has always been a difference of opinion as to whether or

not cracked, fractured or spalled kiln tyres can be

welded with any reliability. With the great number of repairs which have been undertaken around the world by Castolin Eutectic and which since have been running trouble- free, it is well worthwhile to examine this welding repair procedure which has proven to be eminently successful and economical.

Figure 1: fractured kiln tyre
Figure 1: fractured kiln tyre

The direct cost of this type of welding repair is approximately 20 per cent of the cost of purchasing and installing a new tyre and the required replacement kiln sections. In addition, the repairs are typically accomplished in less than three weeks total time, saving approximately 20 weeks production downtime when compared to the 24 weeks best possible delivery typically quoted for the replacement tyre and kiln sections.

T he manufacture of cement creates a demanding environment for all equipment, in particular the

kiln, due to process related wear, heat, corrosion and stresses. Cement kilns are subject to chronic, low frequency cycles of thermal and mechanical loads causing dynamic tensile, compressive and shear stresses conducive to creep, deformation and metal fatigue. Should for any reason the kiln axis become misaligned or if the massive kiln tyre castings contain small inclusion defects or unintended surface stress raisers, then slowly but surely micro-cracks will be initiated and extended into fatigue cracks risking total kiln stoppages.

Figure 3: repair process considerations
Figure 3:
repair process

Causes and modes of failures

Cement kilns are vulnerable to thermal shocks, cycling, complex torsion and compressive stresses, and even fatigue failure. This is due to their size and length as well as the operating conditions and extreme loading they must endure. The kiln tyres carry the entire weight of the kiln, supported between two relatively small-diameter trunnions, creating rather high ratios of line loading on the surface of the cast steel tyres. Due to these accumulated high cyclical line stresses, micro-cracks can eventually form often underneath the surface. The fracture mechanism is one of fatigue and will typically propagate from weaknesses in the original material such as casting inclusions adjacent to the original riser positions. Because of the on-going work hardening and associated strengthening of the tyre surface, defects or cracks initially form almost invariably below the surface. These fatigue cracks propagate unseen until the cross-sectional area is large enough to weaken the tyre sufficiently that they cause a sudden and unforeseen break through the remaining tyre section.

Time scales and constraints

In today’s highly competitive market, the

Figure 2: fatigue crack in kiln tyre
Figure 2: fatigue crack in kiln tyre



KILN MAINTENANCE profitable manufacture of cement hinges on the ability of each individual plant to keep

profitable manufacture of cement hinges on the ability of each individual plant to keep equipment running and producing at the highest possible output, while keeping operating costs at the lowest possible level. Since a broken kiln tyre effectively removes a kiln from operation until the tyre is either repaired or replaced, it is readily apparent that time is absolutely of the essence in any situation where a kiln tyre failure has occurred.

Repair option

If the repair route is selected, a number of decisions must be made very quickly. These include whether to do the repair in- house with existing staff and/or contract welders, or whether to subcontract the work to a company with experience and equipment to do the entire job. In recent years the latter has increasingly been the most prevalent choice, especially in light of the limited welding personnel available in most plants today. It should also be considered that once the repair has begun, it is imperative and more efficient to continue welding around the clock until it is finished. This is much more cost effective than frequently stopping and starting, and minimises the difficulties involved in maintaining correct base metal preheating temperatures throughout the entire repair cycle.

Process considerations

There are generally two alternative options for selecting the welding alloys and procedures to be used:

Option 1: The use of an autogenous, AWS specification low hydrogen electrode that meets the general standards for welding this type of steel. Option 2: The use of a dissimilar, non-ferrous nickel-based alloy electrode with a basic coating specially formulated by Castolin Eutectic for repairing air hardening steels. While the ferritic alloy (Option1) closely matches the chemistry and alloy content of the base metal, the air hardenability of the large volumes of weld metal to be deposited would require rather high preheat requirements, creating both practical and procedural problems. In addition, Post Weld Heat Treatment (PWHT) would be mandatory. The difficulties associated with these levels of heating, considering the mass involved

and the amount of heat lost through conduction and radiation, can be almost insurmountable. Another factor that must be considered also is the softening of the work hardened surface in the welded area, and a severe hardness gradient at each end of the heat affected zone. These effects, themselves, can give rise to increased susceptibility to

Figure 4: coefficent of thermal expansion
Figure 4: coefficent of thermal expansion

subsequent cracking and a repeat failure at those points after the tyre has been returned to service. With respect to using a non-ferrous alloy (Option 2), one electrode has been widely accepted as the single most reliable solution of its type by the major OEMs. The Castolin Eutectic electrode Xuper NucleoTec 2222 is a proprietary nickel alloy with a tensile strength slightly higher than that of the cast steel tyre, but having exceptional ductility and impact values,

Figure 5: effects of dilution
Figure 5: effects of dilution

along with 40-45 per cent elongation and superior resistance to cracking, even under continuous thermal cycling. By using Xuper NucleoTec 2222, the lower preheat needed is more easily attainable, and PWHT is no longer mandatory providing that certain techniques are rigidly adhered to during the welding operation. The performance of this alloy in relation to toughness, ductility and resistance to hydrogen embrittlement, even without PWHT, is far in excess of the parent material. When coupled with perfect metallurgical integrity at the weld/parent metal interface and skilled execution, Xuper NucleoTec 2222 gives the highest safety and reliability of repair possible. The concern of surface hardness degradation is also avoided due to the work-hardening capabilities of the alloy. Naturally, due to the high nickel content there is a higher consumable cost, but bearing in mind the immediate downtime cost savings generated and the long term reliability of the repair, the alloy cost factor is completely justified.



When making the final selection of the electrode to be used on a kiln tyre repair, it is important to remember the severe penalties associated with having the repair fail again. The cost of the right electrode, then becomes much less important than knowing it will not only do the job, but

will continue to perform safely and reliably for many years to come. Primary factors that affect an electrode’s suitability include:

linear coefficient of thermal expansion

tolerance to the effects of dilution

microstructural stability

resistance to Hydrogen Induced Cracking (HIC). Unless the electrode is specifically designed to accommodate all four of the above factors, residual welding stresses and the presence of hydrogen in hardenable zones will increase the risk of provoking unexpected “cold cracking” phenomena 24 –48 hours after completing the repair!

Linear coefficient of thermal expansion

Various metals expand and contract at different rates during the welding process. Stainless steel alloys, for example, expand



Figure 6: microstructural stability
Figure 6: microstructural stability

cycles either during welding or service conditions.

Resistance to HIC

The risk of delayed “cold-cracking” in steels is multiplied whenever a hardened

welding zone accumulates critical tensile stresses and excessive residual hydrogen which is unable to escape by diffusion phenomena (HIC). Xuper NucleoTec 2222 minimises HIC risks in two complementary ways:

1. The basic extruded flux coating ensures

tough, ductile welds with lowest diffusible

hydrogen contents.

2. The austenitic weld deposit structure is

Figure 7: repaired kiln tyre with Xuper NucleoTec 2222

is Figure 7: repaired kiln tyre with Xuper NucleoTec 2222 characterised by both a higher solubility

characterised by both a higher solubility and lower diffusibility for hydrogen than for traditional ferritic deposits. This simply means that any errant hydrogen entering the molten weld pool will be safely dissolved and retained in the weld deposit after solidification, allowing

and contract much more than the carbon steel tyre, thereby increasing internal residual stresses and distorting the joint. Xuper NucleoTec 2222 has a coefficient of thermal

expansion very similar to that of the mild steel tyre over a very wide temperature range. Only minimal residual stresses can occur in the joint, either during welding or during subsequent thermal cycling

in service, which promotes

maximum safety margin repairs.

very little to diffuse towards the hardened HAZ (Heat Affected Zone) steel interface, thus countering the HIC risks.


The comparison of the physical properties of typical cast steel kiln tyre material with the Xuper NucleoTec 2222 electrode explains the exceptional success and reliability of this alloy when repairing kiln tyres. Their tensile strength and hardness values are relatively close. Both the impact strength and elongation of the Xuper NucleoTec 2222 electrode, however, are more than triple those of the base metal. This combination of properties provides tough, ductile welds that are extremely resistant to crack formation when proper welding techniques and procedures are employed. While the initial surface hardness of the weld metal is lower, it increases rapidly in service by work hardening effects until it is almost the same as that of the surrounding base metal. While the cost per kilo of this specifically formulated, high-nickel alloy is significantly higher, the reliability of Xuper NucleoTec 2222 in this type repair makes the initial investment negligible when compared to the cost of potential failure if traditional repair electrodes are used. In addition, the savings generated by carrying out an in-situ repair, without necessitating the removal and replacement of kiln sections, makes the selection and use of Xuper NucleoTec 2222 highly recommendable. PWHT may be used for Xuper NucleoTec 2222 repairs but when heavy steel sections are involved, PWHT is not always a practical or economic in-situ solution. In such cases where time/energy consuming PWHT facilities are considered too complex or simply unavailable, many Castolin Eutectic case histories have proven that Xuper NucleoTec 2222 weld repairs without subsequent PWHT have given totally safe and satisfactory service performance. This also helps to explain the fact that after more than three decades, many of the repairs made with this alloy worldwide are still operating, with no documented cases of cracking in the weld deposit or the heat affected zone of the base


Tolerance to the effects of dilution

Dilution refers to the percentage of base metal melted into the weld deposit. When conventional stainless steel alloys are used to join or repair carbon steels, the molten weld will invariably be diluted by at least 20-30 per cent of the base metal, which creates a weld deposit prone to embrittlement due to the formation of

hard martensitic structure. Xuper NucleoTec 2222, on the other hand, will tolerate up to 50 per cent dilution with carbon steels and still retain its tough austenitic structure again promoting maximum safety margin welds.


Microstructural stability
Microstructural stability

When welding thick carbon steel sections with conventional stainless steel electrodes, hard, brittle Sigma phases may be formed in the weld. This is especially true when welding with the traditional austenitic – ferritic alloys often selected for this type repair that contain chromium and iron in high quantities. Sigma phase precipitation is associated with time and temperature and forms within minutes at 900°C and after a few days at 500°C. It should be noted that these temperatures are cycled several times during each weld, regardless of what service conditions are encountered later. As seen from the Ternary Phase Diagram (Figure 6), Xuper NucleoTec 2222 is situated far away from the critical Sigma Phase zones. Even with dilution, Xuper NucleoTec 2222 remains immune to the formation of harmful, embrittling Sigma Phases provoked by thermal