Selective laser sintering/melting (SLS/SLM) processing difficulties of aluminium powders had been attributed to issues associated with laser-materials interaction only while neglecting the role of powder properties. This study provides a wholistic understanding of factors that influence the development of SLS/SLM processing window, densification, and microstructure of pure Al, Al-Mg, and Al-Si powders, fabricated in single and multiple layer parts by exploring the roles of processing and material parameters. It was demonstrated that similarities existing in the SLS/SLM processing maps of the powders could be attributed to similarities in their packing densities with the alloying addition of magnesium and silicon having no predominant effect on their processing maps' boundaries. Rather, alloying addition has significant effect on the nature of the evolved surface morphology of SLS/SLM processed aluminium powders in their processing windows. In addition, the flow and solidification behaviour of the melt pool of the powders during single layer scan was strongly influenced by the particle morphology and oxygen content of the powders as well as applied energy density. The energy density in the range of 12-16 J/mm2 was found to be the threshold below which SLS was predominant and above which SLM occurred for the investigated powders. Moreover, successful oxide disruption phenomena which is necessary for inter-particulate coalescence in multi-layered SLS/SLM processed aluminium powders are found to be mainly controlled by the amount of oxide in the as-received powder, the degree of the uniformity of the distribution of the surface oxide film covering the aluminium particles, the nature of thermal mismatch existing between the oxide film and the parent aluminium particle which was dependent on the phase present in the oxide film. Al-12 wt% Si powder is hereby affirmed as a suitable candidate material for SLS/SLM process due to its low thermal expansion and uniform distribution of its surface oxide films as well as the mullite phase in its oxide film.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ceramics and Composites
- Modelling and Simulation
- Computer Science Applications
- Metals and Alloys
- Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering