Microstructure and phase transformation of nickel-titanium shape memory alloy fabricated by directed energy deposition with in-situ heat treatment
Additive manufacturing has been vastly applied to fabricate various structures of nickel-titanium (NiTi) shape memory alloys due to its flexibility to create complex structures with minimal defects. However, the microstructure heterogeneity and secondary phase formation are two main problems that impede the further application of NiTi alloys. Although post-heat treatment is usually adopted to improve or manipulate NiTi alloy properties, it cannot realize the spatial control of thermal and/or mechanical properties of NiTi alloys. To overcome the limitations of uniform post-heat treatment, this study proposes an in-situ heat treatment strategy that is integrated into the directed energy deposition of NiTi alloys. The proposed method will potentially lead to new manufacturing capabilities to achieve location-dependent performance or property manipulation. The influences of in-situ heat treatment on the thermal and mechanical properties of printed NiTi structures were investigated. The investigations were carried out in terms of thermal cycling, microstructure evolution, and mechanical properties by 3D finite element simulations and experimental characterizations. A low-power laser beam was adopted to localize the in-situ heat treatment only to the current printed layer, facilitating a reverse peritectic reaction and a transient high solution treatment successively. The proposed in-situ heat treatment on the specimen results in a more obvious phase transformation peak in the differential scanning calorimetry curves, about 50%~70% volume reduction for the Ti2Ni phase, and approximately 35 HV reduction on microhardness.