Stainless steels fabricated by laser melting Scaled-down structural hierarchies and microstructural heterogeneities
Abstract: Additive manufacturing is revolutionizing the way of production and use of materials. The clear tendency for shifting from mass production to individual production of net-shape components has encouraged using selective laser melting (SLM) or electron beam melting (EBM). In this thesis, austenitic, duplex and martensitic stainless steel parts were fabricated by laser melting technique using fixed laser scanning parameters. The fabricated steel parts were characterised using XRD, SEM, TEM/STEM, SADP and EBSD techniques. Mechanical properties of the fabricated steel parts were also measured. The mechanism of the evolution of microstructure during laser melting as well as the mechanism of the effect of developed microstructure on the mechanical properties was investigated. It was found that the intense localized heating, non-uniform and asymmetric temperature gradients and subsequently fast cooling introduces unique high level structural hierarchies and microstructure heterogeneities in laser melted steel parts. A unique structural hierarchy from the millimetre scale melt pools down to the sub-micron/nano scale cellular sub-grains was observed. The cellular sub-grains were 0.5-1μm with Molybdenum enriched at the sub-grain boundaries in SLM 316L. The Mo enriched cell boundaries affected the chemical and microstructure stability of the post heat treated samples. Well dispersed and large concentration of dislocations around the cell boundaries and well distributed oxide nano inclusions, imposed large strengthening and hardening effect that led to relatively superior tensile strength (700 MPa), yield strength (456 MPa), and microhardness (325Hv) compared to those of HIP 316L steel. The in-situ formation of oxide nano inclusions provided a unique way for preparation of oxide dispersion-strengthened (ODS) steel in a single process. The formation of oxide nano inclusions in the very low oxygen partial pressure of laser chamber was thermodynamically explained. High concentration of nano size dislocation loops, formation of nitride phases along with nitrogen enriched islands and oxide nano inclusions lead to strong dislocation pinning effect which strengthened the laser melted duplex stainless steel with a total tensile strength of 1321 MPa, yield strength of 1214 MPa and microhardness of 450HV. The grade 420 stainless steel was laser melted in Ar and N2 atmosphere which also showed a two level hierarchy with nanometric martensite lathes embedded in parental austenite cellular grains. The Ar treated sample had relatively higher retained austenite, lower YS (680-790 MPa) and UTS (1120-1200 MPa) compared to those treated in N2 (YS= 770-1100 MPa, UTS=1520-1560 MPa). The mechanism of the effect of atmosphere on phase transformation was explained.
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