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Hot Deformation

Commentary

The Hot Deformation of Aluminum Alloys


Thomas R. Bieler, Lawrence A. Lalli, and Stuart R. MacEwen
Aluminum products are used for a wide variety of applications. The major production processes are rolling, extrusion, casting, and forging. Of these, nearly 80 percent (all but castThomas R. Bieler ings) depend on hot deformation processing to produce optimum microstructures to give the properties required for the product. The evolution of an aluminum alloys microstructure and crystallographic texture (distribution of grain orientations) during rolling determines the properties of sheet and its ability to be formed into consumer products such as beverage cans, automotive panels, and other structural components. Subsequent stamping, drawing, or ironing processes produce further evolution of microstructure and texture and define the final properties of the consumer product. Thus, the hot-working processes are intermediate to the properties of the final product. For example, the level of cube texture off the hot mill has an important effect on the earing observed in an ironed can body. For extruded products, such as tubing and window frames, the microstructure and properties from the extrusion hot-working step itself define the performance of the consumer product, because little or no further forming is required. Still, it is clear from decades of plant trials that the textures and microstructures produced in commercial hot-working mills are rarely, if ever, reproduced in small-scale laboratory testing. Nevertheless, through such testing and through the development of specific apparatus to emulate a particular strain path associated with an industrial process, much can be learned about the fundamental processes that control the evolution of texture and microstructure. In addition to being much better controlled and instrumented than plant-scale experiments, the mechanical testing laboratory is a much less expensive way to obtain data. The combined efforts of plantscale and laboratory experimentation should lead to a fundamental understanding of hot deformation. Hot deformationand the accompa14 nying evolution of microstructure spans a wide range of temperatures, strain paths, and strain rates for both conventional and superplastic forming. The mechanical physical metallurgy Lawrence A. Lalli reflects a complex competition among the fundamental processes of work hardening, recovery, and recrystallization. An overall objective of those working in the field, both in academia and industry, is to understand coming symposium Hot Deformation in Aluminum Alloys II, which will be held during the 1998 TMS Fall Meeting, October 1115, in Rosemont Illinois. The first symposium in the series (held durStuart R. MacEwen ing 1990) focused mostly on mechanical properties of asprocessed materials at elevated temperatures. This years symposium will focus more on the processing route itself and will explore new techniques for characterizing microstructures, laboratory testing to emulate industrial processing, and, perhaps most importantly, the emergence of mathematical modeling as a reliable, validated tool used to simulate not only processing strain paths but also the evolution of properties during forming. At the symposium, papers focusing on the characterization of microstructure will include all established tools and techniques as well as new applications made possible through the development of electron backscattering diffraction. Of particular interest is the work on non-local effects such as grain subdivision, grain misorientation, and texture gradients. The symposium will also report on research using conventional techniques, such as hot torsion, hot and cold rolling, uniaxial compression, creep, and conventional extrusion. Of particular interest is work related to the use of plane-strain compression and equalchannel angular extrusion to study deformation at high temperatures, high strain rates, and very high strains. New research on friction stir welding, subscale indirect extrusion, and superplasticity round out the work on laboratoryscale experimental testing. A key issue for discussion will be the extent to which laboratory testing can emulate industrial processing or contribute to its understanding. A key component of the symposium will be the discussion of mathematical modelsfrom dislocation interactions to hot mill operationsto emulate a variety of forming processes and the accompanying evolution of properties. Of the 41 papers planned, 19 will entirely or partially focus on mathematical models. JOM June 1998

In addition to being much better controlled and instrumented than plant-scale experiments, the mechanical testing laboratory is a much less expensive way to obtain data. The combined efforts of plant-scale and laboratory experimentation should lead to a fundamental understanding of hot deformation.
these processes sufficiently well so as to be able to optimize industrial hot-working processes to produce products with properties that meet customer needs. In this issue, the paper by McQueen provides a broad-brush view of the subtle complexity that must be tracked if one wants to understand how aluminum alloys respond to hot deformation conditions. The following five papers on the theme of hot deformation provide examples of work that will be presented at the up-

These papers fall into three general categories: constitutive equations or state variable equations that seek to express flow stress and work-hardening rate in terms of strain rate, temperature, and evolving microstructure; crystal plasticity simulations that use the kinetics of deformation at the slip-plane level to predict flow stress and texture evolution in a textured polycrystalline aggregate subjected to a given strain path; and finite-element modeling at length scales typical of industrial forming processes and products. A highlight of the meeting will be the confluence of the categories: state variable equations to describe plasticity at the level of a single grain incorporated into crystal plasticity calculations to predict the evolution of properties of a polycrystal and, finally, the incorporation of polycrystal plasticity in full three-dimensional simulations of hot deformation where the strain path imposed by the forming operation varies from point to point and is not known a priori. Combined finite-element modeling with crystal plasticity is making an impact not only in the simulation of industrial hotworking processes, but also in our ability to understand the origins of inhomogeneous deformation using finite-element models, where single grains are subdivided into many finite elements

and the properties of each are defined by crystal plasticity. An excellent example of the use of sophisticated and powerful modeling to understand recrystalization can be found in this issue in the paper by Engler and Vatne. In addition, the synergy of interdisciplanary teams is evident from the opening paper, by Hughes et al., which describes how a U.S. Department of Energy Center has brought together and coordinated the efforts of top researchers in the fields of plasticity, texture, microstructural characterization, and mathematical modeling. Superplastic forming is a small but growing subset of the hot-working activity in aluminum alloys. With superplastic forming, complex parts can be formed in a single operation, often in a manner that permits part consolidation and substantial cost savings. However, superplastic forming has historically been perceived as a slow process and, thus, not appealing for large-scale production. In the past decade, however, superplastic forming at strain rates high enough to be cost effective for largevolume production has been demonstrated using aluminum-matrix composites. These composites have a fine, stable grain size (see, for example, this issues overview by Mabuchi and Higashi). A particularly important advance in this

field is the development of fine grain sizes that are stable at elevated temperatures in conventional alloys. This can be accomplished with particular rolling and annealing schedules (see, for example, the article by Hughes et al.). The use of equal-channel angle pressing is an example of a hot-forming process that permits the development of fine grain sizes in conventional alloys with characteristics that are good for superplastic forming at high strain rates (see this issues article by Langdon et al.). As the goal of high-strain-rate superplasticity is realized, the possibility of the large tonnage production of complexly shaped parts using superplastic forming will become attractive. We hope you enjoy reading the excellent state-of-the-art articles that follow, especially since hot-deformation history dictates what can or cannot be accomplished in further processinga critical consideration as almost 80 percent of the aluminum products that we currently use depend on hot-deformation processes.
Thomas R. Bieler is an associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Mechanics at Michigan State University and is the advisor to JOM from the Shaping and Forming Committee of the TMS Materials Processing & Manufacturing Division. Lawrence A. Lalli is with Alcoa Technical Center, and Stuart R. MacEwen is with Alcan International.

1998 June JOM

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