Metal Injection Molding
Metal Injection Molding (MIM) is a technology that is developed from the traditional powder metallurgy (PM) process, as such is considered to be a branch of this technology. The standard PM process consists of the following steps: to compact a lubricated powders mix in a rigid die by uniaxial pressure, to eject the compact from the die and to sinter it.
PM process can produce millions of parts with very complicated shapes, but there is one significant [page]limitation: after compaction the part must be ejected, i.e. pushed out of the die cavity, therefore, those parts with undercuts or projections at right angles to the pressing direction cannot be made directly. This limitation is fully removed by the metal injection molding process.
The use of injection molding process for the production of intricate parts has been well known for many years; most of us come into contact with them every day. One important feature of such parts is that they are relatively cheap. However, those parts that are made from thermo-plastic materials are relatively soft, have limited strength and do not resist elevated temperatures.
The use of solid fillers-ceramic or metal powders has brought some improvement, however, the real breakthrough occurred when it became possible to incorporate a very high volume fraction of metal powder in a mix so that, instead of a filled plastic part, a plastic-bonded metal or ceramic part is produced. Careful removal of the plastic binder leaves a skeleton of metal which, although fragile, can be handled safely and sintered in the same way as traditional die compacted parts. After sintering, the necessary densities are reached and the mechanical properties are, for that reason, generally superior or equivalent to those of traditional PM parts.
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