Since their first introduction, mobile phones, and later smartphones, have relied on Metal Injection Moulding (MIM) to deliver extremely high volumes of small, complex, high-precision components. From the earliest SIM card trays and volume buttons, applications have developed to include connectors and, more recently, multi-lens camera frames.
China’s MIM industry has been at the heart of this revolution, despite the country being a relative latecomer to the MIM scene. Metal powder supplier Jingye Lide Powder, based in Shijiazhuang, China, saw the potential in the growing Metal Injection Moulding industry in 2011, having been established in the wider metal powder industry for a number of years.
The company has recently reported that it is seeing a significant shift in the materials mix for MIM products for the 3C industry, and states that F75, in particular, is seeing significant growth. A cobalt chrome alloy most commonly used in the medical industry thanks to its biocompatibility, F75 offers high strength, resistance to wear and corrosion, and is non-magnetic.
The company states that in 2016 Apple invited Huang Kunxiang of Taiyao Technology, headquartered in Osaka, Japan, to study the use of this alloy as it related to smartphone technology. Now, 2020’s iPhone 12 marks the first utilisation of MIM F75 in the iPhone’s camera lens mounting frame.
Lide reports that, thanks to its powders being used widely across the 3C industry, it has become one of the industry’s leading producers of atomised powders and will soon have an annual production capacity of 36,000 tons of metal powder.
The company also believes that 5G will see a further increase in the use of MIM technology as smartphone makers design ever more complex components whilst seeking production flexibility and cost efficiency, as well as demanding the use of technologies such as MIM that offer increased environmental protection.