Theoretical and experimental investigations were carried out to determine the effect of process parameters on weld metal microstructures of austenitic stainless steels during pulsed laser welding. Laser welds made on four austenitic stainless steels at different power levels and scanning speeds were considered. A transient heat transfer model that takes into account fluid flow in the weld pool was employed to simulate thermal cycles and cooling rates experienced by the material under various welding conditions. The weld metal thermal cycles and cooling rates are related to features of the solidification structure. For the conditions investigated, the observed fusion zone structure ranged from duplex austenite (γ)+ferrite (δ) to fully austenitic or fully ferritic. Unlike welding with a continuous wave laser, pulsed laser welding results in thermal cycling from multiple melting and solidification cycles in the fusion zone, causing significant post-solidification solid-state transformation to occur. There was microstructural evidence of significant recrystallization in the fusion zone structure that can be explained on the basis of the thermal cycles. The present investigation clearly demonstrated the potential of the computational model to provide detailed information regarding the heat transfer conditions experienced during welding.
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