You are on page 1of 4

Materials and Design 30 (2009) 36863689

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Materials and Design


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/matdes

Effect of interfacial reaction layer continuity on the tensile strength


of resistance spot welded joints between aluminum alloy and steels
Ranfeng Qiu a,*, Shinobu Satonaka b, Chihiro Iwamoto b
a
b

School of Materials Science and Engineering, Henan University of Science and Technology, Xiyuan Road 48, Luoyang, 471003, China
Graduate School of Science and Technology, Kumamoto University, Kurokami 2-39-1, Kumamoto, 860-8555, Japan

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 9 October 2008
Accepted 12 February 2009
Available online 20 February 2009
Keywords:
Aluminum alloy
Reaction layer
Resistance spot welding
Interface
Strength

a b s t r a c t
We have joined aluminum alloy A5052 to cold-rolled steel SPCC and austenitic stainless steel SUS304
using resistance spot welding. The interfacial microstructures have been observed using scanning electron microscopy and the tensile strength of the joints have been examined by cross tension testing.
We have investigated the effect of interfacial reaction layer on the tensile strength of the joints based
on the analyses of the fracture surfaces and the distribution of reaction layer thickness in the welding
interface for two types of dissimilar materials joints. The results reveal that the tensile strength of joint
is related to the fraction of discontinuous reaction layer.
2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
The need for joints between dissimilar materials often arises in
automotive industries, because sound joints between dissimilar
materials enable multi material design methodologies and low cost
fabrication process to be employed. From the point of view of
material supply, aluminum alloy and steel are the most important
construction materials for automotive structures; therefore, the
availability of a sound joining technique between aluminum alloy
and steel is indispensable. However, the joining between the two
kinds of materials accompanies some difculties, because of the
large difference in physical and thermal properties between aluminum alloy and steel, and the formation of brittle reaction products
at the welding interface. Accordingly, many researchers have
sought to join them using several developed welding methods,
for example, Sun et al. and Oikawa et al. have welded aluminum
alloy to steel by resistance spot welding with transition material
sheet, and examined the static and dynamic strength of the joint
[1,2], Rathod and Kutsuna have joined aluminum alloy 5052 and
low-carbon steel using a method of laser roll welding, and investigated the interfacial microstructure and strength of the joint [3],
and Aizawa et al. have studied the performance of SPCC/aluminum
alloy joint welded magnetic pulse welding [4]. As a result, it is well
known that brittle reaction products, which formed at the welding
interface, would deteriorate the tensile strength of steel/aluminum
alloy joint. However, in regard to how the reaction products affect
* Corresponding author. Tel./fax: +86 37964979361.
E-mail address: xdqrf@yahoo.com.cn (R. Qiu).
0261-3069/$ - see front matter 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.matdes.2009.02.012

the strength of joint between aluminum alloy and steel, few researches have been reported to date. On the other hand, understanding the effect details of the reaction products on the
strength of joint is necessary to optimize processingproperty relationship so as to obtain a strong joint. In the present study, therefore, we investigated the relationship between the interfacial
reaction layer and the tensile strength of steels/aluminum alloy
joints welded by resistance spot welding that is a widely used
and important welding process in the elds of automotive
manufacturing.
2. Experimental procedures
The materials used in this study were 1.0 mm thick sheet of aluminum alloy A5052, cold-rolled steel SPCC and austenitic stainless
steel SUS304. Their chemical compositions are listed in Table 1.
The material combinations of A5052/SPCC, and A5052/SUS304
were welded using the technique of resistance spot welding with
a cover plate. Fig. 1a and b shows the shape of specimens and
the schematic diagram of the process, respectively. Further details
concerning the procedure of resistance spot welding with a cover
plate have been published in the literature [5,6]. Welding conditions are given in Table 2. Here, to investigate the tensile strength
of the joints with different thick interfacial reaction layer, we changed the welding current every 1 kA between 6 and 12 kA in the
welding process, because the interfacial reaction layer thickness
varies with the welding current [2,6].
After welding, the specimens were cross-sectioned, ground and
polished. The microstructure at the welding interface was

3687

R. Qiu et al. / Materials and Design 30 (2009) 36863689


Table 1
Chemical composition of materials (mass %).

A5052
SUS304
SPCC

Mg

Fe

Cr

Si

Mn

Cu

Ni

Zn

Al

2.2

0.27
Bal.
Bal.

0.19
18.0

0.09
0.85

0.049
1.25
0.004

0.027

0.06
0.05

0.04
0.01

0.02
0.01

8.0

0.005

Bal.

Fig. 1. The shape of specimens (a) and the schematic diagram of the process (b).

Table 2
Welding conditions.
Electrode

CuCr alloy conical electrode tip (6)

Welding current
Welding time
Electrode force
Pre-treatment

612 kA
0.2 s
1715 N
Degreasing with acetone

observed using a scanning electron microscope (SEM). The thickness of reaction layer formed at the welding interface was measured as the average value in 30  30 lm SEM image taken every
100 lm along the interface. Cross tension tests were performed
under a cross-head velocity of 1.7  10 5 m/s at room temperature.
In the present study, similar material joints of aluminum alloy
(A5052/A5052) were also prepared to compare strength with the
dissimilar material joints A5052/SPCC and A5052/SUS304. In such
a case, the aluminum alloy sheets were placed between both cover
plates when they are welded.
3. Results and discussion
The SEM observations revealed that the reaction layer formed in
the welding interface of the all dissimilar materials joints. Fig. 2a
and b shows a typical SEM image of the interfacial region of

A5052/SPCC joint and A5052/SUS304 joint which were welded under the condition of welding current of 10 kA, respectively. In
either image, a reaction layer was observed at the welding interface, it has been claried which consists of reaction products Fe2Al5
and FeAl3 in the literature [6]. The interfacial reaction layers exhibited typical morphology in the thickness direction as shown in
Fig. 2a and b. In the A5052/SPCC interface, the reaction layer
showed the tongue-like morphology adjacent to the SPCC, whereas
the ne needle-like reaction products front orientated towards the
base metal in the A5052 region side. On the other hand, the reaction layer formed in the A5052/SUS304 interface exhibited at
front in the SUS304 side and serrate morphology in the A5052 side.
Similar morphology was also observed in the other joints welded
at different welding current. It is also seen from Fig. 2a and b that
there was signicant difference in thickness between the reaction
layers formed in the A5052/SPCC interface and the A5052/SUS304
interface, and that the reaction layer of the A5052/SPCC interface
was thicker than the reaction layer formed in the A5052/SUS304
interface.
Practically, the reaction layer thickness varied with the position
in the welding interface. Fig. 2c and d shows an example of the distribution of reaction layer thickness at both the A5052/SPCC interface and A5052/SUS304 interface, respectively, which were also
obtained from the joints welded under the condition of welding
current of 10 kA. Both the A5052/SPCC interface and A5052/
SUS304 interface showed that the reaction layer was thick at the
central region, decreased their thickness with the distance from
the center, and nally became discontinuous layer at the peripheral region. Moreover, it should be noted that the width of discontinuous reaction layer (denoted by W) in the A5052/SPCC
interface was wider than that formed in the A5052/SUS304 interface. Similar results were also observed in the other joints welded
under different welding current. The characteristic values of the
interfacial reaction layer thickness distribution of all dissimilar
materials joints; the maximum thickness of reaction layer appeared at the central region (T), the radius of weld (R), the width
of discontinuous reaction layer appeared at the peripheral region
of the weld (W) as marked in Fig. 2c and d, and the discontinuous
reaction layer fraction (F = W/R), are summarized in Table 3. Here,
these values were based on the average value over ve joints per
condition. As given in Table 3, T and R increased whereas W and
F decreased for the A5052/SPCC and A5052/SUS304 interfaces with
increasing of the welding current. Under the same welding condition, the A5052/SPCC joints exhibited larger T, W, F and smaller R in
comparison with the A5052/SUS304 joints.
In order to examine the tensile strength of the joints having the
interfacial reaction layer as mentioned above, the cross tension
tests were performed. Fig. 3a shows the relationship between the
nugget diameter and the cross tension load of three types of joint;
the A5052/SPCC, A5052/SUS304 and A5052/A5052 joint. Here,
nugget diameter was measured on the fractured surface after the
tensile shear testing of the joints. As shown, the both types of dissimilar materials joints; the A5052/SPCC and A5052/SUS304 joint,
revealed that the cross tension load hardly varied with increasing
of the nugget diameter, whereas the cross tension load of the
A5052/A5052 joint increased with increasing of the nugget diameter. Under the same nugget diameter, the both types of dissimilar
materials joints showed lower cross tension load in comparison

3688

R. Qiu et al. / Materials and Design 30 (2009) 36863689

Fig. 2. SEM images of the A5052/SPCC interface (a) and A5052/SUS304 interface (b); the distribution of reaction layer thickness at the A5052/SPCC interface (c) and A5052/
SUS304 interface (d).

Table 3
Experimental data. I: welding current used welded joint; T: thickness of reaction layer in weld center; R: radius of weld; W: width of discontinuous reaction layer; F:
discontinuous reaction layer fraction (W/R).
I (kA)

6
7
8
9
10
11
12

A5052/SPCC joints

A5052/SUS304 joints

T (lm)

R (mm)

W (mm)

T (lm)

R (mm)

W (mm)

1.35
2.36
2.65
4.51
5.25
6.25
6.75

1.97
2.71
3.13
3.61
4.22
4.28
4.45

1.135
0.942
0.917
0.749
0.720
0.698
0.587

0.576
0.348
0.293
0.207
0.170
0.163
0.132

0.85
1.25
1.45
1.54
2.01
2.10
2.25

2.49
3.18
3.69
3.80
4.47
4.63
4.96

1.408
0.907
0.730
0.625
0.507
0.486
0.471

0.565
0.285
0.198
0.164
0.113
0.105
0.095

with the A5052/A5052 joints where no reaction layer formed in the


welding interface. These results suggest that the tensile strength of
the A5052/SPCC and A5052/SUS304 joint were affected by the
interfacial reaction layer. In addition, the fracture type of the
A5052/SPCC and A5052/SUS304 joints were interfacial fracture,
whereas the fracture type of the A5052/A5052 joints were plug
fracture. Fig. 3b shows the relationship between the welding current and tensile strength of the dissimilar materials joints; the
A5052/SPCC and A5052/SUS304 joint. Here, the values of tensile
strength (identical with the ration the cross tension load to the
area of fracture surface) are average values for ve joints welded
under the same welding conditions. It should be noted that the
A5052/SPCC joint exhibited higher tensile strength than the
A5052/SUS304 joint under the same welding conditions, although
the reaction layer in the A5052/SPCC interface was thicker than
that formed in the A5052/SUS304 interface. This is contradiction
to the results reported by Kuroda et al., who have investigated
the inuence of the reaction layer thickness on the tensile strength
of steel/aluminum alloy joints welded by diffusion bonding, and
claimed that the tensile strength of joints increase with increasing
of reaction layer thickness up to approximately 1 lm and it decreases above the reaction layer thickness of 1 lm [7].
In order to clarify the reason for the discrepancy between the
result reported by Kuroda et al. and that of this study, we observed

and analyzed fracture surfaces. Fig. 4a and b shows the A5052 side
fracture surfaces obtained from the cross tension testing of the
A5052/SPCC and A5052/SUS304 joint, respectively, which were
welded under the welding condition of welding current of 10 kA.
It can be seen from Fig. 4a and b that there are two regions in
the fracture surface, the at central region (R) with bright contrast
and the peripheral region (B) with dark contrast as illustrated in
Fig. 4c and d. The analysis of the fracture surface and distribution
of interfacial reaction layer thickness, revealed that the reaction
layer was continuous in the R region, and that the reaction layer
was discontinuous in the B region. In the previous study, we have
claried that the joint fractured from the reaction layer in the former case whereas the joint fractured from the A5052 in the latter
case by determining elemental distributions on the fracture surface using electron probe microanalysis [8]. From Table 3, it can
be seen that the discontinuous reaction layer formed in the
A5052/SPCC interface was wider than that formed in the A5052/
SUS304 interface under the same welding condition. The wider discontinuous reaction layer caused that the larger area which the
joint fractured from the A5052, and so the A5052/SPCC joint had
higher tensile strength although its reaction layer was thicker.
Therefore, the difference in the distribution of reaction layer thickness at the welding interface is considered to be the reason for the
discrepancy between the result reported by Kuroda et al. and that

R. Qiu et al. / Materials and Design 30 (2009) 36863689

3689

Fig. 5. Relationship between discontinuous reaction layer fraction and tensile


strength of dissimilar joints.

Fig. 3. Relationships between nugget diameters and cross tension load (a) and
between nugget welding current and tensile strength of dissimilar joints (b).

distribution of reaction layer thickness at the welding interface


would cause the variation of fracture crack path during tensile testing. In other words, the inuence of discontinuous reaction layer
width overshadowed the effect of reaction layer thickness on the
tensile strength of joint welded by RSW.
Fig. 5 shows the relationship between discontinuous reaction
layer fraction (F) and tensile strength of dissimilar materials joints
(S), in which F and S were based on the average value over ve
joints per condition as mentioned above. As shown, the tensile
strength of both types of dissimilar materials joint exhibited the
same increasing tendency with increasing of discontinuous reaction layer fraction. This reveals that the tensile strength of the joint
was related to the discontinuous reaction layer fraction.
4. Conclusions
In the present study, we have investigated the effect of interfacial reaction layer on the tensile strength of steels/aluminum alloy
joint, by analyzing the distribution of interfacial reaction layer
thickness and the fracture surfaces. The analyzed results reveal
that the tensile strength of resistance spot welded steel/aluminum
alloy joint is related to the discontinuous reaction layer fraction,
and that a strong steel/aluminum alloy joint would be fabricated
by a welding process which is helpful discontinuous reaction layer
formation in the welding interface.
References

Fig. 4. A5052 side fracture surface of A5052/SPCC joint (a) and its schematic
illustration (c); A5052 side fracture surface of A5052/SUS304 joint (b) and its
schematic illustration (d).

of this study. That is, the thickness of reaction layer formed in


resistance spot welded joint varied with the position in the welding interface and even appeared discontinuous at the peripheral region of the weld, whereas the thickness of reaction layer formed in
diffusion bonded joint was uniformity at the bonding interface. The

[1] Sun X, Stephens EV, Khaleel MA, Shao H, Kimchi M. Resistance spot welding of
aluminum alloy to steel with transition material from process to performance
Part 1: experimental study. Weld J 2004;836:188s95s.
[2] Oikawa H, Ohmiya S, Yoshimura T, Saitoh T. Resistance spot welding of steel and
aluminium sheet using insert metal sheet. Sci Technol Weld Join 1999;4(2):
808.
[3] Rathod MJ, Kutsuna M. Joining of aluminum alloy 5052 and low-carbon steel by
laser roll welding. Weld J 2004;83(1):16s26s.
[4] Aizawa T, Kashiani M, Okagawa K. Application of magnetic pulse welding for
aluminum alloys and SPCC steel sheet joints. Weld J 2007;86(5):119s24s.
[5] Satonaka S, Iwamoto C, Qiu R, Fujioka T. Trends and new application of spot
welding for aluminum alloy sheets. J Light Metal Weld Construct 2006;44:418
[in Japanese].
[6] Qiu Ranfeng, Iwamoto Chihiro, Satonaka Shinobu. Interfacial microstructure
and strength of steel/aluminum alloy joints welded by resistance spot welding. J
Mater Process Technol 2008. doi:10.1016/j.jmatprotec.2008.11.003.
[7] Kuroda S, Saida K, Nishimoto K. Microstructure and properties of directly
bonded joint of A6061 aluminum alloy to SUS316 stainless steel. Quart J Jpn
Weld Soc 1999;17:4849 [in Japanese].
[8] Qiu R, Iwamoto C, Satonaka S. The inuence of reaction layer on the strength of
aluminum/steel joint welded by resistance spot welding. Mater Character
2009;60:1569.