The study presented investigates the fatigue strength of the (α+β) Ti-6Al-4V-ELI titanium alloy processed by laser cutting with and without mechanical post-processing. The surface quality and possible notch effects as a consequence of non-optimized intermediate cutting parameters are characterized and evaluated. The microstructural changes in the heat-affected zone (HAZ) are documented in detail and compared to samples with a mechanically post-processed (barrel grinding, mechanical polishing) surface condition. The obtained results show a significant increase (≈50%) in fatigue strength due to mechanical post-processing correlating with decreased surface roughness and minimized notch effects when compared to the surface quality of the non-optimized laser cutting. The martensitic α’-phase is detected in the HAZ with the formation of distinctive zones compared to the initial equiaxial α+β microstructure. The HAZ could be removed up to 50% by means of barrel grinding and up to 100% through mechanical polishing. A fracture analysis revealed that the fatigue cracks always initiate on the laser-cut edges in the as-cut surface condition, which could be assigned to an irregular macro and micro-notch relief. However, the typical characteristics of the non-optimized laser cutting process (melting drops and significant higher surface roughness) lead to early fatigue failure. The fatigue cracks solely started from the micro-notches of the surface relief and not from the dross. As a consequence, the fatigue properties are dominated by these notches, which lead to significant scatter, as well as decreased fatigue strength compared to the surface conditions with mechanical finishing and better surface quality. With optimized laser-cutting conditions, HAZ will be minimized, and surface roughness strongly decreased, which will lead to significantly improved fatigue strength.
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