Control of residual oxygen of the process atmosphere during laser-powder bed fusion processing of Ti-6Al-4V
Journal article, 2021
The effect of the residual oxygen concentration in the process atmosphere during laser-powder bed fusion (L-PBF) of Ti-6Al-4V was investigated, using an external oxygen monitoring system equipped with two types of oxygen sensors typically used in L-PBF hardware: a lambda probe and an electrochemical oxygen sensor. The recordings of the oxygen variations during L-PBF highlighted that the electrochemical sensor is more reliable than the lambda probe, whose signal showed a maximum deviation of about 700 ppm O2 after 7 h, attributed to its sensitivity to hydrogen present in the system. The study revealed that proper monitoring of the oxygen in the laboratory scale L-PBF system used is necessary to limit oxygen and nitrogen pick-ups by the built material. Concentrations as high as 2200 ppm O2 and 500 ppm N2 in the Ti-6Al-4V part built under standard conditions were measured, compared to maximum levels of 1800 ppm O2 and 250 ppm N2 with the external oxygen control. In addition, the findings underline the critical effect of the component design, such as the high aspect ratio columns or the lattice structures, on the heat accumulation in case of Ti-6Al-4V, leading to enhanced oxygen and nitrogen pick-up, as high as 600 ppm O2 and 150 ppm N2 difference between the bottom and top of the cylindrical samples of 70 mm height used in this study. The determination of tensile properties of samples built at different heights put in evidence the detrimental effect of the oxygen increase with build height on the ductility, which decreased from 12% to below 6% between the bottom and top positions. This work highlights that the possible presence of impurities in the L-PBF atmosphere can have harmful impact on the properties of Ti-6Al-4V components, which can be mitigated adjusting the oxygen control system.