Dissimilar joining of aluminum to steel poses a challenge for arc welding. In this study, aluminum AA6061-T6 and hot dipped galvanized DP590 steel were joined using the Fronius cold metal transfer (CMT) welding process applying an edge plug welding mode (EPW). The correlation of the welding parameters, weld characteristics, and weld strength was systematically investigated. It was found that the EPW mode created a zinc-rich zone at the weld root along the Al–steel faying interface which transitioned to a continuous and compact intermetallic compounds (IMC) layer in the middle portion of the joint. The fracture propagation in lap-shear specimens was affected by this increase of IMC layer thickness. At a wire feed speed (wfs) of 5.6 m/min, the fracture initiated along the zinc-rich layer at the faying interface and then, upon meeting the compact IMC layer, propagated into the aluminum weld nugget. Propagation followed a path within the weld nugget along the boundary between columnar and equiaxed grains leading to weld nugget pullout upon fracture. For IMC layer peak thicknesses below 10 μm, the strength increased as a function of weld nugget diameter. However, larger heat inputs resulted in IMC layer thicknesses greater than 10 μm and interfacial fracture.

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