The structure and properties of autogenous laser beam welds in aluminium alloys
Autogenous laser beam welds were made in sheets of the aluminium alloys 8090, 8009 and 6061. The Al-Li based alloy 8090 was subjected to both continuous wave CO2 and pulsed Nd:YAG thermal cycles with average powers of 1.5-3.8 kW and 0.8- 0.9 kW respectively. The two techniques were compared for their influence on the 8090 solidified weld pool shape, the fusion zone microstructure and microhardness, the HAZ and the susceptibility of the fusion zone to post-weld heat treatment. It was found that CO2 keyhole welding is preferable to Nd:YAG welding, under the welding conditions investigated, as essential elements such as Li and Mg were lost by evaporation during Nd:YAG processing. Microscopy of the 8090 CO2 weld fusion zone revealed that the solidification mode was sensitive both to the temperature gradient and growth rate during solidification, with a transformation from cellular to equiaxed dendritic growth occurring from the weld pool edge to the weld centre. The secondary dendrite arm spacing was found to be 2-5µm and the metastable phase δ (Al3Li) was present after welding with a very fine homogeneous distribution of -5nm diameter spheres. Porosity was identified as a major welding defect and was attributed to two distinct formation mechanisms. Firstly, the release of hydrogen gas during welding caused spherical gas bubbles throughout the weld pool. Secondly, the delicate balance of forces within the keyhole resulted in larger irregular shaped pores at the weld centre-line towards the weld root. This second type of pore was virtually absent in full penetration welds. The influence of heating rate to the solution treatment temperature on 8090 CO2 weld metal was assessed and the weld metal grain size was found to be most uniformly small after a heating rate of 1 K/min. A TEM investigation confirmed that the grain boundary pinning dispersoid β(Al3Zr) was responsible for inhibiting grain growth. However, the microhardness and notch-tensile strength of the CO2 weld metal did not depend on the weld metal grain size. Instead, it was suggested that the residual cast structure was responsible for determining the mode of failure and fracture strength. Microstructural studies of CO2 laser welds in RSIPM 8009 and wrought 6061 confirmed the cooling rate of 102-103 K/s predicted for CO2 welds in 8090. However, the 8009 CO2 weld metal did not solidify by epitaxial growth from the fusion boundary, which was the case for CO2 welds in 8090 and 6061. Instead, solidification in 8009 weld pools occurred via many isolated events on primary intermetallic particles. The intermetallic particles had the stoichiometry Al4.5(Fe,V,Si) with the AI.mFe tetragonal lattice parameters. It was qualitatively shown that the 8009 weld microhardness had an inverse relationship with the volume fraction of intermetallic particles. Chemical analysis of the 6061 weld metal confirmed that even when aluminium is alloyed with volatile elements such as Mg it is mostly retained within the weld pool during CO2 keyhole laser welding. It was found that a much higher power was required to obtain a deep penetration weld in 6061 than in either of the other alloys.