Neutron beam adds focus for better welds

A partnership led by WMG at the University of Warwick is using a stream of neutrons from a nuclear reactor in a project to examine safety critical welds in cars made with boron steel.

Press-hardened boron steel is an ultra high-strength steel used across a variety of industries, including automotive, where it provides high strength and weight-saving potential, allowing for stronger yet lighter cars, with increased passenger safety.

In the automotive industry, a major joining method for boron steel components is resistance spot welding, with several thousand welds being made on a single car.

Spot welding exposes the boron steel sheet to very high temperatures, causing the metal to exceed melting temperature and then rapidly solidify on cooling. This results in a heat-affected zone, where the surrounding material contracts and its microstructures are altered.

WMG’s Dr Darren Hughes said: “Automotive manufacturers and designers want to understand the exact effects spot welding has on boron steel, as the heat-affected zones can exhibit reduced hardness, which can in turn reduce the components’ strength.

However, most conventional scanning methods will struggle to penetrate such a strong and challenging material so we decided to seek out a partnership with a research facility that could give us access to more powerful means of conducting non-destructive testing – a directed beam from neutrons beams generated by a nuclear reactor.”

The WMG research team formed a collaboration between the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) in Grenoble, France, Tata Steel, and EPSRC. The partnership has now begun to use neutrons generated from ILL’s reactor in its SALSA (Strain Analyser for Large-Scale Applications) beamline to examine the welds in boron steel.

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Design engineering PE News precision


July 18, 2017



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