In his state of the PM industry keynote presentation at POWDERMET2015, San Diego, USA, May 18 2015, Richard Pfingstler, President of the Metal Powder Industries Federation, stated that despite some “bumps in the MIM business road,” namely the saturated firearms market, 2014 was a good year for the North American MIM industry. He added that the forecast for the next three-to-five years also looks positive.
According to a 2014 survey by the Metal Injection Molding Association (MIMA), the MIM industry is still ascending its growth-cycle curve at a growth rate well above that of the GDP. Some, it was stated, have even suggested that the industry is still in the steepest segment of its growth curve.
The MIMA survey reported the following primary end-user markets in North America by weight of parts shipped: firearms, 28%; general industrial, 24%; medical/dental, 19%; automotive, 15 %; electronics, 9%; and miscellaneous, 5%.
Pfingstler stated, “While the firearms market currently remains somewhat sluggish, it will most likely stabilize into a more normal growth pattern. However, overall the MIM industry is set to enjoy a 10% growth rate in 2015, certainly an enviable position.”
The Metal Injection Moulding industry has begun selling into the automotive market in North America, following the trend in Europe towards the adoption of MIM automotive components. “Automotive engineers are designing more MIM parts, which points to significant potential growth as MIM becomes more accepted. MIM parts are being designed for engines, electrical systems, and chassis hardware,” concluded Pfingstler.
The Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP) market registered gains last year that should continue into 2015. “The use of PM HIPed products for the oil-and-gas market will increase, despite declines in oil drilling and fracking. This is mainly due to long lead times for necessary replacement parts. HIPed PM aerospace parts are another growing market,” stated Pfingstler.
HIP densification of MIM parts remains a robust growth business, and there is new interest in HIP from the Additive Manufacturing (AM) sector. “Additive Manufacturing offers an exciting niche business for PM and metal powder producers. Without a doubt AM presents some very interesting opportunities as a new PM technology. There are currently three well known commercial PM applications: titanium medical implant parts, cobalt-chrome dental copings, and cobalt-chrome aircraft engine nozzles made by GE at the rate of 40,000 annually. Rolls-Royce is also testing a prototype front bearing housing made from a titanium–aluminum alloy for its Trent XWB-97 engines.”
It was stated that a number of powder makers are working on qualifying gas and water atomised powders for AM applications made by laser-based, electron-beam, and ink-jet processes.