Supplementary information accompanies this paper at https://doi.org/10.1186/s10033-020-00448-0.
Selective laser melting (SLM) is an emerging additive manufacturing technology for fabricating aluminum alloys and aluminum matrix composites. Nevertheless, it remains unclear how to improve the properties of laser manufactured aluminum alloy by adding ceramic reinforcing particles. Here the effect of trace addition of TiB2 ceramic (1% weight fraction) on microstructural and mechanical properties of SLM-produced AlSi10Mg composite parts was investigated. The densification level increased with increasing laser power and decreasing scan speed. A near fully dense composite part (99.37%) with smooth surface morphology and elevated inter-layer bonding was successfully obtained. A decrease of lattice plane distance was identified by X-ray diffraction with the laser scan speed decreased, which implied that the crystal lattices were distorted due to the dissolution of Si and TiB2 particles. A homogeneous composite microstructure with the distribution of surface-smoothened TiB2 particles was present, and a small amount of Si particles precipitated at the interface between reinforcing particles and matrix. In contrast to the AlSi10Mg alloy, the composites showed a stabilized microhardness distribution. A higher ultimate tensile strength of 380.0 MPa, yield strength of 250.4 MPa and elongation of 3.43% were obtained even with a trace amount of ceramic addition. The improvement of tensile properties can be attributed to multiple mechanisms including solid solution strengthening, load-bearing strengthening and dispersion strengthening. This research provides a theoretical basis for ceramic reinforced aluminum matrix composites by additive manufacturing.