Weld Cracking of a Stainless Steel Heat Exchanger
A welded ferritic stainless steel heat exchanger cracked prior to service. The welding filler metal was identified as an austenitic stainless steel and the joining method as gas tungsten arc welding. Investigation (visual inspection, SEM images, 5.9x images, and 8.9x/119x images etched with Vilella's reagent followed by electrolytic etching in 10% oxalic acid) supported the conclusion that the heat exchanger cracked due to weld cold cracking or postwelding brittle overload that occurred via flexure during fabrication. The brittle nature of the weld was likely due to a combination of high residual stresses, a mixed microstructure, inclusions, and gross grain coarsening. These synergistic factors resulted from extreme heat input during fillet welding. Recommendations included altering the welding variables such as current, voltage, and travel speed to substantially reduce the heat input.