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Machining of Fe3AI Intermetallics
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    Scientists at the U.S. Bureau of Mines are studying iron aluminides as possible substitutes for stainless steels to reduce the Nation's dependence on imported strategic and critical materials. In a Bureau investigation on the mechanical properties of Fe-28Al, it was found that the material's machining properties were significantly improved at slow tool and feed speeds. Machining techniques normally used for brittle materials failed or were costly. Further experiments using a 5-in (12.7-cm) mill cutter with carbide inserts, operating dry at minimum machining speeds, produced visually smooth sample surfaces with no tool damage. As a result of these experiments and a review of published data on hydrogen embrittlement of iron aluminide under tension, non-water-based (e.g., sulfur-based) lubricants were chosen for production machining. Four-flute, 3/4-in (19-mm) carbide end mills were used at slow speed under lubrication. This latter procedure reduced tool wear and breakage by a factor of 2. Machined surfaces and specimen cross sections were analyzed by scanning electron microscopy to detect microcracking. Tensile tests gave the expected yield and ultimate strengths, indicating that no degradation by low-speed machining occurred. This study extends this work to show that the alloy can be machined at higher speeds using high-speed steel end mills, and that water-soluble cutting oil is a suitable lubricant and coolant.

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