The performance of two selective electron beam melting operation modes, namely the manual mode and the automatic ‘build theme mode’, have been investigated for the case of a Ti-6Al-4V alloy (45–105 μm average particle size of the powder) in terms of porosity, microstructure, and mechanical properties. The two operation modes produced notable differences in terms of build quality (porosity), microstructure, and properties over the sample thickness. The number and the average size of the pores were measured using a light microscope over the entire build height. A density measurement provided a quantitative index of the global porosity throughout the builds. The selective-electron-beam-melted microstructure was mainly composed of a columnar prior β-grain structure, delineated by α-phase boundaries, oriented along the build direction. A nearly equilibrium α + β mixture structure, formed from the original β-phase, arranged inside the prior β-grains as an α-colony or α-basket weave pattern, whereas the β-phase enveloped α-lamellae. The microstructure was finer with increasing distance from the build plate regardless of the selected build mode. Optical measurements of the α-plate width showed that it varied as the distance from the build plate varied. This microstructure parameter was correlated at the sample core with the mechanical properties measured by means of a macro-instrumented indentation test, thereby confirming Hall-Petch law behavior for strength at a local scale for the various process conditions. The tensile properties, while attesting to the mechanical performance of the builds over a macro scale, also validated the indentation property measurement at the core of the samples. Thus, a direct correlation between the process parameters, microstructure, porosity, and mechanical properties was established at the micro and macro scales. The macro-instrumented indentation test has emerged as a reliable, easy, quick, and yet non-destructive alternate means to the tensile test to measure tensile-like properties of selective-electron-beam-melted specimens. Furthermore, the macro-instrumented indentation test can be used effectively in additive manufacturing for a rapid setting up of the process, that is, by controlling the microscopic scale properties of the samples, or to quantitatively determine a product quality index of the final builds, by taking advantage of its intrinsic relationship with the tensile properties.
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