Orientation-Selected Micro-Pillar Compression of Additively Manufactured 316L Stainless Steels: Comparison of As-Manufactured, Annealed, and Proton-Irradiated Variants

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Irradiation response and deformation mechanisms of additively manufactured (AM) 316 L stainless steel were studied by atomic scale characterization and micro-pillar compression. The AM 316 L stainless steels were fabricated by direct energy deposition, a laser-based additive manufacturing process. Irradiation with 2 MeV protons at 360 °C was performed to create ∼1.8 displacements-per-atom (dpa) damage in AM 316 L. Deformation behaviors of the as-manufactured, annealed, and proton-irradiated variants were studied, focusing on the effects of manufacturing-induced pores, residual stress, and irradiation-introduced defects (dislocation loops and voids). Micro-pillars were prepared from grains of pre-selected orientation, avoiding contributions of grain boundaries and allowing determination of resolved shear stress on {111} glide planes. Transmission electron microscopy was used to characterize the pre- and post-deformation microstructure. It was found that in the as-manufactured alloy variant, moving dislocations were the major deformation carrier, with noticeable blocking by fabrication-induced pores, In the annealed variant, hardness was reduced, and deformation was also accomplished by dislocation gliding. In the proton-irradiated variant, significant twinning was observed. Comparing measured resolved shear stress and predicted critical stress for dislocation dissociation, we conclude that irradiation hardening became high enough to activate twinning. Therefore, the deformation mechanism changes from dislocation gliding to twinning. The study is important for both processing optimization and performance evaluation of AM alloys for reactor applications.