Impact of cobalt content and grain growth inhibitors in laser-based powder bed fusion of WC-Co

Schwanekamp, T. and Marginean, G. and Reuber, M. and Ostendorf, A.

Volume: 105 Pages:
DOI: 10.1016/j.ijrmhm.2022.105814
Published: 2022

Processing of tungsten carbide‑cobalt (WC-Co) by laser-based powder bed fusion (PBF-LB) can result in characteristic microstructure defects such as cracks, pores, undesired phases and tungsten carbide (WC) grain growth, due to the heterogeneous energy input and the high thermal gradients. Besides the processing conditions, the material properties are affected by the initial powder characteristics. In this paper, the impact of powder composition on microstructure, phase formation and mechanical properties in PBF-LB of WC-Co is studied. Powders with different cobalt contents from 12 wt.-% to 25 wt.-% are tested under variation of the laser parameters. Furthermore, the impact of vanadium carbide (VC) and chromium (Cr) additives is investigated. Both are known as grain growth inhibitors for conventional sintering processes. The experiments are conducted at a pre-heating temperature of around 800 °C to prevent crack formation in the samples. Increasing laser energy input reduces porosity but leads to severe embrittlement for low cobalt content and to abnormal WC grain growth for high cobalt content. It is found that interparticular porosity at low laser energy is more severe for low cobalt content due to poor wetting of the liquid phase. Maximum bending strength of σB > 1200 MPa and Vickers hardness of approx. 1000 HV3 can be measured for samples generated from WC-Co 83/17 powder with medium laser energy input. The addition of V and Cr leads to increased formation of additional phases such as Co3W3C, Co3V and Cr23C6 and to increased lateral and multi-laminar growth of the WC grains. In contrast to conventional sintering, a grain growth inhibiting effect of V and Cr in the laser molten microstructure is not achieved. © 2022 Elsevier Ltd

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