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Materials Science & Engineering A 673 (2016) 815

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Materials Science & Engineering A

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

Microstructure and mechanical properties of aluminium alloy 7A52

thick plates welded by robotic double-sided coaxial GTAW process
Yuehai Feng n, Jiahe Chen, Wei Qiang, Kehong Wang
School of Materials Science and Engineering, Nanjing University of Science and Technology, Nanjing 210094, PR China

art ic l e i nf o a b s t r a c t

Article history: The high strength aluminium alloy 7A52 thick plate is commonly welded by double-V butt welding. The
Received 3 March 2016 general one sided arc welding requires indispensable root cleaning before the rear side root weld, which
Received in revised form consumes excessive time and cost. Thus the robotic welding is always difcult to be carried on. In this
3 July 2016
paper, a novel robotic double-sided coaxial GTAW process has been applied to the welding of Al7A52. The
Accepted 4 July 2016
Available online 7 July 2016
microstructure and mechanical properties of the thick weld joints both welded by robotic self-uxing
double sided coaxial GTAW (RSF-DSC-GTAW) and robotic wire-feed double sided coaxial GTAW (RWF-
Keywords: DSC-GTAW) has been investigated. It was found that the microstructures of weld zones of both processes
Double sided gas tungsten arc welding typically consist of (Al) and (MgZn2) phases. Moreover, the weld zone of the RWF-DSC-GTAW joint
Aluminium alloy 7A52
exhibits Interval layers distribution because of the less proportion of phase. The average micro hard-
ness in the weld zone of RSF-DSC-GTAW joints and RWF-DSC-GTAW joints are 91.9 HV and 80.1 HV,
Mechanical properties
respectively. With a better elongation property, the average ultimate tensile strength of RSF-DSC-GTAW
joint is 344 Mpa. While it is 244 Mpa for the RWF-DSC-GTAW joint. It is considered that the mechanical
properties of the RSF-DSC-GTAW joint are more superior to the RWF-DS-GTAW joint.
& 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction quality and efciency for high strength aluminium alloys welding
[411]. Both LBW and FSB show lower distortion and higher ef-
Possessing good combination of strength and toughness, alu- ciency than arc welding process. However, the excessive expensive
minium alloy 7A52 (Al7A52) is commonly strengthened by heat equipment cost, limited welding positions and sensitive gaps im-
treatment and natural aging [1]. The alloy has been widely used pede the large-scale industrial application of these two processes.
for the fabrication of airframe structure, armoured vehicles, rail- Moreover, the thickness of butt welded aluminium alloys plate by
way transport systems, high speed ship, and cryogenic pressure these processes is commonly less than 12 mm. Recently years
vessels [2]. The one sided arc welding with multi-pass welding several Aluminium alloy thick plates welding with FSB has been
process is commonly employed for Double-V groove butt welding reported [1214]. Due to Uninform thermal-mechanical actions for
of high strength aluminium alloy thick plate. To reduce porosity thick plates, it seems difcult to achieve good weld with FSB
and defects in root weld, gouging from underside of the rear weld process. More butt joints of high strength aluminium alloy thick
is necessary. Furthermore, gouging large groove angel above 70 is plate have to be completed by multi-layers multi-pass arc welding
also essential. Thus more materials have to be removed from un- process. Therefore, productivity improvement and higher quality
are both essential for this process.
derside of root weld for high strength aluminium [3]. Even pre-
Double-sided arc welding (DSAW) process is a relative new
heating for the rear root weld is recommended too. These ex-
compound arc welding process that is developed in recent years
cessive procedures consume redundancy time and materials.
[15]. Compared with the traditional one sided arc welding, it has
Therefore, robotic welding is always difcult to be implemented. If
more potential advantages, such as deeper penetration, less weld
these excessive procedures could be eliminated and automatic
defects and improved productivity [16,17]. The butt joint of high
robotic welding could be executed, cost reduction and productivity
strength aluminium alloy plate is symmetrically being heated in
improvement will be quite signicant.
the same weld pool by dual opposing arc. Because the welded
Recent studies suggest that laser beam welding (LBW) and
areas of both sides are shielded by inert gas, the possibility of
friction stir welding (FSB) are welding processes with higher porosity and the regular welded distortion are signicantly re-
duced. In addition, this DSAW process has more effective heating
Corresponding author. effect, which improves the weld penetration.
E-mail address: fyh@njust.edu.cn (Y. Feng). Previous researches have more concentrated on butt weld of

0921-5093/& 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Y. Feng et al. / Materials Science & Engineering A 673 (2016) 815 9

thin sheet (less than 12 mm) carbon steel, stainless steel and same direction at a constant speed. The high quality modern in-
aluminium alloy with DSAW process [18,19]. Few published papers dustrial robots offer sufcient accuracy, assuring opposite coaxial
have mentioned about thick high strength steel welding with this position of the two GTA arcs. Furthermore, the synergy control box
process. It has never been applied to butt welding of thick high has been designed to consort two sets of robotic GTAW system.
strength aluminium alloy plates. The combination of robot auto- The two arcs can switched on and off at the same time. In order to
matic welding [20] with double-sided coaxial GTAW will further ensure as stable process as possible two GTA torches were
promote thick plates welding efciency. These thin sheets can throughout in coaxial position robotic in double-sided coaxial
obtain a full penetration weld with single pass welding process. GTAW process. The experiment setup was shown in Fig. 3. The
However, for those thick sheets (above 12 mm) a full penetration main welding conditions and process parameters are presented in
weld is impossible to complete with this process. Multi-pass Table 3.
multi-layer welding on each side of thick plate is still best choice
for it. Its indispensable root cleaning before the rear side root weld 2.3. Testing conditions
makes automatic robotic welding is difcult to be implemented.
Therefore, an attempt has been made to apply the novel robotic After RSF-DSC-GTAW and RWF-DSC-GTAW, these joints were
double-sided coaxial GTAW arc welding process to weld 20 mm mounted, polished and etched in chemical reagent (14% hydro-
high strength aluminium alloy plates without preheating treat- uoric acid) for 15 s to display macro and microstructural features
ment and gouging for rear weld. moreover, a comparison research in the transverse direction. An optical microscope (MR5000, Chi-
on the microstructure and mechanical properties of root weld na) was used for observing macro and microstructural features in
with robotic self-uxing double sided coaxial GTAW (RSF-DSC- the joint's different zones. The micro hardness from the base metal
GTAW) process and robotic wire-feed double sided coaxial GTAW to the weld centre of these joints were measured by using a micro
(RWF-DSC-GTAW) process has been further investigated too. hardness tester (Shimadzu DUH-201, Japan) with a load of 0.1 kg
for 10 s dwell time. An electro-mechanically controlled Universal
Testing Machine (CCS-44100) was used for measuring the ultimate
tensile strength and elongation of the specimens at room tem-
2. Experimental method
perature. Observation of the fracture surfaces of the tensile tested
specimens were performed by a Field Emission Scanning Electron
2.1. Materials
(FE-SEM) (FEI-Quanta 250).

The plates of AlZnMg Al7A52 aluminium alloy have been cut

into the required sizes (20  250  120 mm) by power hacksaw
3. Results and discussion
and grinding. Double V butt joint conguration, as shown in Fig. 1
has been prepared to fabricate welded joints. ER5356 AlMg alloy
3.1. Macrostructure
wire with diameter 1.6 mm was used for both processes. High
purity (99.99%) argon gas has been used as shielded gas. Before Effective welding process parameters window is narrower for
welding, the surface near the weld about 3040 mm width was DSAW than for one sided arc welding [12]. During the RSF-DSC-
ground by stainless steel wire brush and degreased by acetone to GTAW and RWF-DSC-GTAW experiments, it was found that the
remove pre-existing oxide layer and other foreign particles. The welding process parameters of RWF-DSC-GTAW process were re-
chemical compositions of Al7A52 aluminium alloy and ER5356 latively much more sensitive than RSF-DSC-GTAW process, such as
ller wire are presented in Table 1. Mechanical properties of the effective wire feed rate, wire feed angle and distance of wire
Al7A52 aluminium alloy are shown in Table 2. This alloy sheet was terminal to work piece. Macro-sections of the RSF-DSC-GTAW joint
solution treated at 460 C for 1 h and aged at 120 C for 24 h. and the RWF-DSC-GTAW joint are shown in Fig. 4. Observing from
both weld cross sections, It was found the weld width
2.2. Experimental equipment and conditions (b1 2.4 mm) in the centre of RSF-DSC-GTAW weld cross-section is
wider than that of the RWF-DSC-GTAW welds (b2 2.0 mm). The
As shown in Fig. 2, Fronius Magicwave 4000 was selected as the weld penetration of the RSF-DSC-GTAW joint (h1 4.8 mm) was
welding power source in welding experiments. Two 6-axis in- less than the RWF-DSC-GTAW (h2 5.4 mm) joint. The weld zone
dustrial robots of MH6 Motoman move the dual GTA torch in the area of the RSF-DSC-GTAW joint (S1 19.2 mm2) was also smaller
than that of the RWF-DSC-GTAW joint (S2 22.7 mm2).
Some pores existed in both joints (see Fig. 4a and b). The
amount of the pores in the RWF-DSC-GTAW joint is greater than
that in the RSF-DSC-GTAW joint. Moreover, the mean size of some
pores in RWF-DSC-GTAW is also bigger than that of RSF-DSC-
GTAW, indicating that the RWF-DSC-GTAW process is more prone
to produce porosity than the RSF-DSC-GTAW process. Compared
with the RSF-DSC-GTAW joint, the weld zone's area of the RWF-
DSC-GTAW joint is bigger. Thus the path for hydrogen escaping
from the molten pool in the RWF-DSC-GTAW joint is longer than
that in the RSF-DSC-GTAW joint. The hydrogen does not have
enough time to escape from the RWF-DSC-GTAW joint due to the
high cooling rate of the molten aluminium alloys. The other reason
is that although both the two processes use the same welding
speed and welding current, part of the arc heat in the RWF-DSC-
GTAW process is used to melt the ller wire. Thus the real heat
input used for welding is lowered for the RWF-DSC-GTAW process
than the RSF-DSC-GTAW process. Meanwhile, the extra hydrogen
Fig. 1. Dimensions of Double V joint conguration. might be led into welding pool from the insufcient drying and
10 Y. Feng et al. / Materials Science & Engineering A 673 (2016) 815

Table 1
Chemical composition (wt%) of Al7A52 and ER5356 ller wire.

Element Zn Mg Mn Cr Ti Zr Cu Fe Si Al

Al7A52 4.04.8 2.02.8 0.20.5 0.150.25 0.050.18 0.050.15 0.050.20 0.3 0.25 Bal.
ER5356 0.10 4.55.5 0.050.2 0.050.20 0.060.20 / 0.1 0.4 0.25 Bal.

Table 2
Mechanical properties of un-welded base

Materials welded Al7A52

Ultimate tensile strength (MPa) 410

Yield strength (MPa) 345
Elongation (%) 7

inadequacy cleanliness wire surface. Consequently, more porosity

existed in the RWF-DSC-GTAW joint than the RSF-DSC-GTAW

3.2. Microstructure

The microstructure of Al7A52 in T6 temper, which is the base

metal, is presented in Fig. 5a. The rolling deformation causes the
grains aligning in the rolling direction. The two main phases are
Fig. 3. Experimental setup.
(Al) and T (Mg3Zn3Al2). The base metal (BM), heat affected zone
(HAZ), fusion zone (FZ) and weld zone (WZ) have been marked by
proportion of T (Mg3Zn3Al2) phase. From the weld cross-section of
yellow dot line, as shown in Fig. 5b. It can be seen that the FZ'
RWF-DSC-GTAW (Fig. 4b), it can be clearly seen that the micro-
microstructure of the RWF-DSC-GTAW joint is relatively complex
structure of RWF-DSC-GTAW joint is layered with colours of white
because of the amount of the ller wire. The ne equiaxial grains
and black. The white banded microstructure is composed by
emerge obviously at the FZ near to the HAZ side, indicating a good
equiaxial white (Al) matrix and second phase particles (Fig. 5d).
transition from HAZ to FZ. As shown in Fig. 5c, different zones also
have been marked. The ne equiaxial grains appear in the FZ of the The microstructure of the black banded region is composed of
RSF-DSC-GTAW joint as well. The microstructure was relatively dendritic white (Al) grains and more second phase particles
more uniform than RWF-DSC-GTAW because that the weld zone of (Fig. 5e). The black dot is the strengthening phase of MgZn2. The
RSF-DSC-GTAW is all melted from the base metal. The organisation inhomogeneous microstructure distribution is harmful to the
compatibility of FZ and HAZ in the RSF-DSC-GTAW joint are better comprehensive mechanical properties of the welds. Compared
than in RWF-DSC-GTAW. The main phase in the RSF-DSC-GTAW with RWF-DSC-GTAW as shown in Fig. 4a, the weld zone of the
joint is mainly comprised by (Al), (MgZn2) and a small RSF-DSC-GTAW joint is not layered structure. The microstructure

Fig. 2. Schematic diagram of robotic double-sided coaxial GTAW system.

Y. Feng et al. / Materials Science & Engineering A 673 (2016) 815 11

Table 3 zones. The results are presented Fig. 6. Mg element of A5356 wire
Welding conditions and process parameters. increased the amount of Mg in the weld zone of the RWF-DSC-
GTAW joint (Fig. 6b). On the contrast, that of the RSF-DSC-GTAW
joint is decreased because of magnesium evaporation during arc
Tungsten electrode diameter (mm) 5.0 5.0 burning. Also the sum amount of Mg and Zn in the RWF-DSC-
Type of tungsten electrode W-Ce W-Ce GTAW joint is higher than 7%. It can be concluded that the second
Shielding gas Pure Argon Pure argon (99.99%) phase in both welds is MgZn2 from the element proportion of Mg
Fill wire diameter (mm) 1.6
and Zn in Fig. 7. WZ of the RSF-DSC-GTAW joint has relatively less
Average welding current (A) 280 280 proportion of MgZn2 (Fig. 7a) than that of the RWF-DSC-GTAW
Arc voltage (V) 12.613.4 12.713.3 joint. As shown in Fig. 6, the total amount of Mg and Zn in the
Welding speed (cm/min) 20 15 weld centre is less than 7% (Fig. 6a). There is relatively less pro-
Gas ow rate (L/min) 18.0 18.0
portion of MgZn2 (Fig. 7a). The results of XRD analysis in weld
Wire feed rate (m/min) 1.5
Distance from electrode to base 12.0 12.0 zone for the RWF-DSC-GTAW joint are presented in Fig. 8. It il-
metal (mm) lustrates that the weld zone primarily consisted of Al and the
strengthening phase MgZn2.

of RWF-DSC-GTAW joint consists of homogeneously distributed 3.4. Micro hardness

dense ne equiaxial grains and second phase particles (see Fig. 5f).
The polished and etched samples were used for micro-hard-
3.3. Component analysis ness test. The distribution of micro-hardness from the base metal
to the centre of the weld in the RSF-DSC-GTAW joint and the RWF-
Mg and Zn elements can form MgZn2 strengthening phase DSC-GTAW joint is presented is Fig. 9. The mean hardness of the
during welding. Increasing mass fraction of Mg and Zn can im- base metal and the weld zone in the RWF-DSC-GTAW joint is
prove the mechanical properties for the AlZnMg aluminium al- 100.5 HV and 80.1 HV, respectively, while it is just 72 HV in the
loy welds. The solubility of MgZn2 phase decreases sharply when HAZ. And each zone's average hardness of RSF-DSC-GTAW joint
the temperature drop down from the eutectic temperature to are as follows: base metal's micro hardness is 99.5 HV, weld zone's
room temperature. The solubility of MgZn2 at the eutectic tem- micro hardness is 91.9 HV, and the minimum hardness appeared
perature is up to 28%, while it is 45% at room temperature. The in the HAZ (86.0 HV). As shown in Fig. 9, the hardness distributed
MgZn2 phase has strong aging strengthening effect. Jin, Y [1] found symmetrically along the weld centre for both joints. The hardness
when the summary contents of Mg and Zn reached or exceeded of WZ and HAZ in RSF-DSC-GTAW is about 10 HV lower than that
8 wt%, the weld's mechanical properties can be improved sig- of BM. The hardness of WZ and HAZ in RWF-DSC-GTAW decreases
nicantly. SEM scanning has been performed on both joints weld signicantly. The maximum reduction reaches to 28 HV in the

(a) (b)
White region lack region


Fig. 4. Weld cross-section at different welding process, (a) RSF-DSC-GTAW, (b) RWF-DSC-GTAW.
12 Y. Feng et al. / Materials Science & Engineering A 673 (2016) 815


Fig. 5. Microstructure of RSF-DSC-GTAW and RWF-DSC-GTAW, (a) base metal, (b) RWF-DSC-GTAW joint, (c) RSF-DSC-GTAW joint, (d) white banded region (RWF-DSC-
GTAW), (e) black banded region (RWF-DSC-GTAW, (f) RSF-DSC-GTAW weld region. For interpretation of the references to colour in this gure legend, the reader is referred to
the web version of this article.

Fig. 6. Micro zone scanning results in the weld centre region, (a) RSF-DSC-GTAW, (b) RWF-DSC-GTAW.

HAZ. The lower hardness in the WZ and HAZ of the RWF-DSC- Figs. 11 and 12. It is found that the average ultimate tensile
GTAW joint is mainly due to the different composition of the strength of RSF-DSC-GTAW and RWF-DSC-GTAW is 344 MPa and
ER5356 ller metal and Al7A52 parent material. On the other 244 MPa respectively, which are 71.7% and 44.7% of the base metal.
hand, the micro hardness distribution in the RWF-DSC-GTAW joint The average elongation of RSF-DSC-GTAW and RWF-DSC-GTAW is
uctuates more obviously than in the RSF-DSC-GTAW joint. The 6.3% and 1.3% respectively, which are 77.77% and 16.04% of the
reason for this is that the strengthening phase MgZn2 distributes base metal. For RSF-DSC-GTAW the fracture location is in the HAZ
inhomogeneously in WZ of the RWF-DSC-GTAW. and the angle between the fracture plane and the tensile axial
direction is 45. Distinct from the base metal and RSF-DSC-GTAW,
3.5. Tensile properties the fracture position of the RWF-DSC-GTAW joint locates in the
WZ. The angel between its fracture plane and tensile axial direc-
As presented in Fig. 10, three tensile specimens were tested for tion is 90, which indicates a typical brittle fracture property ex-
each of the Base metal, RSF-DSC-GTAW joint and RWF-DSC-GTAW isted because of the unconspicuous plastic deformation. All the
joint. The ultimate tensile strength and elongation are shown in results indicate that the ultimate tensile strength and the
Y. Feng et al. / Materials Science & Engineering A 673 (2016) 815 13

Fig. 7. SEM microstructure of the MgZn2 strengthening phase in (a) RSF-DSC-GTAW, (b) RWF-DSC-GTAW.

Fig. 10. Tensile specimens of base material, RSF-DSC-GTAW joint and RWF-DSC-
GTAW joint.

Fig. 8. XRD analysis of the weld zone in RWF-DSC-GTAW joint.

Fig. 11. The Ultimate tensile strength and elongation of RSF-DSC-GTAW joint.
Fig. 9. Micro-hardness distribution in the welded joint of (a) RSF-DSC-GTAW,
14 Y. Feng et al. / Materials Science & Engineering A 673 (2016) 815

This is mainly because the chemical composition of the RWF-DSC-

GTAW joint varies greatly from the weld centre to the weld sur-
face. Even though the ER5356 has good ductility and toughness,
the strength is not as good as the base material. During stretching
weld centre area is the main part in bearing static force. With
relatively high fusion ratio, the equivalent area in bearing static
force in the RWF-DSC-GTAW joint is smaller than the other two.
Consequently RWF-DSC-GTAW joints are fractured with a small
elongation and static force at the same tensile condition.

4. Conclusions

In this work a novel robotic double-sided coaxial GTAW arc

welding process with two industrial robots was introduced. The
Fig. 12. The Ultimate strength and elongation of RWF-DSC-GTAW joint. microstructure and mechanical properties of the RSF-DSC-GTAW
weld and the RWF-DSC-GTAW weld were investigated. Following
elongation of the RSF-DSC-GTAW joint are better than the RWF- conclusions are derived from above experimental results and
DSC-GTAW joint. discussions.
The fracture microscopic morphology of the base metal by SEM
is shown in Fig. 13a. There are short river patterns without much (1) In the robotic welding of thick AlZnMg alloys plates, the
tributary. The tearing ridge surrounded by a small amount of ir- much more simple robotic self-uxing double sided coaxial
regularly distributed dimples, suggesting a quasi-cleavage fracture. GTAW process shows higher efciency than the robotic wire-
The RSF-DSC-GTAW joint fractures in the HAZ. The fracture mor- feed double sided coaxial GTAW process.
phology presented in Fig. 13b is similar to the base metal expect (2) The weld macrostructures of RWF-DSC-GTAW are layered with
that it possesses more dimples than the base metal. It is also white and black colours due to the inhomogeneous distribu-
dominated by quasi cleavage fracture. The fracture morphology of tion of strengthening phase (MgZn2). On the contrast the
the RWF-DSC-GTAW lays obviously through the weld centre to the weld macrostructure of RSF-DSC-GTAW is uniform and
weld surface (see Fig. 13c). Morphology of the weld centre is quasi phase (MgZn2) is homogeneously distributed in phase (Al).
cleavage fracture. Intensively small and shallow dimples exist on However, the weld microstructures of RSF-DSC-GTAW and
both sides of the weld centre suggesting a better elongation RWF-DSC-GTAW are similarly the same. The FZ zone of each
property. Nevertheless the elongation of the RWF-DSC-GTAW joint alloy consists of (Al) and phase (MgZn2) and a small
is only 1.3%, which is far less than the other two (8.1% and 6.3%). proportion of T (Mg3Zn3Al2) phase. The main phases are (Al)


Fig. 13. The fracture microscopic morphology observation of base material, self-uxing joint and wire-feed joint, (a) base metal, (b) RSF-DSC-GTAW, (c) RWF-DSC-GTAW.
Y. Feng et al. / Materials Science & Engineering A 673 (2016) 815 15

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