Critical instability at moving keyhole tip generates porosity in laser melting

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Science  27 Nov 2020:
Vol. 370, Issue 6520, pp. 1080-1086
DOI: 10.1126/science.abd1587

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Driving the pores away

The formation of “keyholes” (vapor-filled depressions) during additive manufacturing leads to porosity, which degrades alloy performance, especially fracture properties, and remains a big challenge for the 3D printing of metals. Zhao et al. used high-speed x-ray imaging to take a detailed look at how keyhole formation connects to porosity in a titanium alloy. They found that instability at the keyhole tip drives pores away to get trapped in the solidification front. Understanding this process and the operating parameters under which it occurs provides a roadmap for avoiding porosity and building high-quality metal parts.

Science, this issue p. 1080


Laser powder bed fusion is a dominant metal 3D printing technology. However, porosity defects remain a challenge for fatigue-sensitive applications. Some porosity is associated with deep and narrow vapor depressions called keyholes, which occur under high-power, low–scan speed laser melting conditions. High-speed x-ray imaging enables operando observation of the detailed formation process of pores in Ti-6Al-4V caused by a critical instability at the keyhole tip. We found that the boundary of the keyhole porosity regime in power-velocity space is sharp and smooth, varying only slightly between the bare plate and powder bed. The critical keyhole instability generates acoustic waves in the melt pool that provide additional yet vital driving force for the pores near the keyhole tip to move away from the keyhole and become trapped as defects.

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