Low alloy steel welded pipes buried in the earth were sent for failure analysis investigation. Failure of steel pipes was not brought on by tensile ductile overload but resulted from low ductility fracture in the area of the weld, which contains multiple intergranular secondary cracks. The failure is probably related to intergranular cracking initiating from the outer surface in the weld heat affected zone and propagated through the wall thickness. Random surface cracks or folds were found across the pipe. Sometimes cracks are emanating from the tip of those discontinuities. Chemical analysis, visual inspection, optical microscopy and SEM/EDS analysis were utilized as the principal analytical techniques for the failure investigation.

Low ductility fracture of PEX-AL-PEX pipe during service. ? Investigation of failure mechanism using macro- and microfractography. Metallographic evaluation of transverse sections near to the fracture area. ? Evidence of multiple secondary cracks at the HAZ area following intergranular mode. ? Presence of Zn in the interior of the cracks manifested that HAZ sensitization and cracking occurred prior to galvanizing process.

Galvanized steel tubes are employed in lots of outdoors and indoors application, including hydraulic installations for central heating system units, water supply for domestic and industrial use. Seamed galvanized tubes are fabricated by low alloy steel strip being a raw material followed by resistance welding and hot dip galvanizing as the most appropriate manufacturing process route. Welded pipes were produced using resistance self-welding of the steel plate by making use of constant contact pressure for current flow. Successive pickling was realized in diluted HCl acid bath. Rinsing from the welded tube in degreasing and pickling baths for surface cleaning and activation is required before hot dip galvanizing. Hot dip galvanizing is carried out in molten Zn bath with a temperature of 450-500 °C approximately.

Several failures of HDPE pipe fittings occurred after short-service period (approximately 1 year following the installation) have resulted in leakage along with a costly repair of the installation, were submitted for root-cause investigation. The topic of the failure concerned underground (buried inside the earth-soil) pipes while tap water was flowing inside the tubes. Loading was typical for domestic pipelines working under low internal pressure of a few handful of bars. Cracking followed a longitudinal direction and it was noticed at the weld zone area, while no macroscopic plastic deformation (“swelling”) was observed. Failures occurred to isolated cases, without any other similar failures were reported within the same batch. Microstructural examination and fractographic evaluation using optical and scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) were mainly utilized in the context from the present evaluation.

Various welded component failures associated with fusion and/or heat affected zone (HAZ) weaknesses, such as hot and cold cracking, lack of penetration, lamellar tearing, slag entrapment, solidification cracking, gas porosity, etc. are reported in the relevant literature. Insufficient fusion/penetration contributes to local peak stress conditions compromising the structural integrity from the assembly on the joint area, while the presence of weld porosity results in serious weakness from the fusion zone [3], [4]. Joining parameters and metal cleanliness are viewed as critical factors for the structural integrity in the welded structures.

Chemical analysis of the fractured components was performed using standard optical emission spectrometry (OES). Low-magnification inspection of surface and fracture morphology was performed using a Nikon SMZ 1500 stereomicroscope. Microstructural and morphological characterization was conducted in mounted cross-sections. Wet grinding was performed using successive abrasive SiC papers as much as #1200 grit, followed by fine polishing using diamond and silica suspensions. Microstructural observations carried out after immersion etching in Nital 2% solution (2% nitric acid in ethanol) accompanied by ethanol cleaning and heat-stream drying.

Metallographic evaluation was performed utilizing a Nikon Epiphot 300 inverted metallurgical microscope. Furthermore, high magnification observations in the microstructure and fracture topography were conducted to ultrasonically cleaned specimens, using a FEI XL40 SFEG scanning electron microscope using secondary electron and back-scattered imaging modes for topographic and compositional evaluation. Energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy using an EDAX detector have also been used to gold sputtered samples for qfsnvy elemental chemical analysis.

An agent sample from failed steel pipes was submitted for investigation. Both pipes experience macroscopically identical failure patterns. A characteristic macrograph in the representative fractured pipe (27 mm outer diameter × 3 mm wall thickness) is shown in Fig. 1. As it is evident, crack is propagated to the longitudinal direction showing a straight pattern with linear steps. The crack progressed adjacent to the weld zone from the weld, most probably after the heat affected zone (HAZ). Transverse sectioning of the tube ended in opening from the with the wall crack and exposure in the fracture surfaces. Microfractographic investigation performed under SEM using backscattered electron imaging revealed a “molten” layer surface morphology which had been caused by the deep penetration and surface wetting by zinc, because it was recognized by PERT-AL-PERT pipe analysis. Zinc oxide or hydroxide was formed caused by the exposure of zinc-coated cracked face towards the working environment and humidity. The above findings and also the detection of zinc oxide on the on the fracture surface suggest strongly that cracking occurred just before galvanizing process while no static tensile overload during service might be regarded as the main failure mechanism.

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