Microstructural and mechanical characterisation of laser-welded high-carbon and stainless steel

Laser welding is becoming an important joining technique for welding of stainless steel to carbon steel and is extensively used across various sectors, including aerospace, transportation, power plants, electronics and other industries. However, welding of stainless steel to high-carbon steel is still at its early stage, predominantly due to the formation of hard brittle phases, which undermine the mechanical strength of the joint. This study reports a scientific investigation on controlling the brittle phase formation during laser dissimilar welding of high-carbon steel to stainless steel. Attempts have been made to tailor the microstructure and phase composition of the fusion zone through influencing the alloying composition and the cooling rate. Results show that the heat-affected zone (HAZ) within the high-carbon steel has significantly higher hardness than the weld area, which severely undermines the weld quality. To reduce the hardness of the HAZ, a new heat treatment strategy was proposed and evaluated using a finite element analysis-based numerical simulation model. A series of experiments has been performed to verify the developed thermo-metallurgical finite element analysis (FEA) model, and a qualitative agreement of predicted martensitic phase distribution is shown to exist.