Aligning manufacturing supply chains to meet critical product development milestones is crucial to launching new products on time and on budget. With this result in mind, engineering and supply chain leaders need to be able to iterate through designs to optimize manufacturability and ensure their device or assembly performs as intended. This is especially true when it comes to sourcing small and complex metal components, which can be difficult to produce and hard to scale.
Metal injection molding (MIM) has been widely adopted by a variety of industries. MIM manufacturing is positioned to produce medium to high-volume components through the efficiency of dedicated tooling. MIM is a cost-effective alternative to machined components due to its mechanical performance, dimensional stability, scalability, and cost competitiveness.
While MIM is optimized for high-volume production, qualifying a MIM component can cost tens of thousands of dollars and take three to six months. This development time is often a major roadblock for design engineers who need to test components in weeks rather than months. The traditional solution is to do what has been done in the past—source machined prototypes.
However, this approach does not optimize for high-volume MIM production and can lead to even more challenges down the road when converting from a high-cost machined component to a MIM component.
Binder jet 3D metal printing is an additive manufacturing (AM) process that can be used to rapidly produce prototype components, allowing engineers to test their designs quicker than ever before. The MIM process and the binder jet 3D metal printing process share many similarities and complement each other as component manufacturing technologies.
In this article, the technologies are discussed together. The purpose is to understand where each one fits, and how one technology can assist to accelerate the adoption of the other.
Topics discussed include powder types, distortion during sintering, unique capabilities of each method, process development acceleration, and shared capital equipment.