Metal Injection Molding
Metal injection molding—MIM—offers a manufacturing capability for producing complex shapes in large quantities. The process utilizes fine metal powders (typically less than 20 micrometers) which are custom formulated with a binder (various thermoplastics, waxes, and other materials) into a feedstock which is granulated and then fed into a cavity (or multiple cavities) of a conventional injection molding machine. After the “green” component is removed, most of the binder is extracted by thermal or solvent processing and the rest is removed as the component is sintered (solid-state diffused) in a controlled-atmosphere furnace. The MIM process is very similar to plastic injection molding and high-pressure die casting, and it can produce much the same shapes and configuration features. However, it is limited to relatively small, highly complex parts that otherwise would require extensive finish machining or assembly operations if made by any other metal-forming process.
The advantages of the metal injection molding process lie in its capability to produce mechanical properties nearly equivalent to wrought materials, while being a net-shape process technology with good dimensional tolerance control. Metal injection molded parts offer a nearly unlimited shape and geometric-feature capability, with high production rates possible through the use of multi-cavity tooling.