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Journal of the Brazilian Society of Mechanical

Sciences
Print ISSN 0100-7386

J.Braz.Soc.Mech.Sci.vol.22n.3Campinas2000
doi: 10.1590/S0100-73862000000300002

A Quality and Cost Approach for


Welding Process Selection
Csar Rezende Silva
Valtair Antonio Ferraresi
Amrico Scotti
Faculdade de Engenharia Mecnica. Universidade
Federal de Uberlndia.
C.P. 593. 38400-902. Uberlndia. MG
ascotti@mecanica.ufu.br

The aim of this work was to propose, apply and


evaluate a methodical approach to select welding
processes in a productive environment based on
market requirements of Quality and Costs. A case
study was used. The welds were carried out in
laboratory, simulating the joint conditions of a
manufacturer and using several welding processes:
SMAW, GTAW, pulsed GTAW, GMAW with CO2 and Ar
based shielding gases and pulsed GMAW. For Quality
analysis geometrical aspects of the beads were
considered and for Cost analysis, welding parameters
and consumable prices. Quantitative indices were
proposed and evaluated. After that, evaluation of both
Quality and Costs was done, showing to be possible to
select the most suitable welding process to a specific
application, taking into account the market conditions

of a company.
Keywords: Quality, costs, cost sensibility, process
selection, welding

Introduction
The rise of competition has led many companies to
pay more attention in their markets in order to attend
them properly. The first step is to know well the
market in which the company stands, determining
market requirements (what and how much) in terms
of price, quality, product diversity, delivery confidence,
etc. Besides, it is necessary to choose the most
suitable fabrication process to a specific situation,
among them welding, considering technical and
economical viability. The existence of a great number
of welding processes in the market, with their
variances (alternating, direct and pulsed currents,
etc.), makes the best process choice for a specific
situation difficult. Hence, an evaluation method that
helps this task is very important to the final results of
any company market strategy.
A comprehensive and precise analysis to select
correctly a welding process in real situations is very
hard and complex, because of many variables
involved. An important point is that, in market
strategy, Quality and Costs, as the other requirements,
need to be analyzed as a whole. It is not enough
simply to determine that the process "A" is the best in
Quality and the process "B" is the best in Costs. There
are minimum requirements of Quality and Costs that
need to be determined and reached for each case, in
order to be competitive. These requirements depend
mainly on the mix between product and market of the
company. In fact, the best process will be that one
that presents the best overall performance.
One can say that the welding Quality is related to the
bead and the heat affected zone (HAZ) characteristics,

enclosing presence of defects (surface finishing,


spattering, cracking, porosity, degree of penetration,
excessive reinforcement, etc.), mechanical proprieties
(strength, toughness, hardness, etc.) and chemical
composition. Quality is a relative property. To describe
Quality in a quantitative way is a hard task. A good or
bad Quality is a function of the requirements for a
particular application.
Welding Costs seem, at first glance, to be a more
measurable property. However, they involve a great
number of components, such as welding execution,
process selection, personnel training, joint design,
equipment definition/setting and even fabrication
simulation. The determination of welding Costs
requires to consider welding parameters and prices of
consumables, labor, equipment, etc.. One must give
close attention to the relevant components of Costs
during the determination and control/reduction of
them. Similarly to Quality, a target for low Costs
depends on the particular application.
Even considering the specificity of each company and
its welded products, Cost analysis, based on a given
welding condition, is relatively achievable. There are,
inclusively, softwares for this purpose. However, the
introduction of the Quality concept in an overall
analysis brings a new challenge/perspective to welding
process selection approaches.
Therefore, in this work a new approach of Quality and
Costs overall analysis is proposed, according to market
requirements, to select the best welding process for a
company that wishes either to change or to introduce
new fabrication processes.

Determination of Welding Quality


As mentioned before, the quantitative assessment of
Quality is a more complex task than the one for Costs.
Therefore, in this work several factors were proposed
to compose the analyses of Quality. These factors are

expressed as quantitative indices, as following, whose


terminology is based on welding representative
literature (AWS, 1987 and AWS, 1988): (a) cracks; (b)
porosities; (c) undercuts; (d) penetration index; (e)
convexity index; and (f) spattering index.
Some of the factors are self-explained. Others need
additional description. The penetration index (PI) was
defined by relating the depth of the weld bead (P) to
the sheet thickness (t) (Eq.1), for which a complete
joint penetration is defined as PI = 100%, an
incomplete penetration as PI < 100%, and an
excessive penetration as PI > 100%. The convexity
index (CI) was defined as a relationship between the
bead reinforcement (r) and the bead width (w), in
percentage (Eq.2). The spattering index (SI Eq.3) is
defined as the ratio between the spattering rate (S
Eq.4) and the deposition rate (D Eq.5), given in
percentage. For the determination of deposition
efficiency (de), Eq.6 is used.
PI = (p / t) x 100 [%]. (1)
CI = (r / w) x 100 [%]. (2)
SI = ( S / D) x 100 [%]. (3)
S = (Felect or Fwire) D. (4)
D = 3,6 x (Mfcp Micp) / tarc . (5)
de = D / (Felect or Fwire) x 100 [%]. (6)
Felect = 3,6 x (Miel Mfel) / tarc . (7)
Fwire = 60 x (. 2 . fwire . ) / 4, (8)
where p is the weld penetration [mm], t is the joint
thickness [mm], r is the bead reinforcement [mm], w
is the bead width [mm], S is the spattering rate
[kg/h], D is the deposition rate [kg/h], Felect is the
covered electrode fusion rate [kg/h], Miel is the initial
mass of the covered electrode, before welding [g],
Mfel is the final mass of the covered electrode, after

welding [g], tarc is the arc duration time [s], Fwire is the
wire fusion rate [kg/h], is the wire diameter [mm],
fwire is the wire feed rate [m/min], is the steel density
(7.85 x 10-3 g/mm3), Mfcp is the final mass of the test
plate, after welding [g], Micp is the initial mass of the
test plate, before welding [g] and de is the deposition
efficiency [%].
Table 1 presents the Quality criteria adopted for the
welding assessment. As there is no specific standards
for such application and thickness of material (< 3
mm), these criteria were defined according to generic
standards, general recommendations (ANSI/AWS,
1996; ISO, 1992; IIW/IIS, 1984) and the authors
experience, based on the expectation of a dredging
pipe fabricator. In this Quality analysis, three
subjective levels of Quality were adopted, namely
grade A for highest Quality; grade B for an acceptable
Quality for the type of product and service, and grade
C for non-acceptable welds.

Determination of Welding Costs


There are many objectives to have welding Costs
calculated. According to Canetti (1992), they can be

used for budget elaboration and/or for comparison and


selection of welding processes. Machado (1995) states
that Costs determination can be used for composing
sale price, helping take decisions about a product
fabrication opportunity, determining the necessary
investment volume for an operation, predicting
modifications owing to fabrication scale changes,
establishing the principles to implement a cutting Cost
program and providing assistance to a welding process
selection. In the present case, Costs will be used as a
balancing parameter during selection of the most
suitable welding process.
The Costs can be based on estimate values
(estimations of amount of weld to be deposited) or on
actual values (amount in fact reached in experimental
tests). In this work, the actual deposited amount was
used. The reason for that is that the used joint, a butt
weld joint with no groove and gap, makes difficult to
estimate the amount of weld to be deposited. It is
important to point out that, even in case of grooved
joints, each process may deposit different height of
reinforcements, misconducting calculations. Therefore,
to apply the approach for process selection, weldments
of test plates became necessary, simulating real cases.
The composition of Costs takes into account materials,
electricity, labor and equipment. Indirect Costs will not
be considered, since they are approximately the same
in terms of comparison. Thus:
TWC = MC + LC + EC + EPC, (9)
where TWC is the Total Welding Costs, MC is the
Material Cost, LC is the Labor Cost, EC is the
Equipment Cost and EPC is the Electrical Power Cost.
All Costs are expressed in R$/m (1.00 R$ was about
0.90 US$ at that time), since it seems to be the most
suitable index for welding process selection applied to
the study case. Material Cost involves the electrode
and/or wire and the gas Costs. The equipment Cost
includes the investment, the depreciation and the
maintenance Costs.

The proposed mathematics equations to the


determination of each term of the Total Costs (TWC)
are presented in Table 2, for all welding processes
under evaluation, where de represents the deposition
efficiency, that is, the rate between the weld mass
deposited and the melted mass of the consumable;
fop indicates the operating factor (or duty factor), that
is, the rate between the running arc duration time and
the total welding time; ee is the electrical efficiency of
the equipment, that is, a factor relating input and
output power and power factor and Pm is the monthly
production of weld, given by the number of hours
worked in a month (176 h) multiplied by the operating
factor (fop) and by the deposition rate (D). For the
deposition rate (D) and the deposition efficiency (de)
determinations, Eqs.6 and 8 were used, respectively.

Experimental Procedure
To evaluate the proposed approach, a case study was
taken. In this case, dredging pipes are manufactured
by butt welding 2-mm-thick plain carbon steels.
Therefore, welding test plates were prepared using
sheets of plain carbon steel (ABNT 1010), with

dimensions of 250 mm x 50 mm x 2 mm. For joint


configuration, a typical joint applied by the
manufacturer of dredging pipes was used: butt joint
with no root opening, welding on the flat position
(denominated by the American Welding Society AWS
as 1G).
The welding tests were carried out using an electronic
multi-process welding source and an automatic system
for welding torch translation. The welding setting was
as follows:
Shielding Metal Arc Welding process (SMAW): 2.0mm-diameter AWS E-6013 electrode, direct current
electrode positive (DCEP);

Gas Tungsten Arc Welding process (GTAW): 4.0-mmdiameter AWS WTh-2 electrode, 6-mm arc length, tip
electrode angle of 45o, pure Argon shielding gas at 12
l/min, direct current electrode negative (DCEN), torch
angle perpendicular to the test plate and an 1.0-mmdiameter AWS ER70S-6 wire fed from the back of the
torch;

CO2 shielded Gas Metal Arc Welding process


(GMAWC): 1.0-mm-diameter AWS ER70S-6 wire,
contact-tip-to-work distance (CTWD) of 8 mm, pure
CO2 shielding gas at 12 l/min, DCEP, torch angle
perpendicular to the test plate;

Ar based mixture shielded Gas Metal Arc Welding


process (GMAWM): 1.0-mm-diameter AWS ER70S-6
wire, CTWD of 12 mm, 8%CO2-2%O2-Ar ternary
mixture shielding gas at 12 l/min, DCEP, torch angle
perpendicular to the test plate;

Pulsed Gas Tungsten Arc Welding process (PGTAW):


4.0-mm-diameter AWS WTh-2 electrode, 6-mm arc
length, tip electrode angle of 45o, pure Argon
shielding gas at 12 l/min, DCEN, torch angle
perpendicular to the test plate and an 1.0-mmdiameter AWS ER70S-6 wire fed from the back of the
torch;

Pulsed Gas Metal Arc Welding process (PGMAW): 1.0mm-diameter AWS ER70S-6 wire, CTWD of 12 mm,
8%CO2-2%O2-Ar ternary mixture shielding gas at 12
l/min, DCEP, torch angle perpendicular to the test
plate.

For the Quality analysis, visual inspection of the beads


were applied along all their extensions, aiming to find
defects such as cracks, porosities and undercuts. In
addition, the geometric parameters (p, w and r) of two
transverse sections of each bead were measured by a
computerized image analysis system. For that, the
specimens were cut off from the test plates, ground
and chemically etched with an iodine-based reagent.
For the Cost term calculations, current, voltage,
welding speed, wire feed speed, and gas flow were set
and/or monitored. Welding times and initial and final
mass of the test plates were also measured (by
chronometer and a digital scale).

Results and Discussion


Table 3 shows the set/monitored welding parameters
of each process. It is important to point out that these
values regard acceptable conditions, yet not optimized
(parameter optimization was not in the scope of this
work). With the data from Table 3 and Eqs.(4), (5),
(6), (7) and (8), the Felect, Fwire, D, S and de values
were calculated and are presented on Table 4.

Quality Analysis
Table 5 shows the outcome from the visual analysis
and geometric measurements in two transverse
sections, based on the proposed criteria presented in
Table 1.

If a parameter selection optimization of each process


is not considered (optimized parameters could lead to
different results) and one concentrates only on the
objectives of the work, the following observations can
be extracted from Table 5:
The SMAW process presented, in general, good
performance. However, its big problem was the very
high spatter index (SI), reaching 56%, a value much
higher than the 20% considered acceptable.

The GTAW and PGTAW did not present good


penetration for the welding speed used, getting Quality
grade C in this topic. They presented incomplete
penetration in one of the transverse sections, less than
the 1.5-mm-minimum value acceptable (75% of the
thick sheet). It is worth to remind that, with some
changes on welding parameters, it would be possible
to achieve penetrations within the acceptability
criteria.

The PGMAW was the process that presented the


worst results. The most critical factor was lack of
penetration. For this process, it was noticed the
necessity of essential adjusts on the welding
parameters.

The GMAWC and GMAWM presented results in


conformance with the acceptability criteria, taking
grade A on the factors named cracks, porosities and
undercuts, and B on penetration, convexity and
spatter indexes. Thereby, the processes that presented
the best results in Quality were GMAWC and GMAWM.

Figure 1 shows the bead transverse sections produced


by the GMAWC and GMAWM welding processes.

Cost Analysis
The prices for material, labor, equipment, maintenance
and electrical power applied into this analysis are
listed in Table 6, whose figures were practiced on the
Uberlndia-MG market at that time. Table 7 presents
the calculated Total Costs and their components for
each process, which are illustrated by Fig. 2. A value
of 2.5% a month was considered for the interest rate
(Ir) used in the equipment cost calculation. Operating
factor (fop = 30% for SMAW and fop = 65% for the
others) and electrical efficiency (ee = 75%) were
taken based on the current literature, such as
Machado (1995), Canetti (1992), The Lincoln (1973)
and AWS (1987).

As can be seen in Table 7 and Fig. 2, GMAWC


presented the lowest Total Welding Costs among the
processes under investigation (at the welding
conditions of this work). This result reflects lower Gas
Cost (the cheapest shielding gas), lower Investment
and Depreciation Costs (mainly due to lower
equipment price) and a lower Electrical Power Cost
(low current level during operation). On the other
hand, Wire Cost was higher than for GTAW and
PGTAW, because these latter processes use lower wire
feed speeds (and, consequently, less deposited
material).
The GTAW achieved a very good position (second
place), because of the medium equipment value and,
mainly, the low Wire Cost (low deposition rate). It is
worth to mention that in this process there is no need
of a great amount of deposited material (due to the
joint configuration), yet a deeper penetration is
required.
The GMAWM presented Total Costs 42% higher than
for GMAWC. The main cause of this difference is the
Gas Cost (mixture price three times higher than for
CO2), followed by the Wire Cost (higher deposition
rate).
Excluding SMAW, the PGMAW was the process that
presented the highest Total Welding Costs, because of
the high Wire Cost (high deposition rate), Gas Cost
(high gas price) and Investment and Depreciation
Costs (high equipment value). The SMAW process
presented the highest Total Costs (already expected),
reaching a value close to four times higher than for the
other processes which used shielding gas. The main
reason for this high Cost is the Labor Cost, owing to
the low welding speed and to the low operation factor.
Another approach of analysis is to consider the
weighted fraction of each Cost component (Material,
Labor, Equipment and Electrical Power) in relation to
the Total Welding Costs. Table 8 shows these results.
As presented, the Material and Labor Costs factors had
a significant influence in every process with gaseous

shielding, in which these two components were


responsible for more than 80% of the Costs, except for
the PGTAW. The Electrical Power Cost stayed in a very
low level of significance for all the processes (< 5%).

Analysis of Cost Sensitivity


As much important as to determine the Costs of a
process is to define the importance of each factor into
the composition of the final Cost. A mean of doing this
is through Analysis of Cost Sensitivity. This analysis
was carried out firstly by selecting some factors that
once varied would affect the costs, but with no
influence on the welding parameter settings, such as
fop (operating factor), Pw (wire price), Pg (shielding
gas price), Sw (welder/operator salary) and Ve
(equipment value). One can predict that travel speed
(tspeed), for instance, would affect significantly the final
cost. However, its action on the welding parameter
setting is also remarkable, that is, tspeed variation
leads to a new welding setting to keep the same bead
Quality. Secondly, each of those factors was
systematically varied from the initial value (for
example, + 10%, + 25%, +50% and + 100% or up to
a reasonable increment), simulating a scenario of
factor variations, and the outcome of each factor
variation on the Total Welding Costs is plotted, as can
be seen in Fig. 3.

Then, a visual analysis of the plots is employed to


assess the significance of the factor variations
(sensitivity). The more significant the factor, the more
attention is needed, in order to get a cost
optimization, i.e., significant reduction of Total Welding
Costs.
Figure 3 shows the analyses of sensitivity for the GMAWC (process of
lower Total Costs) and GMAWM (process of higher Quality). One can
notice that variations of Sw (welder/operator salary) and, in a second
position, fop (operating factor) causes the largest variations in the
Cost for the GMAWC, while their significance decreases for GMAWM
at the expense of the Pg (gas price). This analysis shows that to
become the process GMAWM also competitive, in terms of Costs (it
was already competitive in terms of Quality), one must care mainly
about the reduction of the gas price.

Process Selection, Based on Quality and Costs


The approach proposed in this work for welding
process selection uses a balance between Quality and
Cost. Applying this approach to find the most suitable
welding process for the given product, the results have
shown that, considering Quality only, both GMAWC and
GMAWM processes presented the best performances.
Therefore, the chosen process must be the one
between these two processes that presented, in
addition, the lowest Total Welding Costs.

In relation to Costs, the GMAWC was the one that


presented the lowest Total Welding Costs, followed by
GTAW. The GMAWM showed Total Costs 42% higher
than GMAWC, fact that leads it to a less
competitiveness. Hence, the GMAWC process was the
one that presented the best Quality and Cost
performances, considering the welding test conditions
as representative and suitable. Therefore, this is the
process selected for the application.

Conclusions
From the proposed approach and systematics
presented for the welding process selection, based on
the best global performance of Quality and Cost
analyses (in this case, applied to weld thin sheets of
carbon steel), it is possible to conclude that:
The selection of the best welding process is possible to
a certain industrial activity, considering the best global
performance of Quality and Costs, according to market
requirements of the company. The procedure utilized
in this work showed to be a suitable tool to this aim;
Assuming the data used in this work as representative
and the welding conditions in each process as
adequate, the best process for welding the
manufacturer product in study would be the GMAWC
process (CO2 pure shielding gas) and the worst one
would be the SMAW;
According to the Analysis of Cost Sensitivity, the factor
welder/operator salary, among the analyzed factors,
was the one that most impact causes in the Total
Welding Costs, but this can vary according to the
process and/or welding parameter setting.

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank DRAGAS HEFPEL LTDA, for


the support and supply of test materials, as well as the
Federal University of Uberlndia, for the technical
support and use of laboratories, both located in
Uberlndia, MG, Brazil.

References
ANSI/AWS D1.1-96, 1996, "AWS Structural Welding
Code Steel", AWS, USA, 440 p.
[ Links ]
AWS, 1987, "Welding Handbook - Vol.1: Welding
Technology", 8th Ed., AWS, USA, 638p.
[ Links ]
AWS, 1988, "Guide for the Visual Inspection of Welds",
AWS, USA.
[ Links ]
Canetti, E.E., 1992, "Custos nos processos de
soldagem", In: Wainer, E., Brandi, S.D. & de Mello,
F.D.H., Soldagem: processos e metalurgia, Edgard
Blucher, Brazil, chap.11, pp.449-461.
[ Links ]
IIW/IIS, 1984, "Geometrical Defects in Arc Welded
Joints in Steel Materials - Classes of Requirements",
Welding in the World, Vol.22, No.1/ 2, pp.3452.
[ Links ]
ISO 5817, 1992,."Arc-welded Joints in Steel: guidance
on quality levels for imperfections".
[ Links ]
Machado, I.G., 1995, "A Economia da Soldagem",
Anais do XXI Encontro Nacional de Tecnologia da
Soldagem, Vol.II, Caxias do Sul, Brazil, pp.9991013.
[ Links ]
The Lincoln Electric Company, 1973, "The Procedure
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USA.
[ Links ]

Manuscript received: August 1999. Technical Editor:


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