Philipp Kürnsteiner;Markus Benjamin Wilms;Andreas Weisheit;Baptiste Gault;Eric Aimé Jägle;Dierk Raabe
Laser additive manufacturing is attractive for the production of complex, three-dimensional parts from metallic powder using a computer-aided design model1,2,3. The approach enables the digital control of the processing parameters and thus the resulting alloy’s microstructure, for example, by using high cooling rates and cyclic re-heating4,5,6,7,8,9,10. We recently showed that this cyclic re-heating, the so-called intrinsic heat treatment, can trigger nickel-aluminium precipitation in an iron–nickel–aluminium alloy in situ during laser additive manufacturing9. Here we report a Fe19Ni5Ti (weight per cent) steel tailor-designed for laser additive manufacturing. This steel is hardened in situ by nickel-titanium nanoprecipitation, and martensite is also formed in situ, starting at a readily accessible temperature of 200 degrees Celsius. Local control of both the nanoprecipitation and the martensitic transformation during the fabrication leads to complex microstructure hierarchies across multiple length scales, from approximately 100-micrometre-thick layers down to nanoscale precipitates. Inspired by ancient Damascus steels11,12,13,14—which have hard and soft layers, originally introduced via the folding and forging techniques of skilled blacksmiths—we produced a material consisting of alternating soft and hard layers. Our material has a tensile strength of 1,300 megapascals and 10 per cent elongation, showing superior mechanical properties to those of ancient Damascus steel12. The principles of in situ precipitation strengthening and local microstructure control used here can be applied to a wide range of precipitation-hardened alloys and different additive manufacturing processes.