Selective laser melting (SLM) has been shown to be an attractive manufacturing route for the production of α/β titanium alloys, and in particular Ti-6Al-4V. A thorough understanding of the relationship between the process, microstructure and mechanical properties of the components produced by this technology is however crucial for the establishment of SLM as an alternative manufacturing route. The purpose of the present study is thus to determine the microstructure evolution, crystallographic texture and the mechanical properties of SLM Ti-6Al-4V.
The effect of several processing parameters on the density and the microstructure of the SLM samples were initially investigated. It was found that different sets of process parameters can be used to fabricate near fully dense components. It was found that the samples built using the optimised process window consist exclusively of α′ martensitic phase precipitated from prior β columnar grains. It was observed that the β grain solidification is influenced by the laser scan strategy and that the β phase has a strong <001> texture along its grain growth direction. The α′ martensitic laths that originate from the parent β grains precipitate according to the Burgers orientation relationship. It was found that α′ laths clusters from the same β grain have a specific misorientation that minimise the local shape strain. Texture inheritance across successive deposited layers was also observed and discussed in relation to various variant selection mechanisms.
The mechanical properties of as-built and stress relieved SLM Ti-6Al-4V built using the same optimised process parameters were then investigated. It was found that the build orientation affects the tensile properties, and in particular the ductility of the samples. Samples built perpendicularly to the building direction showed higher ductility than those built in the vertical orientation. It was also observed that a stress relief heat treatment was beneficial to the mechanical properties of SLM Ti-6Al-4V. The ductility of the stress relieved samples was indeed higher than those found in the as-built condition. It was found that the predominant fracture mode during tensile testing is inter-granular. In terms of high-cycle fatigue, it was found that SLM Ti-6Al-4V is comparable to HIPed cast Ti-6Al-4V but it has a significantly lower fatigue resistance than that of wrought and annealed alloys. It was observed that porosity and the elongated prior β grain boundaries decrease substantially the fatigue life of the components. Cracks propagate either by fatigue striation or ductile tearing mechanisms.
Using alternative laser scan strategies it was possible to control the microstructure of the as-built samples. It was observed that the laser scan vector length influences several microstructural features, such as the width of the prior β grains and the thickness of the α′ laths. It was found that re-melting the same layer has instead little effect on the microstructure. A novel laser scan strategy characterised by much lower laser power and scan speed than those typically used in SLM enabled finally to fabricate SLM Ti-6Al-4V with a microstructure close to that of conventionally manufactured Ti-6Al-4V.
This study investigates for the first time the crystallographic texture evolution in Ti-6Al-4V manufactured by SLM. Further, this research presents for the first time the effect of the characteristic microstructure and crystallographic texture on the mechanical properties and fracture of SLM Ti-6Al-4V. Lastly, for the first time this research shows examples of microstructural control during the SLM fabrication of the same alloy using long laser dwell times.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.