Narrow Gap Laser Welding of 316L Stainless Steel for Potential Application in the Manufacture of Thick Section Nuclear Components

  • Ahmed Elmesalamy

Student thesis: Phd


Thick-section austenitic stainless steels have widespread industrial applications, especially in nuclear power plants. The joining methods used in the nuclear industry are primarily based on arc welding processes. However, it has recently been shown that the Narrow Gap Laser Welding (NGLW) technique can be used to join materials with thicknesses that are well beyond the capabilities of single pass autogenous laser welding. The heat input for NGLW is much lower than that of arc welding, as are the expected levels of residual stress and distortion.The multi-pass laser welding technique, based on the narrow gap approach, is an emerging welding technology which can be applied to thick-section welds using a relatively low-power laser, but the process is more complicated than autogenous laser welding, since it is necessary to introduce filler wire to narrow gap weld configurations. Despite this complexity, the technique is very promising for improving the penetration capabilities of the laser welding process. However a limited amount of research has been conducted on the development of the NGLW technique; the control and optimization of weld bead quality inside the narrow gap is still an area of weakness. The research described in this thesis involves investigations on NGLW of AISI grade 316L austenitic stainless steel, and the performance of the resulting welds. Design-of-experiments and statistical modelling techniques were employed to understand and optimize the welding process. A statistical model was used in order to understand the significant process parameters and their interactions, allowing improved control of the weld quality in ultra-narrow gap (1.5 mm gap width) welds. The results show a significant improvement in weld quality can be achieved through the use of statistical modelling and multi-variable optimisation.The microstructure characteristics and mechanical properties (e.g. tensile strengths, fatigue, bending strength and fracture toughness) of the NGLW samples were examined and compared with those of other welding techniques - autogenous laser welding and gas-tungsten arc welding (GTAW). The work shows that NGLW of 316L steel sheets up to 20 mm thickness have generally better or comparable mechanical properties than those of GTAW but with much higher welding productivity.The results of detailed investigations of the 2D residual stress distributions, material distortions, and plastic strain characteristics of the NGLW technique are described. The contour method was employed for residual stress evaluation of the NGLW technique, and the results were validated using X-Ray and neutron diffraction measurements. The results were compared with those obtained with GTAW. The results suggest that the longitudinal tensile residual stresses in NGLW joints are 30-40% lower than those for GTAW joints. The influence of the laser power and number of passes for the NGLW technique, on the developed residual stress and plastic strain has been investigated, and the influence of welding strategy and the use of restraint during welding were also investigated. To understand the thermal history in NGLW and its effect on residual stress, finite element analysis was carried out using ABAQUS to numerically model the behaviour of residual stress across the multipass NGLW weld joints. The model has been validated with the experiments using temperature measurements and in terms of residual stresses the model is compared with neutron diffraction and the contour method. There is a very good correlation between the model and experimental results. The influence of both the laser power and welding speed on the induced residual stress during the NGLW process was also investigated using the model.The aqueous, pitting and stress corrosion cracking behaviour of the NGLW joints were investigated, and the results compared to those for GTAW joints under the same conditions. The results show that NGLW joints have better resistance to pitting corrosion than
Date of Award31 Dec 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorLin Li (Supervisor) & John Francis (Supervisor)


  • Residual stress
  • Narrow gap laser welding

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