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Dynamic Tensile Deformation of Aluminum Alloy 6061-T6 and 6061-OA

Xin Tang, Vikas Prakash and John Lewandowski*

Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Department of Materials Science and Engineering*
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, 44106-7222
Email:, and

Aluminum-based sandwich panels with textile cores possess high stiffness and strength at low weight. Recent
works have documented the energy absorbing characteristics of these materials at low strain rates. However, very
little information exists on the energy absorption of these structures at high strain rates. In order to address this, the
behavior of their individual constituents over a range of strain rates is first needed. In this paper the quasi-static and
dynamic tension deformation behaviors of aluminum alloy 6061 in two different heat treatments -- T6 and
over-aged (OA) -- are reported at both room and low test temperatures.
The design of blast resistant structures is of importance for navy and military applications. Compared to several
other solutions such as honeycomb core and corrugated core structures


, the open-cell tetrahedral sandwich

structures, comprising of thin aluminum faceplates with tetrahedral truss lattice cores, attract great interest
because of their low weight, relatively high strength and excellent corrosion resistance. These structures are of
interest in blast resistant structures where high specific energy absorption is critical


. To obtain better

understanding of their structural response at high strain rate, a careful examination of the behavior of their
elements (constituent materials) under high strain rate loading is required. In the present study, the quasi-static and
dynamic tension response of aluminum alloy Al-6061 are investigated at temperatures down to -1700C.
The chemical compositions of aluminum alloy Al-6061 used in the present study are given in Table 1. In the present
study, two different heat treatments, T6 and over-aged (OA), were selected for Al-6061. The as-received Al-6061
material was in T6 condition. It was heat-treated at 2600C for 10 hours then followed by air cooling at room
temperature to obtain the over-aged condition. The remaining half of Al-6061 was tested in the T6 condition.










% wt.






0.7 max

0.15 max

0.15 max

0.25 max

Table 1: Chemical Composition (% wt.) of Al-6061


An INSTRON 1125 tension machine with load capacity 20 kN and deformation rate 2 mm /minute was employed in
the quasi-static tension testing. Static tensile properties of Al-6061 were measured on the standard round-ended,
miniature dog-bone tensile specimens. The tensile specimens have a 35 mm gage length and a 5 mm diameter.
The strain in the specimen was measured with an axial INSTRON extensometer (0.5 inches) attached to the
specimen gage section. Before the experiments, the gage section was polished with water based diamond slurry
with particles down to 3 m in size to reduce stress concentration.
The schematic set of the SHTB facility [15-18] in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at CWRU
is shown in Figure 1. It consists of an air operated gas gun, incident bar, transmitted bar, striker, momentum trap,
shock absorber, and strain gage circuits to measure strain signals in the bars. The gun barrel is a 75 mm diameter
and 1.33 m long standard pipe. It contains an Al-7075 hollow striker with 25.4 mm inner diameter, 35.9 mm, outer
diameter and 0.609 m long. The striker is equipped with two Teflon bearings, and its inner surface, which rides on
the incident bar, is honed to minimize friction. The transfer flange at the right end of the incident bar is used to
transfer the incoming compressive stress wave into a tensile stress wave. Two 2 2 0.5 mm3 cork pulse shapers

were placed around the impact surface of the transfer flange to allow experiments to be performed at nearly

constant strain rate.

Figure 1: Schematic of the Split-Hopkinson Tension Bar (SHTB) at CWRU

In the experiment, the gas gun launches the tubular striker to impact the incident bar. The transfer flange transfers
the incoming elastic compressive stress wave into the elastic tensile stress wave i( t ) which travels through the
incident bar toward the specimen


. When the tensile stress wave

i( t ) propagates into the specimen, it

reverberates within the specimen until a nominally homogeneous stress state is achieved. Thereafter, part of the
wave is transmitted through the transmitted bar as a tensile wave, t ( t ) , and the rest is reflected back to the
incident bar as a compressive wave,

r ( t ) . Since the elastic stress pulses in the bars are non-dispersive and the

specimen is assumed to deform homogeneously, the elementary one dimensional elastic wave propagation can be

used to calculate the engineering stress s( t ) , engineering strain rate ( t ) , and strain s( t ) in the specimen as

s( t ) = E

s ( t ) = 2

t( t ),


r ( t ),


s( t ) =

( t )dt.


where E , A0 and c0 are Youngs modulus, cross-sectional area, and longitudinal wave speed of the pressure
bars; As and Ls are the initial cross-sectional area and length of the specimen. The true stress and strain rates
are determined from engineering stress and strain rate assuming uniform deformation and constant volume.
However, the assumption of uniform strain is not valid in tensile experiments particularly when a neck is formed.
Therefore, the strain calculated by these assumptions must be corrected. Direct strain measurements using
standard extensometer in dynamic experiments is impossible because there is not enough time for the
extensometer to respond. Other methods such as foil gages can be used but are limited by adhesive strength and
can only reach a maximum of 5% before failure. Other non-contact methods such as Interfrometeric Strain
Displacement Gages (ISDG) [21] and Laser Occlusive Radius Detector (LORD)


can be used. However, large

deformations lead to fast fringe decay in the first method while the unpredictable neck location produces the
limitation in the later. As a better alternative to overcome these problems, high-speed photography can be
employed although discrete strain measurements are obtained. In the present investigation, an IMACON 200 high
speed digital camera was used to monitor the development of necking in the tensile specimen during the dynamic
deformation process.

True stress, true , true strain, true , and true strain rate, true , in the specimen are corrected at the initiation of
necking according to Equation (4) to (6), where dinitial and Ainitial are initial diameter and cross-sectional area of
gage section, dins tan t and Ains tan t are instantaneous minimum diameter and cross-sectional area of neck region
measured from corresponding high-speed camera photographs, and s is the engineering stress calculated based
on the SHTB assumption of uniform deformation.

true =

s Ainitial
Ains tan t

true = 2ln(

dins tan t




d ins tan t
dins tan t

= 2
= 2(
tint erframe dins tan t
dins tan t


Since the formation of a neck in the specimen introduces a complex triaxial state of stress in neck region, which
raises the value of longitudinal stress required to cause plastic flow, the average true stress at the neck determined
by Equation (4) is higher than the stress required to cause flow if simple tension prevails. In this case the uniaxial
flow stress and plastic strain can be computed by the well known Bridgman analysis [23] (Equation (7) and (8)),
where R is the radius of curvature of the neck measured from the high-speed camera photographs.

(1 + 2R / dins tan t )[ln(1 + dins tan t / 2R)]
p = 2 ln(

dins tan t



Because the elastic strains are negligible compared to the large plastic strains in the neck region, the total strains
are assumed to be equal to the plastic strains.
The SHTB low temperature facilities (Figure 2) were used to study the materials tensile behavior at low
temperature. In this system, a light-weight foam tank with 2 holes on its cylindrical face for the pressure bars to go
through was used to contain the liquid nitrogen (-1960C). The specimen and the ends of the pressure bars were
immersed in the liquid nitrogen. Prior to the test, the high-speed camera and flash light were adjusted and focused
at the fixed positions with the desired magnification. The pressure bars were pushed into the cooling tank through
the holes and the specimen was tightly screwed into the bars ends as usual. Liquid nitrogen was filled into the tank,
immersing the specimen and the bar ends below the liquid surface. After 5-10 minutes, there was some
accumulation of ice crystals around the bar exposed outside the tank, induced by the extremely low temperature
condition at the bar ends. This observation indicates that the specimen and bar ends were both at extremely low
temperature. Thereafter, the foam tank was carefully slid along the bars to expose the specimen to the camera. A
temperature of -1700C, is the lowest temperature that can be achieved by this system. Other test temperatures
were obtained via use of a cooling coil instead of direct immersion.

Figure 2: Schematic of the low temperature Split-Hopkinson Tension Bar (SHTB) facility (cooling tank containing
liquid nitrogen) at CWRU
The quasi-static tensile results of Al-6061-T6 and Al-6061-OA are shown in Figure 3, where fracture stress and true
fracture strain were calculated from Equation (4) and (5). The results show that under quasi-static conditions with
strain rate 1 10-3 s-1, Al-6061-T6 has a higher tensile strength (yield strength, UTS and fracture strength) than that
of Al-6061-OA. Necking and significant post-necking strain were recorded.

Figure 3: Quasi-static tensile properties of Al-6061-T6 and Al-6061-OA at room temperature

The high-speed photographs and dynamic tensile results for a selected Al-6061-T6 are shown in Figure 4 to 6. Due
to the high ductility of Al-6061, in all experiments performed on the SHTB, a neck is formed prior complete failure
(Figure 4). Beginning at the 1st frame recorded, the gradual elongation of the specimen is evident until it necks
around the 7th frame and finally fractures at frame No. 16. True stress, true strain and strain rate in the specimen
are corrected at the initiation of necking according to Equations (4) to (8). The strain rate in the neck region,
calculated from Equation (6), is approximately three times greater than the average strain rate calculated using the
SHTB analysis that is based on the assumption of uniaxial straess in the specimen. Besides the high speed
camera observations, the critical time of neck formation is obtained by equating the rate of strain hardening

d true / d true and the true stress true as shown in Figure 5 with good agreement with the high-speed camera

Start of necking
Frame No. 1: 18 s

Frame No. 7: 114 s

Frame No. 10: 162 s

Complete failure
Frame No. 16:

258 s

Figure 4: Selected frames from high-speed camera records for Al-6061-T6 at room temperature (strain rate 1280
s-1). Corresponding frames time are shown beneath each frame

Figure 5: SHTB results for Al-6061-T6 at room

Figure 6: SHTB results for Al-6061 in different high

temperature. Dots on curve correspond to

strain rates at room temperature

high-speed camera frame

The SHTB results for Al-6061-T6 at the various strain rates are shown in Figure 6. Al-6061-T6 shows high ductility
and work hardening after necking. The necking strain is approximately 0.08 to 0.10. The yield stress and failure
strength of Al-6061-T6 are around 300 MPa and 350 MPa. The representative Al-6061-OA SHTB results and all
high strain rate results are shown in Figures 7 and 8. The Al-6061-OA shows lower strength but higher ductility than
that of Al-6061-T6. The yield stress and failure strength of Al-6061-OA are around 220 MPa and 290 MPa. The
necking strain for Al-6061-OA is in the range of 0.11 to 0.13.

Figure 7: SHTB results for Al-6061-OA at room

Figure 8: SHTB results for Al-6061-OA in different high


strain rates at room temperature

SEM micrographs of the Al-6061-OA fracture surface after room temperature SHTB tests are shown in Figure 9.
The fractured Al-6061-T6 specimen has similar appearance. In the fracture surface, there are a lot of microscopic

dimples, indicating that very high levels of local and global plastic deformation occurs as dynamic tension test
proceeds. Some micro-void coalescences (MVC) are observed in the SEM fractographs. The material
demonstrates a highly ductile behavior.

Figure 9: Fracture surface morphologies of Al-6061-OA fractured specimens after room temperature SHTB test
The selected low temperature high-speed photographs and SHTB results of Al-6061-T6 are shown in Figure 10
and 11. At -150C and strain rate 1513 s-1, Al-6061-T6 did not show much change in the dynamic response
compared to those room temperature tests. However, as the temperature drops to 1700C, the true stress vs. true
strain curve shifts up to a much higher level, showing the true yield stress and failure strength of 375 MPa and 500
MPa, respectively. The necking strain increases to 0.17 in the -1700C test temperature experiment. The black dots
shown in high-speed camera frames are frost accumulated around the sample and the bar ends.
Figure 12 shows the low temperature SHTB results of Al-6061-OA. As the temperature decreases from room
temperature (240C) to -200C and -230C, the necking strain and yield stress did not change much. However, as the
temperature decreases to -1700C, the yield stress increases to 280 MPa, while the necking strain changes little.
The work hardening after necking seems have no great dependency with the temperature. The high-speed camera
records of Al-6061-OA in low temperature are similar to their Al-6061-T6 counterparts.


Frame No. 10: 155 s

Start of necking

Frame No. 11: 171 s


Frame No. 13:

203 s

Frame No. 16:


251 s

Figure 10: Selected frames from high-speed camera records for Al-6061-T6 at -170 C (strain rate 1485 s-1).
Corresponding frames time are shown beneath each frame

Figure 11: SHTB results of Al-6061-T6 at low

Figure 12: SHTB results of Al-6061-OA at low

temperature compared with that at room temperature

temperature compared with that at room temperature

In the present study, the quasi-static and dynamic yield and flow behavior of Al-6061-T6 and Al-6061-OA are
investigated under uniaxial tension loading at the test temperatures range from room temperature down to -1700C.
At all strain rates, Al-6061-T6 showed high strength but lower ductility than Al-6061-OA. In the SHTB experiments,
both heat treatments showed slightly positive strain rate sensitivity and high work hardening after necking. As test
temperature decreases, both materials show significant increased tensile strength. The necking strain increases as
strain rate increases and test temperature decreases.
The author would like to acknowledge financial support from the Office of Naval Research grant #
ONR-N0014-03-1-0351 and material supply from ALCOA and Professor H. G. Wadley of the University of Virginia.
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