Electrochemical Surface Finishing of Additively Manufactured Parts

Wednesday, 31 May 2017: 11:00
Marlborough B (Hilton New Orleans Riverside)
T. D. Hall, H. Garich, S. Snyder, and E. J. Taylor (Faraday Technology, Inc.)
Powder bed methods of additive manufacturing (AM) use either an electron beam (Electron Beam Melting – EBM) or a laser (Selective Beam Melting – SLM) to sequentially melt powder, layer by layer, to build up a 3-dimensional object directly from a powder bed according to a computer aided design (CAD) file. Complexity is free with AM processes, so parts such as the impeller shown in Fig. 1, are natural candidates for AM.

With EBM. there are four steps to build each layer in a build. First, the beam is scanned to preheat the powder bed without melting, second, the contours (outer edge) of the area to be melted is traced and powder melted, third, the hatch (area within the contours) is melted and finally any supports that need to be built to support higher layers of the part being built are added. The side face of a part adjacent to powder after an EBM build is shown in Fig. 2.

With SLM, a similar strategy is used although powder bed preheating is not necessary (the powder bed remains at ambient temperature or is preheated to a low temperature – up to 200°C – with separate heaters). The result of this low temperature processing is that residual stresses are created. The supports which are added to the model to support higher level downward facing surfaces are structural in nature and used to prevent distortion (unlike those supports in the EBM process which are added for thermal management).

The major concerns for incorporation of AM into structural parts are (1) microstructural anisotropy/inhomogeneity, (2) porosity – open near the surface and closed internally and (3) surface finish that is strongly dependent on the orientation of the surface relative to the build direction. Improving the surface finish is critical for certain applications. While finish machining can be used where surfaces are accessible, one benefit of the complexity of part shape is the possibility of building parts with internal channels, inaccessible to machining.

Therefore, this paper will discuss recent developments toward the demonstration of electrochemical processing conditions and tooling that enable a wide range of complex components to be finished, deburred, radiused, or polished. Unlike conventional electrochemical surface finishing processes, the pulse reverse process does not require low conductivity/high viscosity electrolytes or the addition of chemical species (like HF) to remove the passive film associated with electropolishing of passive and strongly passive materials like Ti alloys. This paper will focuses on pulse/pulse reverse electrofinishing processes developed by Faraday Technology of various material groups including but not limited to titanium alloys, tantalum alloys, nickel alloys, stainless steels, niobium, and molybdenum alloys. In particular, this talk will discuss techniques in electrofinishing AM / HIPped parts and the design of tooling that enables complex components / passages to be finished to meet the required specifications.

Acknowledgements: The financial support of USAF Contract No. FA8814-15-C-0007 is acknowledged.