Additive manufacture of an aluminium alloy: processing, microstructure, and mechanical properties

Aboulkhair, Nesma T. (2016) Additive manufacture of an aluminium alloy: processing, microstructure, and mechanical properties. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Additive manufacturing of aluminium alloys using selective laser melting (SLM) is of research interest nowadays because of its potential benefits in industry sectors such as aerospace and automotive. However, in order to demonstrate the credibility of aluminium SLM for industrial needs, a comprehensive understanding of the interrelation between the process parameters, produced microstructure, and mechanical behaviour is still needed. This thesis aims at contributing to developing this comprehensive understanding through studying the various aspects of the process, with investigation of the powder raw material to the near fully dense samples, focussing on the alloy AlSi10Mg.

The primary building blocks in the SLM process are the single tracks. Their formation is affected by the physical properties of the material that control the laser-material interactions. Keyhole mode melting was found to be dominant when processing AlSi10Mg, producing conical-shaped melt pools. Porosity was not evident in single tracks and individual layers. Satellites and balling defects, however, were observed on top of the tracks and layers at higher scan speeds, which contribute to porosity formation with layer progression.

The combination of process parameters controls the amount of porosity formed, with the scan speed controlling the type of pore; metallurgical or keyhole pore. A pre-melt scan strategy significantly reduced porosity and successfully produced 99.8% dense samples. Furthermore, the pre-melt scan strategy was seen to effectively reduce the number of pores developed when using powder that does not fully comply with the process standards. The gas flow rate within the process chamber controlled laser spatter and condensate removal during processing, which in its turn affected the degree of porosity in the samples.

The SLM process resulted in an AlSi10Mg alloy with a characteristically fine microstructure, with fine equiaxed grains at the melt pool core and coarser elongated grains at the boundary. The material showed a strong texture, owing to directional solidification. Cellular dendritic Al with inter-dendritic Si was observed. The material was subjected to a T6 heat treatment that transformed the microstructure into spheroids of Si in the Al matrix.

This study investigated, for the first time, the local mechanical properties within the SLM material using nanoindentation. This showed a uniform nano-hardness profile that was attributed to the fine microstructure and good dispersion of the alloying elements. Spatial variation within the material was recorded after the T6 heat treatment due to phase transformation. This study is also the first to report on the compressive behaviour of solid SLM material, which is important for developing prediction and simulation models. The heat treatment softened the material and provided it with an increased ductility under indentation, tensile, and compressive types of loading. In addition, the material showed good fatigue performance, which was further improved by heat treatment and machining to obtain a smoother surface roughness.

This investigation has, therefore, developed an understanding of the various aspects of the SLM process yielding near fully dense parts and defined the microstructure-mechanical property interrelation promoting the process for Al alloys in a number of industrial sectors.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Everitt, N.M.
Ashcroft, I.A.
Tuck, C.J.
Keywords: Selective laser melting, AlSi10Mg, Microstructure-mechanical property interrelation
Subjects: T Technology > TN Mining engineering. Metallurgy
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering
Item ID: 31152
Depositing User: Aboulkhair, Nesma
Date Deposited: 29 Jul 2016 13:05
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2016 14:22

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