MIM is a process that merges two established technologies: plastic injection molding and powdered metallurgy. It is capable of producing precise, complex parts in large quantities with metals that are not capable of being die cast—like stainless steel and other low alloy steels. Offering similar alloy options, machining works by removing unwanted material from the workpiece. You start with a block of metal and essentially remove the material little by little until the desired geometry is achieved. Before MIM, machining was a great alternative to creating parts that were not capable of being cast. However, depending on the size and complexity of the component, it may not be the most cost-effective solution.
If you are unfamiliar with the MIM process, check out our MIM video to learn more about the process.
Differences Between MIM and Machining
When it comes to similarities, MIM tends to correlate well with machined parts in regards to finished components. Typically, MIM components can be used in the same way as machined parts—aerospace, medical, firearms—and in some cases, MIM parts look very similar to machined parts. However, when it comes down to it, MIM offers many advantages for precision components that machining does not solve.
MIM offers unique geometry and complexity capabilities. Machining provides limited intricacy, flexibility, and design freedom and often times it is harder to machine complex components. As the components become more complex, MIM becomes more cost effective because the more complex your part, the more machine time it will take to create it.
Strength & Performance
While both processes yield strong parts, MIM components do not endure machine induced stress or internal pressure which may result in deformation over time and potential part failure. MIM parts are molded using conventional molding machines and then are put into an oven where the wax is strategically melted from the component leaving a strong, solid component.
When creating a MIM component, the complexity of the part is usually tied to the mold investment. Meaning that it is the mold or tool itself that is complex, so you have one upfront cost tied to the complexity of your component. With machining, if you add complexity you are adding extra cost and process time to the part price.
Material scrap is not wasted with the MIM process. This is important because as a customer if you are sourcing a machined part, you are paying for that scrap. Through the MIM process, you do not have to spend dollars that could be used elsewhere.
MIM is more scalable on ramp up capacity. Machining takes a fair amount of time to produce complex parts, so if you want to go to go from 10k parts a week to 20k you have to buy more CNC machines to get up to capacity. With MIM you do not have to do that.
Other MIM Benefits
When you utilize the MIM process, you also get:
- Improved cycle time
- Part consolidation
- Reduced need for secondary operations
Why Should You Choose MIM Over Machining?
MIM becomes a more cost effective alternative for some applications compared to machining when you consider the volume and complexity of your project. MIM produces complex, net shape components that require no secondary machining requirements. When put to the right application, MIM can significantly decrease costs associated with secondary overhead all while increasing production rates.
Our team of engineers offer design solutions for a variety of industries including consumer electronics, automotive, healthcare, and more. When our engineers are involved early in the project, they can help design a tool and part specifically for mass production. Contact our team today to get started on your next project.