Metal injection molding is a metalworking process in which finely-powdered metal is mixed with binder material to produce a “feedstock” which is then shaped by injection molding.
The complex parts just need to be shaped in one step during the whole process. After molding, the part undergoes conditioning operations to remove the binder and densify the powder.
The metal injection molding market has grown from $9 million USD in 1986 to $382 million USD in 2004. And the total amount achieved to more than $1.5 billion USD in 2015. Most of the growth in recent years has been in Asia.
In this post, we will focus on the current applications and the future development trend of MIM in three different fields, so that you can decide your business direction and get more profit. These different areas are the consumer electronics and IT sectors, medical and orthodontic fields and automotive industry.
1. Metal injection molding in the consumer electronics and IT sectors
The demand for small, sophisticated, high-volume components has made MIM thriving in the electronics area.
The electronics industry is a major user of metal injection molded parts, accounting for more than 50% of Asian parts sales. Connectors with complex geometries are now the main MIM products, and the miniaturization of electronic devices requires smaller components to achieve better performance at lower cost. This is where metal injection molding can take advantage of it.
Then, we will introduce you an application example that really works in daily manufacturing process.
Metal injection molding is used to produce lightning connectors for smartphone devices, which are tens of millions produced per week at peak production. This small, complex component with high-volume can be produced in multi-cavity molds to net-shape. Few other technologies can be compared with high volume capacity and tight tolerances of metal injection molding.
2. Metal injection molding in medical and orthodontic fields
The medical field is a major application area of MIM, and many materials are inseparable from MIM technology.
2.1 Orthodontic components
One of the first major areas of application for metal injection molding is for orthodontic brackets, which remains the industry’s main product.
These tiny precision parts are usually made of 316L stainless steel, but ceramic injection molding is increasingly used to make translucent brackets that have a much more discreet appearance.
2.2 Implantable metal injection molded components
Much progress has been made in the development of implantable MIM products for applications such as drug delivery devices and joint replacement.
The bottom plate of the implantable infusion pump made of MIM-Ti6Al4V is the most expensive part of the pump and combines several functional components.
It is almost impossible to achieve a limit aspect ratio of 78 mm diameter and a wall thickness of only 1 mm using a conventional cold runner tool, but with a hot runner by MIM process, the mold can be completely filled with high reliability.
3. Metal injection molding in the automotive industry
The automotive industry has become a major consumer of metal injection molded parts. High-strength, high-complexity components for engines, transmissions, turbochargers, locking mechanisms, steering systems and electronic systems are in great demand.
A good example is a MIM rocker arm. The rocker arm is used for engines with variable valve travel and is made from low alloy steel. It has a hollow structure that saves weight, which is difficult to achieve by other processes. The variable valve lift enhances engine performance and reduces fuel consumption.
In general, with the continuous advancement of science and the continuous improvement of the theoretical system, MIM technology will be applied in more industries and become a universally recognized means of parts processing.
That’s the main application areas and development of MIM technology. And we hope it’d be useful! Feel free to leave your comments below if you have any question.
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