Microstructural evolution during the homogenization heat treatment of 6XXX and 7XXX aluminum alloys
Homogenization heat treatment of as-cast billets is an important step in the processing of aluminum extrusions. Microstructural evolution during homogenization involves elimination of the eutectic morphology by spheroidisation of the interdendritic phases, minimization of the microsegregation across the grains through diffusion, dissolution of the low-melting phases, which enhances the surface finish of the extrusions, and precipitation of nano-sized dispersoids (for Cr-, Zr-, Mn-, Sc-containing alloys), which inhibit grain boundary motion to prevent recrystallization. Post-homogenization cooling reprecipitates some of the phases, changing the flow stress required for subsequent extrusion. These precipitates, however, are deleterious for the mechanical properties of the alloy and also hamper the age-hardenability and are hence dissolved during solution heat treatment. Microstructural development during homogenization and subsequent cooling occurs both at the length scale of the Secondary Dendrite Arm Spacing (SDAS) in micrometers and dispersoids in nanometers. Numerical tools to simulate microstructural development at both the length scales have been developed and validated against experiments. These tools provide easy and convenient means to study the process. A Cellular Automaton-Finite Volume-based model for evolution of interdendritic phases is coupled with a Particle Size Distribution-based model for precipitation of dispersoids across the grain. This comprehensive model has been used to study the effect of temperature, composition, as-cast microstructure, and cooling rates during post-homogenization quenching on microstructural evolution. The numerical study has been complimented with experiments involving Scanning Electron Microscopy, Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy, X-Ray Diffraction and Differential Scanning Calorimetry and a good agreement has with numerical results has been found. The current work aims to study the microstructural evolution during homogenization heat treatment at both length scales which include the (i) dissolution and transformation of the as-cast secondary phases; (ii) precipitation of dispersoids; and (iii) reprecipitation of some of the secondary phases during post-homogenization cooling. The kinetics of the phase transformations are mostly diffusion controlled except for the η to S phase transformation in 7XXX alloys which is interface reaction rate controlled which has been implemented using a novel approach. Recommendations for homogenization temperature, time, cooling rates and compositions are made for Al-Si-Mg-Fe-Mn and Al-Zn-Cu-Mg-Zr alloys. The numerical model developed has been applied for a through process solidification-homogenization modeling of a Direct-Chill cast AA7050 cylindrical billet to study the radial variation of microstructure after solidification, homogenization and post-homogenization cooling.
Krane, Purdue University.
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