Measurements and modelling of residual stresses during quenching of thick heat treatable aluminium components in relation to their precipitation state

Chobaut, Nicolas (Nicolas Paul Henry Chobaut)
Advisors: Drezet, Jean-Marie; Carron, Denis

In the fabrication of heat treatable aluminium parts, solutionising and quenching are key steps in order to obtain the required mechanical characteristics. Fast quenching is necessary to avoid coarse precipitation as this one reduces the mechanical properties after heat treatment. However fast quenching gives birth to high residual stresses, which cause unacceptable distortions during machining and can reduce service life drastically. For this reason, plates and forgings such as those considered in this thesis are subjected to a stress relieving operation, removing most of the residual stresses after quenching. For thick products, fast quenching throughout the thickness is no longer possible owing to the high but still limited thermal diffusivity of aluminium alloys, but residual stress occurrence remains problematic. The objective of this work is to develop a comprehensive model of quenching including precipitation effects for understanding the development of residual stresses in thick heat treatable aluminium components. Two industrial contexts are studied in this work: - the cold-water quenching of hot-rolled AA7040 and AA7449 thick plates for aerospace applications, - the boiling-water quenching of large AA2618 compressor wheel forgings used in turbochargers. Besides an accurate knowledge of the thermal field in the components during quenching, this work has involved an extensive thermo-mechanical characterisation of the three alloys in different precipitation states by interrupted quench-tests achieved in a Gleeble machine. Plastic strain recovery at high temperature is considered in a simple way in the description of the material behaviour and the Bauschinger effect is neglected as suggested by dedicated experiments. Three numerical models are developed to predict as-quenched residual stresses: - a thermo-mechanical model ignoring precipitation, - a physically-based thermo-metallurgical-mechanical model where a yield strength model is coupled with a precipitation model, - a thermo-mechanical model accounting for precipitation in a simple but realistic way. Instead of modelling precipitation that occurs during quenching, the model parameters are identified using a limited number of tensile tests achieved after representative interrupted cooling paths in a Gleeble machine. The results are compared to as-quenched residual stress measurements achieved by neutron diffraction and layer removal in thick AA7449 and AA7040 plates and in large AA2618 forgings. The thermo-mechanical model ignoring precipitation is found to be sufficient for relatively thin products. For thicker products, precipitation hardening by small precipitates is found to increase as-quenched residual stresses. Since the thermo-mechanical model ignoring precipitation underestimates these residual stresses, precipitation must thus be accounted for. The second model gives an excellent agreement between measurements and simulations provided that the precipitation model is well calibrated. This physically-based model is necessary for modelling complex parts with different thicknesses. Nevertheless, a lot of effort has to be dedicated to the characterisation and modelling of the precipitation of metastable non-stoichiometric phases and GP zones during quenching. This tedious work is not needed for the third model which requires only a few interrupted quench-tests while giving an excellent agreement between measurements and simulations for all the investigated components. In particular, it is verified that the two models taking into account precipitation give identical residual stress profiles in thick AA7449 plates.

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