Insights & Outlook MIM technology

Leapfrogging to Value Engineering
Innovation in product design is the need of the hour. Designers are looking for a pioneering process that will allow them to work with complex geometries and materials without facing production challenges and restraints. MIM is a technology that has enabled designers to realise their dreams in terms of design complexity, component integration and the use of difficult-to-machine steel alloys.
art geometry and strength play important roles in all the mechanisms and sub-assemblies in the manufacturing world. Be it an engine, a transmission unit of an automobile or a moving component of an aircraft engine, reliability is an important factor to focus on. As a manufacturing technology, Metal Injection Molding (MIM) has been highly successful in meeting the needs of such applications. It has an entire gamut of application ranging from engine parts of an automobile to cosmetic parts of a mobile phone or a tablet. MIM evolved from plastic injection 106 molding & powder metallurgy and is used to manufacture complex-shaped precise metal parts. It combines the design flexibility and production scale of plastic injection molding 105 with the strength and integrity of wrought metals to offer cost-effective solutions to meet these demands. Prod.

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without compromising on durability. In addition to superior shape capability, the MIM process provides the designer with a wider choice of high strength ferrous and stainless steel alloys as well as wear-resistant and high-temperature super alloys. MIM has been used primarily in defence parts manufacturing, whereas other important sectors to emerge have been consumer goods, sports, telecommunication devices, medical & dental devices and hand & power tools. In recent times, it has gained popularity in the global automotive sector as well.

Press and Sinter Die Casting

Designing for MIM

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The ease in designing metal parts, as in plastic injection molding, gives MIM the unique ability to manufacture complex, lightweight shapes that are not economically viable with other metal cutting/forming processes. Minimising part wall thickness through appropriate use of coring and ribs allows the use of less amount of metal
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Machining

Investment casting

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Low

Medium High

Complexity

Fig 1: Production Quantity vs Shape Complexity

MMT - March 2013

MIM technology
Production Quantity vs Shape Complexity
Fig 1 shows the appropriate metal forming process for a component with reference to particular shape complexity and production quantity requirements. The diagram shows that ideally, MIM is suitable for high-complexity components with higher production volume requirements. candidates for migration to MIM. MIM components have a fair amount of design complexity, thus making them unlikely candidates for conventional manufacturing technologies. Greater design complexity increases the likelihood of a successful migration to MIM. The technology is capable of providing cost-effective solutions for annual component volumes as low as 10,000 to as high as 100,000,000. There are some very good examples of parts that Indo-MIM has manufactured for its customers, where existing joining processes like welding, brazing, riveting could be eliminated, thereby leading to integral component design, improved strength, improved yield and lower direct costs. Success stories like these have even helped customers lower their consumables costs. Mr Raghavendra from Tata Motors, Pune, says, “We, at Tata Motors, feel that components such as latch parts and transmission parts like shift levers, detent, etc. could be converted to MIM. Based on the loading and stress levels generated on the parts during the service, the load bearing areas could be strengthened, whereas non-load bearing areas could be optimised or made hollow. This will definitely result in a complex component, which is normally difficult to manufacture with any process. We feel that the competitive advantage of MIM could be realised here. We, at the moment, are studying some similar components for technical feasibility and are working with Indo-MIM. We are confident of getting solutions to all such similar optimisation requirements without sacrificing reliability.” Martin McCaffrey, Technical Director, Camlock Systems Ltd, UK, in his personal capacity, expresses, “MIM is not new, but is still novel to many. This is surprising as it can offer tremendous benefits. Anyone manufacturing small, complex and highly detailed components should be able to make use of this technology. It produces moulded metal components of high dimensional stability, with a density and integrity closely approaching traditionally worked and machined materials. Also, savings are often available by being able to produce a finished part in ‘one shot’, replacing the machining and subsequent assembly of multiple parts. With respect to industrial security with its stringent space constraints, MIM is a technology that I foresee being used with increasing frequency.”

Unit Cost of Manufacturing vs Shape Complexity

Fig 2 below shows the relative unit cost of manufacturing for a component with particular shape complexity. The diagram shows that ideally, the more complex the part, the more costeffective is MIM.
Machining Casting

Testimonials

Unit Cost

MIM
Press and sinter

Low

Medium Complexity

High

Fig 2: Unit Cost of Manufacturing vs Shape Complexity

Value Engineering Approach

Value Engineering (or Concurrent Engineering) is always at the forefront of MIM application. The problem is designated and the boundaries are fixed, thus enabling an MIM designer to develop innovative solutions tailored to a customer’s specific problems. Over the past 16 years, Indo-MIM has successfully helped its customers migrate from complexshaped steel components in conventional machining and/ or casting technologies to MIM. Indo-MIM’s migration approach to MIM helps customers realise quality and reliability improvements with significant reductions in product cost, all at the same time. To further refine its value engineering approach towards MIM product development, Indo-MIM regularly uses advanced Six Sigma and Shainin Design of Experiments (DOE) techniques in the context of a strong Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP) process to facilitate a highly robust product development process. The advantages of this approach can be observed in the relatively trouble-free production ramp of many programmes at Indo-MIM. Significant attention is given to process design, FMEA, poka-yoke techniques while developing an optimum MIM production process for all parts under development at Indo-MIM.

MIM Favourites

Parts with weights less than 50 grams are the most likely
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Manoj Kabre, VP – Marketing, Indo-MIM, is responsible for business development in Asia and parts of Europe. With a total experience of 24 years in the industry, he has been instrumental in augmenting the popularity of MIM technology through various brainstorming sessions, exhibitions and seminars. He has been involved in various discussions with some of the key industry players across the globe in Value Engineering initiatives. Email: manoj.k@indo-mim.com

MMT - March 2013

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