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The origin of metal injection molding (MIM) development

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Metal Injection Molding (MIM) process is mixing metal powder and binder firstly, after granulation, then molding the granule into cavity by injection molding machine. After that, removing product’s inside binder through catalysis or thermal decomposition method, finally densification by sintering. MIM was traced from powder injection molding ceramic spark plugs that began in the 1920s. In following decades, powder injection molding was mainly focused on ceramic injection molding. Metal injection molding is a relatively mature new powder metallurgy technology which is combined with traditional powder metallurgy process and plastic injection molding, is a multi-disciplinary cross technology of plastic molding technology, polymer chemistry, powder metallurgy technology and metal materials. It is a new process of powder metallurgy and precise ceramic. Plastic injection molding can produce a variety of complex shapes of products at low prices, but the strength of plastic products is not high.  In order to improve its performance, metal or ceramic powder can be added to the plastic to obtain higher strength, resistance and well-grinded product. In recent years, this idea has evolved to maximize the metal content, and remove binder completely during subsequent sintering to densification.

MIM development benefited from the development of mature technology in plastic injection molding. From 1868, Hyatt and his brother Isaiah improved plastic material to make it able processed into different products. In 1872, the first plunger injector was made. It operated like a giant hypodermic needle. The giant needle (diffusion cylinder) injected plastic into mold through a heated cylinder. Until 1940s, the first injection machine was built by a American inventor James Watson Hendry in 1946 requesting from mass production and cheap cost, which controlled injection speed and product’s quality with higher level. In 1951 the first screw injector was developed in the United States. In the 1970s, Hendry went on to develop the first gas-assisted injection molding process that can produce complex, hollow products. It greatly improved design’s flexibility as well as product strength awhile reducing production time, cost, weight and waste. 

In the past, due to lack of suitable powder and raw materials price is too high, imperfect information media, and immature technology, people understand and market acceptance was not long, production (including mold manufacturing) cycle was too long, investment cost was high, etc., its development and application was quite slow. In order to solve these difficulties and promote application of MIM technology, United States developed a high-level powder work plan in middle of 1980s, which covered 18 topics related to injection molding. Subsequently, Japan, Germany, and other county carried out MIM development research actively. In 1980, Wiech formed Witec company. In 1982, Brunswick entered the MIM industry and acquired  Witec company. Later, it gradually registered Omark Industries, Remington Army, Rocky Dental and other subsidiaries. In 1986, Japanese Nippon Seison introduced the Wiech process. In 1990, Israel Metalor2000 introduced Wiech technology from Parmatech and established the MIM production line.

With continuous deepening of MIM research and continuous development of new binders, powder technology and debinding technology, industrialization was realized in early 1990s. At the same time, benefit from the rapid development of BASF feedstock which took aldehyde resin (POM) as a binder to granulate metal powder. After more than 20 years of efforts, MIM has become the most promising technology in the field of international powder metallurgy. Compared with traditional process, with high precision and uniform organization, excellent performance, low production cost, its products are widely used in electronic and information engineering, biology, medical equipment, office equipment, automobile, machinery, hardware, sports equipment, watch industry, weapons, aerospace industry, etc. Therefore, it is widely believed in the world that the development of this technology will lead to a revolution in parts forming and processing technology, which is known as "the hottest parts forming technology today" and "the forming technology in the 21st century".

Keywords in the article: metal injection molding MIM
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