The microstructure and mechanical properties of a 4130-grade steel processed by L-PBF using a feedstock of low-cost water atomized powder have been investigated considering the effects of powder recycling. Chemical analysis of the recycled powder showed a constant amount of alloying elements with a slight reduction in oxygen content. The as-built microstructure was mainly composed of a martensitic structure separated by a high fraction of low-angle grain boundaries, suggesting the application of a direct tempering treatment starting from the as-built condition as a cost-effective post-process thermal treatment rather than the conventional quench and tempering treatment. Moreover, the degree of anisotropy generated by L-PBF in as-built specimens could be reduced after performing either the direct tempering or the quench and tempering treatments. The possible degradation of powder properties on the steel performance was also investigated. After various powder recycling events, no significant deterioration in tensile properties was measured, indicating that the water atomized powder could be a sustainable feedstock candidate for L-PBF.
Keywords: carbides; laser powder bed fusion; low-alloy steel; powder recycling; water atomized powder.