Tracy, the reputation of MIM in the firearms industry is not great. Of course, the stresses experienced there are much higher than in most applications. Improvements in the processes that you mention should, over time, change people's minds.
I do wonder if MIMs parts will have competition from 3D printing, which is often mentioned in this magazine. MIMs is, of course, much faster.
Tracy, as I understood it from the sources in my upcoming December feature article on IM, MIM has been especially successful in the automotive sector. What are other sectors where MIM is already well established?
Can this simply be an indication of increased population and "westernization" lead to an increased demand for products?
A global "keeping up with the joneses." If I lived in a society of limitations or old-world living, I would crave everything the most modern have. I'm sure the almost 3 Billion people in China and India alone feel the same way.
I see two different processes mentioned here, one being metal injection molding, th other being pwdered metal molding and sintering. Both processes are capable of producing a real cost reduction in some instances, both are capable of dramatic reductions in assembly effort. but they are quite a bit different. Yet the change in subject did not seem to realize the big difference between the two processes. So it would be worthwhile to clarify which one is being touted at each part of the writeup.
@William K.: MIM is considered to be a P/M process. Powder metallurgy encompasses everything from traditional press-and-sinter (the P/M that most people know, since it's been around the longest) to more advanced processes such as powder forging and MIM.
Powder injection molding (PIM) includes both metal injection molding and ceramic injection molding. An interesting thing in the graph is that ceramic injection molding seems to have really taken off around 2000 (looking at the space between the blue and red curves), but since then, has not grown as fast as MIM. It would be interesting to know why that is.
I also think it's interesting that the graph stops right before the global financial crisis. (Obviously, a graph that points up looks better than a graph that points down, if the title of your article is "Growing Future for Metal Injection Molding"!)
I think the article is absolutely right that MIM is well-suited for small, high-volume parts. For larger parts, investment casting will probably continue to be a better choice, and for low-volume parts, I think naperlou is right that 3D printing technologies such as SLS will play a growing role. Part of the "technology de-bugging period" referred to in the article involved design engineers learning where MIM is, and isn't, the best choice.
Probably ceramic injection molding quickly took over the limited realm of ceramic parts, and after all of those applications adopted it there was nobody else that needed it. After all, meta/ceramic parts are not used in that many places and it may take quite a while to discover additional applications.
The fact is that the ceramic/metal parts are not cheap, and if they don't offer a real benefit, why pay more.
Besides that, there are only so many foks who really need a ceramic pocket knife that metal detectors don't see.
New versions of BASF's Ecovio line are both compostable and designed for either injection molding or thermoforming. These combinations are becoming more common for the single-use bioplastics used in food service and food packaging applications, but are still not widely available.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This radio show will show what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.