Laser powder bed fusion – a 3D printing technique has prospects in the manufacturing industry, especially in the fabrication of nickel-titanium shape memory alloys with complicated geometries. Although the technique is attractive for applications in biomedical and aerospace fields, it has rarely displayed the superelasticity needed for specific use involving nickel-titanium shape memory alloys.
The defects produced and changes imposed onto the material during the 3D-printing process prevented visibility of superelasticity in 3D-printed nickel-titanium.
In a recent development, researchers at Texas A&M University showcased superior tensile superelasticity by creating a shape memory alloy via laser powder bed fusion, which is nearly the double of maximum superelasticity published in literature for 3D printing.
Meanwhile, nickel-titanium shape memory alloys find different applications due to their property to come back to their original shape when heated or upon elimination of applied stress. This makes them suitable for applications in biomedical and aerospace fields for implants, stents, surgical devices, and aircraft wings. However, the development and fabrication of these materials requires deep-rooted research to understand functional properties and examine the microstructure.
Importantly, shape memory alloys are smart materials that can retain their high-temperature shapes, stated the first author of the publication. Although these materials can be used in many ways, fabrication of shape memory alloys into complicated shapes requires fine-tuning for the material to display desired physical properties.
Function-wise, laser powder bed fusion is an additive manufacturing technique. The technique offers a way to produce nickel-titanium shape memory alloys efficiently and effectively, and a pathway for quick manufacturing or prototyping. The layer-by-layer process approach of laser powder bed fusion is beneficial because it can create components with complex geometries which is impossible in traditional manufacturing.