Currently, selective laser melting (SLM) is gaining widespread popularity as an alternative manufacturing technique for complex and customized parts, especially for hot-work and injection molding applications. In the present study, as the major factors for the failure of H13 hot-work die steels during hot-working, thermal fatigue (TF) properties of H13 processed by SLM and a conventional technique were investigated. TF tests (650 °C/30 °C) were conducted on the as-selective laser melted (As-SLMed), thermally treated selective laser melted (T-SLMed), and forged (Forged) H13. Results show that the As-SLMed H13 exhibited the best TF resistance properties among the specimens herein (the shortest total crack length and highest hardness of 687 ± 12 HV5
), whereas the Forged H13 exhibited the poorest TF resistance properties (the longest total crack length and lowest hardness of 590 ± 11 HV5
) after TF tests. TF resistance properties were closely related to the initial and final hardness. Further microstructural investigations revealed that the typical cell-like substructures, increased amount of retained austenite, and most importantly, refined grain size were the main reasons for the improved TF resistance properties in the As-SLMed H13 compared to the Forged counterparts.
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