Metal injection molding process (MIM) is a type of metalworking process that uses fine particles of metal mixed with a polymer binder to create a feedstock. The part is molded with heat and pressure, very similar to plastic injection molding. The part is then processed to remove the binding agent and then sintered resulting in parts with extremely tight tolerances and a high degree of complexity.
MIM can be used to manufacture products made from a variety of metals, including various grades of stainless steel, low alloy steels, tool steels and copper.
What is metal injection molding?
As a low-cost, high-precision forming method, metal injection molding (MIM) forms net-shaped components more cost-effectively than machining.
Feedstock suitable for injection molding is created by mixing finely powdered metal with a plastic binder. A molding machine melts, shapes, and solidifies a powdered metal and binder. To improve the density and compactness of the metal parts, the molded parts undergo a binder removal and sintering process.
Small, geometrically complex parts are manufactured with metal injection molding in high volumes. Its precision and intricate details make it capable of producing metal injection molding parts without machining, such as ferrous and non-ferrous metals. It is also more affordable than forging, casting, and machining. Many industries use MIM-produced parts, including automotive, aerospace, electronics, and telecommunications.
Advantages Of Metal Injection Molding
Here are several advantages to the metal injection molding process compared to other manufacturing processes.
Reduced Production Costs
In the case of small metal parts, MIM is often found to be more cost-effective than alternative manufacturing methods, such as CNC machining.
Increased Design Freedom
The Metal Injection Molding process allows for greater design freedom than other metal fabrication methods because they are highly intricate metal parts produced using the MIM process.
Improved Mechanical Properties
Metal components created using MIM often have higher strength and ductility than their counterparts made using traditional methods.
Increased Production Efficiency
A major advantage of Metal Injection Molding is that it is generally much faster and more efficient than alternative methods, such as machining.
Metal Injection Molding (MIM) Process
The following are the basic steps in the metal injection molding process.
The metal injection molding process begins with the creation of a feedstock. Mixing the metal powder with a binder material forms a "feedstock". Using the binder material, combine the metal powder, which can be either plastic or metal.
An injection molding machine injects the feedstock into a mold. Then the feedstock is injected into a mold and allowed to cool and solidify. After removing the solidified part from the mold, it undergoes machining, heat treatment, or surface coating to finish it.
The solidified part is heated to a high temperature in a furnace to remove the binder material. By doing so, the binder material vaporizes, leaving behind only the metal. Once the binder material is removed, the metal part is cooled and undergoes a final finishing process, such as machining, heat treatment, or surface coating.
The metal portion is heated to a high temperature below the melting point of the metal in a furnace. As a result, the metal particles fuse together, becoming solid and long-lasting.
There may be cases where another material needs a metal part's surface application. You can do this for various reasons, including improving the appearance of the part or protecting it from corrosion.
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