Statement of problem: The effect of heat treatment on the microstructure and mechanical properties of cobalt-chromium (Co-Cr) removable partial denture (RPD) frameworks fabricated by selective laser melting (SLM) is not well understood. Purpose: The purpose of this in vitro study was to evaluate the suitability of SLM-fabricated Co-Cr alloys followed by heat treatment as a framework for RPDs by determining the microstructure and mechanical properties. Material and methods: Dumbbell specimens and RPD frameworks were fabricated by using SLM followed by heat treatment. The effects of the heat treatment on the microstructure were studied by using optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and X-ray diffraction (XRD). Tensile and insertion and removal tests were performed to study the mechanical responses of selective laser melting followed by heat treatment specimens, including the ultimate tensile strength (UTS), 0.2% yield strength (0.2% YS), elongation (E), and retentive forces. Specimens fabricated by using the traditional lost-wax process were used as a control (casting) group. Results: X-ray diffraction indicated that the γ-face-centered cubic phase dominated SLM and selective laser melting followed by heat treatment specimens. Results from optical microscopy and SEM showed microstructural changes under different fabrication and postprocessing heat treatments; it was difficult to observe the grain boundary in the SLM group, whereas submicrometer-scale grains had formed in the selective laser melting followed by heat treatment group. The selective laser melting followed by heat treatment group exhibited the highest elongation and retentive forces compared with the casting and SLM groups. Conclusions: SLM increased the mechanical properties of Co-Cr alloys. Postprocessing heat treatment further enhanced the tensile ductility. It is suggested that SLM followed by heat treatment is an efficient strategy for fabricating RPD frameworks.
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