This year’s EuroPM featured delegates from approximately  40 countries. There were nearly 200 oral and poster presentations and more than  600 attendees. The event also included exhibition area with 74 stands covering companies from all parts of the PM supply chain.

The EPMA organised the event in cooperation with members of the PM community in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The state of the PM industry in Europe was a key issue throughout, particular as the event was to some extent just a precursor to the PM2012 show, currently being held in Yokohama, Japan. In his opening address, Ingo Cremer, MD of Cremer Thermoprozessanlagen GmbH and outgoing president of EPMA, looked at the status and current trends in European PM.

PM in Europe

Ingo Cremer discussed the strength of the Swiss franc and the competitiveness of the Swiss economy in general and reviewed metal prices, saying that there would be no major changes in the price of gold and copper. Nickel had high prices in the first decade of the 21st century and as a result end users may want to replace it with other elements such as chrome. Aluminium also showed a stable picture. Only ferro tungsten has strongly increasing prices – almost double that of 2007.

Cremer then went on to discuss PM’s largest end user, the automotive sector. Last year, the registration and production of cars in Europe declined by nearly 7%. Cremer suggested that the only way to cope within this static or decreasing market is to find new applications. 

At the manufacturer level, companies such as GKN are showing improved profits, particularly in its driveline unit, which reported a 29% rise in profit in the six months ended June.

Elsewhere in Europe there is an overcapacity of car production and the southern European car manufacturers are strongly focused on small cars, Cremer suggested. Recently, Peugeot reported that it lost nearly US$ billion in the first half of 2012 alone. At the same time, American maker Ford announced second quarter net income of just over US$1 billion world-wide – but a US$404 million loss in Europe.

On the other hand, Volkswagen and Audi showed that it is possible to successfully build cars in Europe, even under the high labour costs of Germany. Last year, 65% of VW's revenue came from Europe, down from 71% in 2003, a result of expansion in China, the United States and Brazil. VW is benefiting from its big bet on China, which temporarily surpassed the United States as the world's largest auto market in 2009.

In the last 10 years there has been a decrease in PM production in North America, a slide growth in Europe and a huge climb in Asia, boosted by China.

MIM is still growing, and, according to Cremer: “I think HIP has the potential to become the next hidden champion after MIM in PM. There is a solid growth over the last few years. On the hard metasl side, we can see a similar picture as the iron and copper shipments; the industry is recovering after being slashed in 2008/2009 but is still not back to the records of 2007.”

In summary, Cremer concluded that the traditional PM market is healthy at present and stable in Europe – despite some threats and some losses in the European car industry. The hard materials, HIP and MIM sectors are experiencing the healthiest growth, and new PM applications in the car industry offer some grounds for an optimistic forecast.

Positive outlook

The opening session also featured a welcome from Congress Chairmen Georg Breitenmoser (Parmaco Metal Injection Moulding AG, Switzerland) and Dr Steven Moseley (Hilti AG, Liechtenstein).

During the Congress plenary session, Cremer presented the EPMA Distinguished Service Award for 2012 to Dr Volker Arnhold, formerly of GKN Sinter Metals GmbH in Germany. In addition, EPMA Thesis awards were presented to Dr Catalina Jiménez from the Helmholz-Centre, Berlin, for her thesis on “Characterisation and Modification of Powders Used to Make Al-based Metal Foams”, and Mr Bruno Marques who was studying at Aveiro University in Portugal, for his thesis “Stainless Steel as an Alternative Binder in WC-based Composites”.  Both winners were awarded  prizes sponsored by Höganäs AB, Sweden.

Exhibiting companies

The exhibition welcomed three companies exhibiting for the first time – Malico Inc, a Taiwanese supplier and designer of advanced thermal solution products; NovaSwiss, a French manufacturer of components, systems, and installations for high-pressure applications up to 10,000 bars; and German MIM specialist Sigma Engineering.

In the exhibition space, the EPMA heavily promoted the DIRA-GREEN project, which is a non-destructive way of inspecting the “green” parts of powder metallurgy manufacturing process, helping save time and improve quality and energy efficiency. 

There were also a few recently launched products at the event, although many exhibitors said that they would be introducing more in Japan. Here are some that were on show: 

KERAFOL, a manufacturer of ceramic foil and technical ceramics, introduced V. Keralpor Y, a porous alumina ceramic which can be used as a sintering additive on molybedenu, cordierite or CFC plates. Gases can diffuse through it, and during sintering the debinding gases can be derived as well. It is especially suited to the sintering of titanium metals, and  is mainly used as an inert sintering surface in MIM and injection moulding.
Erasteel introduced its Pearl metal powders for HIP. They feature consistency of particle size distribution, high tap density and flow ability, predictable shrinkage behaviour during HIP, dimensional accuracy and reproducibility of HIP parts and improved mechanical performance and impact toughness. The powders are also suitable for additive manufacturing (AM). Erasteel also exhibited its Pearl®Alloy range and PM Cobalt base alloys.

Carpenter showed its Micro-Melt NeutroSorb PLUS Alloys, a family of 18% chromium austenitic stainless steels balanced with increased nickel versus Type 304 and a boron addition (up to 2.5%) which imparts a high thermal neutron absorption cross-section. ASTM A887 Grade A alloys have improved ductility, impact and fracture toughness when compared to their Grade B counterparts. The alloys have been used in the nuclear power generation industry.

Osterwalder AG focused on its range of multi-level servo-electric presses for the next generation of ceramic and tungsten carbide parts -- in particular the new CA-HM 320 Electric. This press is equipped with two upper and three lower high precision servo-electric axes. The withdrawal principle for the die drive allows an easy control of the demoulding process. In contrary to the ejection principle, there is also no need for a lower drive with the nominal force. This decreases the complexity and cost of the press. The upper outer punch (main punch) is driven by a 32 ton axis, whereas the axes for the upper and lower inner punches deliver 16 tons of force. The fixed lower outer punch takes 32 tons. A fully closed loop controlled third axis with 4 tons of force can be used for the core rod or as third lower punch axis.

“Basel has proved an excellent and efficient venue for this event with its focus on MIM, hard materials, HIP and PM applications,” said Jonathan Wroe, EPMA executive director. “We would like to thank the EPMA Swiss members, plus the technical programme committee and delegates for their support, which is much appreciated.”

Preparations are already underway for Euro PM 2013 to be held in Gothenburg, Sweden, from the 15 -18 September 2013.  To receive further information on this and other EPMA events, please contact the EPMA.