While the domestic firearms market declined in 2015, new applications are emerging for metal injection molded (MIM) parts.
One example is a front sight base used on the controversial AR-15 rifle. The MIM-4605 low-alloy steel part is much larger than the typical MIM part and has a complex geometry. The switch from a part machined from bar stock to the MIM part resulted in savings of more than 30 percent.
It won the Grand Prize in the Aerospace/Military Category in the recently announced winners in the annual awards program held by the Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF). The molder is Advanced Forming Technology, an ARC Group Worldwide Company based in Longmont, Colorado. AFT has electric, hydraulic and hybrid machines that range from 17 to 106 tons of clamping force and produce injection capacities up to 185 g.
According to the MPIF annual report on business conditions, the decline in the firearms market began during late 2014. Firearms represented 21 per cent of MIM demand (determined by cumulative part weight) in 2015, down from previous years.
The MPIF report stated: “Knowledgeable observers forecast the market increasing in 2016 to a more normal growth pattern, or possibly spiking again. Recent mass-casualty shootings in North America have impacted firearms sales as citizens seek personal protection options and react to proposed tougher gun controls. Overall, the majority of members of the Metal Injection Molding Association (MIMA) forecast business increasing in the 5–10 percent range in 2016.”