Effect of PFM Firing Cycles on the Mechanical Properties, Phase Composition, and Microstructure of Nickel-Chromium Alloy

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Abstract

Purpose:

The purpose of this study was to compare the mechanical properties of beryllium-free nickel-chromium (Ni-Cr) dental casting alloy before and after each porcelain firing cycle (once fired, twice fired, and thrice fired) and to relate these properties to the microstructural changes and changes in X-ray diffraction patterns of Ni-Cr alloy that occur after each porcelain firing cycle.

Material and methods:

Forty tensile bar specimens and 20 disc-shaped specimens of Ni-Cr alloy were prepared. These specimens were divided into four groups. The first group was not heat treated and tested in the as-cast condition, thus serving as control group. The second, third, and fourth groups were fired once, twice, and thrice, respectively. Tensile bar specimens were loaded to failure in tension using a universal testing machine. Values of ultimate tensile strength, 0.1% yield strength, and percentage elongations were determined. Microstructural study and hardness testing were done using an optical microscope and digital Vickers hardness tester, respectively, on disc-shaped specimens. Disc-shaped specimens were again used to obtain the X-ray diffraction patterns by using diffractometer Bruker D8 focus. Statistical comparisons of the mechanical properties and hardness of the alloy were made with ANOVA. Intergroup comparisons of the data in the as-cast and fired specimens were analyzed by applying Tukey's HSD multiple comparison tests.

Results:

Before porcelain firing, the alloy exhibited higher ultimate tensile strength (548 MPa), 0.1% yield strength (327 MPa), hardness (192 HV), and lower elongation values (18%). After each firing cycle, there was a significant (p < 0.001) decrease in ultimate strength (464 MPa for three times fired specimens), 0.1% yield strength (284 MPa for three times fired group), and hardness (164 HV for three times fired group) and significant (p < 0.001) increase in elongation value (28% for three times fired group) of Ni-Cr alloy. The microstructure of the control group specimen exhibited heterogeneous microstructure, and after each firing, microstructure of the alloy was gradually homogenized by formation of grain boundaries at the interdendritic interfaces. X-ray diffraction pattern shows that the alloy exhibited four strong diffraction peaks within the range of 2Θ = 40° to 100°. After a third firing, intensity of these planes increased.

Conclusions:

Results of this study confirmed that nickel-based alloys become weaker after each firing process. After firing treatment, the microstructure of alloys showed decreased dendritic structure (i.e., homogenization, which was responsible for decrease in strength and an increase in ductility of the alloy); however, this decreased strength and hardness of Ni-Cr alloy after heat treatment was still superior to those of the most noble metal alloys used in dentistry. X-ray diffraction study showed that firing process led to relieving of stresses, which ultimately resulted in stability in the crystal structure of alloy.

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