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The depth homogeneity of laser-treated zones is one possible factor to define the quality and efficacy of altered mechanical properties in materials. For instance, half-rounded cross-sectional shapes of laser hardened zones using Gaussian beams provide dissimilar hardened depth in the edges and center of the treated area. This means that the in-depth distribution of compressive residual stress varies between the edges and the center of the hardened area. Nonhomogeneity of compressive residual stress distributions can inhibit fatigue properties and can lead to product failure. The utilization of oscillated laser beams has been proven to improve the welding efficiency and energy input distribution to the material, which promises achieving a homogeneous depth of laser-treated zones in hardening applications. Therefore, this work examines the influence of triangular, square, and circular beam oscillation strategies on the energy input distribution during the process and the geometry of the laser-treated zones on microalloyed steel. Laser beam pathways were assembled using a vector graphic editor to visualize the energy distribution from each oscillation strategy. Cross section images of the hardened tracks were taken and related to the thermal energy input profiles. It was revealed that each oscillation strategy demonstrates characteristic temporal and spatial thermal energy input distribution, influencing the geometry of the hardened zone. The circular oscillation strategy produced a widely constant depth in contrary to the triangular and square beam oscillation due to its characteristic energy distribution that allows homogeneous heat dissemination in the material. This confirms that the laser beam oscillation strategy can tailor the energy input distribution to optimize the processing outcome.
Fatigue property improvement for automotive components such as crankshafts can be achieved through material selection and tailored surface design. Microalloyed steels are of high interest for automotive applications due to their balanced properties, excellent hardenability and good machinability. Lasers facilitate efficient and precise surface processing and understanding the laser-material-property interrelationships is the key to process optimisation. This work examines microstructural development during laser surface treatment of 44MnSiVS6 microalloyed steel and the resulting mechanical properties. Laser beam shaping techniques are employed to evaluate the impact of beam shaping on the process. It revealed that ferrite structures remain in the treated area surrounded by martensite due to insufficient heating and dwell time of carbon diffusion.
Improvement of crankshaft fatigue properties can be approached by altering its mechanical properties in the surface, such as laser surface treatment. Laser beam treatment offers efficient and precise surface hardening processing with possibility of reducing the production cost compared to the conventional hardening techniques. However, its characteristic of having short thermal cycle can be a challenge for the development of laser surface hardening techniques, such as inadequacy of literatures in phase transformation and resulting mechanical properties under rapid heating and cooling rate. Therefore, this work investigated the impact of short thermal cycles induced by the laser beam on the resulting microstructure and hardness properties in the surface of 38MnSiVS5 and 44MnSiVS6 microalloyed steels. Temperature cycles during the process were recorded and examined with the resulting microstructure along with microhardness values. 44MnSiVS6 microalloyed steel, which contains ca. double the amount of vanadium compared to 38MnSiVS5 steel, produces finer ferrite grains in the treated area for all investigated short thermal cycles. This fine-grained microstructure leads to steady hardness distributions in the treated area. The short thermal cycle was assumed to be unable to dissolve the vanadium precipitates that reside in the ferrite grains, which then initiate precipitation hardening
The aim of this work was to investigate the microstructure and the mechanical properties of laser-welded joints combined of Dual Phase DP800 and DP1000 high strength thin steel sheets. Microstructural and hardness measurements as well as tensile and fatigue tests have been carried out. The welded joints (WJ) comprised of similar/dissimilar steels with similar/dissimilar thickness were consisted of different zones and exhibited similar microstructural characteristics. The trend of microhardness for all WJs was consistent, characterized by the highest value at hardening zone (HZ) and lowest at softening zone (SZ). The degree of softening was 20 and 8% for the DP1000 and DP800 WJ, respectively, and the size of SZ was wider in the WJ combinations of DP1000 than DP800. The tensile test fractures were located at the base material (BM) for all DP800 weldments, while the fractures occurred at the fusion zone (FZ) for the weldments with DP1000 and those with dissimilar sheet thicknesses. The DP800-DP1000 weldment presented similar yield strength (YS, 747 MPa) and ultimate tensile strength (UTS, 858 MPa) values but lower elongation (EI, 5.1%) in comparison with the DP800-DP800 weldment (YS 701 MPa, UTS 868 MPa, EI 7.9%), which showed similar strength properties as the BM of DP800. However, the EI of DP1000-DP1000 weldment was 1.9%, much lower in comparison with the BM of DP1000. The DP800-DP1000 weldment with dissimilar thicknesses showed the highest YS (955 MPa) and UTS (1075 MPa) values compared with the other weldments, but with the lowest EI (1.2%). The fatigue fractures occurred at the WJ for all types of weldments. The DP800-DP800 weldment had the highest fatigue limit (348 MPa) and DP800-DP1000 with dissimilar thicknesses had the lowest fatigue limit (<200 MPa). The fatigue crack initiated from the weld surface.
Laser surface hardening provides for many advantages in terms of flexible production due to very localized and controlled energy input into the material. Laser processing offers the possibility to treat surfaces in order to locally strengthen the areas that are prone to fatigue cracking. It is well known that laser energy absorption depends on many parameters, e.g., the surface structure and the surface orientation. The incident angle of the laser beam plays a key role in this regard. When complex geometries like crankshaft fillets are treated, the surface cannot be considered a series of flat surfaces. Obviously, this leads to locally varying degrees of energy absorption. In the present work, curved surface structures were chosen in order to analyze the impact of the geometrical characteristics on surface and subsurface material properties after laser treatment. Microstructure evolution generally was found to be similar for flat and curved geometries. However, even if higher absorption in the groove due to the illumination at larger incident angles was expected, the outer parts of the curved geometry were not fully hardened. Thus, the increased effective length of the complex geometry-treated and the larger heat-affected volume are expected to have a more dominant influence on the final appearance of the subsurface microstructure. Eventually, for austenitization of the complete illuminated surface volume, the energy density needs to be increased.
Surface hardening and compressive residual stresses are keys to superior part performance in numerous applications. In this context the development of advanced laser surface treatments for new materials and complex sample shapes is a time consuming process. Eventually, determination of residual stress states by means of X-ray diffraction in the whole surface and subsurface region, respectively, is one of the main time consuming facors in terms of characterization. In many applications the provision of an adequate distribution of compressive residual stresses, however, is needed for approval of parts. In the present work it is shown that micrograph analysis can be used to provide the zero transition zone of residual stresses revealing the relevant penetration depth of the laser treatment conducted. One single surface stress scan employing standard techniques only is needed to verify the sign of residual stresses induced by the treatment. In fact, the screening approach introduced in this study enables time and cost-efficent development processes for studying new sets of laser hardening parameters.
Tailoring surface properties is a key to superior performance of components subjected to fatigue loadings in application. Process–microstructure–property relationships have to be established to allow for optimization of techniques employed for surface treatments such as deep rolling and induction hardening. Although both techniques are employed widely in industrial application, studies examining microstructure evolution and residual stress states for a single material in a comparative manner are missing. Amongst others, this is related to the labor-intensive characterization techniques to be employed for this purpose. In order to establish pathways toward more efficient characterization approaches, the present work evaluates relations between microstructure evolution, hardness and results obtained by x-ray diffraction for a medium carbon steel treated by established surface hardening techniques. In this context, a strong correlation between hardness values and integral width distributions obtained by x-ray diffraction can be seen, while only weak correlations between hardness and residual stress measurements are existing. For in-depth microstructure analysis, high-resolution electron optical microscopy has proven to be very effective in resolving microstructural features down to the nanoscale substantiating elementary relationships. The study focuses on highly stressed fillet regions of real components, i.e., crankshaft sections. A 44MnSiVS6 microalloyed steel grade was used for measurements, representing a current standard for the crankshaft production in the automotive sector.
In order to improve properties of complex automotive components, such as crankshafts, in an application-oriented way, several surface hardening treatments can be applied. Concerning the material performance the definition of adequate process parameters influences the resulting surface properties and, thus, the effectiveness of surface hardening treatments. To analyze most relevant process-microstructure-property relationships, the present paper reports results obtained by two different well-established surface hardening procedures, i. e. deep rolling as a mechanical treatment and induction hardening as a thermal treatment. For each hardening process widely used crankshaft steel grades, i. e. a medium carbon 38MnSiVS5 microalloyed steel and a quenched and tempered 42CrMo4 were selected and thoroughly characterized upon processing, using equal parameter settings. The results reveal that deep rolling in contrast to induction hardening proves to be a less sensitive surface layer treatment with regard to small differences in the initial microstructure, the chemical composition and the applied process parameters. Differences in microstructure evolution with respect to the applied surface hardening treatment are studied and discussed for the highly stressed fillet region of automotive crankshaft sections for all conditions. In this context, high-resolution SEM-based techniques such as EBSD and ECCI are proven to be very effective for fast qualitative evaluation of induced microstructural changes.
Laser hardening is a very efficient technique for local surface treatment, however, in case of complex and large components robust processing is highly challenging due to limitations in terms of the absolute size of the overall heat-affected zone. As is shown in the present work, an increased in-depth effect can be achieved by tailoring the laser parameters without melting the surface layer. Optimization of process parameters leads to an elaborate test design demanding numerous verification measurements to determine essential material properties. In this context, the evaluation of compressive residual stress values in the surface layer is very important, e.g. in case of fatigue loaded components. However, residual stress profile measurements obtained by X-ray diffraction are very time-consuming and, thus, can significantly impair the laser parameter development cycle. For this reason, the present study introduces a novel pragmatic approach allowing for qualitative evaluation of laser-induced compressive residual stress states, in particular for multiple laser pass processes based on a Gaussian-like intensity profile. Based on straightforward analytical evaluation, several characteristic features of the affected surface layer, e.g. the position of the residual stress transition zone, can be correlated to a change of the local energy input. A novel parameter referred to as modified area energy is established in present work for this purpose. This novel energy approach provides for an essential contribution to the field of laser hardening to considerably shorten the experimental effort within the laser parameter search.