Welding is utilized in 50% of the industrial, commercial, and consumer products that make up the U.S. gross national product. In the construction of buildings, bridges, ships, and submarines, and in the aerospace, automotive, and electronic industries, welding is an essential activity. In the last few decades, welding has evolved from an empirical art to a more scientifically based activity requiring synthesis of knowledge from various disciplines. Defects in welds, or poor performance of welds, can lead to catastrophic failures with costly consequences, including loss of property and life.
Figure 1 is a schematic diagram of the welding process showing the interaction between the heat source and the base metal. During the interaction of the heat source with the material, several critical events occur: melting, vaporization, solidification, and solid-state transformations. The weldment is divided into three distinct regions: the fusion zone (FZ), which undergoes melting and solidification; the heat-affected zone (HAZ) adjacent to the FZ, that may experience solid-state phase changes but no melting; and the unaffected base metal (BM).
Creating the extensive experimental data base required to adequately characterize the highly complex fusion welding process is expensive and time consuming, if not impractical. One recourse is to simulate welding processes either mathematically or physically in order to develop a phenomenological understanding of the process. In mathematical modeling, a set of algebraic or differential equations are solved to obtain detailed insight of the process. In physical modeling, understanding of a component of the welding process is achieved through experiments designed to avoid complexities that are unrelated to the component investigated.
In recent years, process modeling has grown to be a powerful tool for understanding the welding process. Using computational modeling, significant progress has been made in evaluating how the physical processes in the weld pool influence the development of the weld pool and the macrostructures and microstructures of the weld.