fra0708 Fundamentals of Professional Welding

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Welding Quality Control

In the fabrication or repair of equipment, tests are used to determine the quality and soundness of the welds. Many different tests have been designed for specific faults. The type of test used depends upon the requirements of the welds and the availability of testing equipment. In this section, nondestructive and destructive testing are briefly discussed.

Nondestructive Testing

Nondestructive testing is a method of testing that does not destroy or impair the usefulness of a welded item. These tests disclose all of the common internal and surface defects that can occur when improper welding procedures are used. A large choice of testing devices is available and most of them are easier to use than the destructive methods, especially when working on large and expensive items.

Visual Inspection

Visual inspection is usually done automatically by the welder as he completes his welds. This is strictly a subjective type of inspection and usually there are no definite or rigid limits of acceptability. The welder may use templates for weld bead contour checks. Visual inspections are basically a comparison of finished welds with an accepted standard. This test is effective only when the visual qualities of a weld are the most important.

Magnetic Particle Inspection

Magnetic particle inspection is most effective for the detection of surface or near surface flaws in welds. It is used in metals or alloys in which you can induce magnetism. While the test piece is magnetized, a liquid containing finely ground iron powder is applied. As long as the magnetic field is not disturbed, the iron particles will form a regular pattern on the surface of the test piece. When the magnetic field is interrupted by a crack or some other defect in the metal, the pattern of the suspended ground metal also is interrupted. The particles of metal cluster around the defect, making it easy to locate.

You can magnetize the test piece by either having an electric current pass through it, as shown in figure 7-58, or by having an electric current pass through a coil of wire that surrounds the test piece, as shown in figure 7-59. When an electric current flows in a straight line from one contact point to the other, magnetic lines of force are in a circular direction, as shown in figure 7-58. When the current flow is through a coil around the test piece, as shown in figure 7-59, the magnetic lines of force are longitudinal through the test piece.

Figure 7-58.—Circular magnetization (prod method).


Figure 7-59.—Longitudinal magnetization (coil method).

When a defect is to show up as a disturbance in the pattern of the iron particles, the direction of the magnetic field must be at right angles to the major axis of the defect. A magnetic field having the necessary direction is established when the current flow is parallel to the major axis of the defect. Since the orientation of the defect is unknown, different current directions must be used during the test. As shown in figure 7-58, circular magnetism is induced in the test piece so you can inspect the piece for lengthwise cracks, while longitudinal magnetism, as shown in figure 7-59, is induced so you can inspect the piece for transverse cracks. In general, magnetic particle inspection is satisfactory for detecting surface cracks and subsurface cracks that are not more than 1/4 inch below the surface.

One type of magnetic particle inspection unit is a portable low-voltage unit having a maximum magnetizing output of 1,000 amperes, either alternating or direct current. It is ready to operate when plugged into the voltage supply specified by the manufacturer. The unit consists of a magnetizing current source, controls, metering, three 10-foot lengths of flexible cable, and a prod kit. The prod kit includes an insulated prod grip fitted with an ON-OFF relay or current control switch, a pair of heavy copper contact prods, and two 5-foot lengths of flexible cable. Cable fittings are designed so that either end of the cable can be connected to the unit, to the prods, or to any other cable. The three outlets on the front of the unit make changing from alternating to direct current or vice versa very easy. The outlets are labeled as follows: left is ac, the center is COMMON, and the right is dc. One cable will always be plugged into the COMMON outlet, while the other cable is plugged into either the ac or dc outlet, depending upon what type of current the test requires. For most work, alternating current magnetization effectively locates fatigue cracks and similar defects extending through to the surface. When you require a more sensitive inspection to detect defects below the surface, use direct current.

You can use the unit with alternating or direct current in either of two ways: (1) with prods attached to the flexible cable and used as contacts for the current to pass into and out of a portion of the test piece, setting up circular magnetization in the area between the prods contact points, as shown in figure 7-58; or (2) with the flexible cable wrapped around the work to form a coil that induces longitudinal magnetism in the part of the workpiece that is surrounded by the coiled cable (figure 7-59).

Although you can use either of these two methods, the prod method is probably the easier to apply. Inmost instances, it effectively serves to detect surface defects. With the prods, however, only a small area of the test piece can be magnetized at any one time. This magnetized area is limited to the distance between prod contact points and a few inches on each side of the current path. To check the entire surface, you must test each adjacent area by changing the location of the prod contact points. Each area of the test piece must be inspected twice— once with the current passing through the metal in one direction and then with the current passing through the metal in a direction at right angles to the direction of the first test. One of the advantages of the prod method is that the current can be easily passed through the metal in any desired direction. Thus, when a given area is suspect, magnetic fields of different directions can be induced during the test.

The prod method is accomplished by adjusting the unit for a current output suitable for the magnetizing and testing of any particular kind of metal. The current setting required depends on the distance between prod contact points. With the prod kit that is supplied with the unit, the space between prod contact points is 4 to 6 inches. A current setting between 300 and 400 amperes is satisfactory when the material thickness is less than 3/4 inch. When the material thickness is over 3/4 inch, use 400 to 600 amperes. When the prod contact points are closer together, the same magnetic field force can be obtained with less current. With prods constantly at the same spacing, more current will induce a greater field strength.

After adjusting the unit, place the prods in position. Hold them infirm contact with the metal and turn on the current. Then apply magnetic particles to the test area with the duster bulb and look for any indicator patterns. With the current still on, remove the excess particles from the test area with a blower bulb and complete the inspection. Do not move the prods until after the current has been turned off. To do so could cause the current to arc, resulting in a flash similar to that occurring in arc welding.

When you use magnetic particle inspection, hairline cracks that are otherwise invisible are readily indicated by an unmistakable outline of the defect. Large voids beneath the surface are easier to detect than small voids, but any defect below the surface is more difficult to detect than one that extends through to the surface. Since false indications frequently occur, you must be able to interpret the particle indications accurately.

The factors that help you interpret the test results include the amount of magnetizing current applied, the shape of the indication, the sharpness of the outline, the width of the pattern, and the height or buildup of the particles. Although these characteristics do not deter-mine the seriousness of the fault, they do serve to identify the kind of defect.

The indication of a crack is a sharp, well-defined pattern of magnetic particles having a definite buildup. This indication is produced by a relatively low-magnetizing current. Seams are revealed by a straight, sharp, fine indication. The buildup of particles is relatively weak, and the magnetizing current must be higher than that required to detect cracks. Small porosity and rounded indentations or similar defects are difficult to detect for inexperienced inspectors. A high-magnetizing current continuously applied is usually required. The particle patterns for these defects are fuzzy in outline and have a medium buildup.

The specifications governing the job determine whether or not an indicated defect is to be chipped or ground out and repaired by welding. Surface cracks are always removed and repaired. Indications of subsurface defects detected by magnetic particle inspection are evaluated by the inspector. When the indication is positive, the standard policy is to grind or chip down to solid metal and make the repair. Unless the inspector can differentiate accurately between true and false indications, the use of magnetic particle inspection should be restricted to the detection of surface defects, for which this application is almost foolproof.

After the indicated defects have been repaired, you should reinspect the areas to ensure that the repair is sound. The final step in magnetic particle inspection, is to demagnetize the workpiece. This is especially important when the workpiece is made of high-carbon steel. Demagnetization is essential when you use direct current to induce the magnetic field; however, it is not as necessary when alternating current was used in the test. In fact, the usual demagnetization procedure involves placing the workpiece in an ac coil or solenoid and slowly withdrawing it while current passes through the coil.

Demagnetization can be accomplished with the portable unit if a special demagnetizer is not available. To demagnetize with the portable unit, form a coil of flexible cable around the workpiece. Ensure that the cable is plugged into the unit for the delivery of alternating current. Set the current regulator to deliver a current identical to that used for the inspection and turn on the unit. Gradually decrease the current until the ammeter indicates zero. On large pieces, it may be necessary to demagnetize a small portion of the work at a time.

A check for the presence of a magnetic field may be made by using a small compass. A deviation of the needle from the normal position, when the compass is held near the workpiece, is an indication that a magnetic field is present. Also you can use an instrument called a field indicator to check for the presence of a magnetic field. This instrument usually comes with the magnetic particle inspection unit.

Liquid Penetrant Inspection

Liquid penetrant methods are used to inspect metals for surface defects that are similar to those revealed by magnetic particle inspection. Unlike magnetic particle inspection, which can reveal subsurface defects, liquid penetrant inspection reveals only those defects that are open to the surface. Four groups of liquid penetrants are presently in use. Group I is a dye penetrant that is non-water washable. Group II is a water washable dye penetrant. Group III and Group IV are fluorescent penetrants. Carefully follow the instructions given for each type of penetrant since there are some differences in the procedures and safety precautions required for the various penetrants.

Before using a liquid penetrant to inspect a weld, remove all slag, rust, paint, and moisture from the surface. Except where a specific finish is required, it is not necessary to grind the weld surface as long as the weld surface meets applicable specifications. Ensure the weld contour blends into the base metal without under-cutting. When a specific finish is required, perform the liquid penetrant inspection before the finish is made. This enables you to detect defects that extend beyond the final dimensions, but you must make a final liquid penetrant inspection after the specified finish has been given.

Before using a liquid penetrant, clean the surface of the material very carefully, including the areas next to the inspection area. You can clean the surface by swabbing it with a clean, lint-free cloth saturated in a non-volatile solvent or by dipping the entire piece into a solvent. After the surface has been cleaned, remove all traces of the cleaning material. It is extremely important to remove all dirt, grease, scale, lint, salts, or other materials and to make sure that the surface is entirely dry before using the liquid penetrant.

Maintain the temperature of the inspection piece and the liquid penetrant in the range of 50°F to 100°F. Do not attempt to use the liquid penetrant when this temperature range cannot be maintained. Do not use an open flame to increase the temperature because some of the liquid penetrant materials are flammable.

After thoroughly cleaning and drying the surface, coat the surface with the liquid penetrant. Spray or brush on the penetrant or dip the entire piece into the penetrant. To allow time for the penetrant to soak into all the cracks, crevices, or other defects that are open to the surface, keep the surface of the piece wet with the penetrant for a minimum of 15 or 30 minutes, depending upon the penetrant being used.

After keeping the surface wet with the penetrant for the required length of time, remove any excess penetrant from the surface with a clean, dry cloth, or absorbent paper towel. Then dampen a clean, lint-free material with penetrant remover and wipe the remaining excess penetrant from the test surface. Next, allow the test surface to dry by normal evaporation or wipe it dry with a clean, lint-free absorbent material. In drying the surface, avoid contaminating it with oil, lint, dust, or other materials that would interfere with the inspection.

After the surface has dried, apply another substance, called a developer. Allow the developer (powder or liquid) to stay on the surface for a minimum of 7 minutes before starting the inspection. Leave it on no longer than 30 minutes, thus allowing a total of 23 minutes to evaluate the results.

Figure 7-60.—Liquid penetrant inspection.

The following actions take place when using dye penetrants. First, the penetrant that is applied to the surface of the material will seep into any passageway open to the surface, as shown in figure 7-60, view A.

The penetrant is normally red in color, and like penetrating oil, it seeps into any crack or crevice that is open to the surface. Next, the excess penetrant is removed from the surface of the metal with the penetrant remover and a lint-free absorbent material. Only the penetrant on top of the metal surface is removed (fig. 7-60, view B), leaving the penetrant that has seeped into the defect.

Finally, the white developer is applied to the surface of the metal, as shown in figure 7-60, view C. The developer is an absorbing material that actually draws the penetrant from the defect. Therefore, the red penetrant indications in the white developer represent the defective areas. The amount of red penetrant drawn from the defective areas indicates the size and some-times the type of defect. When you use dye penetrants, the lighting in the test area must be bright enough to enable you to see any indications of defects on the test surface.

The indications you see during a liquid penetrant inspection must be carefully interpreted and evaluated. In almost every inspection, some insignificant indications are present. Most of these are the result of the failure to remove all the excess penetrant from the surface. At least 10 percent of all indications must be removed from the surface to determine whether defects are actually present or whether the indications are the result of excess penetrant. When a second inspection does not reveal indications in the same locations, it is usually safe to assume that the first indications were false.

Remove all penetrant inspection materials as soon as possible after the final inspection has been made. Use water or solvents, as appropriate. Since some of the liquid penetrant materials are flammable, do not use them near open flames, and do not apply them to any surface that is at a temperature higher than 100°F. In addition to being flammable, many solvents are poison-ous in the vapor form and highly imitating to the skin in the liquid form.

Radiographic Inspection

Radiographic inspection is a method of inspecting weldments by the use of rays that penetrate through the welds. X rays or gamma rays are the two types of waves used for this process. The rays pass through the weld and onto a sensitized film that is in direct contact with the back of the weld. When the film is developed, gas pockets, slag inclusions, cracks, or poor penetration will be visible on the film.

Because of the danger of these rays, only qualified personnel are authorized to perform these tests. As Seabees, you will rarely come in contact with these procedures.

Ultrasonic Inspection

Ultrasonic inspection of testing uses high-frequency vibrations or waves to locate and measure defects in welds. It can be used in both ferrous and nonferrous materials. This is an extremely sensitive system and can locate very fine surface and subsurface cracks as well as other types of defects. All types of joints can be tested.

This process uses high-frequency impulses to check the soundness of the weld. In a good weld, the signal travels through the weld to the other side and is then reflected back and shown on a calibrated screen. Irregularities, such as gas pockets or slag inclusions, cause the signal to reflect back sooner and will be displayed on the screen as a change in depth. When you use this system, most all types of materials can be checked for defects. Another advantage of this system is that only one side of the weld needs to be exposed for testing.

Eddy Current Testing

Eddy current is another type of testing that uses electromagnetic energy to detect faults in weld deposits and is effective for both ferrous and nonferrous materials. Eddy current testing operates on the principle that whenever a coil carrying a high-frequency alternating current is placed next to a metal, an electrical current is produced in the metal by induction. This induced current is called an eddy current.

The test piece is exposed to electromagnetic energy by being placed in or near high-frequency ac current coils. The differences in the weld cause changes in the impedance of the coil, and this is indicated on electronic instruments. When there are defects, they show up as a change in impedance, and the size of the defect is shown by the amount of this change.

Destructive Testing

In destructive testing, sample portions of the welded structures are required. These samples are subjected to loads until they actually fail. The failed pieces are then studied and compared to known standards to determine the quality of the weld. The most common types of destructive testing are known as free bend, guided bend, nick-break, impact, fillet welded joint, etching, and tensile testing. The primary disadvantage of destructive testing is that an actual section of a weldment must be destroyed to evaluate the weld. This type of testing is usually used in the certification process of the welder.

Some of the testing requires elaborate equipment that is not available for use in the field. Three tests that may be performed in the field without elaborate equipment are the free-bend test, the guided-bend test, and the nick-break test.

Free-Bend Test

The FREE-BEND TEST is designed to measure the ductility of the weld deposit and the heat-affected area adjacent to the weld. Also it is used to determine the percentage of elongation of the weld metal. Ductility, you should recall, is that property of a metal that allows it to be drawn out or hammered thin.

The first step in preparing a welded specimen for the free-bend test is to machine the welded reinforcement crown flush with the surface of the test plate. When the weld area of a test plate is machined, as is the case of the guided-bend as well as in the free-bend test, perform the machining operation in the opposite direction that the weld was deposited.

The next step in the free-bend testis to scribe two lines on the face of the filler deposit. Locate these lines 1/16 inch from each edge of the weld metal, as shown in figure 7-61, view B. Measure the distance, in inches, between the lines to the nearest 0.01 inch and let the resulting measurement equal (x). Then bend the ends of  the test specimen until each leg forms an angle of 30 degrees to the original centerline. With the scribed lines on the outside and the piece placed so all the bending occurs in the weld, bend the test piece by using a hydraulic press or similar machine.

Figure 7-61.—Free-bend test

When the proper precautions are taken, a blacksmith’s forging press or hammer can be used to complete the bending operation. If a crack more than 1/16 inch develops during the test, stop the bending because the weld has failed; otherwise, bend the specimen flat. After completing the test, measure the distance between the scribed lines and call that measurement (y). The percentage of elongation is then determined by the formula:

Requirements for a satisfactory test area minimum elongation of 15 percent and no cracks greater than 1/16 inch on the face of the weld.

Guided-Bend Test

You use the GUIDED-BEND TEST to determine the quality of weld metal at the face and root of a welded joint. This test is made in a specially designed jig. An example of one type of jig is shown in figure 7-62.

Figure 7-62.—Guided-bend test jig.

The test specimen is placed across the supports of the die. A plunger, operated from above by hydraulic pressure, forces the specimen into the die. To fulfill the requirements of this test, you must bend the specimen 180 degrees—the capacity of the jig. No cracks should appear on the surface greater than 1/8 inch. The face-bend tests are made in this jig with the face of the weld in tension (outside), as shown in figure 7-63. The root-bend tests are made with the root of the weld in tension (outside), as shown in figure 7-63.

Figure 7-63.—Guided-bend test specimens.

Figure 7-64 shows a machine used for making the guided-bend test. It is used in many welding schools and testing laboratories for the daily testing of specimens. Simple in construction and easy to use, it works by hydraulic pressure and can apply a direct load up to 40,000 pounds, and even more on small specimens. When you make the test, position the specimen in the machine as previously indicated and start pumping the actuator. Keep your eye on the large gauge and watch the load increase. You will know the actual load under which the test piece bends by the position of an auxiliary hand that is carried along by the gauge pointer. The hand remains at the point of maximum load after the pointer returns to zero.

Figure 7-64.—Testing machine for making guided-bend tests.
(Courtesy PCESLimited)

Nick-Break Test

The NICK-BREAK TEST is useful for determining the internal quality of the weld metal. This test reveals various internal defects (if present), such as slag inclusions, gas pockets, lack of fusion, and oxidized or burned metal. To accomplish the nick-break test for checking a butt weld, you must first flame-cut the test specimens from a sample weld (fig. 7-65). Make a saw cut at each edge through the center of the weld. The depth of cut should be about ¼ inch.

Next, place the saw-nicked specimen on two steel supports, as shown in figure 7-65. Using a heave ham-mer, break the specimen by striking it in the zone where you made the saw cuts. The weld metal exposed in the break should be completely fused, free from slag inclusions, and contain no gas pockets greater than 1/16 inch across their greatest dimension. There should not be more than six pores or gas pockets per square inch of exposed broken surface of the weld.

Figure 7-65.—Nick-break test of a butt weld.

Impact Test

You use the IMPACT TEST to check the ability of a weld to absorb energy under impact without fracturing. This is a dynamic test in which a test specimen is broken by a single blow, and the energy used in breaking the piece is measured in foot-pounds. This test compares the toughness of the weld metal with the base metal. It is useful in finding if any of the mechanical properties of the base metal were destroyed by the welding process.

The two kinds of specimens used for impact testing are known as Charpy and Izod (fig. 7-66). Both test pieces are broken in an impact testing machine. The only difference is in the manner that they are anchored. The Charpy piece is supported horizontally between two anvils and the pendulum strikes opposite the notch, as shown in figure 7-67, view A. The Izod piece is supported as a vertical cantilever beam and is struck on the free end projecting over the holding vise (fig. 7-67, view B).

Figure 7-66.—Test pieces for impact testing.


Figure 7-67.—Performing impact test.

Fillet-Welded Joint Test

You use the FILLET-WELDED JOINT TEST to check the soundness of a fillet weld. Soundness refers to the degree of freedom a weld has from defects found by visual inspection of any exposed welding surface. These defects include penetrations, gas pockets, and inclusions. Prepare the test specimen, as shown in figure 7-68. Now apply force (fig. 7-69) until a break occurs in the joint. This force may be applied by hydraulics or hammer blows.

Figure 7-68.—Test plate for fillet weld test.


Figure 7-69.—Rupturing fillet weld test plate.

In addition to checking the fractured weld for soundness, now is a good time to etch the weld to check for cracks.

Etching Test

The ETCHING TEST is used to determine the soundness of a weld and also make visible the boundary between the base metal and the weld metal.

To accomplish the test, you must cut a test piece from the welded joint so it shows a complete transverse section of the weld. You can make the cut by either sawing or flame cutting. File the face of the cut and then polish it with grade 00 abrasive cloth. Now place the test piece in the etching solution.

The etching solutions generally used are hydrochloric acid, ammonium persulfate, iodine and potassium iodide, or nitric acid. Each solution highlights different defects and areas of the weld. The hydrochloric acid dissolves slag inclusions and enlarges gas pockets, while nitric acid is used to show the refined zone as well as the metal zone.

Tensile Strength Test

The term TENSILE STRENGTH may be defined as the resistance to longitudinal stress or pull and is meas-ured in pounds per square inch of cross section. Testing for tensile strength involves placing a weld sample in a tensile testing machine and pulling on the test sample until it breaks.

The essential features of a tensile testing machine are the parts that pull the test specimen and the devices that measure the resistance of the test specimen. Another instrument, known as an extensometer or strain gauge, is also used to measure the strain in the test piece. Some equipment comes with a device that records and plots the stress-strain curve for a permanent record.

The tensile test is classified as a destructive test because the test specimen must be loaded or stressed until it fails. Because of the design of the test machine, weld samples must be machined to specific dimensions.

This explains why the test is made on a standard specimen, rather than on the part itself. It is important that the test specimen represents the part. Not only must the specimen be given the same heat treatment as the part but it also must be heat-treated at the same time.

There are many standard types of tensile test specimens, and figure 7-70 shows one standard type of specimen commonly used. The standard test piece is an accurately machined specimen. Overall length is not a critical item, but the diameter and gauge length are. The 0.505-inch-diameter (0.2 square inch area) cross section of the reduced portion provides an easy factor to manipulate arithmetically. The 2-inch gauge length is the distance between strain-measuring points. This is the portion of the specimen where you attach the extensometer. In addition, you can use the gauge length to determine percent elongation.

Figure 7-70.—Standard tensile test specimen.

The tensile test amounts to applying a smooth, steadily increasing load (or pull) on a test specimen and measuring the resistance of the specimen until it breaks. Even if recording equipment is not available, the testis not difficult to perform. During the test, you observe the behavior of the specimen and record the extensometer and gauge readings at regular intervals. After the specimen breaks and the fracturing load is recorded, you measure the specimen with calipers to determine the percent of elongation and the percent reduction in area. In addition, you should plot a stress-strain curve. From the data obtained, you can determine tensile strength, yield point, elastic limit, modulus of elasticity, and other properties of the material.

Safety Regulations

You, as the welder, must have a thorough knowledge of the safety precautions relating to the job. That is not all; you should also consider it your responsibility to observe all of the applicable safety precautions. When welding, carelessness can cause serious injury to your-self as well as others.

Bear in mind the safety precautions for operating welding equipment can vary considerably because of the different types of equipment involved; therefore, only general precautions on operating metal arc-welding equipment are presented here. For specific instructions on the operation and maintenance of your individual equipment, consult the equipment manufacturer’s instruction manual. In regards to general precautions, know your equipment and how to operate it. Use only approved welding equipment, and ensure that it is maintained properly.

Before you start welding, ensure that the welding machine frame is grounded, that neither terminal of the welding generator is bonded to the frame, and that all electrical connections are secure. The ground connection must be attached firmly to the work, not merely laid loosely upon it.

  • Keep welding cables dry and free of oil or grease.
  • Keep the cables in good condition and always take appropriate steps to protect them from damage. When it is necessary to run cables some distance from the ma-chine, lay them overhead, if at all possible, using adequate support devices.
  • When you are using portable machines, make sure that the primary power cable is separate from the welding cables so they do not become entangled. Any portable equipment mounted on wheels should be securely blocked to prevent accidental movement during welding operations.
  • When stopping work for any appreciable length of time, be sure to de-energize the equipment. When the equipment is not in use, you should completely disconnect it from its source of power.
  • Keep the work area neat and clean. If at all possible, make it a practice to dispose the hot electrode stubs in a metal container.



The publisher makes no representations or warranties of any kind, including but not limited to, the warranties of fitness for particular purpose, nor are any such representation implied with respect to the material set forth herein, and the publisher takes no responsibility with respect to such material. The publisher shall not be liable for any special consequential or exemplary damages resulting, in whole or in part, from the user’s application of, or reliance upon, this material.

David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015