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Additive Manufacturing of Metallic Materials: A Review

  • Yi Zhang
  • Linmin Wu
  • Xingye Guo
  • Stephen Kane
  • Yifan Deng
  • Yeon-Gil Jung
  • Je-Hyun Lee
  • Jing ZhangEmail author
Article

Abstract

In this review article, the latest developments of the four most common additive manufacturing methods for metallic materials are reviewed, including powder bed fusion, direct energy deposition, binder jetting, and sheet lamination. In addition to the process principles, the microstructures and mechanical properties of AM-fabricated parts are comprehensively compared and evaluated. Finally, several future research directions are suggested.

Keywords

additive manufacturing mechanical property metal microstructure process 

Introduction

In the 1980s, rapid prototyping (RP) was first introduced to produce a 3D prototype layer-by-layer from a computer-aided design (CAD) (Ref 1). With the advancement of RP technique and the need of high-efficiency manufacturing with the ability to produce complex parts, the first additive manufacturing (AM) technique was brought on stage by researchers at University of Texas Austin in 1986. In the past 30 years, many new AM processes have been developed. These processes show several significant advantages, including versatile geometric capability, minimum human interaction requirement, and reduced design cycle time (Ref 2). Since then, AM has been successfully applied in numerous fields. Functional AM parts with complex geometries have been used as aircraft engine components (Ref 3, 4), automobile parts (Ref 5), and space components (Ref 6, 7). According to the ASTM standard published in 2009 (Ref 8), the AM techniques can be classified into the following categories, as listed in Table 1.
Table 1

Summary of AM processes classified by ASTM F42 (Ref 9) and their typical applications

Process

Application

Material extrusion

Plastic prototyping

Vat polymerization

Prototyping, high surface finish parts

Binder jetting

Prototyping, investment casting

Material jetting

Visual prototyping

Powder bed fusion

Functional prototyping, engineering functional parts

Sheet lamination

Prototyping

Direct energy deposition

Prototyping, functional parts, repairing metal parts and fixtures

AM processes of metallic materials generally include (1) powder bed fusion (PBF), (2) direct energy deposition (DED), (3) binder jetting (BJ), and (4) sheet lamination (SL). Vat polymerization is only capable of fabricating polymer materials. Other processes have been experimentally tested for metal fabrication, e.g., liquid metal extrusion (Ref 10) and material jetting (Ref 11, 12). However, they are still in early stages of development, and there are no commercial systems yet.

The currently available commercial metal AM systems with their manufacturers are listed in Table 2. The systems are classified based on the ASTM standard. The processing information, including layer thickness range and laser beam diameter, along with system energy sources, is also listed.
Table 2

Commercial AM systems for metallic materials

Manufacturer

System

Process

Layer thickness, μm

Laser focus diameter, μm

Energy source

Concept laser (Ref 13)

M1 cusing

PBF(SLM)

20-80

50

Fiber laser 200-400 W

Sisma (Ref 14)

MYSINT300

PBF(SLM)

20-50

100-500

Fiber laser 500 W

SLM Solutions (Ref 15)

SLM500

PBF(SLM)

20-74

80-115

Quad fiber lasers 4 × 700 W

Realizer (Ref 16)

SLM300i

PBF(SLM)

20-100

N/A

Fiber laser 400-1000 W

Farsoon (Ref 17)

FS271 M

PBF(SLS)

20-80

40-100

Yb-fiber laser, 200 W

EOS (Ref 18)

M 400

PBF(DMLS)

N/A

90

Yb-fiber laser, 1000 W

Arcam AB (Ref 19)

Arcam Q20plus

PBF(EBM)

140

Electron beam 3000 W

Optomec (Ref 20)

LENS Print Engine

DED(LENS)

25

IPG fiber laser 1-2 kW

Sciaky (Ref 21)

EBAM 300

DED (wire feed)

N/A

Electron beam

Trumpf (Ref 22)

TruLaser Cell Series 7000

DED (powder feed)

N/A

CO2 laser (15,000 W) or YAG laser (6600 W)

ExOne (Ref 23)

M print

BJ

150

Fabrisonic (Ref 24)

SonicLayer 7200

SL(UAM)

150

20 kHz ultrasonic vibration sonotrode

Laser-based powder bed fusion, including selective laser melting (SLM), selective laser sintering (SLS), and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), is the most popular AM processes. In these processes, laser power is usually in the range of 100-1000 W depending on the manufacturer. The thickness of each build layer of laser-based PBF can be as small as 20 μm, which shows the advantage in terms of resolution over other AM processes. Arcam is the manufacturer for electron beam-based PBF. The power of an e-beam is much higher than a laser source, and a thicker layer of metallic powder can be built in each scan. Trumpf provides both powder feed DED- and laser-based PBF. ExOne and Fabrisonic are the manufacturers for BJ and SL systems that are suitable for AM fabrication of metallic materials.

Kaufui et al. conducted a review in 2012 on the development and application of rapid prototyping (Ref 25). In the review, two aspects limiting the application of AM from industrial applications were discussed, these being material capability and parts accuracy. Another review on the microstructures of laser-/electron beam-based rapid prototypes was conducted by Murr (Ref 26). The review paper discussed how the material microstructure architectures can be controlled by AM processes. Tapia et al. (Ref 27) reviewed the process monitoring and control of metal AM systems. The rationale and importance of research on real-time control of AM were identified, in terms of improving the product accuracy and material/time efficiency. Also in 2014, Frazier discussed AM processes, material properties, and business considerations (Ref 28). The AM-processed metallic materials were analyzed in terms of their microstructure evolution and static/dynamic properties. The paper discussed the mechanical properties of AM parts to show the process-microstructure-properties relationship, which was further discussed by other researchers (Ref 29-31). Lewandowski compared the tensile properties and fatigue crack behaviors of Ti6Al4V fabricated through PBF- and DED-based AM processes (Ref 32). The results showed that the mechanical properties may vary with AM process and AM machine. Additional review articles include the material properties and qualifications, as well as the economic or environmental impacts of AM processes (Ref 33, 34).

The objective of this review article is twofold. The first is to provide the latest information regarding the AM metallic material microstructures and mechanical properties. The second is to cover the process-microstructure-property correlation of binder jetting, sheet lamination, powder bed diffusion, and direct energy deposition processes, thus providing a comprehensive review of all major AM processes for metallic materials. The structure of this review article is arranged into four major sections from section 2 to 5, based on the four major AM processes. Each section is further divided into sub-sections of process description, typical microstructures, and a compilation of mechanical properties. Section 6 provides the conclusion and suggested future research directions.

Powder Bed Fusion

Powder bed fusion (PBF) uses a high-energy power source to selectively melt or sinter a metallic powder bed. Depending on the type of power source, PBF can be further divided into two major techniques: selective laser melting (SLM) which uses a high-intensity laser, and electron beam melting (EBM), which uses an electron beam. Both processes need a building platform to hold the powder.

Powder Bed Fusion Equipment and Process

Even though the principles of these two processes are similar, the processing steps are quite different. The schematics of the SLM setup are shown in Fig. 1(a) (Ref 35). In the SLM process, the laser beam passes through a system of lenses and reflected by a mirror onto the platform surface. The mirrors are used to control the laser beam spot movement on the planar (X and Y) directions on the designed paths. After a layer of powder is selectively melted, the platform moves downward, a recoating blade or brush pushes another layer of fresh powder from the powder tank to the top of the previously built surface, and the laser scan process repeats. The building chamber of an SLM machine is filled with an inert gas, argon in most cases, to avoid oxidization of metallic powders at high temperatures.
Fig. 1

Schematics of powder bed fusion equipment. (a) Selective laser melting and (b) electron beam melting

The EBM process is essentially developed from the scanning electron microscope (SEM) technique (Ref 29). It utilizes a much higher-power electron beam to selectively melt the powder. Vacuum condition is required for the EBM process. As shown in Fig. 1(b) (Ref 36), the electron beam source is located on the top of the powder bed. The movement of the electron beam is directly controlled by a lens system. A powder hopper pours fresh powder onto the side of the platform, and then, a layer of powder is coated by a rake on the top of previously melted layer.

Microstructures and Mechanical Properties of Powder Bed Fusion Fabricated Parts

Several studies have been focused on relating the PBF process parameters to the resulting microstructure (Ref 35, 37). Although at high processing temperatures, most of the scanned powder is melted and densified, the PBF fabricated parts still contain some porosities (Ref 36). Figure 2 shows the microstructure of an SLM processed Ti-6Al-4V part (Ref 38). From the top view (Fig. 2a), one can easily observe the parallelly orientated grains with /// or \\\ band-shaped patterns. Each of these patterns has a width of the scan hatch space, and it follows the laser scan direction. The highly orientated grains are created by a high temperature gradient during fast heating and cooling process. From the side view (Fig. 2b), the grains are mostly vertical with elongated shapes. The vertically columnar grains are tilted according to the scan direction. Horizontally dark bands can be observed due to the layer-wise AM process. Two types of pore can be found in the PBF parts: the pores due to trapped gas in the powder bed (Fig. 2c) and the pores caused by insufficient melting (Fig. 2d), which are mostly seen near the edge regions (Ref 39).
Fig. 2

(a) Microstructures of the SLM built Ti-6Al-4V object with (a) top view, (b) side view (Ref 38), (c) pore due to trapped gas, and (d) pore due to insufficient heating (Ref 39)

The grain microstructures of PBF parts are mostly affected by two factors: the temperature gradient and the solidification interface velocity. Columnar grains develop when the temperature gradient is large and the interface velocity is small. In contrast, small temperature gradient and large interface velocity will form equiaxed grains. This grain transformation can be calculated by the dendrite growth model by Hunt (Ref 40). Based on this model, Nastac et al. (Ref 41) investigated several nickel alloys and generated the solidification maps for Inconel 718 and RS5 alloys. Sames et al. (Ref 42) developed a processing window for the EBM process. Their works show that Arcam fabricated Inconel 718 grain growth can be specifically controlled by these two factors.

Both temperature gradient and interface velocity can be affected by processing parameters like scan speed and laser/e-beam power. Using process design to control the microstructure has been mentioned in many recent works. Dehoff et al. (Ref 43) developed an EBM processing strategy that was able to produce fine grained Inconel 718. Later, Helmer et al. (Ref 44) studied the processing window, and they also obtained fine epitaxial grains from columnar grains.

The mechanical properties of both SLM and EBM processed materials are crucial to their applications. Important mechanical properties such as elastic modulus, ductility, and fatigue of PBF parts were reported (Ref 30, 45-49). Kruth et al. (Ref 50) presented the binding mechanisms that affect the mechanical properties of AM parts. The binding mechanisms can be divided into four categories based on the degree of melting: (1) solid-state sintering, (2) chemically induced binding, (3) partial melting, and (4) full melting (Ref 50). PBF parts show anisotropic properties including elastic modulus, yield stress, and ultimate stress (Ref 47). This anisotropy is mainly caused by insufficient heat energy which induces a lack of fusion at the interface between each layer, so that the building direction is weaker than the scanned planar direction.

For both PBF and DED processes, the properties of Ti6Al4V alloy have been extensively investigated. This is due to the high demand of this material for aerospace and medical implant applications. Also, as suggested by Yang et al. (Ref 51), Ti6Al4V is difficult to fabricate using conventional manufacturing methods. This problem can be easily solved by AM, since only powder will be used. The tensile properties of PBF fabricated Ti6Al4V parts were tested by many researchers, and the resulting data are listed in Table 3. The mechanical properties including Young’s modulus, yield strength, ultimate strength, and strain at failure are compared to the traditional wrought Ti6Al4V. It should be noted that the orientation in Table 3 shows the tensile direction, where horizontal refers the in-plane direction of each deposited layer, and vertical refers the direction of accumulation. As shown in the table, the Young’s moduli of both SLM and EBM processed parts show similar values to the wrought one. Approximately a 10% difference can be observed when comparing the horizontal and vertical orientations. For the SLM processed parts, the yield and ultimate strengths are even better than that of the conventional wrought material. This is mainly because PBF uses very fine powders as raw material. The as-fabricated parts behave more brittle with very limited failure strains. Effective post-treatment, for example, hot isostatic pressing (HIP) doubles the elongation, but HIP process decreases the yield and ultimate strengths. The EBM processed parts show that the vertical orientation has 30% less elongation than the horizontal orientation, but no obvious difference is found in the yield and ultimate strengths. A machining treatment for the EBM parts can increase the Young’s modulus, yield strength, and ultimate strength, but the elongation at failure is not changed.
Table 3

Mechanical properties of metallic materials fabricated by powder bed fusion technologies

Process

Equipment

Condition

Orientation

Young’s modulus, GPa

Yield strength, MPa

Ultimate strength, MPa

Failure strain

Wrought (Ref 52)

N/A

As fabricated

Longitudinal

113

945

979

0.100

SLM

EOSINT M270 (Ref 52)

As fabricated

Horizontal

109

972

1034

0.055

Vertical

115

1096

1130

0.012

HIP

Hor. and vert.

112

862

931

0.240

Concept Laser M2 (Ref 53)

As fabricated

Horizontal

105

1070

1250

0.060

Vertical

102

1050

1180

0.080

HIP

Horizontal

112

1000

1060

0.125

Vertical

110

920

1000

0.160

Realizer (SLM300i) (Ref 54)

As fabricated

Vertical

119

967

117

0.089

Trumpf (LF250) (Ref 55)

As fabricated

Horizontal

105

1137

1206

0.076

Vertical

102

962

1166

0.017

Heat treated

Horizontal

103

944

1036

0.085

Vertical

98

925

1040

0.075

EBM

Arcam A2 (Ref 56)

As fabricated

Horizontal

NA

1006

1066

0.150

Vertical

NA

1001

1073

0.108

Arcam S12 (Ref 57)

As fabricated

Horizontal

NA

983

1030

0.122

Vertical

NA

984

1033

0.090

Arcam S400 (Ref 58)

As fabricated

Horizontal

104

844

917

0.088

Vertical

101

782

842

0.099

machined

Horizontal

114

899

978

0.095

Vertical

115

869

928

0.099

Arcam (Ref 59)

As fabricated

N/A

118

830

915

0.131

HIP

N/A

117

795

870

0.137

The mechanical properties of other materials, including aluminum alloys and stainless steels, were also studied. However, the available data are not as abundant as for Ti6Al4V. The effect of heat treatment on the tensile properties of AlSi10Mg was studied by Krishnan (Ref 60). Tensile properties of 15-5 stainless steel and fatigue properties of 316L were presented in Ref 61 and 62, respectively.

It is noted that PBF processed parts are prone to several issues, due to the weak bonding between layers and the complicated thermal history. High temperature gradients cause thermal residual stress that accumulates as the layers are built up, resulting in distortion and wrapping of the product. Layer delamination and cracking are also common due to thermal stress and the weak bonding between layers.

Direct Energy Deposition

Direct Energy Deposition Equipment and Process

Another well-developed manufacturing technique is direct energy deposition (DED). Instead of using a powder bed, DED process uses injected metal powder flow or metal wire as feedstocks, along with an energy source such as laser or electron beam, to melt and deposit the material on the top of a substrate. DED techniques can be divided into two major categories based on the feedstocks. The first category includes methods developed from traditional welding technique using metal wire as a feedstock. The second method named Laser Engineered Net Shaping (LENS) (Ref 63) was developed by Sandia National Laboratory in 1996, which uses powder flow as a feedstock.

The schematic of a LENS machine is shown in Fig. 3. In a building chamber, a Nd:YAG laser beam focuses on a point on the building platform using a lens system, and at the same time, metal powder is injected to the point through a powder nozzle. The powder flows into the melt pool at the same time as the laser source or the building platform moves. The melted powder and the materials beneath solidify quickly, thus forming a layer of material. After one layer is built, the laser lenses and powder nozzle move up, and the laser heating and powder injection processes repeat for the next layer (Ref 63).
Fig. 3

Schematic of LENS process

Electron beam is another power source for the DED system due to its high energy density. By using an electron beam, high accuracy and good surface finishing can be achieved with low deposition rates. The Electron Beam Freeform Fabrication (EBF3) process was developed by NASA (Ref 64). It is primarily used for space-based applications. The EBF3 process uses a metal wire filament instead of powder injection. With electron beam or laser source, the front end of the metal wire is melted and selectively sprayed on the top of a substrate to form a material layer.

Microstructures and Mechanical Properties of Direct Energy Deposition Fabricated Parts

A comprehensive study on the microstructure of LENS fabricated parts was first reported by Griffith et al. (Ref 65, 66). In their study, the tensile properties of wrought materials were used as a reference for comparison. They found that the yield strength of LENS fabricated parts is very similar to wrought parts, and the tensile properties of LENS fabricated parts could be optimized by adjusting processing parameters. Later several work done by Wu et al. (Ref 67-69) showed that the morphologies and size of the typical columnar grains and lamellar microstructures are mainly affected by laser power and laser scan speed. Wang et al. (Ref 70) identified two solidification mechanisms in the local melt pool. They suggested a strategy that uses mass flow rate to control the grain structures. High mass flow rate leads to near-full equiaxed grains, and low mass flow rate leads to full columnar grains.

The microstructure evolution of DED process can be extracted from the grain morphology. There are two typical solidification mechanisms: (1) heterogeneous nucleation on partially melted powders for equiaxed grains and (2) epitaxial growth from the melt pool bottom for columnar grains. These two mechanisms compete with each other during deposition; therefore, the microstructures of the product can vary. Along the deposition track, the grains show a layered microstructure as seen in the heat-affected zone (HAZ) in Fig. 4 (Ref 70). Equiaxed grains form on the top region where laser is applied. The depth of this layer is marked as dEG in the figure. The next region shows a layer of columnar grain structure, where dPM denotes the penetration depth. The layered grain distribution can be seen from both the transverse direction (Fig. 4a) and longitudinal direction (Fig. 4b).
Fig. 4

Microstructures of grains in the heat-affected zone during DED process: (a) transverse direction and (b) longitudinal direction (Ref70)

The mechanical properties of LENS fabricated alloy, Ti6Al4V, and EBF3 fabricated nickel alloy (Inconel 718) are summarized in Table 4. The powder fed LENS and direct laser deposition (DLD) show the similar results as PBF parts. The Young’s modulus is very close to the wrought, and very small failure strains are observed in the as-fabricated samples. With the HIP treatment, the failure strain can be improved at least twofold, but the yield and ultimate strengths decrease when HIP is applied. The changes in strength are due to the fact that HIP’ed materials have a lower alpha-platelet thickness. The difference in ductility is probably due to the presence of porosity in the as-fabricated material. It is noted that for yield strength, ultimate strength, and failure strain, the difference between the horizontal and vertical directions is larger than that of PBF products, which means that the mechanical properties of the powder fed DED (LENS) fabricated parts show even higher anisotropy than the PBF parts. Since in DED, the layer thickness is usually greater than that of PBF, therefore less fusion occurs at the layer interfaces (Ref 70-72). For the wire fed DED process (EBF3), the tensile properties of two planar orientations (parallel and perpendicular to the wire) were compared. The results show that heat treatment can fill the gaps or voids between adjacent wires, therefore enhancing the mechanical properties. However, other in-plane orientations will not be affected.
Table 4

Mechanical properties of Ti6Al4V and Inconel 718 fabricated by direct energy deposition

Feedstock

Process

Material

Condition

Orientation

Young’s modulus, GPa

Yield strength, MPa

Ultimate strength, MPa

Failure strain

Powder fed

Wrought (Ref 52)

Ti6Al4V

As fabricated

Longitudinal

113

945

979

0.100

Optomec LENS (Ref 71)

Ti6Al4V

As fabricated

Horizontal

116

1066

1111

0.053

Vertical

112

832

832

0.008

HIP

Horizontal

118

949

1006

0.131

Vertical

114

899

1002

0.118

Optomec LENS (Ref 73)

As fabricated

Vertical

119

908

1038

0.038

Heat treated

Vertical

118

957

1097

0.034

Annealed

Vertical

112

959

1049

0.037

Trumpf DLD (Ref 74)

As fabricated

Horizontal

NA

950

1025

0.12

Vertical

NA

950

1025

0.05

HIP

Hor. and vert.

NA

850

920

0.17

Wire fed

Wrought (Ref 75)

Inconel 718

As fabricated

Longitudinal

202

1195

1372

N/A

EBF3 (Ref 76)

Inconel 718

As fabricated

Hor. (parallel to wire)

138

655

978

N/A

  

Hor. (perpendicular to wire)

194

699

936

N/A

 

Heat treated

Hor. (parallel to wire)

174

986

1114

N/A

  

Hor. (perpendicular to wire)

192

998

1162

N/A

316L stainless steel shows a similar trend as Ti6Al4V, where ~16% ultimate strength difference and 53% elongation difference were found. Other mechanical properties including hardness and surface roughness also show a difference at different printing orientations. For example, the microhardness difference of austenite printed at 0° (samples printed horizontally) and 90° (samples printed vertically) is more than 25% (Ref 70). Since the PBF and DED undergo similar processes with a high temperature gradient, the issues of thermal residual stress and distortion also exist in the DED process. Different from the PBF systems, some advanced DED machines use a 5- or more axis system instead of 3-axis, which enable the fabrication of larger parts with an optimal manufacturing process. Also, different from PBF process, where vacuum or inert gas must be applied, in the DED process, for non-reactive metals, an inert gas environment is not necessary. To protect the material from oxidization, a shielding gas flow is applied to the melt pool area.

Binder Jetting

Binder Jetting Equipment and Process

Binder jetting sometimes is named as powder bed and inkjet head 3D printing. It was first developed and patented by Saches et al. (Ref 77). The idea is to extend the normal two-dimensional printing to the third dimension. In practice, it uses one or more nozzles to inject liquid binder on the top of a powder bed, gluing the powder together. The nozzles move according to the designed path until a thin layer of powder is bonded. Finally, a three-dimensional object is formed by stacking of layers.

A schematic of binder jetting equipment is shown in Fig. 5. The system consists of a building platform and a powder tank. Before the binder jetting process starts, a thin layer of powder is distributed on the platform by a leveling roller. Then, the inkjet nozzle moves along the X and Y-directions to locally distribute and adhere powder together. After each layer of powder is bonded, the platform moves down (Z direction) for a small distance, another layer of powder is distributed, and the binder injection process repeats. When all the layers are built, the glued object, which is also called the “green body,” is taken from the powder bed for further post-processing.
Fig. 5

Schematic of binder jetting 3D printing technology

Post-processing of binder jetted objects is often more complicated than other AM techniques, especially for metallic materials. To produce a solid metallic part that has desirable mechanical strength, the “green body” needs to be cured for approximately 6-12 h and then heat treated above 1000 °C for 24-36 h. The heat treatment involves sintering, consolidation and sometimes infiltration, and burning of the binder. The loosely packed metallic powder is bonded together through powder sintering and densification, so that the overall density and strength of the part can be increased. In some cases, metals with a low melting point, e.g., bronze, can be used to infiltrate other higher melting temperature metals. By doing this, the ductility of the binder jetting product can be increased (Ref 78).

Microstructures and Mechanical Properties of Binder Jetting Fabricated Parts

For metallic materials, post-processing is a crucial step, since it can directly affect the part’s geometry and density. Powder size, layer thickness, and heat treatment conditions are the major processing parameters that control the part’s density. Finer powder often increases the density of the product. However, the efficiency of densification is decreased due to the powder spreading issue (Ref 79). Larger layer thickness reduces the processing time but increases the porosity.

Different heat treatment methods, including sintering, solutionizing, and aging, affect the microstructures and mechanical properties. Mostafaei et al. (Ref 80, 81) conducted studies showing that, among many heat treatment methods, properly aged parts resulted in higher tensile strength, elongation, and hardness.

Recently, reactive sintering was introduced to the binder jetting post-process, which gives the opportunity to modify the chemical composition of the product during the fabrication process. For example, Dilip et al. (Ref 82) showed the feasibility of fabricating TiAl by using Ti6Al4V and Al powders. The scanning electron microscope (SEM) images of binder jetted nickel alloy 625 under different heat treatment conditions are shown in Fig. 6(a), (b), and (c). Near fully dense structures can be achieved by each type of the treatment; however, different heat treatments introduce varying alloy phases which affect the mechanical properties. The solutionized and aged samples show higher hardness and toughness than the sintered samples, which is attributed to the carbide precipitates dissolved by the solution and formed intermetallic precipitates during the aging process. The comparisons of microhardness and stress-strain curves in different heat treated samples are shown in Fig. 6(d) and (e).
Fig. 6

Microstructures of (a) the sintered, (b) solutionized, (c) aged samples; and mechanical properties as illustrated in (d) microhardness, (e) stress-strain curve (Ref 80)

A unique feature of binder jetted metallic materials is that, even though the “green bodies” are the same, the mechanical properties of binder jetted metals and alloys can vary significantly. Table 5 shows the fabricated products after heat treatment (sintering). The relative density varies from 60% to near fully dense (>97%). With the same material of bronze, the ultimate strengths vary from 8 to 117 MPa. For Inconel 625, as the sintering temperature increases, the hardness and ultimate strength decrease. One should note that all the Inconel 625 samples are almost fully dense, and therefore, the trend observed from bronze does not apply anymore. The decrease in Inconel’s mechanical properties is attributed to (1) grain coarsing, (2) element segregation at grain boundary, (3) laves phases formation due to Nb and Mo concentration at the grain boundary, and (4) NbC from the material matrix (Ref 83).
Table 5

Mechanical properties and relative densities of metallic parts with varying sintering temperatures

Equipment

Material

Sintering temperature, °C

Relative density, %

Ultimate strength, MPa

Failure strain

Hardness

ExOne

Ex-Lab (Ref 84)

Fe-Mn alloy

1200

60.7

228

0.014

N/A

ExOne

R2 3D (Ref 85)

Bronze

1040

N/A

8

N/A

N/A

1060

78.2

73

N/A

N/A

1080

85.5

117

N/A

N/A

ExOne

M-Flex (Ref 83)

Inconel 625

1280

99.6

612

0.41

237 (HV)

1290

98

588

0.45

195 (HV)

1300

97.9

522

0.356

185 (HV)

The printing process of a binder jetting system is usually faster than other AM methods, since it operates at lower temperatures and multiple nozzles can print simultaneously. In some advanced binder jetting systems, only a few seconds are required for printing each layer (Ref 86). However, with the consideration of time-consuming post-process, the overall fabrication speed of binder jetting is slower than other AM techniques. Moreover, part shrinkage cannot be avoided during the post-sintering process (Ref 79, 87). More research is needed to improve the geometric accuracy of the finished part.

Sheet Lamination

Sheet Lamination Equipment and Process

The sheet lamination or laminated object manufacturing (LOM) is a manufacturing technique that uses metallic sheets as feedstock. It uses a localized energy source, usually ultrasonic or laser, to bond a stack of precision cut metal sheets to form a 3D object (Ref 88). The most commonly used manufacturing technique is ultrasonic additive manufacturing (UAM) or ultrasonic consolidation (UC), which was first introduced and patented by White (Ref 89, 90). By applying ultrasonic wave and mechanical pressure on sheet metal stacks at room temperature, the interfaces of stacked sheets are bonded by diffusion rather than melting. The stacked sheets are bonded layer-by-layer to form a 3D object without using any heat source. Before ultrasonic consolidation bonding, the metallic sheets are often cut according to the designed geometry. Traditional polishing is optionally applied during or after the consolidation process to achieve a detailed finishing.

The working process of a UAM equipment is illustrated in Fig. 7. Metallic sheets are laid out and stacked on a base plate. A digitally controlled sonotrode moves along the rolling direction to provide ultrasonic vibration and pressure. A new metallic sheet is therefore bonded with the previously built parts, due to the high-frequency vibration of the sonotrode. During this process, the temperature of the consolidated region increases due to frictional heat at the bonded interfaces. In order to avoid thermal residual stress, there is a short period of cooling between the manufacturing of each layer. After building all of the layers, the product is cut from the base plate and then polished for better surface finishing.
Fig. 7

Schematic of the UAM process

Microstructures and Mechanical Properties of Sheet Lamination Fabricated Parts

The bonding mechanisms in the sheet lamination process were recently studied by examining the microstructures of bonded interfaces (Ref 91). A schematic of microstructure evolution during the sheet lamination process is illustrated in Fig. 8 (Ref 92). The top surface of a thin aluminum tape is contacted with the vibrating sonotrode. With the application of mechanical load, asperities are formed on the top surface of the tape, due to shear deformation and temperature increase. When the next layer of aluminum tape is applied, the compression and shear deformations cause the asperities to form a bonded interface. With the further addition of layers, the shear textures at the interface are formed. It is observed that the interface shows an equiaxed grain structure.
Fig. 8

Microstructure evolutions during the UAM process (Ref 92)

In the sheet lamination process, temperature increases in the localized areas due to dynamic recrystallization associated with bonding. This heating process is mostly affected by vibration amplitude, where higher amplitude leads to higher dynamic plastic shear strain at the asperities. Aside from the processing parameters, metals with a higher strength show higher peak temperature than the low-strength ones (Ref 93).

The failure and fracture of the part in the accumulating direction are dominated by interface delamination. Aside from interface bonding strength, the layer thickness is also a major factor that influences the fracture resistance, due to thermal residual stress (Ref 94). Even though sheet laminated products often show high hardness, good wear resistance, and high tensile compressive strength, the strength in the accumulating direction (Fig. 7) is much weaker than the other two directions (Ref 95). Sridharan et al. (Ref 96) pointed out the anisotropic properties in fabricated Al6061. The accumulating direction always shows low mechanical properties, even with fully bonded interfaces without voids. This is due to the migration of pre-existing shear bands and subsequently formed microvoids. In Gussev et al. (Ref 97) work, the Al6061 alloy was fabricated by the UAM process and then subjected to tensile test. As shown in Table 6, the parts in accumulating direction, or Z direction, fractured at only one-fourth of its bulk’s yield strength. By using material aging, the mechanical properties show a remarkable enhancement in the yield and ultimate strengths. Furthermore, Wolcott et al. (Ref 98) optimized the UAM processing parameters, along with heat treatments, to enhance the Z direction properties (Table 6). In their work, non-uniform metal layers were laminated using the tape to tape overlap technique. Optimal sonotrode surface roughness was achieved. Kunnek et al. (Ref 99) studied the fatigue failure mechanisms of the alternating layered AA1050A/AA5005 composite. They found that by mixing two different aluminum sheets alternatively, the cyclic stability and fatigue life were improved and better than those of pure aluminum alloy. With proper design, the anisotropy of sheet laminated metals can show some advantages. For example, in a study done by Kum et al. (Ref 100), the laminated carbon steel composite can resist higher impact energy in the normal direction to the sheet metal surface plane. This is due to the fact that delamination causes notch blunting or change of failure mode. Also, it was shown that in certain orientations of sheet laminated metals, the fatigue and crack rates were lower than those of the component materials. For composite materials, the tensile strength and ductility follow the mixing rule when the ductility of each material is similar. If the dissimilarity is large, then the mixing rule does not apply to the ductility of the composite (Ref 101).
Table 6

Mechanical properties of aluminum alloys fabricated by sheet lamination process

Process

Condition

Material

Orientation

Yield strength, MPa

Ultimate strength, MPa

Failure strain

Wrought (Ref 97)

As fabricated

Al6061

N/A

294

315

0.154

Heat treated

277

311

0.188

UAM (Fabrisonic) (Ref 97)

As fabricated

Al6061

X

217

225

0.223

Y

221

224

0.06

Z

46(a)

Heat treated

X

254

313

0.144

Y

260

315

0.136

Z

178(a)

Wrought (Ref 98)

As fabricated

Al3003

N/A

N/A

266

0.031

Annealed

N/A

337

0.125

Solutioned and aged

N/A

121

0.186

UAM (Fabrisonic SonicLayer 4000) (Ref 98)

As fabricated

Al3003

Z

N/A

136

0.014

Annealed

Z

N/A

300

0.131

Solutioned and aged

Z

N/A

117

0.137

(a) Fracture stress

The sheet lamination process can handle the fabrication of larger parts with faster production rates compared to other AM techniques. Additionally, the sheet lamination process often costs less, since it forms the part from metal sheets, which are less expensive than fine powders. Layered composite material with different metals could be fabricated by using sheet lamination process, which is a challenge for other AM techniques. Also, it provides better geometric accuracy in both rolling direction and vibrating direction, since the metal sheets are precisely cut. However, in the accumulating direction, the geometric dimension is hard to control, since the layer thickness changes during consolidation under pressure (Ref 102).

Conclusion and Future Research Directions

In this review article, the latest AM techniques for metals are reviewed with the focus on the major AM processes, AM parts’ microstructures and mechanical properties. Four commonly used AM techniques, including powder bed fusion, direct energy deposition, metal binder jetting, and sheet lamination, are presented. For each individual technique, the AM materials are discussed in terms of their microstructure and mechanical properties.

Looking forward, there are several topics which require further investigation. The interrelations among AM processing parameters, part’s microstructures, and mechanical properties are still not fully understood. To advance the understanding, theoretical studies using AM process modeling can be considered (Ref 48). These theoretical process models could include heat and mass transfer, melting pool prediction, residual stress and distortion evolution, atomistic diffusion, densification, phase change, etc. These models are crucial to fully understanding the structure-property relations. They can also be used to predict and optimize the target physical and mechanical properties, and develop strategies for AM materials design or inverse design.

Another potential research direction of AM systems is the production efficiency. There is always a balance between the production efficiency and product quality. Higher energy power or faster scanning speed will increase the production rate, but the product quality may be sacrificed since microstructures may vary. To address this issue, optimization of process parameters is required for the future design and application of AM techniques. On the other hand, complicated post-processing techniques also limit the production efficiency. Efficient methods for post-processing, including removal of support material and heat treatment processes, need to be developed.

Finally, the AM-fabricated material property database and the standards are still being established. It is still an ongoing effort to establish a comprehensive database to ensure the quality consistency of AM products.

Notes

Acknowledgments

JZ and YZ acknowledge the financial support provided by Walmart Foundation (project title: Optimal Plastic Injection Molding Tooling Design and Production through Advanced Additive Manufacturing). YGJ acknowledges the support from the grants (2011-0030058/NRF-2016R1D1A3B03934054) from National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea funded by the Korean Government. The authors are deeply indebted to the anonymous reviewers for their meticulous and constructive comments.

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Copyright information

© ASM International 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yi Zhang
    • 1
  • Linmin Wu
    • 1
  • Xingye Guo
    • 1
  • Stephen Kane
    • 1
  • Yifan Deng
    • 2
  • Yeon-Gil Jung
    • 3
  • Je-Hyun Lee
    • 3
  • Jing Zhang
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Indiana University – Purdue University IndianapolisIndianapolisUSA
  2. 2.University of California at San DiegoLa JollaUSA
  3. 3.Changwon National UniversityChangwonRepublic of Korea

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