Process Induced Preheating in Laser Powder Bed Fusion Monitored by Thermography and Its Influence on the Microstructure of 316L Stainless Steel Parts
Undetected and undesired microstructural variations in components produced by laser powder bed fusion are a major challenge, especially for safety-critical components. In this study, an in-depth analysis of the microstructural features of 316L specimens produced by laser powder bed fusion at different levels of volumetric energy density and different levels of inter layer time is reported. The study has been conducted on specimens with an application relevant build height (>100 mm). Furthermore, the evolution of the intrinsic preheating temperature during the build-up of specimens was monitored using a thermographic in-situ monitoring set-up. By applying recently determined emissivity values of 316L powder layers, real temperatures could be quantified. Heat accumulation led to preheating temperatures of up to about 600 °C. Significant differences in the preheating temperatures were discussed with respect to the individual process parameter combinations, including the build height. A strong effect of the inter layer time on the heat accumulation was observed. A shorter inter layer time resulted in an increase of the preheating temperature by more than a factor of 2 in the upper part of the specimens compared to longer inter layer times. This, in turn, resulted in heterogeneity of the microstructure and differences in material properties within individual specimens. The resulting differences in the microstructure were analyzed using electron back scatter diffraction and scanning electron microscopy. Results from chemical analysis as well as electron back scatter diffraction measurements indicated stable conditions in terms of chemical alloy composition and austenite phase content for the used set of parameter combinations. However, an increase of the average grain size by more than a factor of 2.5 could be revealed within individual specimens. Additionally, differences in feature size of the solidification cellular substructure were examined and a trend of increasing cell sizes was observed. This trend was attributed to differences in solidification rate and thermal gradients induced by differences in scanning velocity and preheating temperature. A change of the thermal history due to intrinsic preheating could be identified as the main cause of this heterogeneity. It was induced by critical combinations of the energy input and differences in heat transfer conditions by variations of the inter layer time. The microstructural variations were directly correlated to differences in hardness.
Published in: Metals, 10.3390/met11071063, MDPI