The influence of salt fog exposure on the fatigue performance of Alclad 6xxx aluminum alloys laser beam welded joints
Laser welding is increasingly used for the fabrication of lightweight and cost-effective integral stiffened panels in modern civil aircraft. As these structures age in service, the issue of the effect of corrosion on their damage tolerance requires attention. In this work, laboratory data on the influence of salt fog corrosion on the fatigue behavior of cladded 6156 T4 aluminum alloy laser welded specimens are presented. The experimental investigation was performed on 6156 T4 laser butt welded sheets. Prior to fatigue testing the welded joints were exposed to laboratory salt fog corrosion exposure for 720 h. The results showed that the clad layer offers sufficient corrosion protection both on base metal and the weld. Fatigue testing was followed by standard metallographic analysis in order to identify fatigue crack initiation sites. Crack initiation is located in all welded samples near the weld reinforcement which induces a significant stress concentration. Localized corrosion attack of the clad layer, in the form of pitting corrosion, creates an additional stress concentration which accelerates crack initiation leading to shorter fatigue life relative to the uncorroded samples. The potency of small corrosion pits to act as stress concentration sites has been assessed analytically. The above results indicate that despite the general corrosion protection offered by the clad layer, the localized attack described above leads to inferior fatigue performance, a fact that should be taken under consideration in the design and maintenance of these structures.