Gas metal arc welding (GMAW) of aluminum alloys has recently become popular in the auto industry to increase fuel efficiency of a vehicle. In many situations, the weld is short (say, less than two inches) and the “end effects” become very critical in determining the strength of the weld. At the beginning stage of the welding, when the metal is still “cold”, which is frequently called cold weld, limited weld penetration occurs. On the other hand, at the ending stage of the welding, a “crater” is formed involving micro-cracks and micro-pores. Both the cold weld and the crater can significantly decrease the strength of the weld and are more severe for aluminum alloys as compared to steels. Hence, there are strong needs to improve the GMAW process in order to reduce or eliminate the aforementioned end effects. In this paper, both mathematical modeling and experiments have been conducted to study the beginning stage, ending stage, as well as the quasi-steady-state stage of GMA welding of aluminum alloys. In the modeling, a three-dimensional model using the volume-of-fluid (VOF) method is employed to handle the free surfaces associated with the impingement of droplets into the weld pool and the weld pool dynamics. Transient weld pool shapes and the distributions of temperature and velocity in the weld pool are calculated. The predicted solidified weld bead shapes, including weld penetration and/or reinforcement, are in agreement with experimental results for welds in the aforementioned three stages. It was found that the thickness of the molten weld pool is smaller and there is no vortex developed, as compared to steel welding. The lack of penetration in cold weld is due to the lack of pre-heating by the welding arc. Three techniques are proposed and validated numerically to improve weld penetration by increasing the energy input at the beginning stage of the welding. The crater formation is caused by rapid solidification of the weld pool when the welding arc is terminated. By reducing welding current and reversing the welding direction before terminating the arc, the weld pool is maintained “hot” for a longer time allowing melt flow to fill-up the crater. This method is validated experimentally and numerically to be able to eliminate the formation of the crater and the associated micro-cracks.

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