Microstructure property development in friction stir welds of aluminim based alloys
Attallah, Moataz (2008)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
Friction Stir Welding (FSW) is known to result in a complex microstructural development, with features that remain unexplained, such as: the formation of the onion rings structure. Moreover, various microstructural factors have been suggested to control the strength in Al-Mg AA5xxx welds. The influence of the basemetal microstructural parameters (e.g. grains, intermetallic particles, stored energy) on the microstructure-property development has not been previously investigated, and is the subject of the present work. To rationalise the microstructural and local strength (hardness) development, especially within the heat affected zone (HAZ), a simple and rapid 3-D heat transfer model was established to predict the thermal fields associated with FSW. This numerical model utilises the alternating direction implicit method to simulate the transient thermal cycle based on the process parameters, thermo-physical and thermo-mechanical properties of the material. The model was fitted for the friction coefficient and contact conductance between the sheet and the backing plate using experimental torque and force data, as well as in-situ thermocouple measurements for AA2xxx and AA5xxx welds. The model predictions were consistent with the microstructural and microhardness development in the welds. Gleeble thermal simulations showed that the heating rate during welding affects the recrystallisation start temperature, which could delay or speed up recrystallisation. In the thermo-mechanically affected zone (TMAZ), the onion rings structure was studied in several AA5xxx and AA2xxx welds. This follows a thorough microstructural investigation of the basemetals sheets prepared by direct chill and continuous casting, to establish the influence of the microstructural heterogeneity in the basemetal on the onion rings formation and the microstructural development. Stereological studies of the intermetallic particle distributions in the basemetal and the welds revealed that there is a direct relation between the banding of constituent particles (Al(Fe,Mn)Si or Al6(Fe,Mn) in AA5xxx) or equilibrium phases (Al2CuMg or Al2Cu in AA2xxx) along the rolling direction, and the formation of the onion rings. A clear onion rings structure was defined by three microstructural features, which are: 1) the existence of fine and coarse grain bands, 2) grain boundary precipitates coinciding with the fine grain bands, and 3) coarse particle segregation in the coarse grain bands. Upon etching, these microstructural heterogeneities form the unique onion rings etching profile. The formation of the onion rings was rather independent of the process parameters and alloy type, as long as the intermetallic particles are banded regardless of their types. However, alloys with high area fraction of intermetallic particles (~> 0.02) were found to produce more pronounced microstructural heterogeneities, which resulted in a stronger etching intensity. The microstructural heterogeneities within the AA5xxx welds, especially the interaction between the dislocations and the fine Al6(Fe,Mn) dispersoids, indicated that establishing a structure-property model requires the incorporation of the various strengthening factors. Stereological studies of the grain size and intermetallic particle distributions in the TMAZ indicated that the hardness is a combination of various microstructural factors, with grain-boundary strengthening as the main factor, with additional contributions by Orowan strengthening by the Al6(Fe,Mn) particles in specific locations, as well as a minor contribution by solid solution strengthening which resulted from the dissolution of Mg2Si during welding. The high dislocation stored energy in the TMAZ, as measured by differential scanning calorimetry, was associated with the geometrically-necessary dislocations which resulted from the interaction with the intermetallic particles and grains, but do not contribute to the hardness.
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