The weldability of steels is influenced primarily by the carbon content. At higher carbon levels, steels may need either pre- or post- weld heat treatment in order to prevent stress build up and weld cracking.
Generally speaking, if the Carbon Equivalent (CE) is 0.35 or below, no pre- or post- weld  thermal treatment  is needed. In our experience with maintenance welding, we have found that preheating was beneficial between 0.35 and 0.55 CE. Above 0.55 CE we usually both pre- and post- weld heated to relieve stress and prevent cracking.
So CE= .35 max.
However the other elements that are contained in the steel also have an effect on the steel’s “carbon equivalence.” These additional elements can really add up in scrap fed electric arc  furnace steels that now predominate in our market.

Electric Arc Furnaces are predominately scrap fed.

Photo credit.
Here are two formulas for calculating Carbon Equivalents.
CE=%C+(%Mn/6)+(%Cr+%Mo+%Va)/5 + (%Si+%Ni+%Cu)/15
This is the first formula I learned when I took over metallurgical support for  maintenance ‘back in the day.’
In this formula you can see that 6 points of Manganese are approximately equal to one point of Carbon.  5 points of Chrome, Moly or Vanadium are roughly equal to a point of Carbon, while it takes about 15 points of Silicon, Nickel or Copper to get about the same effect as one point of Carbon.
The GE formula for Carbon Equivalency is CE= C+(Mn/6)+(Ni/20)+(Cr/10)+(Cu/40)+(Mo/50)+(Va/10). If this is less than .35 max, you should have no need to pre or post weld thermal treat in most cases.
As long as CE is no more than .35, you probably won’t need to preheat or post weld stress relieve your welded parts. above .35 CE, you may need either or both depending on section thickness and CE.
* (I) added (extra parentheses) to keep (the terms) clear in (this post); no (scathing rebukes) from (math teachers) please!

Paying attention to draft, chemistry, and steel melt source processes can help you minimize the potential for cracks at your customer after cold work operations.
After a crimping, staking or swaging operation, cracks can develop. This is because the cold work needed to swage,  stake, crimp, etc. was greater than the material’s available elasticity. This is the case in the part photographed here.

Cracks can develop after cold work is performed on machined parts.
Cracks can develop after cold work is performed on machined parts.

In order to minimize cracking during or after crimping, or thread rolling, or other substantial cold work, take the following steps:

  1. Specify non-renitrogenized material;
  2. Inform your supplier of your cold work application. They can consider reducing cold draft, or changing suppliers of the hot roll to get basic oxygen process, low residual, low nitrogen steel;
  3. Ask the customer to consider changing the grade. Resulfurized steels are capable of being somewhat cold worked, but their high volume fraction and weight percent of nonmetallic inclusions (What makes them cut so well!) is also what works against successful cold work.

To minimize the occurrence of cracks  that are not a result of cold work, try this:

  • Assure that adequate stock removal is taken in machining;
  • Buying from reputable sources whose quality systems employ rototesting and eddy current testing;

When cracks are discovered in your shop, what actions do you take?