Laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) is a 3D printing technology that can print metal parts with complex geometries without the design constraints of traditional manufacturing routes. However, the parts printed by LPBF normally contain many more pores than those made by conventional methods, which severely deteriorates their properties. Here, by combining in-situ high-speed high-resolution synchrotron x-ray imaging experiments and multi-physics modeling, we unveil the dynamics and mechanisms of pore motion and elimination in the LPBF process. We find that the high thermocapillary force, induced by the high temperature gradient in the laser interaction region, can rapidly eliminate pores from the melt pool during the LPBF process. The thermocapillary force driven pore elimination mechanism revealed here may guide the development of 3D printing approaches to achieve pore-free 3D printing of metals.
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The dynamic phenomenon of a melt pool during the laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) process is complex and sensitive to process parameters. As the energy density input exceeds a certain threshold, a huge vapor depression may form, known as the keyhole. This study focuses on understanding the keyhole behavior and related pore formation during the LPBF process through numerical analysis. For this purpose, a thermo-fluid model with discrete powder particles is developed. The powder distribution, obtained from a discrete element method (DEM), is incorporated into the computational domain to develop a 3D process physics model using flow-3d. The melt pool formation during the conduction mode and the keyhole mode of melting has been discerned and explained. The high energy density leads to the formation of a vapor column and consequently pores under the laser scan track. Further, the keyhole shape resulted from different laser powers and scan speeds is investigated. The numerical results indicated that the keyhole size increases with the increase in the laser power even with the same energy density. The keyhole becomes stable at a higher power, which may reduce the occurrence of pores during laser scanning.
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