2018 Volume 58 Issue 7 Pages 1341-1350
Quenching and Partitioning (Q&P) has been proposed as a novel heat treatment to produce cold rolled sheets with excellent strength and sufficient formability for cold stamping. The impact of Q&P processing on microstructure and tensile properties has been extensively studied in contrast to the lower attention devoted to its effect on stretch-flange-formability. In this study, the stretch-flange-formability of Q&P microstructures is investigated by means of hole expansion tests carried out on punched holes. The balance between tensile properties and hole expansion ratios (HER) is discussed and compared to three model microstructures: biphasic dual-phase (DP), single phase quenched & tempered (Q&T) and quenched & austempered (QAT). It is shown that Q&P microstructures exhibit a better combination of tensile ductility and stretch-flange-formability than fully martensitic (excellent HER but poor tensile ductility) and austempered microstructures (good ductility but poor HER). The study of the impact of the Q&P parameters demonstrates that stretch-flange-formability is further promoted by choosing low quench temperatures and long partitioning times. The hole expansion properties are linked to the hardness gradients in the microstructure, evaluated by nanohardness mapping. The narrower nanohardness distribution in the Q&P microstructure leads to better hole expansion ratios compared to bainitic microstructures obtained by austempering, where the presence of hard M/A blocks is unavoidable.