Shape memory alloys can be defined as alloys that get back to their original shape when deformed. These alloys are light weight and are alternatives to conventional actuators such as pneumatic, motor-based, hydraulic systems. Actuators can be defined as materials that can change stiffness, natural frequency, shape, position, and other mechanical properties in response to electromagnetic fields or temperature. The potential uses of shape memory alloys as actuators has broadened the spectrum of various scientific fields. First discovered in 1951, these alloys were publicized after the discovery of the nickel-titanium alloy in 1963. Nickel-titanium alloy or Nitinol is the most successful of all shape memory alloys. Other shape memory alloys include copper-zinc-aluminum, iron-manganese-silicon, and copper-aluminum-nickel alloys. Shape memory alloys have two stable phases: the high temperature phase called austenite, and low temperature phase called martensite. The former is symmetric, while the latter is less symmetric. Phase transformation occurs either mechanically or thermally.
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Usage of these alloys in diverse applications has made them important and visible to the world. Shape memory alloys are employed in automotive, biomedical, robotics, and aerospace applications. They are also used in numerous other applications in bioengineering fields such as dental wires, reinforcements for arteries and veins, and bones reinforcement. Furthermore, shape memory alloys are employed in fire security and protection systems, anti-scalding protection, and manufacture of golf clubs, helicopter blades, eyeglass frames, tubes, wires, and ribbons. Based on application, the market for shape memory alloys can be segmented into automotive, robotics, aerospace, telecommunication, civil structures, medicine, and others. The medicine segment can be further divided into optometry, orthopedic surgery, dentistry, and others.
The market for shape memory alloys is anticipated to witness significant growth during the forecast period owing to the large number of applications in various end-user industries. Application of these alloys in safety devices such as anti-scalding and fire sprinklers is expected to boost the market in the near future. Anti-scalding valves made from these alloys can be used in water faucets and shower heads, as they automatically shut off the water flow after a certain temperature. Delay in response time is the primary disadvantage of shape memory alloy based fire sprinklers.
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The aerospace application segment accounted for significant share of the shape memory alloys market in 2016. It is anticipated to continue its leading position during the forecast period. Shape memory alloys are employed in aerospace applications owing to their beneficial properties such as wear resistance, high mechanical strength, light weight, fatigue resistance, and high elasticity. However, certain factors are estimated to hamper the shape memory alloys market during the forecast period. High cost of these alloys and sensitivity of the material properties during fabrication are the restraining factors of the market.