Process-dependent Composition, Microstructure, and Printability of Al-Zn-Mg and Al-Zn-Mg-Sc-Zr Alloys Manufactured by Laser Powder Bed Fusion

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Metallurgical and Materials Transactions A

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Additive manufacturing (AM) technology for metallic alloys such as laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) brings tremendous opportunities for development of novel alloys specifically designed for AM that would desensitize the inherent process variability and requires a refined understanding of processing–structure–property relationship that would contribute to future alloy development. In this study, two different alloys, Al-6Zn-2Mg and Al-6Zn-2Mg-0.7Sc-0.3Zr in wt. pct, representing traditional and AM-specific novel aluminum alloys, respectively, were manufactured by LPBF technique using pre-alloyed gas atomized powders. The Al-Zn-Mg ternary alloys exhibited cracks at various LPBF processing parameters, primarily along the grain boundaries of the large columnar grains that extended across multiple melt pools. The severity of cracking in LPBF Al-Zn-Mg alloys was process-dependent and could be correlated to the change in alloy composition due to evaporation of Zn and Mg with high vapor pressure. The Scheil–Gulliver non-equilibrium solidification calculations showed that the Al-Zn-Mg alloys with lower Zn and Mg concentrations had smaller solidification range (i.e., ΔT) and steepness values (i.e., |dT/dfs1/2| near fs1/2=1), which corresponded to a lower cracking severity. On the other hand, no cracks were observed in Al-Zn-Mg-Sc-Zr alloys, although their solidification range and steepness values were similar to the ternary Al-Zn-Mg alloys. The microstructure of Al-Zn-Mg-Sc-Zr alloys exhibited a much refined heterogeneous microstructure containing small equiaxed and columnar grains within each melt pool, owing to the heterogeneous nucleation upon primary Al3(Sc,Zr) particles. Process-dependent microstructure was observed as a result of variation in thermal gradient and cooling rate associated with LPBF parameters. Findings from this study provide guidance for the future design of AM-specific aluminum alloys and insights into the microstructural control by LPBF.


Metallurgical and Materials Transactions A, Vol. 51, No. 6 (June 2020): 3215-3227. DOI.

Le Zhou was affiliated with University of Central Florida, Orlando at the time of publication.