Understanding What Hardface Welding Is and How To Use It.

This is the second of a two-part feature. – Ed.

Interest in this topic has been very popular, so we are continuing with another round of questions to add to last month’s article. You may recall we ended on Question 10 and will now continue, starting with Question 11.

11. What are carbides in martensite?

These are tool steel-type alloys with numerous tightly packed carbides of titanium, niobium, vanadium or other elements. Carbides in martensite are an excellent choice for applications requiring crack-free deposits with good wear characteristics. Weld deposits generally exhibit the same wear resistant characteristics that are expected from chromium carbide hardfacing products. Since these alloys do not crack, they tend to be easier to apply in terms of reapplication.

12. What is MIG Carbide?

Mig Carbide is also known as Tungsten Carbide Embedding. The tungsten carbide particles are fed from a hopper directly into the molten weld puddle of PS98. When the weld bead cools the resulting weld deposit contains large volumes of tungsten carbide particles embedded in a 55 to 60 HRC tool steel matrix. These extremely hard and wear-resistant particles protect bulldozer and grader blades, dragline and loader buckets, and many different types of hammers from premature wear in many challenging, highly abrasive applications.

13. What is meant by hardfacing pattern?

When working in rocky earth, ore or slag, the goal is to trap the soil on the equipment surface, and protect the surface underneath from abrasion caused by the movement of the rocks over the surface. This can be done by applying a series of ridges or weld beads parallel to the flow of material, like rails. This will prevent the rocky soil from coming in contact with the surface.

When working in dirt or sand, apply hardface weld beads spaced from ¼ in. (6.4 mm) to 1-1/2 in. (38 mm) apart and perpendicular or against the flow of an abrasive material. Forcing the material to compact between the weld beads works well for finely grained sands and soils.

Apply a dot pattern to areas that do not see heavy abrasion but are subjected to wear, or when weld areas are hard to reach. A dot pattern is also used on thin base metals, when distortion and warpage may be an issue from overheating of the base metal.

When working in soil with some clay content, the goal is to use a hardfacing pattern that traps the soil on the equipment surface, forming a layer of trapped soil that will protect the surface underneath. This is best done with a crosshatch or waffle pattern. This pattern also works well when there is a combination of fine and coarse soil.

14. Can hardness values be used to predict abrasion resistance?

No, this isn’t a good idea. A martensitic alloy and a chromium carbide alloy can have the same hardness, let’s say 58 HRC, and perform vastly different under the same abrasive conditions. A chromium carbide alloy will provide better abrasion resistance than a martensitic alloy. The metallurgical microstructure is a better measuring stick, but that isn’t always available.

The only time hardness can be used to predict wear is when the alloys being evaluated are within the same family. For example, in the martensitic family, a 55 HRC alloy will have better abrasion resistance than a 35 HRC alloy. This may or may not be the case in either the austenitic or metal carbide families. Again, you have to consider the microstructure. You should consult with the manufacturer for recommendations.

15. If hardness is unreliable, then how is wear measured?

It depends on the type of wear involved, but in the case of abrasive wear – by far the most predominant wear mechanism – the ASTM G65 Dry Sand Rubber Wheel Test is used extensively. Essentially, this is a test in which the sample is weighed before and after the test, and the result is usually expressed in grams of weight loss or volume loss.

A sample is held against a spinning rubber wheel with a known force for a number of set number of revolutions. A specific type of sand, which is sized carefully, is trickled down between the sample and rubber wheel. This simulates pure abrasion, and the numbers are used as guidelines in material selection.

16. What type of gas is used in GMAW hardfacing?

Low penetration and dilution are the major objectives in hardfacing, so pure argon and mixtures of argon with oxygen or carbon dioxide generally will produce the desired result. You also can use pure carbon dioxide, but you may get more spatter than you would with an argon mixture.

17. What is a ball, or globular, transfer and why is it important?

Welding wires produce either a spray transfer or a globular (ball) transfer of molten metal across the welding arc. Spray transfer is a dispersion of fine molten metal drops and can be characterized as a smooth-sounding transfer. These wires are desirable in joining applications that require good penetration.

Ball transfer wires disperse larger molten metal drops, or balls. This type of transfer promotes low penetration and dilution, suitable for hardfacing. It has a noisier arc that produces an audible crackling sound and generally has a higher spatter level than spray transfer wires. Welding parameters such as electrical stick-out, gas (if any), amperage, and voltage can affect the size of the ball and its transfer. Gasless or open arc wires all have a globular or ball transfer.

18. Must parts be preheated before hardfacing?

Heat Affected Zone cracking is always a concern when welding low alloy and high carbon steels, and highly stressed parts or parts with complex shapes. As a general rule, all parts should be welded at least at room temperature. You should select higher preheat and interpass temperatures based on the base metal chemistry and hardfacing product you’re using. High carbon steels will require preheating. For example, steel made from 4130 generally requires a preheat of 400 F (200 C). Steel for rails is typically high carbon and requires a minimum preheat of 600 F to 700 F (315 C to 370 C).

Manganese steel and some stainless steels require NO preheating, and welding temperatures should be kept as low as possible. In fact, steps should be taken to keep the manganese base metal below 500 F (260 C). You should consult the manufacturer for the best combination to prevent cracking and spalling.

19. When is a cobalt or nickel hardfacing alloy used?

Cobalt alloys contain many types of carbides and are good for severe abrasion at high temperatures. They also have good corrosion resistance for some applications. Deposit hardness ranges from 25 HRC to 55 HRC. Work-hardening alloys are also available.

Nickel-base alloys can contain chromium borides that resist abrasion. They can be good particularly in corrosive atmospheres and high temperatures when abrasion is a problem.

20. Why are some hardfacing products limited to two or three layers?

Chromium carbide products are generally limited in the number of layers that can be applied. The brittle nature of the metal carbides leads to check-cracking. As multiple layers are applied, stress continues to build, concentrating at the root of the check cracks until separation or spalling occurs between the parent metal or buffer and the hardfacing deposit.

Unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer, and with the correct procedures, martensitic hardfacing alloys can be applied in multiple layers. Austenitic manganese hardfacing products can be applied in unlimited layers unless the manufacturer specifies otherwise.

Be sure to follow the manufactures recommendation pertaining to number of layers. If more layers are required a buffer or build-up alloy should be used.

21. What is meant by a build-up or buffer alloy?

These alloys are similar to the parent metal alloy in hardness and strength, with two main functions:

A. They are applied to severely worn parts to bring them back to dimension where machining must be used after welding. Hardness ranges from 30 HRC to 45 HRC.

B. They are applied as a buffer for subsequent layers of a more wear-resistant hardfacing deposit. If the hardfacing alloy produces check cracks, such as a chromium carbide alloy, then it’s wise to use a tough manganese product as the buffer to blunt and stop the check cracks from penetrating into the base metal.

A mild steel electrode, or wire such as 7018 or E70S6, should never be used for build-up or as a buffer layer. While mild steel welding products are great for joining and fabricating, they do not have the strength and hardness to support hardfacing. A soft mild steel buffer layer will collapse under the hardface layer, causing the hardface layer to spall off and fail.

22. Can cast iron be hardfaced?

Yes, with consideration for preheat and interpass temperatures. Nickel and nickel-iron products usually are suitable for rebuilding cast iron. These products aren’t affected by the carbon content of the parent metal and remain ductile. Multiple layers are possible. If further wear protection is required, metal carbide products can work well on top of the nickel or nickel-iron build-up.

These frequently asked questions only begin to address the complexities of hardfacing. Hardfacing product manufacturers and specialists can contribute to a greater understanding of hardfacing and help assist you in product and process selection for your application.


Bob Miller is a material engineer for Postle Industries Inc. Miller has 45 years’ experience in hardfacing metallurgy, tubular wire formulations and wear applications. He has authored six hardfacing U.S. patents, the most recent in the Hardbanding field. In addition to writing many articles, he is currently engaging in hosting hardfacing webinars. Please email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to schedule an event for you or your company. For more information, contact Klint Smith at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..