Additive Manufacturing of 17-4 PH Stainless Steel: Post-processing Heat Treatment to Achieve Uniform Reproducible Microstructure
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17-4 precipitation hardenable (PH) stainless steel is a useful material when a combination of high strength and good corrosion resistance up to about 315°C is required. In the wrought form, this steel has a fully martensitic structure that can be strengthened by precipitation of fine Cu-rich face-centered cubic phase upon aging. When fabricated via additive manufacturing (AM), specifically laser powder-bed fusion, 17-4 PH steel exhibits a dendritic structure containing a substantial fraction of nearly 50% of retained austenite along with body centered cubic/martensite and fine niobium carbides preferentially aligned along interdendritic boundaries. The effect of post-build thermal processing on the material microstructure is studied in comparison to that of conventionally produced wrought 17-4 PH with the intention of creating a more uniform, fully martensitic microstructure. The recommended stress relief heat treatment currently employed in industry for post-processing of AM 17-4 PH steel is found to have little effect on the as-built dendritic microstructure. It is found that, by implementing the recommended homogenization heat treatment regimen of Aerospace Materials Specification 5355 for CB7Cu-1, a casting alloy analog to 17-4 PH, the dendritic solidification structure is eliminated, resulting in a microstructure containing about 90% martensite with 10% retained austenite.
The authors would like to thank the NIST Engineering Laboratory for building the additively manufactured 17-4 steel used in this study.
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