Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF) technology is a new trend in manufacturing complex geometric structures from metals. This technology allows producing topologically optimized parts for aerospace, medical and industrial sectors where a high performance-to-weight ratio is required. Commonly the feature size for such applications is higher than 300-400 microns. However, for several possible applications of LPBF technology, for example, microfluidic devices, stents for coronary vessels, porous filters, dentistry, etc., a significant increase in the resolution is required. This work is aimed to study the resolution factors of LPBF technology for the manufacturing of superelastic instruments for endodontic treatment, namely Self-Adjusting Files (SAF). Samples of thin walls with different incline angles and SAF samples were manufactured from Nickel-Titanium pre-alloyed powder with a 15-45 μm fraction. The printing procedure was done using an LPBF set-up equipped with a conventional ytterbium fiber laser with a nominal laser spot diameter of 55 microns. The results reveal physical, apparatus, and software factors limiting the resolution of the LPBF technology. Additionally, XRD and DSC tests were done to study the effect of single track based scanning mode manufacturing on the phase composition and phase transformation temperatures. Found combination of optimal process parameters including laser power of 100 W, scanning speed of 850 mm/s, and layer thickness of 20 μm was suitable for manufacturing SAF files with the required resolution. The results will be helpful for the production of NiTi micro objects based on periodic structures both by the LPBF and μLPBF methods.
Keywords: Nickel-Titanium; Nitinol; high resolution; laser powder bed fusion; selective laser melting; self-adjusting files; μLPBF.