A Feasiblity Study on the Fatigue Performance of Laser Beam Welds and Hybrid-Laser Arc Welds Used in an Innovative Modular Steel Sandwich Panel Bridge Deck SyStem
This research investigation explores the feasibility of implementing a laser welded sandwich steel panel bridge deck system as a viable alternative to standardized reinforced concrete bridge decks. Generally used in naval ship building applications, steel sandwich panels possess attractive characteristics towards the integration with bridge infrastructure such as service life in excess of 100 plus years, dead load reduction, rapid construction, decreased closure time, and automated mass production. The lack of fatigue data for the laser "stake" welds used to create the enclosed sandwich panel geometry raised concerns with respect to fatigue life. The primary focus of this study was to determine whether or not infinite fatigue life was possible. Two different laser welding technologies were investigated, Laser Beam Welding (LBW) and Hybrid-Laser Arc Welding (HLAW). Test specimens were fabricated and tested in order to examine fatigue resistance based on a localized load effect between adjacent core stiffeners. Finite element models were used to obtain the stress range for each individual test due to complex geometry and partially restrained boundary conditions. In order to assess the fatigue performance of the overall deck system, additional finite element models were created to study the local and global behavior of different sandwich panel configurations. As a whole the investigation yielded promising results. Infinite fatigue life is achievable due to outstanding fatigue performance. The HLAW stake welds demonstrated superior fatigue resistance in comparison to the LBW process. Localized load effects can be minimized through the modification of different panel parameters. Pushing forward, full scale testing is essential to the future employment of this innovative bridge deck system.