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Low alloy steel welded pipes buried in the ground were sent for failure analysis investigation. Failure of steel pipes had not been caused 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 most probably associated with intergranular cracking initiating from the outer surface within the weld heat affected zone and propagated through the wall thickness. Random surface cracks or folds were found round the pipe. In some instances cracks are emanating from the tip of these discontinuities. Chemical analysis, visual inspection, optical microscopy and SEM/EDS analysis were utilised as the principal analytical approaches for the failure investigation.

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

Galvanized steel tubes are employed in numerous 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 then 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 of the welded tube in degreasing and pickling baths for surface cleaning and activation is needed prior to hot dip galvanizing. Hot dip galvanizing is performed in molten Zn bath with a temperature of 450-500 °C approximately.

A series of failures of HDPE pipe fittings occurred after short-service period (approximately 1 year following the installation) have triggered leakage along with a costly repair of the installation, were submitted for root-cause investigation. The subject of the failure concerned underground (buried within the earth-soil) pipes while faucet water was flowing in the tubes. Loading was typical for domestic pipelines working under low internal pressure of some handful of bars. Cracking followed a longitudinal direction plus it was noticed on the weld zone area, while no macroscopic plastic deformation (“swelling”) was observed. Failures occurred to isolated cases, and no other similar failures were reported inside 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 of the present evaluation.

Various welded component failures attributed to fusion or heat affected zone (HAZ) weaknesses, including cold and warm cracking, insufficient penetration, lamellar tearing, slag entrapment, solidification cracking, gas porosity, etc. are reported inside the relevant literature. Absence of fusion/penetration contributes to local peak stress conditions compromising the structural integrity of 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 thought as critical factors for the structural integrity of the welded structures.

Chemical research into 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, accompanied by fine polishing using diamond and silica suspensions. Microstructural observations completed after immersion etching in Nital 2% solution (2% nitric acid in ethanol) followed by ethanol cleaning and hot air-stream drying.

Metallographic evaluation was performed utilizing a Nikon Epiphot 300 inverted metallurgical microscope. Furthermore, high magnification observations of 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 utilizing an EDAX detector was utilized 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 from the representative fractured pipe (27 mm outer diameter × 3 mm wall thickness) is shown in Fig. 1. As it is evident, crack is propagated for the longitudinal direction showing a straight pattern with linear steps. The crack progressed adjacent to the weld zone from the weld, most likely after the heat affected zone (HAZ). Transverse sectioning of the tube led to 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 was due to the deep penetration and surface wetting by zinc, since it was identified by PEX-AL-PEX pipe analysis. Zinc oxide or hydroxide was formed because of the exposure of zinc-coated cracked face to the working environment and humidity. The aforementioned findings and the detection of zinc oxide on the on the fracture surface suggest strongly that cracking occurred prior to galvanizing process while no static tensile overload during service may be viewed as the main failure mechanism.

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