The effects of variations in composition on the decomposition process in Al-Zn-Mg-Cu alloys (i.e. - 7xxx-series aluminum alloy) were studied emphasizing their effect on mechanical properties. Several experimental quaternary alloys were studied to compare their behavior with commercial 7xxx-series alloys. The investigation included studies on the effects of natural aging, artificial aging, quench sensitivity, precipitate free zone formation, and homogenization. Additionally, "true aging" curves (i.e. - hardness/strength vs. conductivity) were presented in order to visualize and quantify the entire precipitation process. It is obvious that fluctuations in the main alloying elements/processing parameters can alter the precipitation process, but the purpose of this work was to quantify those changes using standard industrial techniques. It was found that natural aging was detrimental for strength in the T6 temper for alloys containing more than 1.0 wt.% Cu, and was shown to alter the coarsening kinetics in the over-aged condition (T7). Conversely, for alloys with Cu contents less than 0.5% natural aging was shown to be beneficial for strength. Altering the Zn:Mg ratio was also shown to effect natural aging response of an alloy in addition to introducing additional precipitation processes (T-phase). Therefore, this work is a blueprint for advanced alloy manufacturing that allows for the rapid production of new alloys and tempers by narrowing the research focus depending on an alloy's composition.
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