Analysis and feedback control of the scanning laser epitaxy process applied to nickel-base superalloys
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Scanning Laser Epitaxy (SLE) is a new layer-by-layer additive manufacturing process being developed in the Direct Digital Manufacturing Laboratory at Georgia Tech. SLE allows for the fabrication of three-dimensional objects with specified microstructure through the controlled melting and re-solidification of a metal powder placed atop a base substrate. This dissertation discusses the work done to date on assessing the feasibility of using SLE to both repair single crystal (SX) turbine airfoils and manufacture functionally graded turbine components. Current processes such as selective laser melting (SLM) are not able to create structures with defined microstructure and often have issues with warping of underlying layers due to the high temperature gradients present when scanning a high power laser beam. Additionally, other methods of repair and buildup have typically been plagued by crack formation, equiaxed grains, stray grains, and grain multiplication that can occur when dendrite arms are separated from their main dendrites due to remelting. In this work, it is shown that the SLE process is capable of creating fully dense, crack-free equiaxed, directionally-solidified, and SX structures. The SLE process, though, is found to be currently constrained by the cumbersome method of choosing proper parameters and a relative lack of repeatability. Therefore, it is hypothesized that a real-time feedback control scheme based upon a robust offline model will be necessary both to create specified defect-free microstructures and to improve the repeatability of the process enough to allow for multi-layer growth. The proposed control schemes are based upon temperature data feedback provided at high frame rate by a thermal imaging camera. This data is used in both PID and model reference adaptive control (MRAC) schemes and drives the melt pool temperature during processing towards a reference melt pool temperature that has been found to give a desired microstructure in the robust offline model of the process. The real-time control schemes will enable the ground breaking capabilities of the SLE process to create engine-ready net shape turbine components from raw powder material.