Keyhole threshold and morphology in laser melting revealed by ultrahigh-speed x-ray imaging

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Science  22 Feb 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6429, pp. 849-852
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav4687

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The key to keyhole formation

The formation of keyholes, or vapor-filled depressions, during laser welding presents a large problem for additive manufacturing. Cunningham et al. used high-speed x-ray imaging to take a detailed look at keyhole formation in a titanium alloy. They found a simplified relationship between operational parameters and keyhole shape, which may allow for the prevention of pore formation going forward.

Science, this issue p. 849


We used ultrahigh-speed synchrotron x-ray imaging to quantify the phenomenon of vapor depressions (also known as keyholes) during laser melting of metals as practiced in additive manufacturing. Although expected from welding and inferred from postmortem cross sections of fusion zones, the direct visualization of the keyhole morphology and dynamics with high-energy x-rays shows that (i) keyholes are present across the range of power and scanning velocity used in laser powder bed fusion; (ii) there is a well-defined threshold from conduction mode to keyhole based on laser power density; and (iii) the transition follows the sequence of vaporization, depression of the liquid surface, instability, and then deep keyhole formation. These and other aspects provide a physical basis for three-dimensional printing in laser powder bed machines.

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