Effect of Laser Welding and Stretch Forming on the Corrosion Performance of Hot-Dip Galvanized Steel
Su, Ken Yu Jen
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The use of laser welding in the automotive industry in the past few decades has facilitated joining of hot-dip galvanized (HDG) steel sheets at high production rates and low cost. The recent development of tailor welded blanks (TWB) using laser welding allowed combinations of sheet grades and thicknesses to “tailor” the vehicle part for optimized design, structural integrity and crash performance but more importantly, reductions in weight. Welded blanks are further subjected to stamping or stretch forming prior to final assembly. Unfortunately, both welding and stretch forming cause the galvanized coating to deteriorate, and thereby, undermine the long term corrosion protection. Despite existing publications on zinc coated steel and advances in processing techniques, there is a lack of understanding on the influence of laser welding and stretch forming on the corrosion performance of HDG steel. Hence, the purpose of this study was to determine how welding speed and biaxial strain affect interstitial-free (IF) and high strength low allow (HSLA) steel coupons when they are subjected to continuous immersion and accelerated corrosion tests. The corrosion rates of the coupons were evaluated using electrochemical techniques and gravimetry. Changes in the galvanized coating were characterized using scanning electron metallography. It was observed that, the original zinc layer transformed into the delta and gamma Fe-Zn intermetallic phases locally in the heat affected zone (HAZ) after laser welding. The resulting microstructure was similar to that of a commercially galvannealed coating and exhibited superior corrosion resistance than that of pure zinc. Linear polarization resistance (LPR) measurements revealed that the zinc coating was able to protect a chemically exposed region of steel in 0.1 M NaCl solution. While the Nd:YAG laser welded coupons with narrow HAZs performed equally well as the non-welded ones, diode laser welded coupons, with a wide locally annealed coating in the HAZ, exhibited a decrease in the peak corrosion rate of zinc. Moreover, minimal amounts of rust were observed on the surface of the HAZ after testing. With biaxial strain, welded and deformed coupons generally demonstrated higher peak corrosion rates than that of undeformed welded ones. When subjected to cyclic corrosion testing according to SAE J2334, rust formed in the exposed region after one 24 hour test cycle due to wet-dry conditions. However, zinc corrosion products on the surface provided substantial corrosion resistance to the remaining zinc coating and to the steel substrate. Gravimetric measurements of welded coupons showed a linear increase in weight gain with increased exposed widths of the steel after 30 cycles but biaxial strain further increased the weight gain on deformed coupons. After 60 cycles, the trend became exponential for both welded and deformed coupons. There was a negligible difference between the corrosion performance of IF and HSLA steel. Using X-Ray diffraction and Raman spectroscopy, species of both iron and zinc corrosion products were identified. Without the application of paint coatings, zinc oxide (ZnO), zinc hydroxy chloride (ZnCl2[Zn(OH)2]4), and hydrozincite ([ZnCO3]2[Zn(OH)2]3) were responsible for passivating the surface and reducing the overall corrosion rate of the galvanized coating.