Fracture of Welds in a Pressure Vessel Because of Atmospheric Contamination
A Ti-6Al-4V alloy pressure vessel failed during a proof-pressure test, fracturing along the center girth weld. The girth joints were welded with the automatic gas tungsten arc process utilizing an auxiliary trailing shield attached to the welding torch to provide inert-gas shielding for the exterior surface of the weld. A segmented backup ring with a gas channel was used inside the vessel to shield the weld root. The pressure vessel failed due to contamination of the fusion zone by oxygen, which resulted when the gas shielding the root face of the weld was diluted by air that leaked into the gas channel. Thermal stresses cracked the embrittled weld, exposing the crack surfaces to oxidation before cooling. One of these cracks caused a stress concentration so severe that failure of the vessel wall during the proof test was inevitable. A sealing system at the split-line region of the segmented backup ring was provided, and a fine-mesh stainless steel screen diffuser was incorporated in the channel section of the backup ring to prevent air from leaking in. A titanium alloy color chart was furnished to permit correlation of weld-zone discoloration with the degree of atmospheric contamination.