The Powder Metallurgy Process

The basic Powder Metallurgy process for structural press and sintered components

 

Powder Metallurgy comprises a family of production technologies, which process a feedstock in powder form to manufacture components of various types. These production technologies generally involve all or most of the following process steps:

 

Powder production

Virtually all iron powders for PM structural part production are manufactured using either the sponge iron process or water atomisation. Non ferrous metal powders used for other PM applications can be produced via a number of methods.

Mixing of powders

This can often involve the introduction of alloying additions in elemental powder form or the incorporation of a pressing lubricant.

Forming of the mixed powder into a compact

The dominant consolidation process involves pressing in a rigid toolset, comprising a die, punches and, possibly, mandrels or core rods. However, there are several other consolidation processes that are used in niche applications.

Sintering of the compact to enhance integrity and strength

This process step involves heating of the material, usually in a protective atmosphere, to a temperature that is below the melting point of the major constituent. In some cases, a minor constituent can form a liquid phase at sintering temperature; such cases are described as liquid phase sintering. The mechanisms involved in solid phase and liquid phase sintering are discussed briefly in a later section.

Secondary operations

The application of finishing processes to the sintered part. In the Powder Metallurgy industry, such processes are often referred to as “secondary operations”.

 

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Powder Metallurgy:The original net-shape production process

Powder Metallurgy components are relied upon by a wide variety of manufacturing industries, from automotive to power tools, household appliances, chemical engineering, filtration and more.

The main reason for the technology’s success is its cost-effectiveness at producing high volumes of net-shape components, combined with its ability to allow the manufacture of products that, because of the production processes, simply cannot be manufactured by other methods.

To discover more about how the technology has revolutionised component production, browse our Introduction to Powder Metallurgy.

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