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Welding Exotic Metals - Today's Topic: Inconel

Christopher.Shelton

4 min read

Jan 20

34

0

By: Christopher Shelton, Welder / Fabricator - Viking Metalworks, LLC


Welding Inconel, a family of high-performance nickel-chromium alloys, requires precision, skill, and an understanding of the unique properties of these materials. Inconel alloys are known for their exceptional resistance to corrosion, high-temperature strength, and excellent mechanical properties. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk beginners through the process of welding Inconel, covering essential aspects such as material characteristics, preparation, welding methods, and post-weld considerations.

Understanding Inconel Alloys:

  1. Properties of Inconel Alloys: Inconel alloys are composed primarily of nickel, chromium, and other elements such as iron, molybdenum, and niobium. These alloys exhibit outstanding resistance to oxidation, corrosion, and high temperatures, making them ideal for applications in extreme environments. The most common types of Inconel alloys include Inconel 600, 625, 718, and X-750, each tailored for specific applications.

  2. Challenges in Welding Inconel: Welding Inconel poses unique challenges due to the alloy's composition and properties. These challenges include a tendency for hot cracking, sensitivity to heat input, and the formation of a hard and brittle heat-affected zone (HAZ). As a result, precise control of welding parameters and techniques is crucial to ensure high-quality welds.

Preparation for Welding Inconel:

  1. Material Preparation: Before beginning the welding process, thorough material preparation is essential. Clean the Inconel surfaces to remove any contaminants, oxides, or debris. Inconel's susceptibility to oxidation necessitates careful handling to maintain the integrity of the material.

  2. Joint Design and Fit-Up: Proper joint design and fit-up are critical for successful Inconel welding. Consider the specific welding application and select an appropriate joint configuration. Common joint designs for Inconel welding include butt joints, fillet joints, and lap joints. Ensure tight fit-up to minimize gaps, as these can lead to issues such as lack of fusion or incomplete penetration.

Welding Methods for Inconel:

  1. TIG Welding (GTAW): Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding, or Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW), is widely used for welding Inconel alloys. TIG welding offers precise control over the welding parameters, making it suitable for thin sections and intricate joints. Use a non-consumable tungsten electrode and inert shielding gas, typically argon, to ensure a clean and protected weld area.

  • Selecting the Right Tungsten Electrode: Choose a tungsten electrode suitable for Inconel welding. Thoriated tungsten electrodes are commonly used, but alternatives like ceriated or lanthanated tungsten can be chosen based on specific welding requirements.

  • Shielding Gas: Argon is the preferred shielding gas for Inconel welding. It provides an inert atmosphere, preventing oxidation and ensuring a clean weld. The flow rate of argon should be adjusted according to the welding parameters and material thickness.

  • Controlling Heat Input: Inconel is sensitive to heat input, so controlling the heat during welding is crucial. Use lower amperage settings and maintain a consistent travel speed to avoid overheating. Employing a pulsing feature, if available in the TIG welding machine, can help manage heat input effectively.

  1. MIG Welding (GMAW): Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding, or Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW), is another option for welding Inconel, especially for thicker sections. MIG welding utilizes a consumable wire electrode fed through a welding gun, along with a shielding gas (typically a mix of argon and helium) to protect the weld area.

  • Choosing the Right Filler Metal: Selecting the appropriate filler metal is crucial for MIG welding Inconel. Common choices include Inconel 625 filler metal for welding various Inconel alloys. Matching the filler metal composition to the base metal ensures compatibility and optimal mechanical properties.

  • Adjusting Welding Parameters: Properly set welding parameters, including voltage, wire feed speed, and shielding gas flow, are essential for successful MIG welding. Consult the welding procedure specifications (WPS) or manufacturer recommendations for specific guidelines on welding parameters.

Post-Weld Considerations:

  1. Heat Treatment: In certain applications, post-weld heat treatment (PWHT) may be recommended to relieve residual stresses and improve the mechanical properties of the weld. Follow the material and welding procedure specifications to determine if PWHT is necessary and the appropriate parameters.

  2. Inspecting the Weld: Thoroughly inspect the completed weld for defects such as cracks, lack of fusion, or porosity. Non-destructive testing methods, including visual inspection, dye penetrant testing, or radiographic testing, may be employed based on the application and industry standards.

  3. Surface Finishing: After inspection, consider any required surface finishing. Inconel welds may undergo post-weld cleaning to remove oxides and improve the aesthetic appearance of the weld. Stainless steel wire brushes or dedicated Inconel cleaning solutions can be used for this purpose.

Challenges and Solutions:

  1. Hot Cracking: Inconel is prone to hot cracking, especially in the presence of contaminants. To mitigate hot cracking, ensure a clean welding environment, use proper joint fit-up, and control the heat input. Employing preheating or interpass temperature control may also help reduce the risk of cracking.

  2. Brittle Heat-Affected Zone (HAZ): The formation of a brittle HAZ is a common challenge in Inconel welding. Minimize the heat input and select appropriate welding parameters to control the size and characteristics of the HAZ. Additionally, consider using post-weld heat treatment to refine the microstructure and reduce brittleness.

Conclusion:

Welding Inconel requires a careful balance of skill, knowledge, and attention to detail. As a beginner, understanding the properties of Inconel alloys, preparing the material meticulously, and choosing the right welding method are crucial steps in achieving successful welds. Whether using TIG or MIG welding, controlling heat input, selecting the proper filler metal, and adhering to post-weld procedures contribute to the overall quality of the weld.

While challenges such as hot cracking and a brittle HAZ may arise, following best practices and consulting welding procedure specifications will guide you through these complexities. As you embark on the journey of welding Inconel, continuous learning, hands-on experience, and adherence to industry standards will empower you to master the art of welding these high-performance alloys.

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Christopher.Shelton

4 min read

Jan 20

34

0

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