Computer modelling radically improves deep-sea welding techniques

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Industry and academic partners on project MintWeld have been utilising HPC Midlands to solve the challenging and costly blockages to improving welding techniques for the most dangerous situations.

Challenge

Welding is the most effective way of permanently joining metals. But, if the parts don’t join perfectly minor imperfections can become major cracks and potentially lead to disaster. It is estimated that 50% of global domestic and engineering products contain welded joints.

With welding as a vital process for manufacturing economies the ability to test material and joint resilience is becoming increasingly important. This is particularly so in deep-sea oil and gas transportation systems where the failure of welded joints can put lives at risk, is commercially damaging and can cause environmental catastrophe. Measures need to be taken to predict accurately the lifetime of these new joints but physical examination is technically challenging and costly.

Solution

A multi-disciplinary team of industry experts and leading international researchers developed the Modelling of Interface Evolution in Advanced Welding (MintWeld) project to explore using state-of-the-art computer modelling techniques to improve welding processes.

Models were developed from the atomic scale through to microstructural and component-life prediction, requiring large amounts of computational power and speed to test. HPC Midlands proved invaluable in processing these large models and quickly returning results that allowed the team to work through many variations.

The team is simultaneously developing commercial software that “will deliver an accurate, predictive and cost-effective modelling tool that will allow manufacturers to identify alloy combinations that are able to withstand extreme conditions,” said MintWeld lead Professor Hongbiao Dong at University of Leicester. “It is likely to find widespread application in the European metals industry.”

Impact

The models developed with HPC Midlands can now move onto being implemented in Europe’s most advanced welding technological industries and welding institutes.

“The results achieved so far show great promise in terms of the discovery of new materials and process routes to manufacture weld components with improved in-service performance which will lead to a significant reduction of cost and energy consumption,” said Dr Shuwen Wen, Principal Scientist at TATA Steel.

Acknowledgement: We would like to acknowledge the valuable contribution made by additional partners: the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the Royal Institute of Technology Sweden, Delft University of Technology, the Institute of Welding Poland, FRENZAk Sp. Poland and Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne.