Precipitation occurs easily during the hot forming of high-nitrogen austenitic stainless steels, which reduces their hot ductility significantly. The effect of grain size on the hot ductility of high-nitrogen austenitic stainless steel in the presence of precipitates was investigated. Different grain sizes of 18Mn18Cr0.5N steel specimens, with and without precipitates, were hot-tension tested. The precipitate morphology, fracture surface, and cracks were studied by scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and electron backscatter diffraction analysis. For the 18Mn18Cr0.5N steel, damage-formation strains of all grain-size specimens were reduced by the precipitates during the hot-tension test. Crack-formation sites were located at grain boundaries and were independent of the Taylor factor. A larger grain size resulted in an increased sensitivity of the fracture strain to precipitates. When the grain size was smaller than 51 μm, the fracture strain became insensitive to the precipitates. A method was suggested to mitigate surface cracking for metal materials with a high precipitation tendency.
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