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Journal of Materials Processing Technology 129 (2002) 268272

An investigation of laser-assisted machining of Al2O3 particle reinforced aluminum matrix composite


Y. Wang*, L.J. Yang, N.J. Wang
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin, Heilongjiang 150001, PR China

Abstract Al2O3 particles reinforced aluminum matrix composite (Al2O3p/Al) are becoming increasingly used for their excellent physical and chemical properties. However, their poor machinability leads to severe tool wear and to a bad machined surface. In this paper laser heatassisted machining is adopted in machining Al2O3p/Al composite, good results being obtained. The result of the present experiment shows that in machining Al2O3p/Al composites the cutting force is reduced by 3050%, the tool wear is reduced by 2030% and the machined surface quality is improved in laser-assisted machining as compared with conventional cutting. Some analysis on the mechanism of laser heatassisted machining of Al2O3p/Al composite is given in the paper also. # 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Cutting; Composite materials; Laser-assisted machining

1. Introduction Metal matrix composites are new articial multi-phases solid materials composed of a metal matrix phase and a reinforcing phase, which have much higher levels in strength, rigidity and high temperature performance. They can be divided into three classes: particle reinforced composites, long-ber reinforced composites and shortber reinforced composites. Although these composites all have these excellent performance, their poor machinability leads to severe cutting tool wear, low machining efciency and difculty in obtaining ne surface quality [13]. Laser-assisted hot machining is one of the advanced machining technologies, which adapts to machine difcult machining materials [4]. The changing of the performance of materials machined by laser heating, reecting the internal or external physical properties and machinability, deals not only with the properties of the materials but also with the parameters of laser beam. Obvious results are achieved with laser-assisted hot machining of Al2O3p/Al composites in reducing the cutting forces, reducing the cutting tool wear, increasing the tool life and improving the machined surface quality.

2. Experimental system in laser-assisted machining As shown in Fig. 1, the experimental system includes a YAG continuous solid laser with 200 W average power output and 0.8 mm average focus diameter; an S28-lathe; Al2O3p/Al cylindrical workpieces of 100 mm length and 50 mm in diameter; and YT15 carbide cutting tools with rake angle 58, clearance angle 12.58, cutting edge angle 758, minor cutting edge angle 158 and cutting edge inclination angle 08. The Al2O3 particles in the machined composite workpiece are about 25% in volume and less than 0.5 mm in diameter. The cutting force components FX, FY, FZ are measured by a Kistler piezoelectric dynamometer. The output signals are magnied by an amplier, collected by a data acquisition system of a computer, and then shown on the screen of the computer. Photographs of the laser-assisted experimental machining system are shown in Fig. 2. 3. Experiments in measuring cutting forces 3.1. Measurement of cutting forces In this experiment, the laser power chosen is 150 W, the distance between the laser heating point and the cutting point is about 10 mm and the feed rate f is 0.1 mm/r. A comparison experiment of cutting forces is performed with

* Corresponding author. E-mail address: wyyh@hope.hit.edu.cn (Y. Wang).

0924-0136/02/$ see front matter # 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved. PII: S 0 9 2 4 - 0 1 3 6 ( 0 2 ) 0 0 6 1 6 - 7

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nearly 50% after laser heating, and main cutting force FZ is reduced by nearly 10%. Fig. 4 shows the cutting forces obtained at different cutting depths (with the same cutting speed and feed rate) in logarithmic coordinates. The results shows that FY and FX are reduced by nearly 50%, but FZ is reduced only a little, by nearly 10%. 4. Study on the mechanism of machining Al2O3/Al composite 4.1. Establishment of a physical model of the cutting process A conclusion can be made from the above experimental results that the reduction of radial force FY and axial force FX is due to the properties of Al2O3p/Al. Al2O3 particles (of less than 0.5 mm in diameter) are distributed evenly in the aluminum matrix material. Because of the rounded cutting edge radius (about 0.022 mm in this experiment), the cutting material under the dividing point O is pushed onto the machined surface, where it causes large stress and elastic deformation of the machined surface, accounting for most of the radial force FY and axial force FX, when the rake angle g0 and the clearance angle a are small. In conventional machining, a large pushing force is necessary to push the Al2O3 particles into the machined surface near and below the point O, therefore the radial force FY and axial forces FX are accordingly quite large and the cutting tool wear is severe. When the material of the cutting zone is heated by the laser, the aluminum matrix becomes softer and easier in plastic deformation, which leads to a reduction of the pushing force from the tool to the machined surface. The softened aluminum matrix is more easily squeezed out from the machined surface, which leads to the concentration of the Al2O3 particles in the surface layer of the machined surface, Fig. 5 shows the physical model of the cutting process, which explains the reason why the FY and FX forces are reduced. However, the main reason for the

Fig. 1. The system of laser-assisted machining cutting.

Fig. 2. The experimental system of laser-assisted machining.

changing cutting depth ap and cutting speed V. The component forces, main cutting force FZ, radial force FY and axial force FX, are measured by a Kistler dynamometer with a computer data acquisition system. The measured forces FX, FY, and FZ are given in Figs. 3 and 4. 3.2. Comparison of cutting force components As shown in Fig. 3, in comparison with conventional cutting, the radial force FY and axial force FX are reduced by

Fig. 3. Comparison cutting force of convention cutting and laser-assisted hot cutting.

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Fig. 6. SEM microstructure: (a) Conventional cutting; (b) Laser-assisted hot cutting; (c) Matrix microstructure of raw material (d) Microstructure of laser-assisted hot cutting.

Fig. 4. Cutting forces with different cutting depth.

reduction of the force FZ is the softening of the material, and the average reduction value is relatively small, about 10%. 4.2. Microstructure analysis According to the physical model given above, the concentration of Al2O3 particles in the machined surface layer increases, because the Al2O3 particles were pushed in during

the cutting process, and the microstructure ingredient analysis is then presented accordingly. An SEM microstructure of the workpiece surface layer is presented in Fig. 6, and shows that the white Al2O3 particles are evenly distributed in the matrix of the base composite but are increased in the surface layer. Further, the SEM microstructure in Fig. 6 also shows that the deformed layer (white color) that was machined by laser-assisted cutting is thicker than that machined by conventional cutting. The reason is that the Al-matrix, heated by the laser, becomes more soft and plastic, so that more Al2O3 particles will be pushed in and more Al-matrix will be squeezed out from the machined surface layer. 4.3. X-ray diffraction analysis X-ray diffraction analysis was taken for the purpose of determining the distribution of Al2O3 particles in the Almatrix. Fig. 7 is the result of X-ray diffraction analysis, and shows that in the surface layer the content of Al2O3 particles (37%) is much more than that in the base-matrix (23%). The above experimental result certify that some Al2O3 particles of the cutting zone have surely been pushed into the matrix of the machined surface, hence the content of Al2O3 particles in the surface layer is increased. A new distribution of the Al2O3 particles in the matrix of the machined surface layer leads to the result of improved physical and mechanical performance of the machined

Fig. 5. Schematic diagram of cutting Al2O3 particle reinforced aluminum matrix composite.

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Fig. 7. X-ray diffraction diagram.

Fig. 9. X-ray stress analysis of conventional cutting and laser-assisted hot cutting.

composite surface due to the higher concentration of the Al2O3 particles in the matrix. 5. Tool wear in laser-assisted machining In this experiment, carbide cutting tools with the same material and geometrical parameters, as mentioned above, are also used. The cutting parameters are: cutting depth ap 0:38 mm, feed rate f 0:1 mm/r and cutting speed V 25:12 m/min. The tool wear is indicated by the dimensional changes of the workpiece diameter, the result of the experiment being shown in Fig. 8. As shown in Fig. 8, the very small dimensional changes of the workpiece diameter imply small cutting tool wear in laser-assisted hot machining. The reason is that the softening effect of laser heating on the aluminum matrix reduces the

pushing forces of the Al2O3 particles on the clearance face of the cutting tool, which is just the reason for the severe cutting tool wear in the conventional machining of Al2O3p/ Al composite. 6. Surface residual stress analysis Residual stress in the surface layer has a great effect on the surface integrity of the machined surface. Residual stress is changed in the matrix after machining due to the extrusion of the tool, deformation of the matrix and displacement of the Al2O3 particle in the matrix. Because of the difference in thermal conductivity and thermal expansion between the Almatrix and Al2O3 particle, a temperature gradient comes into the cutting zone and the workpiece surface layer, which leads to the increase of thermal stress and mist dislocation in the matrix. The coherence and half-coherence state between the matrix and Al2O3 particles becomes stronger than for the raw material, at same time sub-grains appears in the matrix [5]. Fig. 9 is the result of residual stress measurement with an X-ray stress analyzer (AST Co., USA), showing that the residual stress is compressive in the laser-assisted hot cutting surface, the compressive stress being nearly triple times that in the conventional cutting surface. The compressive stress in the machined surface can increase the fatigue strength and improve the mechanical behavior.

Fig. 8. Dimension change of workpiece diameter.

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7. Conclusions (1) Newly developed laser-assisted hot machining is an effective method in the machining of Al2O3p/Al composite. (2) In the laser-assisted hot machining of Al2O3p/Al composite, all three component cutting forces are reduced in comparison with those in conventional cutting, among them the axial force FX and radial force FY reducing by nearly 50%, and the main force FZ reducing by nearly 10%. (3) A new physical model of machining Al2O3p/Al composite is given, which explains why the Al2O3 particles are concentrated in the machined surface layer. The concentration of Al2O3 particles in the surface layer increases the wear resistance of the machined Al2O3p/Al composite surface.

(4) Laser-assisted hot machining can effectively reduce tool wear and increase tool life. (5) Laser-assisted hot machining can increase the compressive residual stress of the machined surface, which increases the fatigue strength and improves the surface quality. References
[1] R.Y. Chen, Principles of Metal Cutting, Beijing, PR China, China machining press 1993 (in Chinese). [2] R.D. Han, Q.X. Yu, Cutting of MachiningDifficult Materials, Beijing, PR China, China machining press 1993 (in Chinese). [3] H.B. Qi, Appl. Laser 20 (5) (2000) 198200. [4] J.C. Rozzi, F.E. Pfefferkorm, Int. J. Heat Mass Transfer 43 (2000) 14091424. [5] P. Ganguly, W.J. Poole, D.J. Loyd, Scripta Mater. 44 (7) (2001) 1099 1105.