Dave, thanks for the input about PM vs other metal component fabrication techniques. We know you're a fan of metals and especially of machining and welding, so it was interesting to see your input on investment casting and forging. I agree, cost comparisons for a given example product would have been revealing but, as usual, they're very hard to come by for publication.
I always love to see better methods of making parts! Suzuki was making powder metal transmission gears in the 80's. The methods are well known, so it seems that we are seeing better materials being used? It looks like we are getting much better in materials formulating than ever before, bravo!
Obviously, the powder metal industry would like to compare the cost of PM processes to the cost of machining parts out of mill products. This comparison makes PM look very attractive for all but extremely small-volume production. However, as Ann points out, PM's real competition comes from investment casting and forging. It would be nice to see some cost comparisons here.
Another important factor to consider is that the mechanical properties of PM products usually aren't as good as forged or cast products. As Jim Dale points out, a fully-dense PM part will have mechanical properties comparable to a casting -- but achieving full density in a PM part is no easy task. You won't get it in a traditional pressed and sintered part.
That being said, PM is a good option for certain applications. The article does a good job of pointing out its advantages.
Sounds like this is much more than a niche product in automotive. Once again, the auto industry is leading in new materials and technology. It's quite a different industry than it was when I was growing up in the Detroit area in the 60s and 70s.
Rob, powder metal manufacturing techniques are growing as a percentage of metal parts manufacturing in automotive, where they're already responsible for a large proportion of those parts, as well as industrial controls. Aerospace is also getting interested, but volumes are still quite small. Other major industries are medical and consumer electronics.
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