The mechanical properties of additively manufactured metals tend to show high variability, due largely to the stochastic nature of defect formation during the printing process. This study seeks to understand how automated high throughput testing can be utilized to understand the variable nature of additively manufactured metals at different print conditions, and to allow for statistically meaningful analysis. This is demonstrated by analyzing how different processing parameters, including laser power, scan velocity, and scan pattern, influence the tensile behavior of additively manufactured stainless steel 316L utilizing a newly developed automated test methodology. Microstructural characterization through computed tomography and electron backscatter diffraction is used to understand some of the observed trends in mechanical behavior. Specifically, grain size and morphology are shown to depend on processing parameters and influence the observed mechanical behavior. In the current study, laser-powder bed fusion, also known as selective laser melting or direct metal laser sintering, is shown to produce 316L over a wide processing range without substantial detrimental effect on the tensile properties. Ultimate tensile strengths above 600 MPa, which are greater than that for typical wrought annealed 316L with similar grain sizes, and elongations to failure greater than 40% were observed. It is demonstrated that this process has little sensitivity to minor intentional or unintentional variations in laser velocity and power.
Additive manufacturing enables the rapid, cost effective production of customized structural components. To fully capitalize on the agility of additive manufacturing, it is necessary to develop complementary high-throughput materials evaluation techniques. In this study, over 1000 nominally identical tensile tests are used to explore the effect of process variability on the mechanical property distributions of a precipitation hardened stainless steel produced by a laser powder bed fusion process, also known as direct metal laser sintering or selective laser melting. With this large dataset, rare defects are revealed that affect only ≈2% of the population, stemming from a single build lot of material. The rare defects cause a substantial loss in ductility and are associated with an interconnected network of porosity. The adoption of streamlined test methods will be paramount to diagnosing and mitigating such dangerous anomalies in future structural components.
An adage within the Additive Manufacturing (AM) community is that “complexity is free”. Complicated geometric features that normally drive manufacturing cost and limit design options are not typically problematic in AM. While geometric complexity is usually viewed from the perspective of part design, this advantage of AM also opens up new options in rapid, efficient material property evaluation and qualification. In the current work, an array of 100 miniature tensile bars are produced and tested for a comparable cost and in comparable time to a few conventional tensile bars. With this technique, it is possible to evaluate the stochastic nature of mechanical behavior. The current study focuses on stochastic yield strength, ultimate strength, and ductility as measured by strain at failure (elongation). However, this method can be used to capture the statistical nature of many mechanical properties including the full stress-strain constitutive response, elastic modulus, work hardening, and fracture toughness. Moreover, the technique could extend to strain-rate and temperature dependent behavior. As a proof of concept, the technique is demonstrated on a precipitation hardened stainless steel alloy, commonly known as 17-4PH, produced by two commercial AM vendors using a laser powder bed fusion process, also commonly known as selective laser melting. Using two different commercial powder bed platforms, the vendors produced material that exhibited slightly lower strength and markedly lower ductility compared to wrought sheet. Moreover, the properties were much less repeatable in the AM materials as analyzed in the context of a Weibull distribution, and the properties did not consistently meet minimum allowable requirements for the alloy as established by AMS. The diminished, stochastic properties were examined in the context of major contributing factors such as surface roughness and internal lack-of-fusion porosity. This high-throughput capability is expected to be useful for follow-on extensive parametric studies of factors that affect the statistical reliability of AM components.