Embrittlement of Stainless Steel by Liquid Copper From a Welding Fixture
Parts of 21Cr-6Ni-9Mn stainless steel that had been forged at about 815 deg C (1500 deg F) were gas tungsten arc welded. During postweld inspection, cracks were found in the HAZs of the welds. Welding had been done using a copper fixture that contacted the steel in the area of the HAZ on each side of the weld but did not extend under the tungsten arc. In SEM examination, the cracks appeared to be intergranular and extended to a depth of approximately 1.3 mm (0.05 in.). The crack appearance suggested that the surface temperature of the HAZ could have melted a film of copper on the fixture surface and that this could have penetrated the stainless steel in the presence of tensile thermal-contraction stresses. The cracks in the weldments were a form of liquid-metal embrittlement caused by contact with superficially melted copper from the fixture and subsequent grain-boundary attack of the stainless steel in an area under residual tensile stress. The copper for the fixtures was replaced by aluminum. No further cracking was encountered.