Austenitic stainless steels represent a significant aerospace material, being used for various castings, structural components, landing gear components, afterburners, exhaust components, engine parts, and fuel tanks. The most common joining process is tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding, which possesses many advantages such as suitability to weld a wide range of ferrous and non-ferrous metals and alloys, providing high quality welds with good mechanical properties. Its major disadvantage is low productivity due to low penetration and welding speed. This can be overcome by introducing an activating flux before welding. The activating flux reverses the material flow of the weld pool, significantly increasing penetration. Therefore, shielding gas consumption is reduced and welding without a consumable is enabled. However, the consumable in conventional TIG also enables the conditioning of the mechanical properties of welds. In this study, Si and Ti metallic oxide nanoparticles were used to increase the weld penetration depth, while bend testing, tensile, and impact toughness were determined to evaluate the mechanical properties of welds. Furthermore, optical emission spectroscopy, light, and scanning electron microscope were used to determine the chemical compositions and microstructures of the welds. Chemical compositions and weld mechanical properties were similar in all specimens. The highest tensile and impact properties were obtained with the specimen welded with the flux containing 20% TiO2 and 80% SiO2 nanoparticles. Although lower than those of the base metal, they were well within the nominal base metal mechanical properties.
Keywords: 304L stainless steel; activated tungsten inert gas welding; mechanical properties; oxide flux.