Blog https://www.optimim.com/Knowledge Center/Blog Tuesday, 11 May 2021 15:01:02 Tuesday, 11 May 2021 15:01:02 Customizing Materials for Greater Design Freedom /knowledge-center/blog/customizing-materials-for-greater-design-freedom {B0D9F7B4-018B-44AF-B193-A7E3B5E02B35} <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;"><span>Manufacturers&rsquo; expectations have hit an all-time high. Our customers are serving consumers who want something more&mdash;better strength and density, more durable products, something unique&mdash;tailored just for them. How does a metal injection molding (MIM) business keep up with the times? How do we solve the limited design freedom that manufacturers faced in the past? It all boils down to the very foundation of the </span><a href="https://www.optimim.com/metal-injection-molding-mim/process"><span style="color: #5a5397;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">MIM process</span>&mdash;</span></a><a href="https://www.optimim.com/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-2-feedstock" style="color: #0073b8;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">feedstock</span></a><span>. <strong>And OptiMIM aims to manufacture with just the right blend of materials to create personalized components that perform to the highest standards.</strong></span></p> <h2 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0in;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">What is feedstock?</span></h2> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;"><span>Now, what exactly is feedstock? At the basis, it's the hybrid technology between </span><a href="https://www.optimim.com/knowledge-center/blog/comparing-metal-injection-molding-powdered-metallurgy" style="color: #0073b8;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">powder metallurgy</span></a><span> and plastic injection molding. A fine spherical, metal powder, almost resembling dust, is mixed with plastic and paraffin wax&mdash;or what we like to call the "binder" system. The intent of the binder system is to give the part its shape to your geometry, while the metal powder goes along for the ride.</span></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;"><span>The final feedstock is approximately 40% binder and 60% metal by volume, with the size of the powder particles ranging from 10 to 25 microns. A micron is equal to one millionth of a meter, and to put that in perspective, 40 microns is the smallest particle visible to the human eye. Did you know that the average human hair is 100 microns wide? All three materials are mixed together, extruded from our proprietary mixing system, and pelletized.</span></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;"><span>The pellets, in turn, are fed into the injection molding machines, and formed into the first stage of the part &ndash; the "green part". Many other processes happen downstream to produce the final net-shaped part, but feedstock is the understructure.</span></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt; text-align: center;"><span><img height="628" alt="Micron | Metal Injection Molding | Feedstock" width="1200" src="-/media/fa5ef38cce8f41c3bd97d269f4dfb094.ashx?h=628&amp;w=1200" style="height: 628px; width: 1200px;" /></span></p> <h2 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0in;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">Feedstock process control</span></h2> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;"><span>Custom formulating alloys adds a layer of complexity to the process. It's critical for suppliers to have a sound, uniform, and repeatable mixture of feedstock for optimal consistency of mechanical performance and properties. The knowledge and expertise of the metallurgists must be precise, with very tight controls in place, when incorporating multiple materials in the feedstock. Consistent dimensional controls are needed not only from part to part, but from batch to batch. It is what allows OptiMIM to have predictable and repeatable shrinkage of our components during the sintering phase each and every time.</span></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;"><span>With an emphasis on consistent dimensional control, you are able to spend the time and investment needed to fully optimize your design for performance without the traditional restraints associated with other processes.</span></p> <h2 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0in;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">Freedom to design your best</span></h2> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;"><span>The performance of your final product is important. And the customization of MIM feedstock allows you to design for the technology and final part that cannot be delivered by any other means. </span><a href="https://www.optimim.com/knowledge-center/white-papers/the-mim-performance-dividend" style="color: #0073b8;"><strong><span style="color: #5a5397;">You should not simply pick a material to fit your part, you should create the perfect fusion for optimal performance.</span></strong></a></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt; text-align: center;"><span class="Heading4Char" style="color: #007da8;"><a href="https://www.optimim.com/knowledge-center/blog/material-options---how-does-mim-compare">Read more about custom material options in our blog Material Options: How does MIM compare?</a></span></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;"><span>With the ability to produce our own feedstock, we are able to solve a lot of complex design problems. The combination of plastic injection molding and powdered metallurgy allows design engineers to be free from the traditional constraints of trying to shape stainless steel, nickel iron, copper, titanium, and other metals. And unlike other suppliers, you&rsquo;re not stuck with an off-the-shelf metal that compromises your project&rsquo;s performance requirements.</span></p> <p><img alt="MIM | Metal Injection Molding | Feedstock" src="-/media/21a3034622854e4b855ebaf2de911902.ashx?h=3661&amp;w=5491" style="height: 3661px; width: 5491px;" /></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;"><span>Using the wrong materials in any process can impact the part performance. That&rsquo;s why selecting particular material characteristics with a tighter degree of fine-tuning, delivers better part performance. The proprietary combination of metal, wax, and plastic polymers, along with other process controls, allows us to deliver tighter tolerances, high densities and smooth finishes compared to other forms of metal injection, and while still producing precise, complex parts in large quantities. Since OptiMIM controls all variables of the feedstock development, as well as production processes, we deliver higher tolerance control from part-to-part and batch-to-batch with higher capability. This vertical integration gives us a unique advantage in the MIM industry.</span></p> <h2 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0in;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">Designing parts for performance</span></h2> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;"><span>Design engineers can look at the MIM process as a clean slate. MIM builds component geometry by placing material only where it&rsquo;s needed for function and strength. Multiple components can be combined into a </span><a href="https://www.optimim.com/knowledge-center/blog/value-added-part-consolidation-with-mim" style="color: #0073b8;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">single MIM component</span></a><span>, and the resulting geometry is stronger, more cost effective, and is usually closer to the original design intent than assembling multiple parts. By consolidating components, risk is mitigated with less potential for part failure.</span></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;"><span>Since all features will be engineered into the tooling, part complexity will not drive cost. Conventional methods of designing, like deburring or chamfering on a stamped part, often equate to higher part price when adding complexity.</span></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;"><span>MIM dominates at the intersection of complexity, precision, quantity and performance, and it all begins with custom-formulated feedstock. The material you choose needs to deliver high-performing parts, no matter how complex the component.</span></p> <h3 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0in; text-align: center;"><span style="background: white;"><a href="~/link.aspx?_id=585C16ABC25A4C5797C2828143664DC6&amp;_z=z"><span style="color: #5a5397;"><strong>Download our free white paper The MIM Performance Dividend to read more.&nbsp;</strong></span></a></span></h3> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Tuesday, 13 October 2020 00:00:00 Utilizing MIM to Manufacture at Scale /knowledge-center/blog/utilizing-mim-to-manufacture-at-scale {C100B332-0EE4-40CF-87E6-8A3FA5EA9348} <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;"><span>Producing a high-quality part with a short production time and lowest total cost is crucial for the overall success of a company and their final part. <strong>And for manufacturing small, complex components at scale, </strong></span><a href="https://www.optimim.com/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-1" style="color: #0073b8;"><strong><span style="color: #5a5397;">metal injection modeling</span></strong></a><strong><span> (MIM) is the most efficient process to get the job done.</span></strong></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;"><strong><span>&nbsp;</span></strong></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;">At OptiMIM, we&rsquo;re experts in taking your project all the way from the drawing board into mass production. Not only does our metal injection molding process lend itself to scalability with automation, large batch capacity, and relatively low up-front investment, but our engineers are experts in streamlining your supply chain and validation processes.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;"><span style="color: #131313;">To answer all of your questions about why it is easiest to manufacture at scale with metal injection molding, we asked OptiMIM Business Development Manager, John O&rsquo;Donnell, a Mechanical Engineer with over 27 years of industry experience, specializing in product design and development. John spent the last 14 years with OptiMIM working in engineering and technical sales.</span></p> <h2 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0in;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">Why is it important to manufacture for scale?</span></h2> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;"><span>We often times talk about the importance of designing for manufacturability (DFM), but similarly, scalability must also be at the forefront of product design. After considering early supplier involvement and transparency, adding scalability to the process enables us to build tooling that supports a sudden surge in production demand, or even modifications to design features. By consulting design engineers at an early stage of the part development operation, we can better understand the variables and develop a roadmap that works for the customer and produces a successful go-to-market part.</span></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;"><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in; text-align: center;"><span><img height="342" alt="Manufacturing at Scale | Metal Injection Molding | MIM" width="629" src="-/media/ebe88b332d124608ba071570fb12ae66.ashx?h=342&amp;w=629" style="height: 342px; width: 629px;" /></span></p> <h2 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0in;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">How do I scale production with control?</span></h2> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;"><span>There are quite a few areas where suppliers can fall short on delivering a quality part&mdash;like failing to plan for possible manufacturing disruptions or volume changes. It is important to look at the life of the project in its entirety and create a roadmap. During the development of the roadmap, documentation of process variables becomes the key to success. The process should be less about getting parts to a customer as quickly as possible, and more about centering the whole process and decreasing lead times over time. An emphasis on the documentation of procedures and trainings eliminates the loss of knowledge of key steps and controls when production increases. Manufacturers have to be able to pivot and adapt with the unexpected, and with the right processes in place, success is inevitable.</span></p> <h2 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0in;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">How can I increase production volume?</span></h2> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;"><span>Using scaling techniques, like Predictive CPK Modeling, can make sure volume increases are done effectively and efficiently. Tolerances and dimensions are analyzed to produce the degree of CPK, or sustained process capability, we can hold during production. All variables within the production process are identified, including everything from feedstock consistency to molding variations. With modeling, we are able to streamline the supply chain and scale faster. And for most of you time-to-market is what matters most.</span></p> <h2 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0in;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">What benefits does automation add to the project?</span></h2> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;"><span>Other manufacturing techniques, such as machining, are able to produce intricate geometries, but when it comes to scaling, metal injection modeling comes out on top. With a fully automated process, you are able to scale from low volume to high volume very quickly and without a lot of overhead. By implementing automation in your production process, you increase production times, lower material scrap, and achieve better product quality and repeatability with shorter lead times so that you'll have your orders in-hand, faster.</span></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;"><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in; text-align: center;"><span><img height="241" alt="Manufacturing at Scale | Metal Injection Molding | MIM" width="797" src="-/media/626a78aecf6b4aa5bd1568498610a607.ashx?h=241&amp;w=797" style="height: 241px; width: 797px;" /></span></p> <h2 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0in;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">Can you give an example of automated process controls?</span></h2> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;"><span>For example, one of our automated processes, Pressure Sensor Cavity Monitoring (PSCM), allows for increased part complexity, stabilized process controls, and increased mold cavitation. We are then able to increase the annual part quantity and capacity, while maintaining strict control and easing the transition to mass production. The PSCM system allows us to make real-time fine molding adjustments, which is extremely important for consistency with sustained part process capability. &nbsp;Without this system, we could see greater part-to-part tolerance variation. The PSCM system also keeps machines running more stable and for a longer period of time.</span></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;"><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <h2 style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;"><span class="Heading2Char" style="color: #5a5397;">How do I lower the cost to scale with MIM?</span></h2> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;"><span>When deciding if MIM is the right process for a project, it is important to measure scalability relative to other technologies. It is also important to consider part complexity and the time over which the product will need to be produced to determine the most cost-effective method.</span></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;"><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;">For example, choosing <a href="https://www.optimim.com/knowledge-center/blog/mim-vs-machining" style="color: #0073b8;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">machining</span></a> for a component that includes multiple setups, and will need to be produced over a three to five-year period, could be costly due to the machine time needed to complete the order. A machining center also has limited capacity, possibly leading to added cost down the line for additional machines or multiple suppliers&mdash;adding unnecessary risk to the supply chain.</p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;">One of the distinct benefits to MIM is scaling with the same footprint that you prototype with, in turn adding ROI over the life of the project. With MIM, cavitation can be added to existing molding machines, rather than adding more molding machines to the process&mdash;this means a lower cost investment for moderate to high volume.</p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;"><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <h2 style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;"><span class="Heading2Char" style="color: #5a5397;">Final scalability thoughts</span></h2> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;"><span>Scaling does not mean that you have to produce millions of pieces a year. Scaling just means having a strong control of the process moving towards full scale production. The key is to maintain product and process controls without capability degradation. If you think that your part could benefit from the MIM process, </span><a href="https://www.optimim.com/About%20us/contact" style="color: #0073b8;"><span style="background: white; color: #5a5397;">contact one of our design engineers&nbsp;</span></a><span>who can walk you through the benefits in relation to your project.</span></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;"><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;"><span>&nbsp;</span>To learn more about how to manufacture at scale, download our free webinar <a href="https://www.optimim.com/knowledge-center/webinars/securing-scalability" style="color: #0073b8;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">Securing Scalability: Utilizing MIM to Manufacture at Scale</span></a>. We&rsquo;ll discuss the above topics in more detail and cover more on:</p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in;"><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p style="color: #000000; background: white; margin: 0in 0in 0in 0.5in;"><span style="padding: 0in; border: 1pt none windowtext;">&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</span><span>Streamlining regulatory validations, like FDA approval</span></p> <p style="color: #000000; background: white; margin: 0in 0in 0in 0.5in;"><span style="padding: 0in; border: 1pt none windowtext;">&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</span><span>Manufacturing with MIM at a lower total cost to scale</span></p> <p style="color: #000000; background: white; margin: 0in 0in 0in 0.5in;"><span style="padding: 0in; border: 1pt none windowtext;">&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</span><span>Shortening your supply chain with automation and part consolidation</span></p> <p style="color: #000000; background: white; margin: 0in 0in 0in 0.5in;"><span style="padding: 0in; border: 1pt none windowtext;">&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</span><span>MIM case studies</span></p> <p style="color: #000000; background: white; margin: 0in 0in 0in 0.5in;"><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p> <strong><span style="color: #5a5397;">Please fill out the form below to download our free on-demand webinar.&nbsp;</span></strong></p> <p> <iframe src="https://go.formtechnologies.com/l/682843/2020-07-30/c7hfw" width="100%" height="500" type="text/html" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" style="border: 0;"></iframe></p> <br /> Friday, 18 September 2020 00:00:00 Streamlining FDA Approval /knowledge-center/blog/streamlining-fda-approval-with-optimim {7B663ED3-49D8-4E62-A2A7-4B75DBD5CF4D} <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">Staying ahead of production roadblocks like FDA validation is essential to getting to market before your competition. <strong>Since FDA validation can take anywhere from six months to two years to get the product fully surveyed, approved, and into the marketplace, it&rsquo;s important to choose a superior process that reduces risk, variance, and part failure to make FDA approval easier.</strong></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">With OptiMIM&rsquo;s value-added process, complex capabilities, and engineering expertise, you can reduce the need for secondary assembly, single-source your components, and streamline your supply chain to shorten your design and process validation processes. And you can do it all to scale.</p> <h2 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0.0001pt;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">Working with FDA approval requirements in mind</span></h2> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">When considering manufacturing processes for your medical components, whether in the prototyping or mass production stage, you want to factor in FDA approval processes and requirements into your decision. The product must pass both process and design validation to guarantee its function and quality.</p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">Section 820.3(z) of the Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 states that validation entails an &ldquo;examination and provision of objective evidence that the particular requirements for a specific intended use can be consistently fulfilled,&rdquo; presenting in both process and design validation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img height="568" alt="FDA Approval | Medical Manufacturer | Metal Injection Molding" width="974" src="-/media/e540e7996bcf4102a80d513a726a9543.ashx" /></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">During the course of approval, your chosen manufacturing process will be subject to scrutiny in process validation. You need a manufacturing process that is reliable, repeatable, and produces parts with guaranteed composition and geometries.</p> <h2 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0.0001pt;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">OptiMIM process guarantee</span></h2> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">With our proprietary MIM process, custom feedstock, and enhanced strength and elongation capabilities, our process is built to make FDA approval smooth sailing. Since we make our feedstock in-house, we can guarantee its exact composition each time. And our proprietary furnace recipes make for higher strength and elongation properties in our components&mdash;especially components of stainless steel. With OptiMIM, our superior process means that you&rsquo;re reducing risk, variance, and part failure, making it easier for the process to be validated by the FDA.</p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">In addition to having an impact on the length of your process validation, your chosen manufacturing process and the supplier also have a potential impact on the length of your component&rsquo;s design validation. With these high stakes, it&rsquo;s important to choose a partner who helps to streamline FDA validation.</p> <h3 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0.0001pt;"><em><span style="color: #5a5397;">With OptiMIM, you can achieve complexity without compromise. Learn more about our </span></em><em><span style="color: #000000;"><a href="~/link.aspx?_id=18EC30FF38284AD3813B06551AEA26BA&amp;_z=z">complex design capabilities for the medical industry <strong>here.</strong></a></span></em></h3> <h2 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0.0001pt;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">Early supplier involvement to streamline design validation</span></h2> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">The MIM process is designed to produce extremely complex geometries, and you can achieve your net-shape component with minimal up-front investments as compared to other processes. With years of experience in the medical industry under our belt, OptiMIM knows the ins and outs of the design validation requirements for medical components. And with early supplier involvement, you can take advantage of our many combined years of engineering expertise to move your component quickly from concept to production with all of your desired part features&mdash;without supply chain hiccups.</p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">Have you considered the benefits of part consolidation? Or thought it to be impossible with your current process? Not with OptiMIM. Our value engineering and greater design freedom means that you can reduce the need for secondary assembly, single-source your components, and streamline your supply chain to shorten your design validation process and get to market sooner than your competitors. And OptiMIM enables you to do it at scale.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Interested in learning more about our part consolidation capabilities? Check out our blog post!</strong></span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://www.optimim.com/knowledge-center/blog/value-added-part-consolidation-with-mim"><img height="202" alt="FDA Approval | Medical Manufacturer | Metal Injection Molding" width="974" src="-/media/79ca57f27efa4574a5a7e8575a1cc39f.ashx" /></a></p> <h2 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0.0001pt;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">Eliminate scalability setbacks with OptiMIM</span></h2> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">We&rsquo;ve seen several medical manufacturers stumbling into the trap of using a &ldquo;shortcut&rdquo; manufacturing process like machining from bar stock to validate their prototype and get to market as fast as possible. While these processes may create a functional prototype, they are not scalable over the life of the program. So when these medical manufacturers move to a new process to scale for mass production, they must start the process validation over again from scratch, setting them back several months. On top of that, different processes for prototype and final component might mean different design considerations, depending on the capabilities of each process.</p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">With OptiMIM, we can produce fully functional prototypes to validate your design in a way that is scalable throughout the life of the product. Rather than having to pivot from another process and suffer the re-validation and potential re-designs, OptiMIM engineers can help guide your program all the way from conception to mass production so that you can take advantage of the full suite of benefits of the MIM process. The earlier we&rsquo;re involved, the more value we can engineer into your component.</p> <h2 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0.0001pt;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">Streamline FDA approval at scale</span></h2> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">If you&rsquo;re looking for a supplier with experience in the medical industry and process and design validation for the FDA, look no further than OptiMIM. Contact our engineering team today to learn more about how OptiMIM can lend value to your medical component program.</p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;"><strong>Check out some of the medical equipment and devices we&rsquo;ve worked on in the past:</strong></p> Wednesday, 15 July 2020 00:00:00 <link>/knowledge-center/blog/material-options---how-does-mim-compare</link> <guid>{B5630E57-6B55-41BD-88D9-B889FFEF9612}</guid> <description><h1>Material Options: How Does MIM Compare?</h1> <p><img alt="" height="628" width="1200" src="-/media/eea2460619884391af5eae5ef349e021.ashx" /></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">When you think of the metal injection molding and powder metallurgy processes, a few key characteristics come to mind. These components are usually high in mechanical strength, highly dense, and perform well in corrosive environments. Because of the nature of the MIM process specifically, MIM components are exceptionally dense across the board.</span></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">But what sets the OptiMIM process apart from the rest? Far and away, our distinguishing factor is our custom feedstock and enhanced material performance. While many of our competitors import BASF feedstock to mold components, our OptiMIM metallurgists make specialized, made-to-order feedstock with compositions tailored to each project. Since we produce our own feedstock, we have full control of all the ingredients, the recipes, and especially the control of the variables so we can guarantee the precise composition and consistency of each component.</p> <h2 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0.0001pt;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">Why does material composition matter?</span></h2> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">Made-to-order feedstock sounds great on paper. But how does the quality difference translate to part performance?</p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">With MIM, custom feedstock and precise powder composition contribute to an enhanced grain structure and grain boundary condition. This adds up to reliable and repeatable capabilities, optimal part density, highest ultimate strength, and best elongation of all final MIM components.</p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt; text-align: center;"><em><span style="color: #5f5f5f;">Need a refresher on the MIM process? Check out our short video below.</span></em></p> <center></center> <div style="position:relative;width:100%;height:0;padding-bottom:56.25%;"><iframe src="//embed.widencdn.net/video/formtechnologies/ccm8kfwgm2?u=cfmtzi" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></div> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt; text-align: center;"><em><span style="color: #5f5f5f;">&nbsp;</span></em></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">Since we manufacture our own feedstock, we have the freedom to specify the metal particle size distribution and develop the binder composition for each project. This makes OptiMIM&rsquo;s process fully customizable to deliver the end mechanical performance and properties your application requires rather than having to settle for off-the-shelf properties of wrought metals.&nbsp; Our technical experts are able to manipulate these elements to deliver on different performance requirements. This, partnered with our ability to optimize furnace recipes, ensures that OptiMIM parts are more structurally sound and consistent, perform more reliably, and are less prone to embrittlement (cracking) than parts produced with BASF feedstock. Since we can guarantee the structure and exact material composition of each part, we can guarantee industry-leading yield strength and other relevant mechanical properties.</p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt; text-align: center;"><a href="https://www.optimim.com/about-us/contact/ask-an-engineer"><img alt="" height="150" width="400" src="-/media/8655f5fcd3d94f23a0fe8cbf7f67abf1.ashx" /></a></p> <h2 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0.0001pt;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">MIM Metals: A cut above the rest</span></h2> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">OptiMIM&rsquo;s precise and uniquely engineered feedstock composition, along with our proprietary grain structure, allows us to deliver both high strength as well as the highest elongation (ductility) performance in the industry. With other processes, design engineers are often forced to decide between optimizing mechanical strength or optimizing elongation&mdash;with OptiMIM you can have both.</p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">For example, with 17-4PH stainless steel, heat treated to H-900, the OptiMIM mechanical properties yield up to 19% better ultimate and yield strength and up to 125% higher elongation than the Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF Std 35) industry standards.</p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;"><img alt="" height="497" width="974" src="-/media/2d079e72bcf7446da43e9b36041ae34e.ashx" /></p> <h2 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0.0001pt;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">What are my material options for metal injection molding?</span></h2> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">At OptiMIM, we specialize in various ferrous and non-ferrous alloys including several stainless steel grades, copper and copper alloys, and low alloy steel components which make up about 70% of our business. We also have experience processing specialty alloys like Cobalt-Chromium (F-75) and other high alloy materials. But that&rsquo;s not all we do.</p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">MIM materials can have their chemistries modified when utilized in the complex metal injection molding process. These materials are customizable and come in a wide variety, and they generally fall into four categories:</p> <h3 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0.0001pt;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">Ferrous alloys</span></h3> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">Steels, stainless steels, tool steels, iron-nickel magnetic alloys, non-magnetic alloys and specialty alloys such as Invar and Kovar make up our ferrous alloy materials. Ferrous alloys are characteristically strong because they have an iron-based composition, and are often used in medical and automotive applications.</p> <h3 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0.0001pt;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">Tungsten alloys</span></h3> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">Our tungsten alloys are characteristically high in tensile strength and are naturally resistant to corrosion. We often work with a tungsten-copper alloy for parts that require a material that is heat-resistant, ablation-resistant, and is highly thermally and electrically conductive.</p> <h3 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0.0001pt;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">Cemented carbide alloys</span></h3> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">The MIM process is compatible with hard materials such as cemented carbides and cermets. These materials consist of hard and wear resistant carbide and a tough and ductile metal binder, thus delivering a unique combination of hardness and toughness.</p> <h3 style="color: #00a8e1; margin: 10pt 0in 0.0001pt;"><span style="color: #5a5397;">Special material alloys</span></h3> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">Specialty materials that we see a lot in the MIM process include, but are not limited to, precious metals, titanium alloys, cobalt-chromium, nickel, nickel-base super alloys, molybdenum, molybdenum-copper, and particulate composites.</p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;"><strong><span style="color: #5a5397;">Are you interested in learning more about available material options and applications for metal injection molding? Download our free webinar!</span></strong></p> <p style="color: #000000; margin: 0in 0in 10pt;"><strong><span style="color: #5a5397;">&nbsp;</span></strong></p> <br /> <iframe src="https://go.formtechnologies.com/l/682843/2019-07-24/35pvl" width="100%" height="500" type="text/html" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" style="border: 0;"></iframe></description> <pubDate>Tuesday, 31 March 2020 00:00:00</pubDate> </item> <item> <title>Value-Added Part Consolidation with MIM /knowledge-center/blog/value-added-part-consolidation-with-mim {ED75707A-2C63-4D86-BA1D-86A8C1B94641} <h2>Complexity demands precision</h2> <p>Designing more complex geometries into a part is often a necessary and innovative way to solve a problem. But it can&rsquo;t come at the cost of lowered performance. After all, performance is non-negotiable. When you&rsquo;re producing highly complex or intricate components, you need consistently reliable performance during production.</p> <p>Choosing the wrong production methods for complex parts could add costly secondary processes&mdash;deburring or chamfering on a stamped part, for instance, or assembling two dissimilar parts for one product&mdash;and introduce additional variance.</p> <p>In the production process, some of the highest cost-drivers are associated with secondary operations and manual assembly. At the end of the day, both of these processes require more hands and possibly more manufacturers, and each of these factors adds cost.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s where metal injection molding comes in. MIM makes it possible to integrate and consolidate several components into a single, net-shape molded piece&mdash;reducing the need to work with several manufacturers and decreasing processing and assembly costs. And MIM makes it all possible without compromising performance.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em><br /> <iframe src="https://cdn.flipsnack.com/widget/v2/widget.html?hash=fxt94j3ko" width="100%" height="480" seamless="seamless" scrolling="no" frameborder="0"></iframe> <span style="text-align: center;">This blog post is part of a longer white paper, The MIM Performance Dividend. Download the full free white paper at the bottom of the page.</span></em></p> <h2>Part consolidation</h2> <p>Complexity demands precision, and it historically goes hand-in-hand with added cost. But with MIM, you can achieve the complexity you require without an automatic price increase. The cost of MIM parts remains largely constant no matter the complexity, which translate to a higher up-front cost in tooling that leads to savings down the line.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>With MIM, complexity isn&rsquo;t an automatic price increase</strong></p> <p>Typically, when designing a component with several disparate parts, cost is hidden in the secondary operations, a lengthened supply chain, and tooling maintenance. When several separate parts are tooled, the need for assembly introduces additional providers into the supply chain. When production processes are outsourced, the handoff generates greater possibility for part variance and defect. The additional stop in the supply chain also adds time, which delays deliverability to market.</p> <p>In addition to requiring secondary assembly, each singular part would require its own mold cavity, which drives up cost both with the initial purchase of several molds and later when the tooling wears down and needs to be replaced.</p> <h2>Consolidation and cost savings without compromising performance</h2> <p>While the decision to consolidate parts introduces an array of benefits, it can mean greater complexity, too. And that&rsquo;s where design engineers traditionally have to weigh the trade-offs: on one hand, part consolidation has the potential to save weight, costs, and time; increase strength and performance; and even compress the supply chain. On the other, when using materials and processes that mismatch critical factors such as thermal expansion, joints, and adhesives, the resulting part could be compromised.</p> <p>It doesn&rsquo;t have to be this way. When parts are consolidated with MIM, the component is stronger and more cost-effective. In fact, it&rsquo;s produced even closer to the original design intent than the assembly.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>&nbsp;When parts are consolidated with MIM, the component is stronger and more cost effective.</strong></p> <p>&nbsp;MIM can incorporate many traditionally machined features into one net-shape molded part from one single mold cavity. Features may include internal and external threads, intersecting diameters, knurling, and customer-unique branding&mdash;all with the ability to scale economically as demand for your product increases. And since MIM can successfully consolidate into one molded part, each part can be sourced completely in-house.</p> <p><img alt="" src="/~/media/project/optimim/mim_cost_comparison.png" width="974" height="520" style="border-width: 0px; border-style: solid;" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>While MIM tooling has a higher initial ticket price than our competitors who machine wrought stock, machine investment casting, and machine conventional permanent molding, MIM part cost remains constant with additional complexity and molded features.</em></p> <section align="center" class="intro"> <p style="text-align: center;"> </p> </section> <p>This means traditional design limitations are lifted, and the number of parts that have to be purchased, tracked, and managed through inventory are reduced&mdash;and so are the trade-offs.</p> <p>What we&rsquo;re saying is that MIM adds value across your entire supply chain. You won&rsquo;t just see ROI on the part itself, but throughout the whole value stream. With increased speed-to-market, guaranteed precision, and high-performing parts, you&rsquo;ll see the benefits of MIM from start to finish of your production process.</p> <p><strong>Interested in learning more about how part consolidation lends value to your precision metal parts production? Download our free whitepaper below.</strong></p> <p><a href="https://www.optimim.com/en/knowledge-center/white-papers/the-mim-performance-dividend"><img alt="" src="/~/media/project/optimim/mim_webinar_download.png" width="974" height="254" style="border-width: 0px; border-style: solid;" /></a></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p> <iframe width="100%" height="500" style="border: 0;" type="text/html" src="https://go.formtechnologies.com/l/682843/2019-06-13/2q9zb" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"></iframe></p> Tuesday, 07 January 2020 12:00:00 Designing for Metal Injection Molding /knowledge-center/blog/designing-for-metal-injection-molding {EED7D60C-433A-4628-A607-1393DD2A487E} <p style="text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="-/media/DE7970F27B444F3C85B7B983E79988A3.ashx" width="800" height="427" /></p> <p>Metal injection molding (MIM) is a technology that solves a lot of problems that are not being solved for today. At OptiMIM, we use the injection molding process to create net-shaped parts that are ideal for high performance, high density, high strength, and high corrosion resistance applications that lead the industry in mechanical and physical properties. When designing for MIM there are several considerations that need to be discussed in order to develop a successful project. Keep reading to discover the unique variables that we design into our award-winning components.</p> <h2>MIM Molding Variables</h2> <p>When you design for metal injection molding you have to take a number of things into account. The mold could be a two-plate or three-plate design, but when you’re designing the part you have to consider where you will allow or not allow certain details or features—such as gating and the gate location. In some instances, we may have a single gate or multiple gates depending on the geometry of the part design.</p> <h3>Parting Lines</h3> <p>You also have to consider parting line and parting line witness. All parts have a parting line relative to being able to mold the component, but what we have to be mindful of your application and understanding whether or not the parting line on your geometry impacts the form, fit, or function of the part. In other words, we don’t want a parting line on a surface that may be functional.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="-/media/F023B18F1D924D258A26C5B7E29E2F72.ashx" width="960" height="340" /></p> <h3>Ejector Marks</h3> <p>The other thing that you have to be aware of is ejector marks. All parts have to be ejected from the mold, so we have to look at the ejector location relative to the function. In some cases, we may utilize a sleeve ejection that can minimize ejector marks altogether.&nbsp;</p> <h3>Wall Features &amp; Wall Thickness</h3> <p>Other things we have to consider are thin wall features, particularly if you’re talking about 0.020” or less in wall thickness. When you’re injecting thin features in a mold there is a risk that if it’s not ejected properly those features could actually break off in a green state. These are all things that our engineers take in into consideration and we work with you in advance of developing a new program.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="-/media/8A98999AAD914D0FBF1AE69D4C6CEBBC.ashx" width="600" height="458" /></p> <p><b>For the full list of molding variables, download our <a href="/webinar-mim-design">MIM Design webinar</a>!</b></p> <h2>MIM Design Considerations</h2> <p>After we get past molding variables, we start looking at design considerations. And due to the complexity of the MIM process, there are quite a few design features that need to be addressed at each stage.</p> <h3>Drag Effect</h3> <p>During the sintering stage, there are two process variables that we have to consider. The first is drag effect which is merely the fact that inherent to the MIM process, a part shrinks on the tiles when they’re placed into our sintering ovens. Keep in mind from <a href="/knowledge-center/webinars/mim-101">the MIM 101 webinar</a>, that on average, a MIM part will shrink about 20 percent. Specific shrink rates depend on the grade of the material and our engineering team designs the part with shrinking factored in.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="-/media/37CCDA636FC749B48657B779F992CC01.ashx" width="566" height="163" alt="drag effect in metal injection molding" title="Drag Effect | MIM Design | OptiMIM" /></p> <h3>Sag Effect</h3> <p>The second effect that occurs during the sintering process is the sag effect. During sintering, parts become relatively soft and because of gravity, cantilevered or unsupported features tend to want to run or sag. To design for the sag effect, we create a design that counters the effects of gravity. We can add special centers or ceramics that could be individual blocks, or custom machine ceramics to maintain those unsupported features.</p> <p>Another option is working with you to modify your design to accommodate this goal without adding any additional costs. We look to add features like gussets on the part. Again, this would be ideal as long as it doesn’t affect your form, fit, or function of your application.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="-/media/D196AA022E4F402EA6F72F0B57851252.ashx" width="486" height="229" /></p> <h3>Draft Angles</h3> <p>The design characteristics for metal injection molding are very similar to plastic injection molding. However, the one main exception is the requirement of draft angles. In most cases for metal injection molding, we don’t require any draft angles at all. It’s a rare requirement.</p> <p>The only time we might require a draft angle is if we have a high aspect ratio feature and we need to pull the mold, such as a thin wall section or a long core pin. We may introduce a half-a-degree draft just for additional relief, but for the most part, we don’t require a draft angle. The reason; we have a paraffin wax in the feedstock and that wax acts as a mold release agent so it allows us to have, for the most part, straight holes in the mold. There’s very little shrinkage that occurs at the molding stage. For that reason, it allows us to not require a draft angle.</p> <h3>Wall Thickness</h3> <p>Another thing about metal injection molding that’s very similar to that of plastic injection molding is uniform wall thickness. An ideal MIM part has similar wall thickness throughout so that we can control the shrinkage variability.</p> <h3>Undercuts</h3> <p>At OptiMIM, we create component designs with a collapsible core—a functionality in the mold that allows us to actually mold in <a href="/Metal Injection Molding MIM/Design/Part Improvement/Undercuts">undercuts</a> so that we can reduce the need for a secondary operation and cost. Undercuts are typically impossible in some cases or challenging with other process technologies, but it is definitely doable with metal injection molding. Before designing for undercuts, we strongly recommend <a href="file:///contact">speaking with our engineering</a> team for advice.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img border="0" src="-/media/AA5F310D07DD4A61945C9043CF9C4C92.ashx" width="800" height="410" /></p> <p>To learn more about mold and design variables for the metal injection molding process, I invite you to <a href="/knowledge-center/webinars/mim-design">download our free webinar</a>. We’ll discuss the above topics in more detail and cover more on:</p> <ul> <li>Knurling</li> <li>Custom feedstock</li> <li>Gating</li> <li>Secondary operations</li> <li>Solving functional or assembly issues</li> <li>And more!&nbsp;</li> </ul> <p>OptiMIM works with many of the world’s most demanding manufacturers—from medical and defense to automotive and consumer electronics. They know we deliver the quality and performance they need to create better products, more consistently, whatever the volume. From the initial design stage all the way through to full production, let our team of experienced engineers help you drive your business forward—<a href="file:///contact">contact us today!</a></p> Monday, 07 January 2019 12:00:00 Metal Injection Molding FAQ /knowledge-center/blog/metal-injection-molding-faq {B81D7C44-A1BD-4FA4-B31C-47BA1B7B3B22} <div class="block-row" rel-rowtype="10"><div class="handle"></div><div class="row-delete"></div><div class="content-block block-100" rel-id="6214"> <div class="inner"> <a name="block-6214"></a> <p>Manufacturing complex, small metal components can present a challenge to engineers who are limited in scope in terms of their part’s material density, design flexibility, and wall thickness. If you are looking for high quality, complex, precision metal components less than 160 grams, then OptiMIM’s metal injection molding process may be the best course of action.</p> <p>Metal injection molding, or MIM, is a process that merges two established technologies: plastic injection molding and powdered metallurgy. OptiMIM engineers can create geometrically complex, dense parts that cannot be produced using the conventional powder metal processes without secondary machining. With MIM, it’s possible to integrate and consolidate several components into a single molded piece, freeing designers from the traditional constraints associated with assembling several separately casted parts to achieve a net-shape component.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p></div> </div></div><div class="block-row" rel-rowtype="10"><div class="handle"></div><div class="row-delete"></div><div class="content-block block-100" rel-id="6215"><div class="inner imageblock" style="line-height:0"> <a name="block-6215"></a> <img src="/~/media/project/optimim/80_730_369_where_does_mim_fit_resized.png" class="image-block" alt="" /></div></div></div><div class="block-row" rel-rowtype="10"><div class="handle"></div><div class="row-delete"></div><div class="content-block block-100" rel-id="6216"> <div class="inner"> <a name="block-6216"></a> <p>Our designers know that MIM is not for everyone. With so many metalworking solutions available, it can be difficult to determine when a project can benefit from the <a href="/mim-process">MIM process.</a> We have compiled five frequently asked questions to help you decide if MIM is the right process for you.</p></div> </div></div><div class="block-row" rel-rowtype="10"><div class="handle"></div><div class="row-delete"></div><div class="content-block block-100" rel-id="6222"><div class="inner imageblock" style="line-height:0"> <a name="block-6222"></a> <img src="/~/media/project/optimim/screen_shot_2019_08_09.png" class="image-block" alt="" /></div></div></div><div class="block-row" rel-rowtype="10"><div class="handle"></div><div class="row-delete"></div><div class="content-block block-100" rel-id="6219"> <div class="inner"> <a name="block-6219"></a> <p><b>What materials are used in MIM?</b></p> <p>MIM materials have had their chemistries modified in order to withstand the complex metal injection molding process. There are a wide variety of materials available for MIM, but we specialize in stainless steel, copper, and low alloy steel materials. We can also process other specialty or custom materials tailored to your mechanical property specifications. &nbsp;Ask an engineer about our custom feedstock capabilities!</p> <p><b>What size parts are most suitable for MIM?</b></p> <p>Usually, MIM is suited best for small parts—typically 160 grams or less. As one of our engineers put it, MIM is best for components that are the size of “the palm of your hand or smaller, down to as small as a grain of rice.” These parts are usually very complex and detailed in shape.</p> <p><b>What is the porosity of MIM components?</b></p> <p>Unlike other casting processes, MIM offers a very high density with uniform, fine grain structure. Typical MIM part density reaches 95-98%, however, some material applications with secondary Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP) can achieve near wrought material density.</p> <p><b>What are the minimum and maximum wall thicknesses that MIM can achieve?</b></p> <p>Wall thickness is contingent upon the length of the wall, overall part size, and the part design. If the wall is localized, wall thickness as precise as 0.01” or less is possible. On the other end of the spectrum, wall thickness as large as 0.5” is possible. It is important to note as the wall thickness increases, so does the molding process cycle time, material consumption, and debinding and sintering cycles, which inherently increase total part cost.</p> <p><b>How do you accommodate for the shrinkage in the design of the mold?</b></p> <p>Over the years, we have studied each material that we use in the MIM process quite extensively. Each alloy and geometry shrinks differently. We developed and use predictive models and factor this into our tooling design.</p> <p><b>Would you like to learn more about the MIM process and its many applications? Download our free on-demand seminar below:</b></p></div> </div></div><div class="block-row" rel-rowtype="10"><div class="handle"></div><div class="row-delete"></div><div class="content-block block-100" rel-id="6221"> <div class="inner"> <a name="block-6221"></a> <p><iframe width="100%" height="500" style="border: 0;" type="text/html" src="https://go.formtechnologies.com/l/682843/2019-07-19/34k1q" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"></iframe></p></div> </div></div> Monday, 07 January 2019 12:00:00 <link>/knowledge-center/blog/comparing-metal-injection-molding-powdered-metallurgy</link> <guid>{25873805-1B38-4C0E-BDD4-7ED4F6A313A5}</guid> <description /> <pubDate>Monday, 12 February 2018 12:00:00</pubDate> </item> <item> <title>How Large Can You Create a MIM Component? /knowledge-center/blog/how-large-can-you-create-a-mim-component {1FD9CEAC-B8B5-4312-84DD-E6517FC7574B} <div class="image-container"><img src="-/media/626F11B7E3964FAAAB7BE870D2F4521F.ashx" alt="" /> </div> <div class="block-row" rel-rowtype="10"><div class="handle"></div><div class="row-delete"></div><div class="content-block block-100" rel-id="5753"> <div class="inner"> <a name="block-5753"></a> <p>When deciding if your part is a&nbsp;<a href="/blog-what-is-mim-and-when-should-i-use-it">good fit for the metal injection molding process</a>, part size is one of the first determining factors. We are frequently asked, “How large of a part can you create with MIM?” The quick answer is, in most cases under 160 grams. But it is important to understand&nbsp;<i>how</i>&nbsp;part size impacts the cost and efficiency of MIM.</p> <h2>Mold Restrictions on Part Size</h2> <p>The size of a part is not limited by the MIM process itself but more so from the size capacity of the mold. The mold does not change in size, so the larger the parts, the more “real estate” they take up in the mold. For example, if you think of the mold or tool as a sheet of paper, if you can fit only 2 cavities on the mold versus 6 or 8, especially as the part size increases, it will take far longer to create 100,000 parts which is not nearly as efficient as smaller MIM components.</p> <h2>Part Complexity</h2> <p>The complexity of a component helps to dictate which process should be utilized for mass production in order to be cost effective and efficient. So, while our sweet spot is less than or equal to 160 grams, if the part is larger and more complex&nbsp;<i>and</i>&nbsp;would typically require machining, MIM may offer economic savings. To truly utilize the MIM process, Design for Manufacturing (DFM) is one of the best practices our engineers follow to ensure your part does not require expensive secondary operations which can often represent as much as 80% of the component cost.</p> <p><b>Download our&nbsp;</b><a href="/Knowledge Center/White Papers/MIM Design Guide"><b>MIM Design guide</b></a><b>&nbsp;for tips on designing for MIM.</b></p> <h2>Efficiency with MIM Materials</h2> <p>MIM feedstock—which can be custom—is inherently more expensive than your average recycled aluminum, so it is not surprising that material cost does play a role in the MIM decision making process. At OptiMIM, we design our components to optimize the weight of the component and only use as little material as possible to create the component. With the MIM process, you can add complexity to the component without having to add material. While a larger part that is machined often results in a lot of scrap and waste.</p> <p><b>If your component is larger than 160 grams and complex in design and if the economics are there, then MIM may very well be a cost effective alternative to other casting processes.</b></p> <p>MIM is capable of achieving intricate features such as dovetails, slots, undercuts, fins, internal and external threads, or complex curved surfaces—to name a few. MIM can also produce cylindrical parts of unique geometries with greater length to diameter ratios than most other casting technologies. To learn more about the capabilities of MIM, contact our engineering team to discuss your project needs in more detail.</p> <h2>Part Size Related to Sintering and Debinding</h2> <p>Second to molding,&nbsp;<a href="/Knowledge Center/Blog/MIM Process Series Part 6- Sintering ">sintering</a>&nbsp;and debinding furnaces have strict guidelines regarding mass loading for each batch size of components so that the binding material is removed at a proper—and precise—rate. The larger and thicker the parts, the fewer components you can put into the furnace at one time and the longer it takes to sinter and debind. Remembering that time is money, shorter cycle times are far more cost effective therefore less mass (part volume) usually equates to less process cost/time. Our team of engineers can help to modify your design to greatly increase production times. Thin walls and only using material where it is needed can optimize your part for the MIM process.</p> <p>[Image: Components being put into sintering furnace]</p> <p>MIM offers a lower cost solution to small complex components that would otherwise have to endure expensive secondary operations. While the process may seem niche, it is fully utilized by almost every industry including consumer electronics, medical, automotive, hardware, firearms, and telecommunications.</p></div> </div></div> <div class="block-row" rel-rowtype="10"><div class="handle"></div><div class="row-delete"></div><div class="content-block block-100" rel-id="5755"> <div class="inner"> <a name="block-5755"></a> <h2>Did You Know?</h2> <p>Part designs can be limited when you’re constrained to traditional metalworking processes. However, with MIM design engineers have the freedom to create parts by placing material only where it is needed for function and strength. The end result is a complex shape that uses less material and does not have to be machined.&nbsp;<b>To fully utilize the MIM process, connect with our engineering team to discuss your part design and gain insight on design for manufacturing and other design criteria, including:</b></p></div> </div></div> <div class="block-row" rel-rowtype="20"><div class="handle"></div><div class="row-delete"></div><div class="content-block block-50" rel-id="5756"> <div class="inner"> <a name="block-5756"></a> <ul> <li>Sintering supports</li> <li>Draft –where and when</li> <li>Corner breaks and fillets</li> <li>Holes and slots</li> <li>Undercuts –external and internal</li> <li>Threads</li> <li>Ribs and webs</li> </ul></div> </div><div class="content-block block-50" rel-id="5757"> <div class="inner"> <a name="block-5757"></a> <ul> <li>Knurling, lettering and, logos</li> <li>Gating- types and location</li> <li>Sink and knit lines</li> <li>Min and max wall thickness</li> <li>Flash and witness lines</li> <li>Interchangeable mold inserts</li> </ul></div> </div></div> <div class="block-row" rel-rowtype="10"><div class="handle"></div><div class="row-delete"></div><div class="content-block block-100" rel-id="5758"> <div class="inner"> <a name="block-5758"></a> <h2>MIM Offers Design &amp; Cost Solutions</h2> <p>The MIM process offers lower cost solutions for numerous applications compared to other metalworking processes.&nbsp;While part size doesn’t necessarily drive the MIM process it is definitely something to take into consideration. If you have a small, complex part that requires higher strength requirements and you want to produce large quantities, your project may very well benefit from the design freedom and cost solutions that MIM provides. If you are interested in learning more, we suggest you&nbsp;<a href="/About us/contact">contact one of our design engineers&nbsp;</a>who can walk you through the MIM process and its benefits more specifically to your project.</p></div> </div></div> Tuesday, 26 September 2017 12:00:00 MIM Vs. Machining /knowledge-center/blog/mim-vs-machining {1C5AF2AE-54E5-42E0-8279-FA64E7421E17} <div class="image-container"><img src="-/media/894BE5F19142436D99C73D394013B6D7.ashx" alt="" /> </div> <p>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.</p> <p><strong>If you are unfamiliar with the MIM process, check out our&nbsp;</strong><a href="https://youtu.be/2LKuLVNI8hs">MIM video</a><strong>&nbsp;to learn more about the process.</strong></p> <h2><strong>Differences Between MIM and Machining</strong></h2> <p>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.</p> <h3>Unique Geometry</h3> <p>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.</p> <h3>Strength &amp; Performance</h3> <p>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.</p> <h3>Mold Investment</h3> <p>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.</p> <h3>Material Scrap</h3> <p>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.</p> <h3>Capacity</h3> <p>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.</p> <p><img border="0" src="-/media/D047C49C1ABC44B9B11955F3F1012034.ashx" width="530" height="316" align="middle" style="vertical-align: middle;" /></p> <h2><strong>Other MIM Benefits</strong></h2> <p>When you utilize the MIM process, you also get:</p> <ul> <li>Repeatability</li> <li>Improved cycle time</li> <li>Part consolidation</li> <li>Reduced need for secondary operations</li> </ul> <h2><strong>Why Should You Choose MIM Over Machining?</strong></h2> <p>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.</p> <p><strong>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.&nbsp;<a href="/About us/contact">Contact our team today to get started on your next project.</a></strong></p> Tuesday, 18 July 2017 12:00:00 Food Grade Stainless Steel /knowledge-center/blog/food-grade-stainless-steel {A0670E2F-737E-4260-A2C5-33EA8D942AC5} <p>Food grade stainless steel is metal that is safe to use in food preparation and/or water storage. Since you cannot die cast stainless steel, many companies take to investment casting or machining not realizing that&nbsp;<a href="/metal-injection-molding-mim">metal injection molding (MIM)</a>&nbsp;is a great alternative for high volume, complex stainless steel molds.</p> <h2>Metal Injection Molding for Food Grade Metals</h2> <p>When needing a food safe metal, customers are typically searching for an alloy that is strong and corrosion resistant. While&nbsp;<a href="https://www.dynacast.com/aluminum-die-casting ">aluminum</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.dynacast.com/zinc-die-casting ">zinc</a>, and even&nbsp;<a href="/metal-injection-molding-mim/material-options/additional-mim-materials/mim-cu-copper">copper</a>&nbsp;can be used for food safe metal components, each has to be coated after casting, which could potentially leach into foods. That is why the most popular metal used within the food industry is stainless steel. Not having to coat or plate stainless steel helps cut down on secondary operations and cost.</p> <p>It is also very important that residual metal and flash do not break off and mix with food or water. MIM tools are designed to have less flashing because the metals used in most MIM applications are much stronger than&nbsp;<a href="https://www.dynacast.com/die-cast-alloy-equivalents">die casting alloys</a>&nbsp;and cannot be corrected as easily after the fact.</p> <h2>Popular Food Safe Stainless Steel</h2> <p>One of the most important aspects of food grade stainless steel is the sanitary finish. It needs to be easily and reliably cleaned and sanitized. If not, the surface may be susceptible to harmful bacteria growth—which is not compatible with FDA regulations.</p> <p>Most food processing equipment is made from 304 or 316 austenitic stainless steels. While OptiMIM offers a variety of stainless steels for metal injection molding,&nbsp;<a href="/metal-injection-molding-mim/material-options/stainless-steel/mim-316l">MIM-316L&nbsp;</a>is most widely used when it comes to components that are safe for food and clean water. Not only does MIM-316L have high strength properties, but it is also very corrosion resistant—which is important for metals that come in contact with acids that break down and change the alloy composition over time. The high alloy and low carbon content of MIM-316L make it a great fit for food grade applications.</p> <p><b>Use our&nbsp;<a href="/knowledge-center/selector">metal selector tool</a>&nbsp;to compare mechanical and physical properties of other MIM alloys.</b></p> <h2>Designing For MIM</h2> <p><a href="/Knowledge-Center/Webinars/MIM-Design">Metal injection molding offers design freedom</a>&nbsp;from the traditional constraints of shaping stainless steel. Not only can you create complex stainless steel parts at high volumes, but MIM makes it possible for designers to mold parts with:</p> <ul> <li>Holes and slots</li> <li>Undercuts, both internal and external</li> <li>Threads</li> <li>Ribs and webs</li> <li>Knurling, lettering and logos</li> </ul> <p>With metal injection molding you can achieve tighter tolerances by only having to place material where it is needed for function and strength. &nbsp;</p> <p><b><a href="/knowledge-center/white-papers/MIM-Design-Guide">Download our free MIM Design Guide</a>&nbsp;to learn more about the advantages of MIM.</b></p> <p>If you have a small, complex part that requires higher strength requirements, corrosion resistance, and food safe qualities, we suggest&nbsp;<a href="/About-us/contact">contacting one of our design engineers&nbsp;</a>to walk you through the&nbsp;<a href="/metal-injection-molding-mim/process">MIM process</a>&nbsp;and its benefits for food safe applications.</p> Wednesday, 07 June 2017 12:00:00 Material Spotlight: Kovar /knowledge-center/blog/material-spotlight-kovar {89D20788-B8A8-4793-AC4C-0FA9FCA3A1CA} <div class="image-container"><img alt="" src="-/media/BB324177149540FE952BA7DE26A95367.ashx" /> </div> <p>One of the &nbsp;benefits of MIM is the amount of alloys that are available. MIM alloys can be blended to meet all of a customer&rsquo;s specifications and needs. Kovar, commonly referred to as MIM-F15, is one of the many MIM materials that we offer. &nbsp;</p> <h3>Low Coefficient of Thermal Expansion</h3> <p>Kovar, or F-15, is a low expansion iron MIM alloy that is most commonly used in electronics applications. Kovar has a high nickel and cobalt content and is traditionally an alloy that was used for metal-to-glass sealing because of its low coefficient of thermal expansion. It also provides a hermetic seal that is used to protect devices in many different industries.</p> <h3>Aerospace Alloy of Choice</h3> <p>Recently, Kovar has been selected as the alloy of choice for aerospace industry applications because of its properties. Kovar can withstand rapid temperatures &ndash; from absolute zero to extremely high heat &ndash; without changing or weakening in structure. As an example, Kovar is used in the aerospace industry in the small components on radar systems and satellites so that the change in temperature does not warp the metal or make the radar work improperly.</p> <p>To learn more about Kovar&rsquo;s mechanical properties, composition, and physical properties, please see the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.optimim.com/metal-injection-molding-mim/material-options/additional-mim-materials/mim-f15-as-sintered">Kovar page</a>&nbsp;on our website. Or <a href="/About us/contact">contact an engineer</a> from our team to get the conversation started. Let us help you drive your business forward!</p> Thursday, 26 May 2016 12:00:00 MIM Process Series Part 6: Sintering /knowledge-center/blog/mim-process-series-part-6--sintering {2064A2BA-8031-4D9F-9A0C-11987A7404AE} <div class="image-container"><img src="-/media/3325518F0ABD44838D7BB8AD1EECD12E.ashx" alt="" /> </div> <p>Sintering is the final step in the MIM process. During this blog series, we’ve been through&nbsp;<a href="/knowledge-center/blog/MIM Series Part 2-Feedstock" target="_blank">feedstock</a>,&nbsp;<a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-3-Compounding" target="_blank">compounding</a>,&nbsp;<a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-4-molding" target="_blank">molding</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-5-debinding" target="_blank">debinding</a>. This final blog post in the series will explain how a part goes from being “brown” to being complete.</p> <p>The parts that have been debinded are placed on ceramic trays. These trays are made specifically so that minimal movement occurs during sintering. It is then placed into a high temperature furnace. The “brown parts” are heated slowly in the furnace and any remaining binder is evaporated. Once this is complete, the part is heated to a temperature high enough to fuse the particles in the part together. This process shrinks the part by about 20% (depending on the materials used for the part) and transforms the “brown part” into a dense solid part. The furnaces are allowed to cool, and then the parts can be removed and are considered final. The sintering process takes anywhere from 15-20 hours. Any additional steps would be part of the finishing process, such as machining operations or surface coating.</p> <h2>Types of Furnaces</h2> <p>There are two kinds of furnaces that are available for MIM production: continuous furnaces and batch furnaces. Continuous furnaces can debind and sinter in the same step. The temperatures reach near melting temperature of the base metal, and these furnaces are only ideal for high volume manufacturing. The batch furnaces also reach temperatures near the melting temperature of the base metal but have a much shorter process time then continuous furnaces. These furnaces run under vacuum and during the process a flow gas is pumped through the furnace – these gases can be nitrogen, argon or hydrogen. There is also supporting equipment for this furnace, including a hydrogen generator, a nitrogen generator, and a back up emergency power generator for cooling the vessel in times of a power failure.</p> <p /> <h2>Issues During Sintering</h2> <p>There are issues that can occur during sintering, which is why the design step of our business is so critical. Without our engineers looking at all of the potential defects or issues, there could be problems with the final part. These problems include not taking into consideration gravity or friction. The resulting part can be warped. There are options that our engineers use to minimize this. Some of these options include spacers, adding a support rib to the part, and coining. There can also be sag issues with a part. Using special setters that support the pieces most likely to sag upright can solve this issue. Parts can also be set in a special ceramic tray, or they can include a runner.</p> <p><i>Now that you have read all of my blogs on the MIM process, what are your questions? Is there anything that I didn’t go over that you would like to know more about? If so, please comment below or fill out a “recommend a topic” form. I’d love to hear your recommendations for future blog topics, as well as any comments you have about my most recent blog series, MIM 101.</i></p> <p><strong>For more information,&nbsp;<a href="/About us/contact">contact our team of engineers</a>&nbsp;today!</strong></p> <p><strong>You may also be interested in:</strong></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-1">MIM Series Part 1</a></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/MIM Series Part 2-Feedstock">MIM Series&nbsp;Part 2&nbsp;–&nbsp;Feedstock</a></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-3-Compounding">MIM Series Part 3 – Compounding</a></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-4-molding">MIM Series Part 4 – Molding</a></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-5-debinding">MIM Series Part 5 - Debinding</a></p> Tuesday, 16 June 2015 12:00:00 MIM Series Part 5: Debinding /knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-5-debinding {2D0B463F-8C8B-4901-9A33-0E5F9F4FACD2} <div class="image-container"><img src="-/media/791B9AB7ED8D4A5AA0B60C29524D3649.ashx" alt="" /> </div> <p>Debinding is our fifth part of the MIM101 blog series. This post will help you understand why debinding is a critical step in the MIM process. If you remember, in my last post about&nbsp;<a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-4-molding" target="_blank">molding</a>, after the part comes out of the machine it is considered “green” and is about 20% larger than the final part. In order to go into the sintering phase without defects, the part needs to be debinded. After the debinding process is complete, the part is considered “brown”.</p> <p><strong>For more information on our&nbsp;<a href="/metal-injection-molding-mim/process">MIM process</a>&nbsp;or to get in touch with our team of engineers,&nbsp;<a href="/About us/contact">contact us today</a>.&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>The debinding process removes the primary binding material from the molded component. Typically, there are steps to the debinding process, and the part goes through more than one cycle to ensure as much of the binding material is removed as possible before sintering. After the debinding step the part is semi-pourous, which allows the secondary binder to easily escape during sintering cycle. Many question why debinding is needed, but without this critical step the part would not be as sturdy. Debinding also prevents furnaces from clogging which can lead to added expenses on the manufacturing side. It also is a faster process to debind and then sinter, versus just sintering alone. Debinding can be done using multiple methods. The three most common methods are explained in detail below.</p> <h3>Debinding Methods</h3> <p>There are three types of debinding methods that are typically used – thermal, supercritical fluids (SFC), and solvent. Thermal debinding is a method within a temperature-controlled environment. It has inexpensive equipment but has a long processing cycle and results in poor “brown” strength. Supercritical fluids debinding is a method that occurs in a gaseous acid environment. This method has good “brown part” strength and is environmentally friendly, but has a patented process with few suppliers and limited materials. The last method is the one most commonly used throughout MIM manufacturers – solvent debinding. Solvent debinding is a process where acetone, heptane, trichloroethylene, and water are used. It results in good “brown part” strength and is a consistent process that utilizes a closed loop system. Solvent debinding is not as environmentally friendly as the other methods, which is one of the only downsides in using this type of debinding.</p> <p>In the final part of this series, you’ll learn about the&nbsp;<a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-process-series-part-6- sintering">sintering phase</a>. This phase is the final one in the MIM process, and creates the finished part.</p> <p><strong>Do you have any additional questions about the debinding process? We'd be happy to help!&nbsp;<a href="/About us/contact">Contact our team</a>&nbsp;of engineers today.&nbsp;</strong></p> <p /> <p><strong>You may also be interested in:&nbsp;</strong></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-1">MIM Series Part 1</a></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/MIM Series Part 2-Feedstock">MIM Series&nbsp;Part 2&nbsp;–&nbsp;Feedstock</a></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-3-Compounding">MIM Series Part 3 – Compounding</a></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-4-molding">MIM Series Part 4 – Molding</a></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-process-series-part-6- sintering">MIM Series Part 6 – Sintering</a></p> Tuesday, 12 May 2015 12:00:00 MIM Series Part 4: Molding /knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-4-molding {D5F89180-B690-4CD9-9D03-D330252726C8} <div class="image-container"><img src="-/media/E2BF7DB7EB9B496EA797969133DF9E13.ashx" alt="" /> </div> <p>Molding, the fourth part of our blog series on MIM, is focused on the pellets of the compounding being loaded into a MIM machine and producing a “green part”. This part is about 20% larger than the final part, but has the same geometry as the final. &nbsp;The percentage is based on the type of metal that is used, and each metal’s percentage will be known before the mold is completed. This allows for the tool to be created correctly, so that the final part meets the exact specifications of the customers needs.</p> <p><strong>For more information about our MIM process,&nbsp;<a href="/About us/contact">contact our team of engineers</a>&nbsp;today!</strong></p> <p>When the pelletized feedstock is fed into either our standard or multi-slide MIM machines, it is heated and then injected into a mold cavity. This injection happens at a high pressure, which is when the part is referred to as “green”. The part is then allowed to cool, which happens very quickly. After it has cooled it is ejected from the mold. Only the binders melt in the molding phase, and the tooling can have multiple cavities, which means higher production rates. As a general note, 70% of MIM defects are a result of tooling and another 15% is a result of molding. These two pieces are extremely important to ensuring that the final part is correct and free of defects. Now, let’s learn more about the MIM machines we offer at OptiMIM.</p> <h3>Molding Machines</h3> <p>OptiMIM utilizes conventional MIM machines that have a typical cycle time of about two shots per minute. It is ideal for larger parts and for parts that have multi-cavities and are also high-volume production. Conventional MIM machines require complex tooling, long runner systems, and long material residence time in the machine and mold. Some of the tools for conventional MIM machines could have shorter lives depending on the complexity of the part.</p> <p>In part five of this series, you’ll learn how the part goes from “green” to “brown”. The next blog will focus on the debinding portion of the MIM process.&nbsp;<i>What else would you like to know about molding? Are there additional pieces you would like to get more details on? If so, please let me know. I’m here to answer all of your MIM questions.</i></p> <p><strong>You may also be interested in:</strong></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-1">MIM Series Part 1</a></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/MIM Series Part 2-Feedstock">MIM Series&nbsp;Part 2&nbsp;–&nbsp;Feedstock</a></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-3-Compounding">MIM Series Part 3 – Compounding</a></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-5-debinding">MIM Series Part 5 - Debinding</a></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-process-series-part-6- sintering">MIM Series Part 6 – Sintering</a></p> Tuesday, 21 April 2015 12:00:00 MIM Series Part 3: Compounding /knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-3-compounding {BC30C7CD-47D7-4998-893A-BA834BD2E498} <div class="image-container"><img src="-/media/6CBDE9F288F14749875C566C698A3925.ashx" alt="" /></div><p>In my&nbsp;<a href="/knowledge-center/blog/MIM Series Part 2-Feedstock">last blog post</a><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/MIM Series Part 2-Feedstock" target="_blank"></a>, we focused on the feedstock that is required to perform metal injection molding (MIM). Today we will discuss the first step of the MIM process – compounding. In short, compounding is the process of taking the metal powder, plastic and paraffin binders and mixing these ingredients in a mixer. We then take this blended mix and process it through a twin screw extruder. The paraffin binder is known as the primary binder and the plastics are the secondary binder. The mixer, as I alluded to in the feedstock post blends these ingredients so the material has a uniformed density throughout the batch which is the first key step in process control.</p> <p><strong>To learn more about the&nbsp;<a href="/Metal Injection Molding MIM/Process">MIM process</a>,&nbsp;<a href="/About us/contact">contact our team of engineers</a>&nbsp;today!</strong></p> <h3><strong>MIM Feedstock</strong></h3> <p>The metal powder is mixed with the plastic and paraffin binders at a ratio of approximately 40% binder and 60% metal. This percentage can vary based on the powder size and desired tool shrinkage. MIM parts can shrink from their original molded condition (known as green state) to a finished sintering condition by 16-21%. We call this ratio our powder loading. There are two different ways that MIM materials are typically mixed, a planetary mixer or a tubular mixer. These mixers blend the material, which can be done at room temperature or heated. When heated the material is mixed to a temperature that causes the binders to melt. It is mixed until the metal powder is uniformly coated with the binders. This mass is then cooled and pelletized. Both these mixing processes are batch and mixed the metal powder is uniformly coated with the binders. This pelletized mix known as feedstock is now ready for the molding machine.</p> <p>The planetary mixer uses a batch process and is slower. It produces inconsistent blends and more variables then other mixers that are available. The tubular mixer, which is also a batch process, is the mixer that OptiMIM uses. It has a faster throughput and creates consistent blends with fewer variables.</p> <h3>Compounding&nbsp;</h3> <p>OptiMIM does all of the compounding in-house. There are many advantages to compounding in our own facilities. We are able to create custom blends for customers who have very specific requirements or want a particular metal for their part. It is also lower cost – since we keep the materials that we need in-house, there is no need for a third party to mix metals and compound the material. We are also able to not only match shrinkage of different materials but also of existing tooling. This provides an overall better and more consistent part for the customer.</p> <p><strong>Part Three of this series will focus solely on the molding piece of the MIM process.&nbsp;<i>What questions do you have for me about compounding?</i>&nbsp;<a href="/About us/contact">Contact our team for more information</a>, or sign up to stay informed!</strong></p> <p><strong>You may also be interested in:&nbsp;</strong></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-1">MIM Series Part 1</a></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/MIM Series Part 2-Feedstock">MIM Series&nbsp;Part 2&nbsp;–&nbsp;Feedstock</a></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-4-molding">MIM Series Part 4 – Molding</a></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-5-debinding">MIM Series Part 5 - Debinding</a></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-process-series-part-6- sintering">MIM Series Part 6 – Sintering</a></p> Thursday, 26 March 2015 12:00:00 MIM Series Part 2: Feedstock /knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-2-feedstock {F4A0386E-2476-4D6F-9BEE-C4F1BBD4E4FE} <div class="image-container"><img src="-/media/B7D7D1AF360442549E296EFC7E431E10.ashx" alt="" /> </div><p>In my previous blog post –&nbsp;<a href="/Knowledge Center/Blog/MIM Series Part 1" target="_blank">MIM 101</a>, I discussed the MIM process at a very high level. As promised, this next topic in our series is on feedstock. There are four steps to the MIM process – compounding, molding, debinding, and sintering. Feedstock is the end result of compounding. It is an essential and integral part of the entire MIM process. Selecting the correct mixture of powders is crucial to ensuring that the best possible part is manufactured.</p> <p><strong>To learn more about the MIM process, keep reading or&nbsp;<a href="/contact">contact our team of engineers</a>.&nbsp;</strong></p> <h2>What Is Feedstock?</h2> <p>Metal Injection Molding uses a combination of metal powders that is mixed with a plastic and wax binder. This is known as feedstock. It is the basis of what your part will become. At OptiMIM we mix our own feedstock, which gives us the ability to offer a wide range of metals for our customers to choose from.</p> <p>Customers have many choices when selecting what metal mixture they would like. Some of the common feedstocks available are NiFe, 316SS, 420SS, 17-4SS, 4140, titanium, or copper. OptiMIM can also custom blend powders to meet specific requirements for mechanical properties, high temperature environments and weight.&nbsp;</p> <h3>Manufacturing the MIM powder</h3> <p>There are typically two ways to manufacture the metal powder – water atomization and gas atomization. Water atomization occurs when the molten metal is poured through a nozzle – the molten metal is then sprayed using water jets that create metal droplets. The particles are then quenched with water, and collected at the bottom of the tank. The liquid cools the particles quickly; the particles are rough and irregularly shaped. This process has better “brown part” strength and better consistency during the sintering phase of MIM. This process will allow more oxidization on the metal powder and will have higher oxygen levels.&nbsp;</p> <p>Gas atomization is similar to water atomization where molten metals are atomized into fine metal droplets but uses an inert gas. The droplets cool down during the fall in an atomizing tower. This type of process offers a spherical shape particle, a high level of cleanliness, better powder distribution, superior oxygen control, and superior carbon control. Some of the disadvantages are poor “brown part” strength and sintering issues, including sag and drag. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>After this atomization process, the particles created vary in size. The MIM industry normally uses particle sizes ranging from 4 to 25 microns. There are two common ways to separate and classify these powders: screening and air classification (also known as air separation). Screening uses various sized screens that allow the particles to be sized – the finer the mesh the smaller the particle size to be separated. Air separators use a column of air rising vertically to sort out heavier dense material from the material that is less dense. The larger heavier particles create more drag in the air stream. These finer particles rise and are separated. Typically the smaller the particle size the more expensive the powder however some powder manufactures have refined their process allowing high yields for small sized particles. &nbsp;In order to ensure that the particle size distribution is correct, it goes through a series of quality checks. We qualify the powder by using a particle size analyzer, which helps us know if the particle size is correct for the part we are producing.</p> <p>We then use our mix sheets using the metal powders, wax and plastic binders to specific ratios (weight) allowing proper shrinkage is applied. These ingredients are mixed and blended together. This blended mix is then processed through a twin-screw extruder. The extruder then pelletizes the material into feedstock.</p> <p>Part Three of this series will focus solely on the next step in the&nbsp;<a href="/Knowledge Center/Blog/MIM Series Part 3- Compounding">MIM process – compounding</a>.&nbsp;<i>What questions do you have for me regarding feedstock? Is there anything you'd like me to elaborate on?&nbsp;<a href="/contact">C</a><strong><a href="/About us/contact">ontact our team of engineers</a><a href="/About us/contact"></a>&nbsp;if you have any&nbsp;further&nbsp;questions.&nbsp;</strong></i></p> <p>You may also be interested in:&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-1">MIM Series Part 1</a></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-3-Compounding">MIM Series Part 3 – Compounding</a></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-4-molding">MIM Series Part 4 – Molding</a></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-5-debinding">MIM Series Part 5 - Debinding</a></p> <p><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-process-series-part-6-sintering">MIM Series Part 6 – Sintering</a></p> Tuesday, 10 February 2015 12:00:00 MIM Series Part 1 /knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-1 {B3852BA0-C810-455A-8781-B29F7F290207} <div class="image-container"><img src="-/media/9E2D07DFD00246CEA460A8C015E11AEE.ashx" alt="" /> </div> <p>Many people ask me to explain what MIM is. This six-part series will help you understand the basics of MIM and the process your part would go through if MIM is the correct offering.</p> <p><strong>For more information on our&nbsp;<a href="/metal-injection-molding-mim/process">MIM process</a>,&nbsp;<a href="/About us/contact">contact our engineering team</a>&nbsp;today!</strong></p> <h2>MIM Process</h2> <p>First, what is MIM? MIM has a unique combination of the strength and durability of metal with the design flexibility of the injection molding process. At OptiMIM we have two different types of MIM – standard and multi-slide. Both types have similar advantages. You can create designs with complex geometries, combine multiple parts, enhance features on parts, dramatically reduce cycle times, and obtain greater precision and consistency. We will get into the specifics of each type in another blog post. For now, let’s talk about the steps in the MIM process.</p> <p>There are four steps to the MIM process – compounding, molding, debinding, and sintering. These four steps plus feedstock will compromise the next five parts of this blog series. Below is a short description of each process. Look for the more in-depth blogs in the coming weeks.</p> <h3><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/MIM Series Part 2-Feedstock">Feedstock/Compounding</a></h3> <p>MIM uses metal powders mixed with a plastic and wax binder, called feedstock, as the basis of what your part will eventually become. By mixing our own feedstock, we can give our customers a wide range of metals to choose from. NiFe, 316SS, 420SS, 17-4SS, titanium, and copper are a few of the choices that customers can select. They could also choose from our pre-alloyed metal powders, if that better suits their needs. Once the feedstock is mixed, it is processed through a twin-screw extruder. The extruder then pelletizes the feedstock.<a href="/knowledge-center/blog/MIM Series Part 2-Feedstock"></a></p> <h3><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-4-molding">Molding</a></h3> <p>The pellets are loaded into either a standard MIM machine or our proprietary multi-slide MIM machines. At this stage, the component is referred to as a “green part”. The geometry of the finished part will be the same as this green part, but about 20% smaller in size.</p> <h3><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-series-part-5-debinding">Debinding</a></h3> <p>This step in the process is where some of the binder that was put in the feedstock is removed. This process uses either heat or chemicals (or a combination of both) to remove the binders and prepare the part for sintering, the final step in the process. After a part’s binder is removed, it is considered a “brown part”.</p> <h3><a href="/knowledge-center/blog/mim-process-series-part-6- sintering">Sintering</a></h3> <p>The brown part is now placed into either a continuous or batch vacuum furnace. The part is subjected to temperatures close to the melting point of the material. Before this stage, the part was still held together by a small amount of the binder. Sintering removes the remaining binder and also densifies it. This accounts for the 20% shrinkage mentioned earlier. The sintering process takes anywhere from 15-20 hours.</p> <p><strong>Part Two of this series will focus solely on the feedstock portion of the&nbsp;<a href="/Metal Injection Molding MIM/Process">MIM process</a>. If you have any questions or would like to speak with someone from our engineering team,&nbsp;<a href="/About us/contact">contact us today</a>!</strong></p> Friday, 10 October 2014 12:00:00