Maxon Motor has received an award from the European Powder Metallurgy Association (EPMA) in recognition of an innovative component - the casing for an automatic guitar tuner - that demonstrated the advantages of MIM (metal injection moulding) over conventional production methods.
MIM and CIM (ceramic injection moulding) use similar processes to produce components whose size and often intricate shape need to be precise in every detail, so Maxon's ceramic division applied its expertise and resources to MIM.
In MIM, fine metal powder is combined with a plastic binder and the mixture is injected into a mould. The resulting component is then placed in a furnace, set at about 1300degC, and sintered at a temperature high enough to make the materials bind but not so high as to melt the metal.
The products of MIM can reach 98 per cent of the density of wrought metal and have excellent mechanical properties. With a dense, non-porous structure and high-quality surface, they can be used in applications where materials need to be gas-tight, resistant to high pressure and corrosion-free. They can also be heat-treated, polished, galvanised, welded, soldered and machined with no ill effect.
Most importantly, MIM produces very small or complex-shaped components that require little or no machining before use. Undercutting, cross-holing, internal and external screw threads, gear teeth and many other structures can be incorporated within a single component.
Items required in large quantities can be manufactured more economically by MIM than by other methods. MIM can also reduce costs by enabling a single component with a complex shape to be produced in place of a number of smaller parts that need to be assembled. In the guitar tuner, for example, Maxon was able to reduce the number of parts needed from 150 to 30.
Keith Ellenden, CEO of Maxon Motor UK, says: "MIM is used in a number of Maxon's off-the-shelf products to enhance durability, performance, miniaturisation and economy. For customers requiring something more specialised, the Maxon CIM/MIM division can come up with the necessary tooling to create components of any size or shape. As always, just ask us and we will be there to help."