Effects of Punching Holes and Shearing

Excessive cold working of exposed edges of structural-steel members can cause and cracking and should be avoided. Punching holes and shearing during fabrication are cold-working operations that can cause brittle failure in thick material.
Bolt holes, for example, may be formed by drilling, punching, or punching followed by reaming. Drilling is preferable to punching, because punching drastically coldworks the material at the edge of a hole. This makes the steel less ductile and raises the transition temperature.
The degree of embrittlement depends on type of steel and plate thickness. Furthermore, there is a possibility that punching can produce short cracks extending radially from the hole. Consequently, brittle failure can be initiated at the hole when the member is stressed.
Should the material around the hole become heated, an additional risk of failure is introduced.
Heat, for example, may be supplied by an adjacent welding operation. If the temperature should rise to the 400 to 850F range, strain aging will occur in material susceptible to it. The result will be a loss in ductility.
Reaming a hole after punching can eliminate the short, radial cracks and the risks of embrittlement. For that purpose, the hole diameter should be increased from 1⁄16 to 1⁄4 in by reaming, depending on material thickness and hole diameter.
Shearing has about the same effects as punching. If sheared edges are to be left exposed.
1⁄16 in or more material, depending on thickness, should be trimmed, usually by grinding or machining. Note also that rough machining, for example, with edge planers making a deep cut, can produce the same effects as shearing or punching.
(M. E. Shank, Control of Steel Construction to Avoid Brittle Failure, Welding Research Council, New York.)