Metal injection molding (MIM) in the United States is growing at a rate of 10 to 15 percent this year, according to a recent economics report from Richard Pfingstler, president of the Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF). In comparison, the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) is forecast to grow about 2.4 per cent this year.
The injection molding of powder metal remains a niche industry, but one with increasing importance because of heightened awareness of the technology’s ability to consolidate metal assemblies and provide precise tolerances. The automotive market is particularly interested in MIM parts for fuel injection and turbocharger applications. More MIM parts are expected in the next generation of aircraft engines as well. Other important markets are firearms, medical/dental, and electronics.
According to the MPIF report, MIM-grade powder shipments last year increased to a range of 2.5 to 3.2 million pounds, with an estimated value of $300 to $350 million. The MPIF estimates that there are about 70 companies molding powder metal in the United States. Eighteen of them are captive operations.
In another interesting insight from the MPIF report, the hot isostatic pressing (HIP) of MIM parts has emerged as a significant trend. HIP densifies MIM parts, making them stronger. More than half of the action is in firearms and medical parts. One example of a medical part is a set of jaws for surgical instruments.
Growing use of additive manufacturing (AM) of metal parts is also sure to boost the demand for the HIP process for more robust applications. There are an estimated 100 to 200 metal AM printers in the U.S.