Everything around us has been designed and manufactured by an engineer using production methods you’ve likely never heard of. Most of us are familiar with things like wood construction and likely even machining techniques – but what do you know about powder injection molding?
Let’s take a cursory look at just what powder injection molding (PIM) is and then dig deeper into how it is growing to shape the manufacturing industry.
Image Source: Wikipedia
Injection molding utilizes plastic pellets that are then heated and pushed into a mold. A significant portion of all plastic parts around you are likely made this way – but when you need accuracy, strength, and complex shapes, it can fall short.
Powder injection molding fills the gap between what standard injection molding can do and other more complex or expensive techniques in manufacturing. Metal or plastic can be used as the base material in this technique, which is mainly used for smaller finely detailed parts.
For metal injection molding (MIM), a fine metal powder is mixed with a binder material that is then heated and pushed into a mold and formed together. After the rough part is released from the mold, it then is “conditioned” to remove the binder and sintered to densify the metal powder – usually through a furnace or chemical bath.
Image Source: Wikipedia
Generally, metal powder injection molding is limited to 100 grams of material or less per shot due to equipment limitations. While manufacturers are working to create more efficient equipment, this makes powder injection molding quite adept at making high volumes of small intricate parts that would otherwise be expensive to create using traditional processes like machining.
Have an iPhone? Look down at that lightning connector… Several aspects of that part have been manufactured with powder injection molding techniques. It’s more prevalent than you might think.
Grasping this general understanding of what powder injection molding is and where it’s currently leveraged, let’s begin to take a look at how it’s growing and shaping the global market.
The electronic, computer, chemical, and medical industries have seen the biggest impact from the growth of powder injection molding in recent years. As it has moved from the laboratory into the hands of skilled manufacturers in the last decade, the industry as a whole has grown and is expected to grow by 20 to 40% each year.
To give context to the scale of those growth rates, the industry is already one that does an excess of $2 billion in sales each year. There are even new emerging markets internal to power injection molding that are just beginning to grip the industry, like utilizing aluminum as the base metal.
The Aluminum powder market was only valued at 5 million last year. By 2028, in the next decade, it’s expected to be worth over $300 million.
Backing up a little, metal powder injection molding has been around since the mid-1980s, but much of what is driving the current accelerate growth is the new advancement of ceramic powder injection molding and advancements within metal and plastic. These new methods are giving Chinese manufacturers the ability to create large runs of parts at a fraction of the cost to other methods.
If you’re into manufacturing or even injection molding, expect PIM to grow exponentially over the next 5 years. There’s a massive hole in the market for the ability to produce highly toleranced parts in high volumes – and that’s just what PIM does best.