Postweld heat treatment (PWHT),defined as any heat treatment after welding, is often used to improve the properties of a weldment.
The need for PWHT is driven by code and application requirements, as well as the service environment. In general, when PWHT is required, the goal is to increase the resistance to brittle fracture and relaxing residual stresses. Other desired results from PWHT may include hardness reduction, and material strength enhancements.
Hydrogen induced cracking (HIC) often occurs when high levels of ambient hydrogen permeate into a material during welding. By heating the material after welding, it is possible to diffuse hydrogen from the welded area, thus preventing HIC. This process is known as post heating and should begin immediately after the weld is completed. Rather than being allowed to cool, the material needs to be heated to a certain temperature depending on the type and thickness of the material. It should be held at this temperature for a number of hours dependent on the thickness of the material.
Stress Relieving: By the time it’s complete, the welding process can leave a large number of residual stresses in a material, which can lead to an increased potential for stress corrosion and hydrogen induced cracking. PWHT can be used to release these residual stresses and reduce this potential. This process involves heating the material to a specific temperature and then gradually cooling it.