Dynamic Laser Absorptance Measured in a Geometrically Characterized Stainless-Steel Powder Layer

Brian J. Simonds, Edward J. Garboczi, Todd A. Palmer, Paul A. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The relationship between real powder distributions and optical coupling is a critical building block for developing a deeper physical understanding of laser-additive manufacturing and for creating more reliable and accurate models for predictable manufacturing. Laser-light absorption by a metal powder is distinctly different from that of a solid material, as it is impacted by additional parameters, such as particle size, shape distribution, and packing. Here, we use X-ray computed tomography to experimentally determine these parameters in a thinly spread austenitic stainless-steel powder on a metal substrate, and we combine these results with optical absorptance measurements during a 1 ms stationary laser-light exposure to simulate the additive-manufacturing process. Within the thinly spread powder layer, the particle volume fraction changes continuously from near zero at the powder surface to a peak value of 0.72 at a depth of 235 μm, with the most rapid increase taking place in the first 100 μm. The relationship between this particle volume fraction gradient and optical absorptance is investigated using an analytical model, which shows that depth-averaged absorptance measurements can measure the predicted average value, but will fail to capture local effects that result from a changing powder density. The time-averaged absorptance remains at levels between 0.67 and 0.80 across a two orders of magnitude range in laser power, which is significantly higher than that observed in solid stainless-steel experiments. The dynamic behavior of the absorptance, however, reveals physical phenomena, including oxidation, melting, and vapor cavity (keyhole) formation, as well as quantifying the effect of these on the absorbed energy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number024057
JournalPhysical Review Applied
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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