In the Metal Powder Industries Federation’s annual state of the industry address at POWDERMET2016, June 5-8, Patrick J. McGeehan, MPIF President, stated that North America’s MIM industry has managed to sustain modest growth despite a slow-down in the key firearms market.
“Slower growth impacted the US MIM industry in 2015 mainly due to the decline in the domestic firearms market. The annual North American powder market is estimated to range from 1.2 to 1.6 million kg. The decline in the firearms market that began during late 2014 impacted 2015 powder demand. Despite this, 2015 MIM parts sales still grew modestly in the lower-single digits,” stated McGeehan.
The 2015 decline in firearms sales drove a shift in the market mix for Metal Injection Moulded parts. By weight of parts shipped medical/dental became the leading MIM market at 32%, followed by general industrial (26%), firearms (21%), automotive (7%), electronics (6%) and miscellaneous applications (6%). Automotive, aerospace and cutting tool applications were reported as key growth areas.
“While the firearms market declined in 2015, knowledgeable observers forecast the market increasing in 2016 to a more normal growth pattern, or possibly spiking again. Recent mass-casualty shootings in North America have impacted firearms sales as citizens seek personal protection options and react to proposed tougher gun controls. Overall, the majority of members of the Metal Injection Molding Association (MIMA) forecast business increasing in the 5%–10% range in 2016,” added McGeehan.
It was also reported that the Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP) business experienced strong growth in demand for the densification of Metal Injection Moulded parts. All powder-related applications, including canned powder shapes, MIM, and metal Additive Manufacturing, account for an estimated 20% to 25% of the North American HIP business, with the balance going to castings. The region’s HIP industry, it was stated, recently added a substantial amount of new capacity to meet increasing demand through 2018.
Taking a broader view of the North American Powder Metallurgy industry, McGeehan stated, “The entrepreneurial spirit still rings true in the PM industry and confidence remains strong within executive offices and on the shop floors in the majority of PM industry companies. Following a healthy 2015, the year opened on a positive trend with modest growth forecast by most informed observers. Conventional press-and-sinter companies and metal powder producers report good business levels, as well as companies involved with metal Injection Moulding, metal Additive Manufacturing, and Hot Isostatic Pressing. The demand for refractory metals, however, has continued to decline.”