Hole surface microstructures are very critical to the mechanical performance and fatigue life of metallic products from drilling processes. When steel material is drilled at a fully hardened condition, hole surface microstructures are often subject to transition because of the intense thermo-mechanical loading in the drilling process. A white layer can be formed on the surface of a drilled hole of carbon steels with high matrix hardness. The formation of the white layer mainly results from two reasons: thermally driven phase transformation and mechanical grain refinement due to severe plastic deformation on the machined surface.

In this study, a multi-step numerical analysis is conducted to investigate the potential mechanism of surface microstructure alterations in the drilling process of hardened steels. First, three-dimensional (3D) Finite Element (FE) simulations are performed using a relative coarse mesh with AdvantEdge for hard drilling of AISI 1060 steel to achieve the steady-state solution for thermal and deformation fields. Defining the initial condition of the cutting zone using the previous 3D simulation results, a multi-physics model is then implemented in two-dimensional (2D) coupled Eulerian-Lagrangian (CEL) finite element analysis in ABAQUS to model both phase transformation and grain refinement at a fine mesh to comprehend the surface microstructure alteration. The interaction among surface microstructures, drilling parameters and the hardness of the workpiece material are studied simultaneously. With the comparison to related experimental results, the capabilities of the multi-physics model to accurately predict critical surface microstructural attributes such as phase compositions, grain size, and microhardness during the drilling of carbon steel are demonstrated.

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