Microstructural Deformation Mechanisms and Optimization of Selectively Laser Melted 316L Steel

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


In this paper, a novel approach is utilized to investigate the deformation mechanisms at the microstructural level in 3D printed alloys. The complex in-situ heat treatments during 3D printing leaves a unique and complicated microstructure in the as-built 3D printed metals, particularly alloys. The microstructure is made of a hierarchical stacking of some interconnected geometrical shapes, namely meltpools, grains, and cells. These are connected to each other by boundaries that might have different element compositions, and consequently, material properties, compared to the interior region of each geometrical unit. Deformation mechanisms in this microstructure are still highly unexplored, mainly because of the challenges on the way of performing experiments at the micrometer length scale. In this work, we establish an image processing framework that directly converts the SEM images taken from the microstructure of 3D printed 316L stainless steel alloys into CAD models. The model of the complicated microstructure is then scaled up, and the scaled model is 3D printed using polymeric materials. For 3D printing these samples, two polymers with contrasting mechanical properties are used. Distribution of these two polymers mimics the arrangement of soft and stiff regions in the microstructure of 3D printed alloys. These representative samples are subjected to mechanical loads and digital image correlation is utilized to investigate the deformation mechanisms, particularly the delocalization of stress concentration and also the crack propagation, at the microstructural level of 3D printed metals. Besides experiments, computational modeling using finite element method is also performed to study the same deformation mechanisms at the microstructure of 3D printed 316L stainless steel. Our results show that the hierarchical arrangement of stiff and soft phases in 3D printed alloys delocalizes the stress concentration and has the potential to make microstructures with significantly improved damage tolerance capabilities.



3D Printing, 3D Printing Metals, Alloys, Additive manufacturing, Microstructure, Strength, Toughness, Defect Tolerance