Purpose: Limited research has attempted to reveal the different modes of the melt pool formation in additive manufacturing. This paper aims to study the mechanisms of surface roughness formation, especially on the aspect of melt pool formation which determine the surface profile and consequently significantly influence the surface roughness. Design/methodology/approach: In this study, the conditions under which different modes of melt pool formation (conduction mode and keyhole mode) occur for the case of as-fabricated Hastelloy X using direct metal laser solidification (DMLS) are derived and validated experimentally. Top surfaces of uni-directionally built samples under various processing conditions are cut, grinded, polished and etched to reveal their individual melt pool morphologies. Similarly, up-skin (slope angle < 90°) and down-skin (slope angle > 90°) melt pool morphologies are also investigated to compare the differences. Surface tension gradients and resultant Marangoni flow, which dominate the melt flow in the melt pool, is also calculated to help better evaluate the melt pool shape forming. Findings: Two types of melt pool formation modes are dominating in DMLS: conduction mode and keyhole mode. Melt pool formed by conduction mode generally has an aspect ratio of 1:2 (depth vs width) and is in elliptical shape. Appropriate selection of scanning laser power and speed are required to maintain a low characteristic length and width ratio to prevent ballings. Melt pool formed by keyhole mode has an aspect ratio of 1:1 or less. High-energy contour promotes formation of key-hole-shaped melt pool which fills the gaps between layers and smoothens the up-skin surface roughness. Low-energy contour scan is necessary for down-skin surface to form small melt pool profiles and achieve low Ra. Originality/value: This paper provides valuable insight into the origins of surface quality problem of DMLS, which is a very critical issue for upgrading the process for manufacturing real components. This paper helps promote the understanding of the attributes and capabilities of this rapidly evolving three-dimensional printing technology and allow appropriate control of processing parameters for successful fabrication of components with sound surface quality.
- Direct metal laser solidification
- Hastelloy X
- Surface finish