The PowderMet2022: International Conference on Powder Metallurgy & Particulate Materials, and the co-located AMPM2022: Additive Manufacturing with Powder Metallurgy Conference, was held in Portland, Oregon, USA, from June 12–15, 2022. Organised by the Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF), the event included three days of presentations accompanied by an exhibition and a range of social and networking events.
The Opening General Session included a presentation by MPIF President Rodney Brennen, who gave delegates a detailed overview of the state of the North American Powder Metallurgy industry.
“The North American Powder Metallurgy industry has not been immune from the unprecedented challenges facing the global supply‐chain. We continue to feel the negative effects of the COVID‐19 pandemic,” began Brennen.
The semiconductor microchip processor shortages also had a major impact on the PM sector, and continues to cause delays in automotive production. “Most automotive companies, whose vehicles use an estimated 20‐100 processors each, depending on the vehicle’s features, agree that recovery will begin in the second half of 2022, but a normal supply won’t be met until well into 2023. Volkswagen doesn’t expect demands to be met until 2024,” Brennen explained.
However, regarding the MIM industry, Brennen provided a more positive outlook. “The MIM industry continues to be robust, as evidenced by the successful MIM conference earlier this year. Most MIM parts producers continue to experience double‐digit growth.”
The MPIF estimates that US MIM sales in 2021 reached $520 million, compared to pre-pandemic figures, published in the MPIF’s 2020 State of the PM Industry report, estimated to be in the range of $460 to $480 million in 2019.
“The medical and firearms sector continue to be the prime consumers of MIM components. Even better, the demand for general industrial applications and automotive MIM components continues to increase annually,” stated Brennen.
Due to the similar powder grades used for both MIM and metal Additive Manufacturing applications, the MPIF reported combined powder shipment figures. The total 2021 North American MIM and AM powder shipments were said to have increased by an estimated 5–10% to 3,934,767–4,202,178 kg. Of this amount, it was stated that an estimated 360,000 kg is dedicated to AM.
“Improving powder quality will benefit both MIM and AM. A narrower particle size distribution range, greater sphericity, fewer satellites, and less internal porosity will improve throughput, mechanical properties, and overall process consistency,” added Brennen. “Typically, these powders are manufactured by gas atomisation, but capacity has been added recently for plasma atomisation and research continues to develop water‐atomised low‐alloy materials for MIM and AM.”
“Normal business challenges faced by MIM companies, such as the continuing need for skilled employees, global competition, and rising raw materials costs, have been replaced by the more immediate supply‐chain crunch and long‐term concerns regarding the affect metal AM growth will have on raw materials availability,” concluded Brennen.