Alloy steels are commonly used in many industrial and consumer products to take advantage of their strength, ductility, and toughness properties. In addition, their machinability and weldability performance make alloy steels suitable for a range of manufacturing operations. The advent of additive manufacturing technologies, such as wire and arc additive manufacturing (WAAM), has enabled welding of alloy steels into complex and customized near net-shape products. However, the functional reliability of as-built WAAM products is often uncertain due to a lack of understanding of the effects of process parameters on the material microstructure and mechanical properties that develop during welding, primarily driven by thermal phenomena. This study investigated the influence of thermal phenomena in WAAM on the microstructure and mechanical properties of two alloy steels (G4Si1, a mild steel, and AM70, a high-strength, low-alloy steel). The interrelationships between process parameters, heating and cooling cycles of the welded part, and the resultant microstructure and mechanical properties were characterized. The welded part experienced multiple reheating cycles, a consequence of the layer-by-layer manufacturing approach. Thus, high temperature gradients at the start of the weld formed fine grain structure, while coarser grains were formed as the height of the part increases and the temperature gradient decreased. Microstructural analysis identified the presence of acicular ferrite and equiaxed ferrite structures in G4Si1 welds, as well as a small volume fraction of pearlite along the ferrite grain boundaries. Analysis of AM70 welds found acicular ferrite, martensite, and bainite structures. Mechanical testing for both materials found that the hardness of the material decreased with the increase in the height of the welded part as a result of the decrease in the temperature gradient and cooling rate. In addition, higher hardness and yield strength, and lower elongation at failure was observed for parts printed using process parameters with lower energy input. The findings from this work can support automated process parameter tuning to control thermal phenomena during welding and, in turn, control the microstructure and mechanical properties of printed parts.
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