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American Journal of ORTHODONTICS

Volume 81 Number 6 June, 1985

Founded in 1915
Copyright

0 1985 by The C. V. Mosby Company

ORIGINAL

Chinese NiTi wire-d

new orthodontic alloy

Charles J. Burstone, D.D.S., MS.,* Bai Qin, MS.,** and


John Y. Morton, B.S.*
Farmington,

Corm., and Beijing,

ARTICLES

Dr. Burstone

China

Chinese NiTi wire was studied by means of a bending test to determine wire stiffness, springback, and maximum
bending moments. Chinese NiTi wire has an unusual deactivation curve (unlike steel and nitinol wires) in which
relatively constant forces are produced over a long range of action. The characteristic flexural stiffness of
NiTi wire is determined by the amount of activation. At large activations NiTi wires has a stiffness of only 7% that
of a comparable stainless steel wire, and at small activations 28% of steel wire. For the same activation at
large deflections, the forces produced are 38% that of a comparable nitinol wire. Chinese NiTi wire demonstrates
phenomenal springback. It can be deflected 1.8 times as far as nitinol wire or 4.4 times as far as stainless
steel wire without appreciable permanent deformation. NiTi wire is highly useful in clinical situations that require a
low-stiffness wire with an extremely large springback.

Key words: Nickel, titanium, stiffness, bending moment, springback

he first nickel-titanium orthodontic alloys


were introduced to the profession by Andreasen. They
are known as Nitinol wirest and are based on the original research of Buehler,, 3 who developed specialized
nickel-titanium alloys that have unique shape-memory
characteristics. Although Andreasen has suggested that
the shape-memory effect of nitinol wire could be useful
and has carried out experimentation to demonstrate this
possibility, nitinol wire has won wide clinical acceptance because of its high springback and its low stiffness, rather than its thermal characteristics.4.
A new nickel-titanium alloy has been developed
especially for orthodontic applications by Dr. Tien Hua
Cheng and associates at the General Research Institute
for Non-Ferrous Metals in Beijing, China. This alloy
This research was supported by NIHiNIDR
Grant DE023953.
*Department of Orthodontics.
School of Dental Medicine, University
necticut Health Center.
**Beijing Medical College, Beijing, China.
Wnitek, Monrovia, Calif.

of Con-

has unique characteristics and offers significant potential in the design of orthodontic appliances. Its history
of little work hardening and a parent phase which is
austenite yield mechanical properties that differ significantly from nitinol wire. In addition, Chinese NiTi
wire has a much lower transition temperature than
nitinol wire.
It is the purpose of this article to describe the mechanical properties of Chinese NiTi wire with particular
reference to its orthodontic applications. Since stainless
steel is the most commonly used arch wire material,
NiTi wire will be compared to both stainless steel and
nitinol wires in contrasting their mechanical properties.
METHOD

Nominal 0.016-inch stainless steel,* nitinol, and


Chinese NiTi wires were submitted to a flexural test
using a cantilever configuration. A torque gauge ap*Unitek,

Monrovia,

Calif.

445

446

Burstone,

Qin, and Morton

Fig. 2. Bending moment/deflection characteristics of stainless


steel, nitinol, and NiTi wires. Both loading (activation) and unloading (deactivation) curves are shown. NiTi wire produces
lower moments and forces than nitinol wire.

To establish the moment of yield, wires were cycled


through a loading and unloading sequence until 1 of
permanent deformation was recorded.
RESULTS
Fig. 1. Apparatus for cantilever bending test. Force is always
normal to the free end of the wire. The torque gauge measures
the moment. The magnitude of the activation is measured by
the protractor.

paratus was used to apply an angular deflection to the


wires at the fixed ends. The angular deflection of the
wires at this support was measured with a protractor.
The couple necessary to create the angular displacement
was measured by the torque gauge. The couple was
resisted by a force at the free end through an anvil
placed against the wires. The force remained normal to
the wires throughout the range of activation. The apparatus is shown in Fig. 1. Two torque gauges were
used, depending on the magnitude of the moments to
be recorded. Ranges were 0 to 800 gm-mm and 0 to
6,000 gm-mm with an accuracy of 2% of full scale.
The low stiffness of the wires required a .5-mm span
length instead of the IO-mm span used in a previous
study.6 Angular displacements to 80 were used. For
each data point of the curve, at least three separate
wires were measured. At critical points of the loading
and unloading curve-particularly
where a marked
change in slope would occur-up to eleven separate
wires were measured to further define the shape of the
curve.
The basic study was carried out with instantaneous
loading at room temperature. In addition, in a similar
study the temperature was varied. Temperatures of
22 C, 37 C (mouth temperature), and 60 C were
used. Time-dependent effects were also studied.

It is useful to compare the properties of the Chinese


NiTi wire with both stainless steel and nitinol wires.
Three wire characteristics will be described: (1) the
springback (the range of action of the wire), (2) stiffness
(the force or moment produced for each unit activation),
and (3) the maximum moment (the largest bending couple that a wire is capable of delivering).
Springback

The moment deflection characteristics of the stainless steel, nitinol, and Chinese NiTi wires are shown
in Fig. 2. The amount of springback is defined here as
the difference between the deflection (activation) of 80
and the residual deformation after unloading to 0 gmmm. Based on the 80 activation, the springbacks for
0.016 inch wires are 16 for steel, 52 for nitinol, and
73 for Chinese NiTi. Chinese NiTi wire has 1.4 times
the springback of nitinol wire and 4.6 times the springback of stainless steel wire for 80 of activation; at 40
of activation NiTi wire has 1.6 times the springback of
nitinol wire.
Stiffness

A bending test was used to evaluate the momentangular deflection characteristic of the wires. The stiffness was determined from the unloading curve, which
is analogous to clinical use.
The clinician is interested in the amount of force or
moment produced for any given deflection. This property of the material is its stiffness. In this study stiffness
is measured as induced bending moment per degree of

Volume 87
Number 6

Chinese NiTi wire

----

447

Daactiallc.

mooL
E
E

ISOO-

d
E
E

I IOOO@
5
s
SW-

20

40

60

Fig. 3. Activation and deactivation curves for nitinol wire. The


average unloading stiffness (straight line fit by linear regression)
is the same for all activations.

deflection. Stainless steel and beta-titanium exhibit approximately linear relations between moment and deflection during unloading; hence, a single constant can
describe the relationship.
The nickel-titanium alloys, particularly NiTi, exhibit nonlinear relationships between bending moment
and angular deflection. Therefore, a single constant
does not give an adequate measure of wire stiffness.
In Fig. 2 the loading (activation) curve is shown
for stainless steel wire, with an initial linear and a
nonlinear portion. As the wire returns to a passive position, the unloading relation is a curve. The curvature
is slight and, therefore, a straight line may be fit, to the
data. A straight line established by connecting the data
point at 80 with the unloaded point at 0 gm-mm or by
linear regression gives approximately the same stiffness
of 191 gm-mm per degree. As might be expected for
steel wire, the same deactivation stiffness is obtained
independent of the amount of activation produced.
Nitinol wire has a much lower deactivation stiffness
than stainless steel wire (Fig. 2). The average stiffness
from full load to the point of complete unloading is 39
gm-mm per degree. The average stiffness can be obtained by connecting the point of maximum loading
with the point of complete unloading or by carrying out
a linear regression of all points on the unloading curve.
As with steel either method gives approximately the
same result. It should be noticed that the unloading
curve for nitinol wire is less linear than that for steel
wire. The average stiffness may be somewhat misleading because the stiffness between the deflection at
80 to deactivation at 70 is 72 gm-mm per degree; the
stiffness from 40 to complete deactivation is 20 gmmm per degree; and the intermediate stiffness between
40 and 70 is 39 gm-mm per degree. It can also be

40

Fig. 4. Comparison of NiTi and Respond wires. Note unusual


unloading curve for NiTi wire. The average stiffness in the middle range of deactivation for NiTi wire is the same as Respond
wire. The moment level is higher.

40

60

Fig. 5. Activation and deactivation curves for NiTi wire. Unlike


the stainless steel and nitinol wires, unloading curves change
at different activations.

seen from Fig. 3 that the average unloading stiffnesses


for different activations from 25 to 80 are approximately the same if represented by a straight-line fit.
These average stiffnesses represented by the straight
line can be useful in describing the stiffness of nitinol
wire. The stiffness of the wire will vary from this line
primarily in the range of initial deactivation and final
deactivation with fairly good predictive values for the
middle range of deactivation.
The stiffness pattern for Chinese NiTi wire differs
significantly from stainless steel and nitinol wires. In
Fig. 4 the loading curve begins as a straight line and
the wire exhibits linear elastic behavior. At 10 the slope
of the line changes and continues as a straight line to
80. The unloading curve (which has more clinical significance) is particularly unusual. Initially, the moment
drops very rapidly during unloading. This is followed
by a long range of deactivation whereby a relatively
constant moment is produced. Finally, just before total

448

But-stone, Qin, and Morton

Am.

Onhod.
Junr 1985

.I.

Table 1.Moments at yield (based on 1 permanent


deformation)
Wire
Stainless
steel, 0.016
inch
Nitinol, 0.016
inch
Chinese NiTi,
0.016 inch

Fig. 6. Comparison of average NiTi wire stiffness at activations


from 80 to 5 from unloading curves shown in Fig. 5. Stiffness
increases 3.8 times from the largest to the smallest activations.

Fig. 7. Activation (original 80) and reactivation (to 40) curves


for NiTi wire. The moment decreases to 383 gm-mm after 40
of deactivation. If the wire is untied and retied into a bracket
(reactivation), the moment increases to 700 gm-mm.

deactivation, the stiffness increases as the moment values drop rapidly. For 80 of activation the average stiffness (based on a linear regression) is 14 gm-mm per
degree-only 36% that of nitinol wire. For the first 5
of unloading the stiffness is 61 gm-mm per degree, and
for the final 8 of unloading it is 27 gm-mm per degree.
The unloading stiffness in the middle range from 15
to 75 is 11 gm-mm per degree. Thus, through most of
the range of deactivation, the stiffness of the Chinese
Niti wire is about 11 gm-mm per degree. The loading
characteristic of a stainless steel braided wire (Respond,* 0.0155 inch) is also shown in Fig. 4. Although
the braided wire also has an average slope of 11 gmmm per degree, the clinical force system delivered
would be entirely different. During unloading the moments produced by the braided wire are much smaller.
*ORMCO,

Glendora,

Calif.

M)Cld
I

Degrees oj
activation

(gm-mm)

SD

1,400

27

97.5

69

25

805

24

40

Although the moments would decrease at a rate equivalent to that of NiTi wire, they would be delivered at
very low force levels. Note that the moment produced
at 80 of activation with the Respond wire is approximately one half that of the NiTi wire.
With the steel and nitinol wires, the average unloading stiffness is the same regardless of the amount
of activation. This is not true for Chinese NiTi wire.
Fig. 5 shows the loading and unloading curves for activations between 5 and 80. Fig. 6 plots the average
stiffness (using linear regression) for activations of 5
to 80. The average stiffness varies from 53 gm-mm
per degree at 5 to 14 gm-mm per degree at So. For
activations of 10 or less, the unloading curve and the
loading curve are identical. Because linear behavior is
occurring, use of a modulus of elasticity (E) in this
range is valid for predicting forces or moments.
The change in stiffness among different activations
is related to another clinically interesting finding;
namely, that the magnitude of force increases if a wire
is retied into a bracket. If one were to use a stainless
steel or nitinol wire, a certain amount of force would
be produced if one engaged an arch wire into a given
bracket. If the tooth moved toward the arch wire, and
the clinician then untied the wire and retied it, the force
would be the same after retying. This would not be true
with the Chinese NiTi wire. Following an 80 activation, if a tooth moved to the 40 position, 380 gm-mm
would remain (Fig. 7). If the wire is then untied and
retied, a higher moment (700 gm-mm) is producedalmost twice the moment as is produced when the wire
is left in place. As the wire continues to deactivate, the
moment produced by the twice-activated wire approaches the moment from a single activation.
Accurate prediction of orthodontic forces from NiTi
wire is difficult because considerable nonlinearity occurs during deactivation and stiffness depends on the
degree of activation. The average stiffness values for
the NiTi wire given in this article are based on the linear
regression method. A straight line connecting points

Chinese NiTi wire

Volume 87
Number 6

449

Table II. Moments and springback at 80 deflection


Wire
Stainless steel,
0.016 inch
Nitinol, 0.016
inch
Chinese NiTi,
0.016 inch

3,067

29

64

16

20

2,112

38

28

52

65

1,233

29

13

91

The maximum moment

Varying types of tooth movement require the delivery of different magnitudes of force. Unless an orthodontic wire is capable of delivering an adequate moment
before permanently deforming, it may not be satisfactory for a given application. It has been suggested previously that two maximum moments should be considered-the point of yield measured at 1 of permanent
deformation (M,) and the highest moment produced
after considerable yielding (M,,,).6 In this study the moment for stainless steel at 1 of permanent deformation
(M,) was found at 9 of activation and its magnitude
was 1,400 gm-mm (Table I). The nitinol wire exhibited
M, at 25 with a moment value of 975 gm-mm and the
Chinese NiTi wire. at 40 with 805 gm-mm. The ultimate moment (M,,J, which occurs after considerable
permanent deformation, is somewhat easier to establish
with stainless steel wires. M,it occurs where the change
of the slope of the loading curve becomes minimum or
when an increase in deflection produces little or no
increase in the measured moment. This ultimate moment is much more difficult to determine with nitinol
and NiTi wires because the geometry of loading
changes with the large deflections required. Therefore,
for convenience, we have used the moment produced
at 80 of activation instead of the maximum ultimate
moment that can be produced by the wire. At 80 the
ultimate moments produced were: 3,067 gm-mm for
stainless steel wire, 2112 gm-mm for Nitinol wire, and
1,233 gm-mm for Chinese NiTi wire. As shown in
Table II, these values should be taken in the context of
the amount of permanent deformation produced in the
wire. Although the stainless steel wire delivers 3,067
gm-mm, the percent of the recovery of the wire is only
20%.* The nitinol wire at 2,112 gm-mm has a 65%
Springback
= ~
Activation

Springback
(degrees)

SD

from the beginning to the end of the unloading curve


gives a slightly higher stiffness. The overall conclusions
remain the same.

*Percent recovery

Permanent
deformation
(degrees)

Moment
(gm-mm)

x loo.

% Recovery

recovery. The Chinese NiTi wire has a recovery of 91%


for 1,233 gm-mm. Thus, the NiTi wire, in comparison
to other wires, has a wide range of useful springback
beyond the point where initial permanent deformation
is observed.
Temperature-dependent

effects

The mechanical properties of stainless steel do not


vary at the temperatures commonly used for clinical
purposes. Nitinol wires show negligible differences in
stiffness or springback between room temperature and
mouth temperature (Fig. 8). Chinese NiTi wire, on the
other hand, exhibits some small differences at varying
temperatures because material components have lower
transition temperatures. In Fig. 9 the stiffness is approximately the same between room temperature at
22 C and mouth temperature at 37 C. At a temperature
of 60 C, the loading curve is slightly higher and the
unloading curve loses its S shape and exhibits greater
permanent deformation and less springback. Since the
wire is normally used between room temperature and
mouth temperature, these temperature-dependent effects are clinically insignificant.
Time-dependent

effects

Stainless steel wires are resistant to additional permanent deformation that occurs with time. Some stress
relaxation may occur, but the effects are not significant.
The 0.016-inch stainless steel, nitinol, and Chinese
NiTi wires were engaged in brackets placed interproximally 3 mm apart with a 6.5 mm occlusogingival discrepancy between the center bracket and the adjacent
ones (Fig. 10). The wires remained tied in for periods
of 1 minute, 1 hour, and 72 hours. It should be noted
that, over 1 minute, the Chinese NiTi wire deformed
a limited amount, compared to the nitinol and stainless
steel wires which deformed considerably. Furthermore,
the nitinol wire continued to show a time-dependent
deformation past the initial 5 minutes. This has been
reported previously. Although NiTi wires show some
time-dependent effects, these are insignificant at room
temperature.

450 Burstone, Qin, and Morton

Am. J. Orthod.
June 1985

Flg. 9. Effect of temperatures on the mechanical properties of


Fig. 9. Effect of temperature on the mechanical properties of
nitinoi wire. Negligible increases in stiffness occur with rising
temperatures.

Clinical significance

and discussion

Because of its high range of action or springback,


Chinese NiTi wire is applicable in situations where
large deflections are required. Applications include
straight-wire procedures when teeth are badly malaligned and in appliances designed to deliver constant
forces during major stages of tooth movement. The
amount of deformation without notable permanent set
is remarkable-4.4 times that of the stainless steel wire
and 1.6 times that of the nitinol wire (based on 1 of
permanent deformation). I-6
Achievement of relatively constant forces has been
obtained traditionally by lowering the load-deflection
rate of the orthodontic appliance. This has been accomplished by configurational design; for instance, placing
helices or additional wire in the appliance. The newer
wire materials such as those used in nitinol and TMA*
reduce the load-deflection rate without a large reduction
in the maximum moment. This is caused by their excellent ratios between yield strength and modulus of
elasticity. Another approach is possible with Chinese
NiTi wire because of its unusual loading-unloading
curve. In the middle range of unloading, the load-deflection rate is low. The higher stiffness found in the
NiTi wire during the final stage of unloading helps
assure that not only are the forces delivered at a more
constant rate, but a higher magnitude of force level is
maintained. One might compare the NiTi and the Respond wires as they are charted in Fig. 4. If given the
full 80 activation, then each wire was allowed to relax
to 70. The NiTi wire at 70 would deliver 800 gmmm and the Respond wire would deliver 439 gm-mm*ORMCO,

Glendora,

Calif.

NiTi wire. Very small reduction in springback at mouth temperature. Higher temperature (So0 C) reduces springback and increases stiffness. Higher temperatures are beyond usual clinical
range.

approximately one half of the moment. Nevertheless,


from this point on, with continued unloading, the stiffness of the wires would be the same. Thus, the NiTi
wire in its middle range of deactivation could deliver
a higher level of force than a given braided wire, although both deliver equivalently constant forces for the
same activation.
The moment at yield of the NiTi wire, although
lower than that of the stainless steel wire, is comparable
to the nitinol wire and considerably higher than what
would be available in braided steel wires of comparable
stiffness. The ultimate maximum moment of the nitinol
wire is much higher than that of the NiTi wire. This
may or may not be advantageous since, at these levels,
nitinol wire exhibits much permanent deformation.
The prediction of force magnitudes delivered by
Chinese NiTi wire is more difficult than with other
alloys when the modulus of elasticity can be used with
appropriate formulas.8 Nitinol wires unloading characteristic is somewhat problematic because of its nonlinearity. Nevertheless, a linear regression line for the
unloading curve could approximate the force conditions
during clinical use, recognizing the inherent inaccuracy.
Chinese NiTi wire is even more problematic because
the unloading curve is complex and the stiffness depends upon the amount of activation. If one used the
linear regression lines from the bending data to determine the stiffness, the stiffness of a 0.016-inch NiTi
wire at large activations (80) would be 7% that of
stainless steel wire; however, the wire stiffness for a
small activation (10) would be 28% that of stainless
steel wire (Fig. 11). In other words, for a small activation NiTi wire would feel more like a 0.015inch
nitinol wire, and for a large activation it would have

Volume 87
Number 6

Chinese NiTi wire

c
Fig. 10. Time dependent effects. A, The 0.016~inch wires placed into three brackets. B, The shape of
the wires after removal. Top row-stainless
steel wire, middle row-nitinol
wire, bottom row-NiTi
wire:A, 1 minute. S, 1 hour. C, 3 days. Note small amount of permanent deformation of NiTi wire and
its increasing deformation over time with nitinol wire.

the stiffness of a 0.008-inch stainless steel wire. In the


future, if NiTi wire is used for calibrated appliances
with known dimensions and activations, the actual force
system can be determined experimentally and, therefore, the problems of force prediction can easily be
resolved.
It has been shown that there is a force difference if
the appliance is left in place throughout the deactivation
or if it is removed and retied. The clinician should be
aware of this characteristic and should design his treatment accordingly. If no change is desired in the magnitude of a force, it is better to leave a wire in place.
On the other hand, if it is thought that the force levels
have dropped too low for a given type of tooth movement, then the simple act of untying and retying can
increase the magnitude of the force.
The potenial uses of NiTi are many inasmuch as it
offers a low-stiffness and high-springback wire for tooth
alignment. In addition, if larger cross sections are used,
they are capable of delivering the larger moments required for major tooth movement, such as root movement and translation.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

The new nickel-titanium alloy (Chinese Niti wire)


described here has the following unique mechanical
properties:
1. The wire has a springback that is 4.4 times that
of comparable stainless steel wire and 1.6 times that of
nitinol wire, if springback is measured at yield based
on a S-mm span cantilever test.

Wire Stiffness
for
Identical
Cross Sections
Reference Stiffness
(s.s.) = 1.0

1.0

0.8

0.6

a4

a2

~
S.S.

Nitinol

NiTi
(small

N iTi
A)

(large

Respond
A)

Fig. 11. Comparison of NiTi wire stiffness to that of wires composed of other materials. Stainless steel has a stiffness number
of 1 .O. At small deflections NiTi wire delivers 0.28 x the force
of steel. At large deflections only 0.07 x the force of steel is
delivered for the same activation.

2. At 80 of activation the average stiffness of


Chinese NiTi wire is 73% that of stainless steel wire
and 36% that of nitinol wire.
3. The unusual nonlinear loading curve builds into
the NiTi wire a constant force mechanism in the middle
range of deactivation. This is potentially a significant
design feature for constant-force appliances.
4. Unlike wires of other orthodontic alloys, the
characteristic stiffness is determined by the amount of

452

Burstone,

Qin, and Morton

activation. The load-deformation rate at small activations is considerably higher than that at large activations.
5. NiTi wire deformation is not particularly timedependent and, unlike nitinol wire, will not continue
to deform a significant amount in the mouth between
adjustments.
6. Chinese NiTi wire is highly suitable if low stiffness is required and large deflections are needed. Its
higher stiffness at small activations make it more effective than wires of traditional alloys whose force levels may be too low (as teeth approach the passive shape
of the wire).

3. Buehler WJ, Gilfrick


JV, Wiley RC: Effects of low temperature
phase changes on the mechanical
properties
of alloys-near
composition TiNi. J Appl Physics 34: 1475-1484,
1963.
4. Andreasen
GF, Bigelow H, Andrews
JG: 55 Nitinol wire: force
developed as a function of elastic memory
Aust Dent J 24: 146.
149, 1979.
5. Andreasen
GF, Montagano
L, Krell D: An investigation
of linear
dimensional
changes as a function of temperature
in an 0.010 inch
%obalt-substituted
annealed nitinol alloy wire. AM .I ORTHOD 82:
469-472,
1982.
forces and deflections from
6. Burstone CJ, Goldberg AJ: Maximum
orthodontic
appliances.
AM J ORTHOD 4: 95-103,
1983.
7. Lopez I, Goldberg
AJ, Burstone CJ: Bending characteristics
of
nitinol wire. AM J ORTHOD 75: 569-574,
1979.
AM J ORTHOD 80:
8. Burstone CJ: Variable modulus orthodontics.
l-16, 1981.

REFERENCES
1. Andreasen
GF, Hilleman TB: An evaluation
of 5.5 cobalt substituted nitinol wire for use in orthodontics.
J Am Dent Assoc 82:
1373-1375,
1971.
2. Buehler WJ: Proceedings
of 7th Navy Science (ONR-16
Office
of Technical
Services,
US Department
of Commerce,
Washington, DC). Vol. 1, unclassified,
1963.

Reprint

requests

to:

Dr. Charles J. Burstone


Department
of Orthodontics
University
of Connecticut
School of Dental Medicine
Farmington,
CT 06032

Health

Center

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