Various welding positions need be used in laser welding of structures with complex configurations. Therefore, it is necessary to gain knowledge of how the welding positions can influence the keyhole and weld pool behavior in order to better control the laser weld quality. In the present study, a computational fluid mechanics (CFD) model was constructed to simulate the laser-welding process of the titanium alloy Ti6Al4V, with which the keyhole stability and the fluid flow characteristics in weld pool were studied for four welding positions, i.e., flat welding, horizontal welding, vertical-up welding, and vertical-down welding. Results showed that the stability of the keyhole was the best in flat welding, the worst in horizontal welding, and moderate in vertical welding positions. Increasing heat input (the ratio of laser power to welding speed) could increase the keyhole stability. When the small heat input was used, the dimensions and flow patterns of weld pools were similar for different welding positions. When the heat input was increased, the weld pool size was increased, and the fluid flow in the weld pool became turbulent. The influences of gravity became significant when a large heat input was used, especially for laser welding with vertical positions. Too high a heat input in vertical-up laser welding would lead to oscillation and separation of molten metal around the keyhole, and in turn result in burn-through holes in the laser weld. Based on the present study, moderate heat input was suggested in positional laser welding to generate a stable keyhole and, meanwhile, to guarantee good weld quality.
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