Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Use of a high power Yb:YAG laser is investigated for joining advanced high strength steel materials for use in tailor-welded blank (TWB) applications. TWB's are materials of different chemistry, coating or thicknesses that are joined before metal forming and other operations such as trimming, assembly and painting are carried out. TWB is becoming an important design tool in the automotive industry for reducing weight, improving fuel economy and passenger safety, while reducing the overall costs for the customer.
Three advanced high strength steels, TRIP780, DP980 and USIBOR, which have many unique properties that are conducive to achieving these objectives, along with mild steel, are used in this work. The objective of this work is to ensure that high quality welds can be obtained using Yb:YAG lasers which are also becoming popular for metal joining operations, since they produce high quality laser beams that suffer minimal distortion when transported via fiber optic cables. Various power levels and speeds for the laser beam were used during the investigation. Argon gas was consistently used for shielding purposes during the welding process. After the samples were welded, metallographic examination of the fusion and heat-affected zones using optical and scanning electron microscopes were carried out to determine the microstructures as well as weld defects. Optical and scanning electron microscopes were also used to examine the top of welds as well as fracture surfaces. Additionally, cross-weld microhardness evaluations, tensile tests using Instron tester, limited fatigue tests as well as formability evaluations using OSU plane strain evaluation were carried out. The examinations included a 2-factor full factorial design of experiments to determine the impact of coatings on the surface roughness on the top of the welds. Tensile strengths of DP980, TRIP780 and mild steel materials as well as DP980 welded to TRIP780 and mild steel in the rolling direction as well as transverse direction were evaluated.
Metallographic examinations determined that most of the fusion zone is martensitic with small regions of bainite and ferrite. High microhardness values of the order of 550 - 600 Hv were noted in most joints, which are attributed to high alloy content of the fusion zone as well as high rates of cooling typical of laser welds. During tensile, fatigue and formability tests, no fractures in the fusion or heat affected zones were observed. Geometric variability evaluations indicated that coatings such as aluminum (in the case of USIBOR) and galvanized zinc (TRIP780) can affect the variability of the weld zone and the surface roughness on the top of the weld. Excessive variability in the form of weld concavity in the weld zones can lead to fractures in the weld region, even though higher hardness can, to some extent, compensate for these surface irregularities. The 2-factor design of experiments further confirmed that coatings adversely affect the surface roughness on the top of the welds. Although thickness differentials alone do not make a significant impact on surface roughness, together with coatings, they can have an adverse effect on roughness. Tensile tests in the direction of rolling as well as in the transverse direction indicate that TRIP780 seems weaker in the direction of rolling when compared to transverse direction while mild steel is stronger in the direction of rolling. Weldability analyses revealed that the typical melting efficiency is on the order of 50-70% for full penetration welding. Formability tests showed that TR/MS joints fractured in a direction parallel to the weld line when tested with the loads perpendicular to the weld line. Tests have also confirmed that weld speed and power have no impact on the outcome of formability results.
Overall, this work conclusively proves that high power Yb:YAG lasers can effectively join high strength materials such as DP980, TRIP780, USIBOR, as well as mild steel, for use in tailor-welded blank applications, contributing to lighter, more fuel-efficient and safer vehicles.
Rajashekhar Shivaram Sharma
Sharma, Rajashekhar Shivaram, "Weldability of Advanced High Strength Steels using Yb:YAG high power laser for Tailor-Welded Blank applications" (2011). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 10340.