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New technology of metal injection molding: μ-MIM and 2C-MIM

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Two-component metal injection molding(2C-MIM)

2c-MIM (two-component Metal injection molding) technology was developed to manufacture bi-metallic parts. The main advantage of 2c-mim process is that two different materials can be directly combined in one production process, thus reducing the subsequent connection (such as welding, riveting, fastening assembly, etc.). Product can be manufactured by 2c-MIM ranges from hollow parts with complex internal structures to flexible detachable components.

Research of this technology is aim to produce strong functional parts at a favorable cost.

For example, an easy wear part can apply harder or more wear-resistant materials for its friction surface, and apply relatively low cost material for other surfaces.

It is not enough to simply understand manufacturing bi-metallic part is just molding two materials in one shape. The key is that both materials must be able to be sintered in the same furnace with same sintering atmosphere.

If the shrinkage of two materials is not the same during sintering, it may lead to delamination or cracking.

Due to the unique ability of two component metal injection molding, a part can have different material properties without any assembly work. Therefore, 2C-MIM process will definitely expand metal injection molding(MIM) market.

Miniature metal injection molding(μ-MIM)

Products and system are becoming smaller, which means that the structures and functional parts in complex systems will become smaller and smaller. This requires not only advanced materials with appropriate physical properties, but also micro-mini geometric features, in order to increase the number of integrated functions.

Therefore, it is necessary to develop a highly effective and reliable method to manufacture micro parts or micro structure parts. Micron-MIM parts can be used to replace plastic parts to obtain mechanical properties, corrosion resistance and high temperature performance advantages. Success of this new process is based on fact that its competitive processes are limited by materials and mass production capacity.

LIGA technology (combination of lithography and electroforming) is usually only applicable to 2D geometry, and is limited in material selection.

Other technologies, such as electrochemical microfabrication methods, micromilling, and microgrinding have the ability to resolve features as small as 1μm, but are not suitable for mass production of 3D parts.

Today, Miniature metal injection molding can make products as small as 5μm. In order to optimize the performance, such as flow characteristics or maintain product shape, it has developed a micron or nanometer materials which are possible be used for micron -MIM.

In general, for micro parts, metal injection molding process can reproduce average about 10 times particle size, which is particularly suitable for micro parts, if you want to make smaller features, you need to apply finer powder. Now available metal powders is 1μm.

Some powders are too reactive to produce such size powders, for example Ti.

Now μ-MIM process is still in incubation phase, generally in parallel with the 2C-MIM process. Both of these processes are in technical roll-out and feasibility studies.

Initial competitive research and development objectives are critical to its successful entry into the market, only developing materials and manufacturing processes around those two processes, coupled with education of engineers and technicians can make further breakthrough. 

Keywords in the article: metal injection molding
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