Weldability of Aluminum Alloys

WELDABILTIY OF ALUMINUM HEADER

Weldability of Aluminum

Aluminum and aluminum alloys are a popular metal in fabrications because of their low weight, good corrosion resistance and weldability. Although they typically possess low strength, certain complex aluminum alloys can have mechanical properties similar to steels. Aluminum alloys can be joined by more methods than any other metal, but also possess several chemical and physical properties that require understanding when utilizing the various methods. Therefore, the first step to successful aluminum welding is to familiarize yourself with the various aluminum alloys, their properties, and the considerations in choosing filler metal for each.

SWRQEQA

Aluminum Alloys

As mentioned above, though pure aluminium is a relatively soft metal, when it’s combined with alloying elements it can produce a range of mechanical properties. These alloys are categorized into families according to the principal alloying elements by a four-digit identification system. Here is an overview of the of common families of aluminum alloys and their weldability characteristics/common filler metals:

1XXX alloys:

Pure (99%) aluminum. Used to carry electrical current or for corrosion resistance in particular environments. 1000 series aluminum alloys are readily weldable with 1100 filler metal.

2XXX alloys:

High-strength sheet or plate aerospace alloys. They are extremely sensitive to hot cracking, making them the most unweldable aluminum alloys (specifically 2024). A couple exceptions are 2219 and 2519, which can be readily welded with 2319 or 4043 filler metal.

3XXX alloys:

Medium-strength aluminum alloys. They are very formable and are often are used for heat exchangers and air conditioners. 3000 series aluminum alloys are readily weldable with either 4043 or 5356 filler metal.

4XXX alloys:

Typically used as welding or brazing filler alloys than as base materials. However if being used as base materials, 4000 series aluminum alloys are readily welded with 4043 filler metal.

5XXX alloys:

High-strength sheet and plate alloys. 5000 series aluminum alloys are readily welded with 5356 filler metal. However with stronger alloys, such as 5083, 5183 or 5556 filler metals should be used.

6XXX alloys:

Primarily the extrusion alloys, but available in sheet and plate as well. 6000 series aluminum alloys are tricky to weld because they are prone to cracking. However, with the proper techniques, they can be readily welded using 4043 or 5356 filler metals.

7XXX alloys:

High-strength aerospace alloys. These alloys are mostly unweldable due to their susceptibility to hot-cracking and stress-corrosion (specially 7075). The exceptions are 7003 and 7005 extrusion alloys and 7039 plate alloy, which are readily weldable with 5356 filler. The alloys can be further classified according to being non-heat-treatable or heat-treatable alloys.

HEAT-TREATABLE VS. NON HEAT-TREATABLE

Here is a helpful breakdown of the weldability of heat-treatable and non-heat-treatable aluminum alloys and the fillers the base metals are best paired with:

NON HEAT-TREATABLE ALUMINUM ALLOYS

For non-heat-treatable alloys, the material strength of alloys depends on the effect of work hardening and solid solution hardening of alloy elements such as magnesium and manganese. These are mainly found in the 1000, 3000 and 5000 series aluminum alloys. When welded, these alloys may lose the effects of work hardening and cause softening of the heat affected zone adjacent to the weld.

HEAT-TREATABLE ALUMINUM ALLOYS

The material hardness and strength of heat-treatable alloys depend on their composition and the heat treatment. The main alloying elements of these materials are defined in the 2000, 6000 and 7000 series aluminum alloys. Note that when fusion welding heat-treatable alloys, the hardening constituents in the heat affected zone (HAZ) is redistributed and results in a reduction in material strength in the local area.

Processes

TIGwelding_1000

TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas), MIG (Metal Inert Gas), and oxyfuel processes are suitable processes for fusion welding most of the wrought grades in the 1XXX, 3XXX, 5XXX, and 6XXX series; the 5XXX alloys in particular have excellent weldabilty. These processes are also well suited for medium strength 7XXX series alloys. We don’t recommend fusion welding high strength alloys, such as 7010, 7050, and a majority of the 2XXX alloys, because they are prone to liquation and solidification (see Common Aluminum Welding Defects below). The Friction Stir Welding technique is particularly suited for producing sound welds in aluminium alloys. This technique is a good choice for heat-treatable alloys which are prone to hot cracking.

Common Aluminum Welding Defects

Aluminium and its alloys can be readily welded providing appropriate precautions are taken. However it is important to know defect that may occur in order to avoid them. The most likely imperfections in fusion welds include:

POROSITY

image_32180

Aluminum is one of the metals most susceptible to porosity. Porosity is caused when hydrogen gas gets trapped in the weld pool as the metal cools. Hydrogen becomes present from either water vapor or hydrocarbon contamination through oils, greases, lubricants, and solvents. While the weld metal is in the molten state, it absorbs a high amount of hydrogen. Then as it solidifies, it tries to expel the hydrogen. However, if the weld is solidifying even moderately quickly, the hydrogen doesn’t have a chance to escape and instead stays behind and forms small pores within the weld. To minimize the likelihood of porosity from hydrocarbon contamination, thorough cleaning of material surface and filler wire should be performed. Here are some appropriate techniques:

Mechanical cleaning: After degreasing, use wire brushing, scraping, to remove impurities on the surface of the metal.
Solvents: Organic solvents can be used to remove grease, oil, dirt and loose particles. Dipping, spraying or wiping the metals with solvents before welding can help remove any contaminants and impurities.

Chemical etching: Use a solution of 5% sodium hydroxide to clean the metals, followed by a rise with NO3 and water to remove reaction products on the surface.

SOLIDIFICATION CRACKING

12321

Because aluminum alloys experience high thermal expansion and substantial contraction upon solidification, aluminum alloys are also susceptible to cracking.  This type of cracking occurs as a result of solidification process, typically along the center line of the weld. It’s mainly caused due to an incorrect filler and parent metal combination, incorrect weld geometry, or when welding under high restraint conditions. Furthermore, impurities like sulfur and phosphorus are a major factor since these elements separate during solidification. Therefore, it is important to remove the oil or grease contamination from the weld area before welding. Metals with a low melting point, such as copper, tin, lead, and zinc, should also be avoided. Risk of solidification cracking can also be reduced by using a non-matching, crack-resistant filler such as those from the 4XXX and 5XXX series alloys. 

LIQUATION CRACKING

Heat treatable alloys, particularly the 6XXX and 7XXX alloys, are more prone to liquaiton cracking. This type of cracking results from localized melting at grain boundaries of the heat affected zone, combined with the inability to withstand the contraction strains as the weld metal cools. 

The of risk liquation cracking can be reduced by using a filler metal with a lower melting temperature than the parent metal.

WELD BEAD PROFILE IMPERFECTIONS

Figure-6C-Uncleaned-Chrome-Moly

Aluminum’s high thermal conductivity and the quick solidifying weld pool makes its alloys particularly susceptible to profile imperfections on the weld bead. In order to combat the risk of inconsistency, undercut, and insufficient fusion or penetration, ensure you are using the correct parameters and technique for the weld. Do you have any Aluminum welds you’d like to share? Share your creations, tips, and ideas on our Facebook page!

Learn about our new aluminum

Learn more about aluminum, including how temper effects the weldability of aluminum, by checking out some of our new items!
NEW 6061-T4 ALUMINUM SHEET NEW ALUMINUM RADIUS CORNER SQUARE TUBE NEW ALUMINUM O-TEMPER SHEET

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE WELDABILITY OF METALS

Explore the weldability of other materials plus get tips and tricks for welding various metals.

WELDABILITY OF STAINLESS STEEL

WELDABILITY OF COPPER, BRASS, AND BRONZE

weldability of copper alloys-header

Do you have any amazing welds you’d like to share? Share your creations, tips, and ideas on our Facebook page!

SHOP ALUMINUM

aluminum_cut_to_size_718-114

Online Metals provides superior quality, cut-to-size aluminum with no minimums and a price match guarantee! Plus we have fast shipping, straight to your door. OnlineMetals.com is the easiest way to get the raw materials you need for your business or DIY and hobby projects. Find a lower price online? We’ll match it! And you get the amazing service and quality Online Metals is famous for. Click to learn more about our price match guarantee >