Nitinol (nickel-titanium or Ni-Ti) is the most utilized shape memory alloy due to its good superelasticity, shape memory effect, low stiffness, damping, biocompatibility, and corrosion resistance. Various material characteristics, such as sensitivity to composition and production thermal gradients, make conventional methods ineffective for the manufacture of high quality complex Nitinol components. These issues can be resolved by modern additive manufacturing (AM) methods which can produce net or near-net shape parts with highly precise and complex Nitinol structures. Compared to Laser Engineered Net Shape (LENS), Selective Laser Melting (SLM) has the benefit of more easily creating a high quality local inert atmosphere which protects chemically-reactive Nitinol powders to a higher degree. In this paper, the most recent publications related to the SLM processing of Nitinol are reviewed to identify the various influential factors involved and process-related issues. It is reported how powder quality and material composition have a significant effect on the produced microstructures and phase transformations. The effect of heat treatments after SLM fabrication on the functional and mechanical properties are noted. Optimization of several operating parameters were found to be critical in fabricating Nitinol parts of high density. The importance of processing parameters and related thermal cooling gradient which are crucial for obtaining the correct phase structure for shape memory capabilities are also presented. The paper concludes by presenting the significant findings and areas of prospective future research in relation to the SLM processing of Nitinol.
Keywords: Nitinol; heat treatment; microstructure; operation parameters; phase transformation; shape memory; superelastic.