Development of macro-defect-free PBF-EB-processed Ti–6Al–4V alloys with superior plasticity using PREP-synthesized powder and machine learning-assisted process optimization

Yunwei GuiabKenta Aoyagib Akihiko Chibab
aDepartment of Materials Processing, Graduate School of Engineering, Tohoku University, 6-6 Aramaki Aza Aoba, Aoba-ku, Sendai, 980-8579, Japan
bInstitute for Materials Research, Tohoku University, 2-1-1 Katahira, Aoba-ku, Sendai, 980-8577, Japan

Received 14 October 2022, Revised 23 December 2022, Accepted 3 January 2023, Available online 5 January 2023.Show lessAdd to MendeleyShareCite rights and content


The elimination of internal macro-defects is a key issue in Ti–6Al–4V alloys fabricated via powder bed fusion using electron beams (PBF-EB), wherein internal macro-defects mainly originate from the virgin powder and inappropriate printing parameters. This study compares different types powders by combining support vector machine techniques to determine the most suitable powder for PBF-EB and to predict the processing window for the printing parameters without internal macro-defects. The results show that powders fabricated via plasma rotating electrode process have the best sphericity, flowability, and minimal porosity and are most suitable for printing. Surface roughness criterion was also applied to determine the quality of the even surfaces, and support vector machine was used to construct processing maps capable of predicting a wide range of four-dimensional printing parameters to obtain macro-defect-free samples, offering the possibility of subsequent development of Ti–6Al–4V alloys with excellent properties. The macro-defect-free samples exhibited good elongation, with the best overall mechanical properties being the ultimate tensile strength and elongation of 934.7 MPa and 24.3%, respectively. The elongation of the three macro-defect-free samples was much higher than that previously reported for additively manufactured Ti–6Al–4V alloys. The high elongation of the samples in this work is mainly attributed to the elimination of internal macro-defects.


Additive manufacturing (AM) technologies can rapidly manufacture complex or custom parts, reducing process steps and saving manufacturing time [[1], [2], [3], [4]], and are widely used in the aerospace, automotive, and other precision industries [5,6]. Powder bed fusion using an electron beam (PBF-EB) is an additive manufacturing method that uses a high-energy electron beam to melt metal powders layer by layer to produce parts. In contrast to selective laser melting, PBF-EB involves the preparation of samples in a high vacuum environment, which effectively prevents the introduction of impurities such as O and N. It also involves a preheating process for the print substrate and powder, which reduces residual thermal stress on the sample and subsequent heat treatment processes [[2], [3], [4],7]. Due to these features and advantages, PBF-EB technology is a very important AM technology with great potential in metallic materials. Moreover, PBF-EB is the ideal AM technology for the manufacture of complex components made of many alloys, such as titanium alloys, nickel-based superalloys, aluminum alloys and stainless steels [[2], [3], [4],8].

Ti–6Al–4V alloy is one of the prevalent commercial titanium alloys possessing high specific strength, excellent mechanical properties, excellent corrosion resistance, and good biocompatibility [9,10]. It is widely used in applications requiring low density and excellent corrosion resistance, such as the aerospace industry and biomechanical applications [11,12]. The mechanical properties of PBF-EB-processed Ti–6Al–4V alloys are superior to those fabricated by casting or forging, because the rapid cooling rate in PBF-EB results in finer grains [[12], [13], [14], [15], [16], [17], [18]]. However, the PBF-EB-fabricated parts often include internal macro-defects, which compromises their mechanical properties [[19], [20], [21], [22]]. This study focused on the elimination of macro-defects, such as porosity, lack of fusion, incomplete penetration and unmelted powders, which distinguishes them from micro-defects such as vacancies, dislocations, grain boundaries and secondary phases, etc. Large-sized fusion defects cause a severe reduction in mechanical strength. Smaller defects, such as pores and cracks, lead to the initiation of fatigue cracking and rapidly accelerate the cracking process [23]. The issue of internal macro-defects must be addressed to expand the application of the PBF-EB technology. The main studies for controlling internal macro-defects are online monitoring of defects, remelting and hot isostatic pressing (HIP). The literatures [24,25] report the use of infrared imaging or other imaging techniques to identify defects, but the monitoring of smaller sized defects is still not adequate. And in some cases remelting does not reduce the internal macro-defects of the part, but instead causes coarsening of the macrostructure and volatilization of some metal elements [23]. The HIP treatment does not completely eliminate the internal macro-defects, the original defect location may still act as a point of origin of the crack, and the subsequent treatment will consume more time and economic costs [23]. Therefore, optimizing suitable printing parameters to avoid internal macro-defects in printed parts at source is of great industrial value and research significance, and is an urgent issue in PBF-EB related technology.

There are two causes of internal macro-defects in the AM process: gas pores trapped in the virgin powder and the inappropriate printing parameters [7,23]. Gui et al. [26] classify internal macro-defects during PBF-EB process according to their shape, such as spherical defects, elongated shape defects, flat shape defects and other irregular shape defects. Of these, spherical defects mainly originate from raw material powders. Other shape defects mainly originate from lack of fusion or unmelted powders caused by unsuitable printing parameters, etc. The PBF-EB process requires powders with good flowability, and spherical powders are typically chosen as raw materials. The prevalent techniques for the fabrication of pre-alloyed powders are gas atomization (GA), plasma atomization (PA), and the plasma rotating electrode process (PREP) [27,28]. These methods yield powders with different characteristics that affect the subsequent fabrication. The selection of a suitable powder for PBF-EB is particularly important to produce Ti–6Al–4V alloys without internal macro-defects. The need to optimize several printing parameters such as beam current, scan speed, line offset, and focus offset make it difficult to eliminate internal macro-defects that occur during printing [23]. Most of the studies [11,12,22,[29], [30], [31], [32], [33]] on the optimization of AM processes for Ti–6Al–4V alloys have focused on samples with a limited set of parameters (e.g., power–scan speed) and do not allow for the guidance and development of unknown process windows for macro-defect-free samples. In addition, process optimization remains a time-consuming problem, with the traditional ‘trial and error’ method demanding considerable time and economic costs. The development of a simple and efficient method to predict the processing window for alloys without internal macro-defects is a key issue. In recent years, machine learning techniques have increasingly been used in the field of additive manufacturing and materials development [[34], [35], [36], [37]]. Aoyagi et al. [38] recently proposed a novel and efficient method based on a support vector machine (SVM) to optimize the two-dimensional process parameters (current and scan speed) and obtain PBF-EB-processed CoCr alloys without internal macro-defects. The method is one of the potential approaches toward effective optimization of more than two process parameters and makes it possible for the machine learning techniques to accelerate the development of alloys without internal macro-defects.

Herein, we focus on the elimination of internal macro-defects, such as pores, lack of fusion, etc., caused by raw powders and printing parameters. The Ti–6Al–4V powders produced by three different methods were compared, and the powder with the best sphericity, flowability, and minimal porosity was selected as the feedstock for subsequent printing. The relationship between the surface roughness and internal macro-defects in the Ti–6Al–4V components was also investigated. The combination of SVM and surface roughness indices (Sdr) predicted a wider four-dimensional processing window for obtaining Ti–6Al–4V alloys without internal macro-defects. Finally, we investigated the tensile properties of Ti–6Al–4V alloys at room temperature with different printing parameters, as well as the corresponding microstructures and fracture types.

Section snippets

Starting materials

Three types of Ti–6Al–4V alloy powders, produced by GA, PA, and PREP, were compared. The particle size distribution of the powders was determined using a laser particle size analyzer (LS230, Beckman Coulter, USA), and the flowability was measured using a Hall flowmeter (JIS-Z2502, Tsutsui Scientific Instruments Co., Ltd., Japan), according to the ASTM B213 standard. The powder morphology and internal macro-defects were determined using scanning electron microscopy (SEM, JEOL JCM-6000) and X-ray 

Comparison of the characteristics of GA, PA, and PREP Ti–6Al–4V powders

The particle size distributions (PSDs) and flowability of the three types of Ti–6Al–4V alloy powders produced by GA, PA, and PREP are shown in Fig. 2. Although the average particle sizes are similar (89.4 μm for GA, 82.5 μm for PA, and 86.1μm for PREP), the particle size range is different for the three types of powder (6.2–174.8 μm for GA, 27.3–139.2 μm for PA, and 39.4–133.9 μm for PREP). The flowability of the GA, PA, and PREP powders was 30.25 ± 0.98, 26.54 ± 0.37, and 25.03 ± 0.22 (s/50


The characteristics of the three types of Ti–6Al–4V alloy powders produced via GA, PA, and PREP were compared. The PREP powder with the best sphericity, flowability, and low porosity was found to be the most favorable powder for subsequent printing of Ti–6Al–4V alloys without internal macro-defects. The quantitative criterion of Sdr <0.015 for even surfaces was also found to be applicable to Ti–6Al–4V alloys. The process maps of Ti–6Al–4V alloys include two regions, high beam current/scan speed 

Uncited references

[55]; [56]; [57]; [58]; [59]; [60]; [61]; [62]; [63]; [64]; [65].

CRediT authorship contribution statement

Yunwei Gui: Writing – original draft, Visualization, Validation, Investigation. Kenta Aoyagi: Writing – review & editing, Supervision, Resources, Methodology, Funding acquisition, Conceptualization. Akihiko Chiba: Supervision, Funding acquisition.

Declaration of competing interest

The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.


This study was based on the results obtained from project JPNP19007, commissioned by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). This work was also supported by JSPS KAKENHI (Proposal No. 21K03801) and the Inter-University Cooperative Research Program (Proposal nos. 18G0418, 19G0411, and 20G0418) of the Cooperative Research and Development Center for Advanced Materials, Institute for Materials Research, Tohoku University. It was also supported by the Council for

References (65)

View more references

Cited by (0)

Recommended articles (6)