Retrogression-reaging and hot forming of AA7075
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The retrogression-reaging (RRA) and hot forming behavior of AA7075 were studied. AA7075 is a high-strength alloy used in applications where weight is of particular importance, such as in automobiles. Like many of the high-strength aluminum alloys, AA7075 requires elevated temperature forming to achieve ductility comparable to steels at room temperature. Since AA7075 is a precipitation hardening alloy, heat treatments during forming and production need to be closely controlled to limit any loss of strength due to changes in the microstructure. Two new forming concepts are introduced to explore the feasibility of forming AA7075 in manners compatible with current automotive manufacturing processes. They are RRA forming and solution forming. These concepts seek to improve upon the room-temperature formability of AA7075-T6 and incorporate the paint-bake cycle (PBC) into the heat treatment process. The PBC is a mandatory heat treatment used to cure the paint applied to automobiles during production. Currently, the PBC is conducted at 180 °C for 30 minutes. RRA behavior was studied with molten salt bath treatments between 200 and 350 °C. The PBC was used in lieu of the standard 24 hour reaging treatment conducted at 121 °C. It was determined that retrogression treating below 250 °C was acceptable for RRA forming, with retrogressing at 200 °C producing the hardest material after reaging by the PBC. The formability of AA7075-T6 during RRA forming was evaluated by tensile testing at 200 and 225 °C. Ductility of AA7075-T6 at RRA forming temperatures was double compared to those produced at room temperature. RRA forming was demonstrated to achieve this improved ductility and a final material hardness after the PBC of only slightly less than the peak-aged condition. In addition, solution forming behavior was studied at 480 °C. Solution forming can increase ductility compared to RRA forming, but it requires aging at 121 °C prior to the PBC to produce peak-aged hardness.