The entrepreneurial spirit still rings true in the powder metallurgy (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 molding (MIM), metal additive manufacturing (MAM), and hot isostatic pressing (HIP). The demand for refractory metals, however, has continued to decline.
2015 wrapped up another modest-growth year for metal powder shipments. Total North American iron powder shipments increased by 1.73% to 384,173 mt (423,565 short tons (st)), with the PM sector reflecting 91% and growing by 2.3% to 349,702 mt (385,559 st). Other sectors representing welding, cutting, scarfing, and lancing dropped off substantially.
Stainless steel powder shipments increased by an estimated 2.5% to 7,347 mt (8,100 st). Copper powder shipments increased at the same amount to an estimated 16,272 mt (17,940 st). Aluminum remained about even with the previous year at 36,280 mt (40,000 st). Other powder shipment estimates were: nickel 5,551 mt (6,120 st); molybdenum 1,760 mt (1,940 st); tungsten 2,630 mt (2,900 st); and tungsten carbide 4,263 mt (4,700 st). Total estimated metal powder shipments in 2015 increased by 1.2% to 458,275 mt (505,265 st).
Developing metal powders for metal additive manufacturing via gas atomization is a new trend set for acceleration by most leading powder makers. Meanwhile, MAM's successful use in the aerospace and medical sectors continue to pave the way for future applications. Although the MAM market currently remains small and limited to about 15 commercially available materials, it offers exciting promise for PM in the years ahead.
Another trend is the growing need for precision machining of PM parts. Powder suppliers are introducing high-performance lubricants and additives for the press-and-sinter PM market. The aluminum powder market for PM parts applications is undergoing a new surge as automotive designers seek lighter weight parts. The use of higher-strength aluminum alloys with metal matrix composites (MMCs) is showing renewed interest to reduce mass and provide improved properties, and this focus is currently a project within the Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT) consortium. This industry-led, government-funded consortium is investigating the development of a cost-effective process for sub-micron reinforced aluminum MMCs. As a member of LIFT, MPIF is supportive of this initiative....
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About the Metal Powder Industries Federation
Metal Powder Industries Federation is the North American trade association formed by the powder metallurgy industry to advance the interests of the metal powder producing and consuming industries and provides a single point of reference for all MPIF member companies.
About APMI International
APMI International is a non-profit professional society which promotes the advancement of powder metallurgy and particulate materials as a science. Its purpose is to disseminate and exchange information about PM and particulate materials through publications, conferences, and other activities of the society.
About the Center for Powder Metallurgy Technology
The Center for Powder Metallurgy Technology merges the academic and corporate powder metallurgy worlds together with a joint goal to promote PM industry progress. This progress depends on the business community and its drive for profit, and it also takes the educational community with its dedication to research and the pursuit of knowledge.