Metal Injection Molding for watches, eyewear and other consumer products

Metal Injection Molding for watch components

Metal Injection Molding has made great strides in establishing itself as a cost-efficient manufacturing technology for innovative watch designs, ranging from the everyday stainless steel watches to luxury, diamond-clad timepieces.

Metal Injection Molding for watches, eyewear and consumer goods

Fig. 31 Swatch Irony watches were among the first to use stainless steel Metal Injection Moulded cases; Rado watches use Ceramic Injection Moulded cases and straps.

Citizen Watch Co was the first of the watch companies to establish an in-house Metal Injection Molding facility in Tokyo, Japan, in 1987 to produce parts such as stainless steel watch cases and tungsten alloy balance weights used in automatic watches.

Swatch Irony watches were also an early application for stainless steel Metal Injection Molding watch cases. The first Metal Injection Moulded nickel-free 316L stainless steel Irony watch cases for Swatch came off ETA Manufacture Horlogere Suisse’s in-house MIM production line in Grenchen, Switzerland, in October 1994.


Eyewear components

Spectacle frames have developed into a major segment for Metal Injection Molding because the technology offers previously impossible design options, as well as cost effective high volume manufacturing.

Metal Injection Molding for watches, eyewear and consumer goods

Fig. 32 Rotating spring hinge developed for a TAGHeuer spectacle frame. (Courtesy OBE, Germany)

The rotating MIM spring hinge shown in Fig. 32 was an entirely new and revolutionary design that cannot be manufactured economically by other technologies.

The hinge is composed of two rotating discs at an angle of 27° that swivel the spectacle temple with a spring effect. These parts weigh 2.6 g and are made from 316L stainless steel, polished and nickel coated.


Photographic tripod body

Metal Injection Molding for watches, eyewear and consumer goods

Fig. 33 Tripod body produced by Mimest, Italy

These very large MIM parts, produced in titanium for high-end models and stainless steel for standard models, were manufactured for the leading photographic tripod manufacturer, Lino Manfrotto + Co. SpA, Italy.

The part was machined after sintering to remove supports and create an external thread. Shown in Fig. 33 in the foreground is the titanium version and, in the background, the stainless steel version.


MIM guitar tuner casing

An automatic tuner for electric guitars was developed and produced by Maxon Motor GmbH, Germany.

Metal Injection Molding for watches, eyewear and consumer goods

Fig. 34 A Metal Injection Molded case for an automatic tuner for electric guitars developed and produced by Maxon Motor GmbH, Germany

The guitar tuner’s large stainless steel body shows the high level of complexity achievable by MIM as a one-piece part.

Complex shapes can be economically produced by investing only once in a single mould, giving a short ‘pay back’ time.


Next page: Applications: Firearms and Defence


In the latest issue of PIM International…

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Extensive MIM, CIM industry and sinter-based AM industry news, plus the following exclusive deep-dive articles and reports:

  • Visottica Group: Integrated workflows and the value of Metal Injection Moulding in eyewear and beyond
  • In MIM’s post-smartphone era, where is China’s Metal Injection Moulding industry going?
  • Ceramic AM at scale: The story of how Steinbach AG scaled production to 12,000 parts a year for Da Vinci Surgical Systems
  • MIM F75 (Co-Cr-Mo) for high-volume production: The impact of sintering conditions on microstructure and properties
  • World PM2022: Research into the Binder Jetting of aluminium, Ni-free stainless steel, hardmetals and metallic glass

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The free-to-access PIM International magazine archive offers unparalleled insight into the world of MIM, CIM and sinter-based AM from a commercial and technological perspective through:

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