Additive manufacturing (AM) for metals has attracted attention from industry because of its great potential to enhance production efficiency and reduce production costs. Directed energy deposition (DED) is a metal AM process suitable to produce large-scale freeform metal products. DED entails irradiating the baseplate with a laser beam and launching the metal powder onto the molten spot to produce a metal part on the baseplate. Because the process enables powder from different materials to be used, DED is widely applicable to valuable production work such as for a dissimilar material joint, a graded material, or a part with a special structure.
With regard to parts with a special structure, directional solidification can prospectively be used in the power plant and aerospace industries because it can enhance the stiffness in a specific direction via only a simple process. However, conventional approaches for directional solidification require a special mold in order to realize a long-lasting thermal gradient in the part. On the other hand, from the viewpoint of thermal distribution in a produced part, DED is able to control the gradient by controlling the position of the molten pool, i.e., the position of the laser spot. Moreover, unlike casting, the thermal gradient can be precisely oriented in the expected direction, because the laser supplies heat energy on the regulated spot.
In this study, the applicability of DED to directional solidification in Inconel® 625 is theoretically and experimentally evaluated through metal structure observation and Vickers hardness measurements. Furthermore, the effect of two different cooling processes on directional solidification is also considered with the aim of improving the mechanical stiffness of a part produced by DED. The observations and experimental results show that both the cooling methods (baseplate cooling and intermittent treatment with coolant) are able to enhance the hardness while retaining the anisotropy.