The PowderMet2023 International Conference on Powder Metallurgy and Particulate Materials took place June 18-21 in Las Vegas, USA. Organised by the Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF), the event opened with a presentation from Rodney Brennen, MPIF president, who reported on the state of the PM industry in North America.
Brennen shared insights across the four main PM categories of Press and Sinter; Metal Injection Molding (MIM); metal Additive Manufacturing; and Hot/Cold Isostatic Pressing (HIP/CIP), and began with an overview of the automotive market which remained the largest consumer of PM parts. However, he stated, US government policies of increasing CAFE standards and reducing the dependence on fossil fuels, have placed a heightened emphasis on the development of plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles, which now see a 12% share of the fleet. This has been felt across the PM industry, with the reduction of internal combustion engine development programmes.
In regard to MIM, Brennen added that the market continues to be driven by individual sectors that are adopting the technology because of its net-shape capabilities, reliability and economic benefits.
“Many MIM companies see growth assisted by re-shoring efforts, as end-users shift from overseas suppliers to purchasing locally,” Brennen stated. “Growth for all companies working in MIM depends on the success of part makers to gain increased market share against other metalworking technologies, and that is where R&D efforts are focused.”
Speaking on the future for MIM powder and feedstock suppliers, Brennen stated that the outlook is positive and explained that “this positive view includes the stability of standard offerings like stainless steels, low-alloy steels, and titanium alloys. There has been increased interest in superalloys that are coming into commercialisation. Efforts to tailor particle-size distributions to increase part accuracy and develop powders/feedstocks to manufacture larger parts continues to be a focus.”
It was stated that total 2022 North American MIM and AM powder shipments increased by an estimated 5-10% to 4,118,619 – 4,404382 kg (9,080,000-9,710,000 lb). Of this amount, an estimated 394,625 kg (870,000 lb) is specifically for AM.
The report also shared that the demand for moulding equipment is stable, as overall production demands are being met by existing equipment. However, MIM furnace demand continues to grow, and automation is expected to increase as skilled workers become scarcer.
Most MIM parts producers are reportedly experiencing double-digit growth, added Brennen, with the foremost consumers of MIM parts being the medical and firearms sector. The demand for general industrial applications and automotive MIM components continues to increase annually, he stated.