BY PROF. SUNDAR V. ATRE  On August 24, the Powder Metallurgy Association of India, PMAI, organized the Powder Injection Moulding Workshop in Mumbai. The workshop, developed for both new and prospective entrants to the PIM business, entailed four 90-minute interactive learning modules covering an overview of technology and markets, materials, processes and applications.  

The theme of the workshop, which was held at the Ramada Powai Hotel & Convention Centre Powai, Mumbai, was centered on the recently released PIM 2013 Market Study1 compiled by Prof. Randall M. German and Prof. Sundar V. Atre, Ph.D. The program covered both metal injection moulding, or MIM, and ceramic injection molding, CIM.
 
Following are some of the highlights from the event:
 
In the first learning module, current global trends of PIM operations were discussed, followed by criteria for choosing PIM over competing net-shaping processes. Additionally, critical design principles driving correct PIM part selection were presented. Finally, factors driving the double-digit rise in PIM sales in recent years, as well as potential threats to continued growth, were analyzed.
 
In the second learning module, the global market breakdown of PIM powders and feedstocks were presented in the context of factors influencing material selection and their impact on part and process design. This module also addressed key vendors as well as typical factors underlying feedstock-manufacturing decisions. This module was concluded by connecting feedstock property measurements to commercially available computer simulation platforms used for part and die design.
 
In the third learning module, a statistical assessment of global operations in moulding, debinding and sintering operations was detailed. Here, industry benchmarks for productivity were compared to the performance of the top 5% of PIM operations. Criteria for selecting equipment followed by the influence of material-process-geometry interactions on defect avoidance and property evolution were explained.
 
In the final learning module, the region-wise distribution of applications across North America, Europe, and Asia was presented. This market analysis was followed by an analysis of about 30 commercially successful PIM parts across biomedical, electronic, transportation, industrial, defense and consumer sectors. The discussion focused on typical material properties, critical design features that ensured a great fit with PIM, and limitations of alternative manufacturing techniques considered for fabricating the same parts. The discussion presented market research data prioritizing specific applications expected to see significant growth during the next 5 years.
 
About 50 participants interacted during the workshop with backgrounds ranging from students to young entrepreneurs to experienced professionals and businesses evaluating PIM for investment. The participants shared their perspectives on prospects and barriers for the Indian market. A dozen groups sought one-on-one discussions with Prof. Atre on the days following the workshop.
 
The success of this initial foray by PMAI has encouraged the association to organize follow-up training sessions in the future. A proposal has also been submitted to the United States-India Educational Foundation to fund exchange visits between leading PIM research and development groups in the US and India over the next two years.
 
“Powder Injection Molding, according to PMAI, recently took some large leaps forward,” Prof. Atre observed. “In 2012 PIM technology accounted for about $1.45 billion in sales. It is an impressive performance, rising from modest sales of $6 million in 1986 when there were about 30 active operations.”
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Prof. Sundar V. Atreis a tenured faculty member at the Oregon State University. His research focuses on PIM and related polymer-assisted powder technologies and has been funded to the tune of more than $6 million from industrial and government sources. His research group has generated 140-plus publications, 7 issued and licensed patents, and upwards of 20 intellectual property filings in advanced materials and manufacturing. Prof. Atre has led a start-up company and helped establish 8 other new businesses during the last 15 years. One company, Home Dialysis Plus — which focuses on portable kidney dialysis — received $50 million investment. Details of his professional background are available at www.scipivision.com.
 
REFERENCES
  1. The PIM 2013 Market Study compiled by Prof. Randall M. German and Prof. Sundar V. Atre has been released. The 160-page report emerges from data collected for nearly 800 organizations associated with the powder injection moulding (PIM) industry and includes metals, ceramics, cemented carbides and composites. The data was derived from company self-reports, on-line surveys, trade associations, conference reports, magazine articles, subscription business compilations, facility visits, investor reports, interviews, news releases, and other reports. With 15 years of history in assembling data on the PIM companies, their products, sales, powder consumption, employment, materials, key customers, and vendors, considerable historical trend analysis arises beyond the situational report. This report provides an intense focus on PIM and is intended to provide facts for assessment of operations, productivity, financial performance, and relative evaluation for merger-acquisition activity. This report serves by identifying current actors, customers, vendors and suppliers, market trends, materials, and industry concerns. Embedded in the report are details on market segmentation by geography, and emerging concerns.
    For further details, please contact the authors at 
    pim2013@scipivision.com or visit http://pim2013marketstudy.scipivision.com/