Currently, 3D-printed aluminium alloy fabrications made by selective laser melting (SLM) offer a promising route for the production of small series of custom-designed support brackets and heat exchangers with complex geometry and shape and miniature size. Alloy composition and printing parameters need to be optimised to mitigate fabrication defects (pores and microcracks) and enhance the parts’ performance. The deformation response needs to be studied with adequate characterisation techniques at relevant dimensional scale, capturing the peculiarities of micro-mechanical behaviour relevant to the particular article and specimen dimensions. Purposefully designed Al-Si-Mg 3D-printable RS-333 alloy was investigated with a number of microscopy techniques, including in situ mechanical testing with a Deben Microtest 1-kN stage integrated and synchronised with Tescan Vega3 SEM to acquire high-resolution image datasets for digital image correlation (DIC) analysis. Dog bone specimens were 3D-printed in different orientations of gauge zone cross-section with respect to the fast laser beam scanning and growth directions. This corresponded to the varying local conditions of metal solidification and cooling. Specimens showed variation in mechanical properties, namely Young’s modulus (65–78 GPa), yield stress (80–150 MPa), ultimate tensile strength (115–225 MPa) and elongation at break (0.75–1.4%). Furthermore, the failure localisation and character were altered with the change in gauge cross-section orientation. DIC analysis allowed correct strain evaluation that overcame the load frame compliance effect and helped to identify the unevenness of deformation distribution (plasticity waves), which ultimately resulted in exceptionally high strain localisation near the ultimate failure crack position.
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