Selective laser melting (SLM), or, as the industry standard denotes the process, laser sintering, is an additive manufacturing process where metal powder is melted by a laser source layer-wise, forming a solid, dense metallic component. With the SLM process, near net shape components can be manufactured directly from a CAD model. The model is sliced into thin (max 100μm thick) layers. Powder is spread onto a metallic build platform and the powder is fused by a laser as dictated by the CAD model. The laser energy is intense enough to permit full melting (welding) of the particles to form solid metal. The process is repeated layer by layer until the part is complete.
A number of materials are available, including steel, aluminium, titanium and, in recent time, also superalloys. The material investigated in the current project is an alloy in agreement with the composition of Haynes International Hastelloy X, a solution strengthened superalloy typically used in large welded components exposed to high temperatures in oxidizing as well as reducing environments.
Microstructurally, the material is different from both a hot-rolled, as well as a cast material due to the manufacturing process. Since the SLM process involves laser melting of powder particles in the size range of <50μm, the structure resembles of a weld structure, however on a smaller scale. Due to the layer-by-layer build strategy, the material will exhibit anisotropy. Different heat treatment approaches can be adopted in order to homogenize the material and to minimize the effect of anisotropy. A stress relieve heat treatment was adopted and compared to the findings of the as manufactured SLM material.
The current project focuses on evaluating mechanical properties for a material manufactured by the SLM process and comparing to data for established manufacturing processes. For evaluation of the mechanical properties, low cycle fatigue testing and tensile testing has been performed. The microstructure and material deformation / cracking are evaluated by light optical microscopy and SEM, where electron backscatter diffraction is used. Due to the weld-like structure, the material will be transversely isotropic in the as-manufactured condition with one symmetry plane perpendicular to the build direction. Any direction perpendicular to the build direction tends to give increased strength compared to a direction parallel to the build direction if monotonic data are concerned. If fatigue properties are concerned, the anisotropy is also obvious. It is shown that the differences in behaviour can be coupled to microstructure.