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. And for manufacturing small, complex components at scale, metal injection modeling (MIM) is the most efficient process to get the job done.
At OptiMIM, we’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.
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’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.
Why is it important to manufacture for scale?
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.
How do I scale production with control?
There are quite a few areas where suppliers can fall short on delivering a quality part—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.
How can I increase production volume?
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.
What benefits does automation add to the project?
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.
Can you give an example of automated process controls?
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. 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.
How do I lower the cost to scale with MIM?
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.
For example, choosing machining 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—adding unnecessary risk to the supply chain.
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—this means a lower cost investment for moderate to high volume.
Final scalability thoughts
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, contact one of our design engineers who can walk you through the benefits in relation to your project.
To learn more about how to manufacture at scale, download our free webinar Securing Scalability: Utilizing MIM to Manufacture at Scale. We’ll discuss the above topics in more detail and cover more on:
Streamlining regulatory validations, like FDA approval
Manufacturing with MIM at a lower total cost to scale
Shortening your supply chain with automation and part consolidation
MIM case studies
Please fill out the form below to download our free on-demand webinar.