Carbon equivalent (CE) & its affects on weldability?

Welding is a fundamental process in various industries, from construction to aerospace. The quality of welds is crucial to the structural integrity of a project. Carbon equivalent (CE) is a parameter that plays a significant role in determining the weldability of materials. In this article, we will explore what carbon equivalent is and how it affects the weldability of different materials.

Carbon Equivalent Calculator below for use

Understanding Carbon Equivalent (CE)

Carbon equivalent is a calculated value that helps assess the weldability of a material. It is particularly important in the context of steel, which is widely used in construction and manufacturing due to its strength and versatility. CE is used to estimate the weldability of a steel alloy based on its chemical composition. The primary elements considered in this calculation are carbon (C), manganese (Mn), silicon (Si), and any alloying elements, such as chromium (Cr), molybdenum (Mo), and nickel (Ni).

The formula for calculating carbon equivalent varies slightly depending on regional standards and codes, but the purpose remains the same – to determine the level of hardenability and susceptibility to cracking during welding. The most commonly used formulas are:

  1. IIW (Institute of Welding) Carbon Equivalent (IIW-CE):

The carbon equivalent is typically calculated using the formula CE = C + (Mn/6) + (Cr+Mo+V)/5 + (Ni+Cu)/15, where C, Mn, Cr, Mo, V, Ni, and Cu represent the percentage of each element in the material. The resulting value is then compared to a threshold value that depends on the welding process and the material being welded.

CE = C + Mn/6 + (Cr + Mo + V)/5 + (Ni + Cu)/15

  1. Pcm (Welding Research Council) Carbon Equivalent (Pcm-CE):

CE = C + (Mn/6) + (Cu/40) + (Ni/20) + (Cr/10) + (Mo/100) + (V/40)

The Effects of Carbon Equivalent on Weldability

1. Hardenability:

CE is a measure of a material’s ability to harden during the welding process. A higher CE value typically indicates a greater risk of hardening, which can lead to weld cracking. Conversely, a lower CE value signifies better weldability. Welders need to balance the desired hardness with the need for a weld that is free from defects.

2. Risk of Cracking:

Carbon equivalent serves as an indicator of a material’s susceptibility to cracking, particularly when it is exposed to rapid temperature changes, such as during welding. High CE values are associated with an increased risk of cracking, which can compromise the integrity of the weld and the overall structure.

3. Selection of Welding Techniques:

Welders often use CE values to determine the most appropriate welding techniques and consumables for a specific material. Materials with higher CE values may require preheating, post-weld heat treatment, or the use of low-hydrogen electrodes to reduce the risk of cracking.

4. Pre-Weld Preparation:

CE values guide the preparation of materials before welding. For materials with higher CE values, it is essential to perform proper pre-weld cleaning, control interpass temperatures, and utilize preheat methods to minimize the risk of defects.\

5. Material Selection:

Engineers and fabricators consider CE values when selecting materials for specific applications. Lower CE materials are often preferred for critical welds to ensure better weldability and reduced risk of defects.

A high carbon equivalent indicates that the material is more prone to hardening and cracking in the HAZ during welding, which can lead to reduced weld quality and potential failure. This is because higher carbon content and other alloying elements can promote the formation of hard, brittle microstructures in the HAZ that are more susceptible to cracking under the high stresses and thermal gradients of welding.


Carbon equivalent is a vital factor in determining the weldability of materials, especially in the context of steel alloys. It allows welders and engineers to assess the risk of hardening and cracking during the welding process, aiding in the selection of appropriate welding techniques and materials. Understanding CE values and their impact on weldability is essential for producing high-quality welds that ensure the structural integrity of projects across various industries.

Faqs to Carbon Equivalent (CE)

What is Carbon Equivalent (CE)?

Carbon Equivalent is a numerical value that represents the weldability of a given steel based on its chemical composition. It takes into account the contributions of different alloying elements, such as carbon, manganese, silicon, and other elements.

Why is Carbon Equivalent important in welding?

Carbon Equivalent is important in welding because it helps predict the behavior of a steel during welding, especially in terms of hardening and the risk of cracking. It aids in selecting suitable welding procedures and avoiding potential issues.

How is Carbon Equivalent calculated?

The formula for calculating Carbon Equivalent varies, but a common formula is CE = C + Mn/6 + (Cr + Mo + V)/5 + (Ni + Cu)/15. Different formulas may be used based on regional standards and specific applications.

What is the significance of the carbon content in Carbon Equivalent?

The carbon content in Carbon Equivalent is a critical factor. Higher carbon content increases the hardenability of steel, which can lead to issues like cracking during welding. CE helps assess the combined effect of carbon and other alloying elements.

How does Carbon Equivalent relate to weldability?

Carbon Equivalent provides an indication of a steel’s susceptibility to heat-affected zone (HAZ) issues during welding. Steels with higher CE values are more prone to hardening and cracking, making them less weldable without careful control of welding parameters.

What are the recommended CE values for different welding processes?

Recommended CE values can vary depending on the welding process and the application. In general, lower CE values are preferred for improved weldability. Specific guidelines may be provided by welding codes and standards.

What problems can arise if the Carbon Equivalent is too high?

High Carbon Equivalent values can lead to issues such as increased hardenability, which may result in brittle welds, increased risk of cracking, and reduced toughness in the heat-affected zone.

Can Carbon Equivalent be used to compare different steel grades?

Yes, Carbon Equivalent is a useful tool for comparing the weldability of different steel grades. It allows for an assessment of the relative ease or difficulty of welding different materials.

Are there different formulas for Carbon Equivalent used in different regions or industries?

Yes, there are different formulas for calculating Carbon Equivalent, and their use may depend on regional standards or specific industry requirements. It’s important to use the formula recommended by applicable welding codes or specifications.

How can one control Carbon Equivalent in the welding process?

Controlling Carbon Equivalent involves selecting materials with appropriate alloying elements and carbon content. It may also involve adjusting welding parameters to minimize the risk of issues like hardening and cracking.

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