Brazing is a metal-joining process whereby a filler metal is heated above melting point and distributed between two or more close-fitting parts by capillary action. The filler metal is brought slightly above its melting (liquidus) temperature while protected by a suitable atmosphere, usually a flux. It then flows over the base metal (known as wetting) and is then cooled to join the workpieces together. It is similar to soldering, except the temperatures used to melt the filler metal are higher for brazing.
In order to obtain high-quality brazed joints, parts must be closely fitted, and the base metals must be exceptionally clean and free of oxides. In most cases, joint clearances of 0.03 to 0.08 mm (0.0012 to 0.0031 in) are recommended for the best capillary action and joint strength. However, in some brazing operations it is not uncommon to have joint clearances around 0.6 mm (0.024 in). Cleanliness of the brazing surfaces is also important, as any contamination can cause poor wetting (flow). The two main methods for cleaning parts, prior to brazing, are chemical cleaning and abrasive or mechanical cleaning. In the case of mechanical cleaning, it is important to maintain the proper surface roughness as wetting on a rough surface occurs much more readily than on a smooth surface of the same geometry.
Another consideration that cannot be overlooked is the effect of temperature and time on the quality of brazed joints. As the temperature of the braze alloy is increased, the alloying and wetting action of the filler metal increases as well. In general, the brazing temperature selected must be above the melting point of the filler metal. However, there are several factors that influence the joint designer's temperature selection. The best temperature is usually selected so as to: (1) be the lowest possible braze temperature, (2) minimize any heat effects on the assembly, (3) keep filler metal/base metal interactions to a minimum, and (4) maximize the life of any fixtures or jigs used. In some cases, a higher temperature may be selected to allow for other factors in the design (e.g. to allow use of a different filler metal, or to control metallurgical effects, or to sufficiently remove surface contamination). The effect of time on the brazed joint primarily affects the extent to which the aforementioned effects are present; however, in general most production processes are selected to minimize brazing time and the associated costs. This is not always the case, however, since in some non-production settings, time and cost are secondary to other joint attributes (e.g. strength, appearance).