The Japanese MIM industry has reported its first growth in output for seven years, with sales rising to Yen 11.74 billion ($103.5 million) in 2017 – a healthy increase of 14.5% compared with the previous year (Fig. 1). According to the Japan Powder Metallurgy Association, which collects statistical data from the twenty-one companies involved in MIM production in the country, the rise in sales can be attributed to the generally healthy state of the global economy, and several of Japan’s MIM producers have indicated plans to expand production capacity to meet increasing demand.
Fig. 1 Sales of MIM products in Japan (FY 2011-2017 with forecasts for 2018 and 2019) (Courtesy JPMA)
As can be seen in Fig. 1, MIM sales are forecast to rise to Yen 13 billion ($114 million) in 2019, an increase of 10.7% compared with 2017. The JPMA stated that by 2020, MIM production in Japan is expected to return to those levels achieved before the financial crisis of 2008. In 2007, MIM production in Japan was reported at its highest level of Yen 15.69 billion ($138 million).
Fig. 2 Breakdown of MIM markets in Japan (FY2017) (Courtesy JPMA)
A breakdown of the application areas for MIM parts produced in Japan (Fig. 2) showed that the industrial machine segment increased its market share to 28.8% in 2017 (previous year 26.7%), while the medical appliances segment rose to 21.3%, compared with 19.9% in the previous year, and automotive applications remained relatively stable at 16.3% (previous year: 16.9%).
The information equipment segment was down slightly at 8.4% (previous year: 9.1%). MIM component applications in industrial robots are expected to see an increase due to further automation of production lines, and MIM is also expected to see an increase in application in high added value MIM parts for medical appliances.
Fig. 3 Distribution of materials used for MIM production in Japan (FY 2017) (Courtesy JPMA)
Stainless steels were still by far the dominant materials used to produce MIM parts in Japan, at 69.9% of materials usage (Fig. 3). Magnetic materials followed at 8.7%, with Fe-Ni making up a further 7.9%.