This article discusses some of the welder performance qualification FAQs that arise in a welding engineer’s mind in the process of welders’ qualifications in accordance with ASME Section IX.
Does A Person Helping The Main Welder Need To Be Qualified As Per Section IX?
In my shop, for important joints – often more than one welder is assigned at a time to weld a joint.
A joint gets considered important when it is desired to weld it without repair in the first shot. This happens commonly for cir-seams that are welded by SAW process. Such joints generally fall in the critical path of the project. Hence, obtaining a good weld in the first shot becomes of paramount importance, in the interest of speedy completion of the project.
Up to three welders get assigned at a time to weld the joint.
Other than the main welder who is qualified to weld the joint as per Section IX, the other two basically serve as his helpers. One would help in cleaning the joint after each bead, and keeping up the supply of fresh flux in the funnel; another would adjust the parameters in the machine etc., if required; under the supervision of the main welder.
One of the inspectors in my factory once demanded the Performance Qualification record of the two helper welders. Incidentally, all the welders in that shop are qualified welders too, for making the joint in question. I had no problems.
But this makes a question arise in mind. It is the main welder who is the commander of the ship. He remains accountable for the joint. The other two are merely helping him with mechanical tasks. Do they need to be qualified too, as per Section IX?
What does the Code intend?
An interpretation issued by ASME in 2008 addressed this question. A person making adjustments to the welding equipment settings, under the supervision and control of the welder performing the weld does not need to be qualified as per Section IX. The interpretation number is IX-07-11.
Documenting Multiple Performance Qualifications
When Multiple Welders Are Qualified Through A Single Test Coupon, Should The Performance Qualification Record Of Welders Be Recorded On A Single Form? Or Multiple Forms?
This question also arises when one welder is qualified in a single test coupon for multiple processes. For each process, should a separate Form (say, like the one suggested in QW 484A/QW 484B) be generated for each process? Or, since the welding happened on a single coupon, the entire episode should be recorded on a single Form?
The answer to this is that Section IX does not stipulate any requirement in this regard. The manufacturer is free to record the Welder’s Performance Qualification in any manner he wants, so long as the information required by QW 301.4 is documented.
Interpretation IX-01-36 provides similar guidance on this subject.
In my personal opinion, it is better to make separate records. It is easier to refer to the Qualification Record that way.
Format of a WPQR
What should be the format of a welder performance qualification record (WPQR)?
ASME Section IX does not mandate use of any particular format for documenting a welder’s qualification. The code user is free to use any format as long as the information desired by Section IX is documented.
Someone once asked an interesting question to the ASME, through an interpretation.
A welder made a procedure qualification coupon. Can the PQR form which will be used for documenting the procedure qualification also serve as the WPQR?
Note: The rules of Section IX allow that the welder who prepared the procedure qualification coupon gets qualified too.
The answer to this question is yes. Section IX makes it clear in Article III that no mandatory format has been specified for WPQR. Any format is fine, as long as the desired information is recorded. Even the PQR form can serve as the WPQR, provided all information required to be on a WPQR is documented.
This question was asked in an interpretation. The interpretation number is IX-86-90.
Testing Of The Qualification Coupon
A Small Segment Of Weld Length Of My Welder’s Performance Qualification Test Coupon Is Not Ok In RT. Can My Welder Still Be Considered As Qualified As Per Section IX?
Consider this. You qualified your welder on a 250 mm long plate. During RT examination, it is found that there is a 20 mm long segment of weld length that is unacceptable as per QW 302.2. However, there is a clear 150 mm length available that is acceptable in RT.
Has your welder passed in this qualification?
QW 302.2 requires that a minimum length of 150 mm shall be examined. Citing this, one might argue that the welder in question above has passed this qualification.
However, in the eyes of the Code, the welder is not considered to have passed in the qualification, if this happens. Although Section IX has not specifically addressed this anywhere; in line with its philosophy – Code does not consider the welder in this situation, as qualified.
This is logical too. A test coupon is a miniature representation of the production joint that the welder is going to be assigned on. If a portion of the test coupon is not acceptable, it would be advisable to take a retest.
An Interpretation similar to this effect was issued by ASME, back in 1985. Interpretation number IX-83-153.
When Qualifying A Welder On Grove Weld On A Plate, Through Volumetric NDE Method, Is It Permitted/Required To Weld An Extra Length Of The Coupon, Such That The Extreme Ends Can Be Discarded From RT?
When a welder is qualified through mechanical tests, QW 463.2(a), (b), (c) clearly mention that a small piece at both extreme ends is to be discarded, and excluded from the mechanical testing. For volumetric NDE option, whether a similar discard piece at the extreme ends is required/permitted is not addressed in Section IX.
It makes sense to discard a small piece at the ends, since the weld soundness is affected due to the edge of the coupon. In my organization, we do follow this. A 25 mm piece at the ends is omitted from evaluation in RT. Is this permitted by Code?
Usually, any reasonable inspector would not object to such a matter. However, industry is replete with overzealous inspectors who would like to do every single thing by the book.
The matter was clarified by ASME through an Interpretation, in 1987. In the Interpretation IX-86-79, the ASME ruled that as long as the radio graphed portion is a minimum of 150 mm, it is alright to have a length longer than 150 mm, so that the start and stop ends of the test coupon are not included in the radiograph.
Is tensile testing required for welder qualification?
No. ASME Section IX does not require any other mechanical testing other than bend tests. Mechanical tests such as impact tests, IGC test, etc. which are commonly seen in procedure qualification are not required for qualification of welders.
There is an interpretation that further attests to this, IX-89-79.
Note: Some codes do require tensile testing for welder qualification. One example is IBR code (Indian Boiler Regulation) which requires tensile tests in addition to bend tests.
Repair On A Welder Performance Qualification Coupon
Is A Welder Allowed To Make Any Repairs While Making A Test Coupon For Welder Performance Qualification?
Once, a welder qualification was underway in my shop. A representative of the inspector was present to witness the weld.
The qualification consisted of a groove joint on two 6 mm thick, 50 mm OD pipes, in 6G position, with GTAW process. As part of the plan, after the root pass, the inspector is required to visually inspect the weld for incomplete/excess penetration, weld bead appearance etc.
After laying the root pass, it was noticed from the ID side, that incomplete penetration has occurred for around 5 mm of the weld length. Barring this, the weld was alright in all other ways. The welder offered to grind the defective portion and redeposit.
However, the inspector demurred, holding that repair is not permitted during a welder qualification.
On another occasion, during a welder’s qualification for strip cladding with SAW process, the bead appearance came out skewed, that is, not of uniform height. Slightly bumpy at one end, and tapered at the other end. Besides, dark black spots were visible on the bead surface, which I attributed to subpar preheat, and perhaps a slight over-build up of flux on the weld.
The welder offered to grind off the entire bead, and re-lay it. The inspector showed disagreement.
There may happen such occurrences during performance qualifications wherein a defect may have occurred on the weld not attributable to welder skill, and might have happened due to a stray incident. This gives rise to the question, does Section IX permit repair during the course of qualification? Does Section IX prohibit such repairs?
The answer to this is that Code does not address this subject. It is left to the judgment of the authority inspecting the qualification. In any case, Code does not cover each and every aspect of welding qualifications. It only tells the minimum requirements that need to be fulfilled.
Some interpretations offer valuable insight into the subject. For example, the interpretation IX-17-53 seems to suggest that such repairs are not prohibited. But does not exactly clinch the issue.
Interpretation IX-92-64 offers interesting insight in this context as well.
In my opinion, such repairs in the course of qualification should not be permitted, barring of course some light inter-pass brushing etc.
Welder Qualification For FCAW Process
A Welder Has Been Qualified Through Semi-Automatic GMAW Process. Does This Qualify Him For FCAW Process Too?
The essential variables given in QW 355 are meant both for semi-automatic GMAW process and for FCAW process as well. This is made clear in the title of the table QW 355 itself. This means that the essential variables for both processes are same.
As per Section IX, a welder qualified with a coupon welded with GMAW process is qualified for welding with FCAW process. The reverse is true too. That is, a welder qualified with FCAW is qualified for GMAW too. This understanding has been made clear on more than one occasion by ASME, through Interpretations.
A few related Interpretation numbers are IX-10-03, IX-86-46, IX-86-12, IX-79-61, IX-16-42, etc., these Interpretations can be found here. Just enter the Interpretation number in the appropriate column.
Also, the extension of validity can be done by engaging in either of them. This finds confirmation in the interpretation IX-01-21 (qs 3).
Filler Metals Not Having a F-number?
Can Filler Metals Having a F-number Only be Used to Qualify a Welder?
Often, welding engineers make the mistake of thinking that when a component is fabricated in accordance with an ASME construction code, only the filler metals classified under ASME Section II Part C can be used for fabrication. It is not so. To my knowledge, filler metals conforming to any other national or international standards can also be used, as long as Section IX is complied with.
In other words, filler metals not having a F-number can also be used. This goes for performance qualifications as well. That is, the welding performance qualifications can be done using filler metals not classified under any of the SGA specifications also. This finds confirmation in interpretation IX-83-57 as well.
When such a filler is used, change of trade name becomes an important consideration.
Change of Trade Name
This question is often asked. A welder got qualified by using a consumable of a certain trade name, and also classified under a certain SFA specification and classification. In production welding, the welder would like to use consumable of a different trade name (but of same SFA specification and classification). Does this require requalification of welder?
The answer to this lies in QW-404.15. For the consumables that are qualified under a SFA specification, only the F-number needs to be reckoned. A change from one F-number to another requires requalification of welder.
In other words, for such consumables that are classified under a SFA specification, a change of trade name does not require requalification of the welder/ welding operator. This finds confirmation in the interpretation IX-01-21 (qs 4).
For consumables that are not classified under a SFA specification (and are identified through only the trade name, or identified through classification under a different national or international standard), such consumables are to be reckoned as ‘any other filler metal’ mentioned under QW-404.15.
For such consumables, change of trade name will require requalification of the welder.
Is A-number an essential variable for welder qualifications?
No. A-number does not appear as a variable under any of the tables under QW-350. This means that A-number is to be completely disregarded while qualifying a welder. During production welding too, when determining a welder’s eligibility to make a particular weld, A-number is not to be considered.
This matter finds a mention in Interpretations IX-78-17, IX-79-55, IX-80-12, and IX-79-52.
Can a Welder Qualified on One Groove Angle Weld on Another?
Yes, he can. This is because groove angle is not an essential variable for welder qualifications. This also finds affirmation in interpretation IX-86-89.
Does Qualification as a Welder Qualify a Person as a Welding Operator Too?
No. Absolutely not.
The essential variables for welders and welding operators are defined separately, under QW-350 and QW-360 respectively. The tests required for both are defined under QW-304 and QW-305 respectively.
Note: A person engaged in manual or semi-automatic welding is called a welder, whereas a person engaged in automatic or machine welding is called a welding operator.
A person qualified as a welder is not allowed to engage in automatic or machine welding, even if it is nominally the same welding process (say GTAW), and vice-versa. The interpretation IX-86-68, IX-95-39 (qs 1), & IX-95-36 (qs 1) are instructive in this regard.
Note: However, a welder qualified with manual welding in a process can weld with semi-automatic welding too, with that process. [IX-95-36 (qs 2)]
A person qualified with the essential variables given under a process under QW-350 or QW-360 is qualified to weld with that process only. There is a slight leeway available in this regard, though. QW-361.1 (essential variables for automatic welding) lists that a change from automatic welding to machine welding is an essential variable.
However, a similar listing (stating that a change from machine to automatic is an essential variable) does not appear under QW-361.2, which lists the essential variables for machine welding. This means that persons qualified for machine welding can engage in automatic welding too (within the same process though), but not vice-versa. This finds further confirmation in interpretation IX-17-42 as well.
Can a Person Qualified With Semi-automatic SAW Weld With Automatic-SAW? Vice-versa?
No. As we saw above, a person qualified with semi-automatic SAW is called as a welder. The essential variables for this qualification are defined under QW-354. Whereas, a person engaging in automatic-SAW is called as a welding operator, for which the essential variables are defined under QW-361.1.
As we saw above, a welder cannot function as a welding operator, even if it is nominally the same process. This finds further confirmation in the interpretation IX-78-86.
Often, people confuse between semi-automatic SAW and machine-SAW. In machine-SAW, the advance of the arc is not controlled by the welder’s hand. It may be controlled by the machine itself or by a motorized manipulator. This is the commonly seen version of SAW.
In semi-automatic SAW welding, by definition – the advance of the arc is controlled by the welder’s hand. Therefore, it involves skill. The welding head is smaller, and hand-held. This version is not commonly seen.
The interpretations IX-79-35 and IX-79-38 offer good insight for differentiating between a welder and welding operator using SAW process.
Is Visual Examination Required When The Welder Is Qualified Through Volumetric NDE?
I get this question often.
Section IX gives an option of qualifying a welder either through volumetric NDE od through mechanical testing + visual examination of the test coupon. Does this mean that one should not/ need not do visual examination when the volumetric NDE is chosen? If the answer to this is yes, why would Section IX adopt such a stance? Visual testing barely takes a few seconds!
First let us see the first question. When one reads QW-304, there is no doubt that the Section IX does not require visual examination when a welder is qualified through volumetric NDE. This gets further confirmed through the interpretation IX-01-04. This means that no visual examination needs to be performed and documented in the WPQR.
Now let us see the second question. Like most other stipulations, the why behind stance is not clear. Only the what part is clear. There does not seem any logical reason behind nor requiring visual testing (when WPQ is done through RT or UT).
However, most organizations still choose to do visual testing of the welded performance qualification test coupons, even though Section IX does not require it. Section IX only specifies the minimum requirements. The fabricator is free to adopt more stringent/ extra requirements at this discretion as he sees fit, as long as he meets the minimum requirements of Section IX.
Can a welder’s qualification be transferred from one employer to the next, when a welder changes jobs?
No. This is not permitted. (IX-83-133, IX-83-21)
Section IX requires that the production of test coupons should be done under the supervision and control of the qualifying organization. When a welder changes employers, the new employer would not have fulfilled this requirement for the qualifications held by the welder at his previous workplace.
However, having said this, it is important to note that Section IX allows use of performance qualifications within the sister units of a corporation, provided the operational control of welders has been described in the quality programs of the companies involved. So, if the welder is transferred from one company to another company within the same corporation, requalification is not necessary.
Also, Section IX permits simultaneous qualification of welder(s), meaning that several companies can qualify welder(s) through a single testing exercise. See QG-106 of Section IX for more details.
So these were some of the frequently asked questions that i get asked, pertaining to welding performance qualifications to ASME Section IX. Please do let me know your thoughts on the subject, in the comments section below.