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2024 Powder Metallurgy (PM) Design Excellence Awards Announced

The winners in the 2024 Powder Metallurgy (PM) Design Excellence Awards competition, sponsored by the Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF), demonstrate outstanding examples of PM’s diversity and ability to meet critical requirements. From electric vehicles to medical implants, once again, parts fabricators have demonstrated PM’s versatility and unique ability to challenge competing technologies. These award-winning components use PM’s flexibility to push forward new concepts and process controls to demonstrate the inexhaustible range of PM’s capabilities.

Ten Grand Prizes and seventeen Awards of Distinction were given in this year's competition, segmented into 3 categories: Conventional Press and Sinter PM; Metal Injection Molding (MIM); and Metal Additive Manufacturing (AM).

GRAND PRIZE AWARDS

In the Automotive—Engine Category for Metal AM components, a Grand Prize has been awarded to Divergent Technologies, Inc. for a CZV engine exhaust tip for the Czinger 21 C. The part was built using laser powder-bed-fusion (PBF-LB) and a built-in honeycomb structure was iteratively positioned along the flow pathway to optimize weight balance and ideal pressure drop. Additive manufacturing enabled rapid design loops, manufacturing, and testing to optimize the product design in less than one month. A similar product would take 6 months to produce via conventional manufacturing. Light weighting was a particular focus of the part design aimed at improving fuel economy.

A Grand Prize in the Automotive—Transmission Category for Conventional PM components has been awarded to AMES Group Sintering S.A. for a hub used in the clutch of a transfer case of a four-wheel-drive car. The customer qualified the parts by applying four bench tests—a static strength test, a pulse fatigue test, a dynamic fatigue test, and a balancing rotary test. The PM route was selected rather than a machined forging due to its ability to combine complex part shape, high accuracy of some characteristics without machining, low material waste, and a competitive cost. A 25% reduction in material waste was achieved compared with machining the part from a forging.

In the Military/Firearms Category for MIM components, a Grand Prize has been awarded to TriTech Titanium Parts LLC and their customer Primary Weapons Systems for a titanium universal trunnion in an innovative rifle platform that provides quick barrel changing and allows one weapon to fire multiple calibers with minimal changeover of parts and time. The trunnion requires annealing for post machining ease but does not need HIP processing to meet customer performance requirements. CMM inspection was followed by a 20,000 round firing test. The part was originally intended to be made via laser powder-bed-fusion but inconsistent strength, rougher surfaces, and higher cost made that option not viable.

A Grand Prize in the Military/Firearms Category for Metal AM components has been awarded to

Amaero Advanced Material & Manufacturing, Inc. and their customer Wedgetail Industries for a firearms suppressor. The parts are made using laser powder-bed-fusion (PBF-LB) from either Ti-6Al-4V or Inconel 718. Firearms suppressors are typically manufactured as an assembly of precision machined components, joined with one or more threaded joints. Laser powder-bed-fusion provides the opportunity to manufacture very complex suppressor designs that contain no mechanical joints, and permits design details that are not achievable through traditional manufacturing processes.

In the Hand Tools/Recreation Category for MIM Components, a Grand Prize has been awarded to

APG-MIM, a Division of Nichols Portland Inc., and their customer Paige Musical for a six-string guitar capo assembly comprising a saddle, adjustment guide, bar, and yoke. A capo is used to temporarily shorten the strings on a guitar, raising the pitch of the unfretted or “open” strings and changing the key of the open-position chords. The incredibly challenging part design led to issues with tool design, molding, de-binding, and sintering operations. Customized ceramic setters and an optimized two-stage injection molding process was required for successful manufacture of the part. The adjustment guide has an as-molded thread, and zero secondary operations are needed for manufacture and function.

A Grand Prize in the Hardware/Appliance Category for Metal AM components has been awarded to Kennametal Inc. for a stator bore-reaming tool. The AM component is part of a cutting tool for machining stator bore housings for electric vehicle motors. It machines two diameters concurrently in one pass. The component was built using laser powder-bed-fusion (PBF-LB) with one part per. The part design allowed large sections of the component to be self-supporting. The AM process allowed the production of a lightweight component, facilitating manual and automated tool handling, as well as enabling faster and more efficient acceleration of the machine spindle.

A Grand Prize in the Hardware/Appliances Category for Conventional PM components has been awarded to FMS Corporation and their customer Dynamis Solutions, for support bushings that serve as clamping washers in a concentrated solar-power generation application. The parts solve a problem encountered during cleaning and maintenance of the heliostats. The original connection used a fastener and a common lock washer to secure the azimuth drive to the pylon and the hole elongated in service. Heliostats, equipped with large mirrors, are arranged in a circle around a central receiver tower and focus solar rays to heat a synthetic oil that is used to generate steam to power a turbine and generate electricity. The PM component facilitates an improved connection between the azimuth drive of a heliostat and a fixed steel support pylon in the ground.

In the Medical/Dental Category for MIM components, a Grand Prize has been awarded to Advanced Powder Products, Inc. for a screw chuck used in orthopedic surgery. The part is used in a larger assembly that allows a surgeon to drill screws into the spinal regions of patients. Once the screw is inserted the assembly needs to be broken in two and easily removed. Initially, the part was presented as a one-piece design. However, after extensive design modifications, the MIM solution was a two-piece assembly that needed to be joined by laser welding.

In the Medical/Dental Category for Metal AM components, a Grand Prize has been awarded to 3DEO and their customer Zimmer Biomet, for bone marrow harvesters. Advanced suction curettage technology can harvest small to large volumes of cancellous (trabecular) bone and non-diluted bone marrow aspirate in a few minutes through a minimally invasive incision. The 3D printing process is augmented by three critical auxiliary techniques: benching, reaming, and staging during sintering. The complexity and expense associated with post-processing operations is eliminated by the selected AM approach and waste is minimized.

A Grand Prize has been awarded in the Electronic/Electrical Components Category for MIM components to MPP and their customer Tactile Engineering, for a core plate used in their Cadence Tablet that has a refreshable braille display for the vision impaired. The core plate is an extremely challenging part to produce that requires strict adherence to tight tolerances, flatness, absence of flashing, and magnetism. The device uses magnetic latching that requires a specific amount of holding force for effective operation. Traditional machining waste would be more than 40%, and machined parts would cost at least ten times the MIM parts.

 

AWARDS OF DISTINCTION

In the Automotive—Engine Category for Conventional PM components, an Award of Distinction has been given to APG Sintered Metals, Ridgway, a Division of Nichols Portland Inc., for a stainless-steel diesel exhaust fluid injector flange used in a mid-size pick-up truck. Diesel emission fluid (DEF) injectors have become a vital technology in diesel engine after-treatment systems as they reduce the amount of NOx gas exiting the tailpipe.

An Award of Distinction has also been given, in the Automotive—Engine Category for Conventional PM components, to AAM – Subiaco Manufacturing Facility for a camshaft position sensor exciter wheel used in full-size pick-up trucks and sport-utility vehicles. The exciter wheel mounts on the camshaft and provides target corners for the cam sensor to input data to the engine control module to determine the camshaft position and velocity. The PM process has better material utilization compared with stamping and the parts are acceptable for recycling as they do not contain copper.

In the Automotive—Engine Category for MIM components, an Award of Distinction has been given to INDO-MIM Pvt Ltd. for a lever used as a gas-flow controller in the turbocharger of internal combustion engines. The lever has a U-shaped geometry with an open slot at the rear end, a through-hole at the front, with another through-hole passing through the slot. MIM processing reduced lead times and was able to produce the high volume of parts needed weekly by the customer while significantly reducing waste material compared with a forging process.

An Award of Distinction has been given, in the Automotive—Chassis Category for Conventional PM components, to Metalpo Industria e Com Ltda for a truck steering column tilt adjustment component for their customer Knorr Bremse. The part is compacted using a single upper and two lower punches and a core rod. It is required to slide into a stamped guide and a carbonitrided PM part was unable to meet the dimensional tolerances needed by the customer.

In the Automotive—Electric Vehicle Category for MIM components, an Award of Distinction has been given to Hangzhou Sino-MIM Technology Co. Ltd., for a ratchet shaft used in the parking brake system for new electric vehicles. The motor moves the splined part to rotate the ratchet shaft so that the cam contacts the disc brake for locking and parking. The spline of the ratchet shaft has a tight tolerance so fixturing was used during sintering to maintain the part geometry and reduce final machining. The MIM part results in a 20% cost saving compared with a fully machined component.

An Award of Distinction, in the Automotive—Electric Vehicle Category for Metal AM components, has been given to Azoth for a seatbelt pillar adjustable guide loop for their customer General Motors. The part is used in the all-electric Cadillac CELESTIQ. The stainless steel part is binder-jet (BJT) processed to a 97% relative. The surface of the parts is semi-automatically polished prior to a multi-layer bright nickel-chrome plating operation to improve corrosion performance and provide a hard, scratch-resistant surface.

In the Military/Firearms Category for MIM components, an Award of Distinction has been given to

PTI Tech for an inertia weight in a bolt assembly for a blowback firearm. Tungsten heavy alloy was selected as the material choice for the part that requires a high specific gravity material to obtain the necessary mass in the allotted volume. Tungsten heavy alloys cost 5–10 times that of alloy steels and near-net shape processing is needed to minimize raw material costs. Machining the part from bar stock would result in over 70% swarf.

An Award of Distinction, in the Military/Firearms Category for MIM components, has also been given to ARC Group Worldwide and their customer Halo Ammunition for a 45-caliber bullet. The bullet is a solid copper projectile that uses a copper feedstock along with a proprietary binder formulation to ensure even and complete sintering with minimal distortion. The petals were redesigned for better suitability in injection molding. There is no machining scrap and scrap from tool set up can be recycled.

In the Lawn & Garden/Off-Highway Category for Conventional PM components, an Award of Distinction has been given to Capstan Atlantic and their customer Ardisam Inc. for a multi-component gear assembly used in Ardisam’s Earthquake brand - Pioneer Rear Tine Tiller. A special heat-treatment cycle was developed to maintain hardness but also maximize ultimate tensile strength and impact energy. Tight tolerance machining and machining of the teeth without burrs required development of special machining cycles and insert materials.

In the Hand Tools/Recreation Category for Conventional PM components, an Award of Distinction has been given to Capstan for a stainless-steel drive gear used in a throttle system with a stack-up of three stainless-steel PM gears. Multi-level tooling was used to create the five separate levels of the part and intricate powder transfer and motions were required to displace material for the “slot” surface due to the thin cross-section. The compaction process achieved about 60% of the final shape of the part and secondary CNC lathe turning and milling operations were used to achieve the bore depths, hub diameter, groove, and tapped hole.

An Award of Distinction, in the Industrial Motors/Controls & Hydraulics Category for Conventional PM components, has been given to Phoenix Sintered Metals LLC for a piston brake spring-return assembly for their customer Muncie Power Products, Inc. The piston engages the clutch-pack under pressure and the taper feature acts as a brake when disengaged. This was the first use of this unique design power-take-off system. The ability to form the tone-ring feature on the inner hub of the piston was a feature not available on the prior part design that was machined from bar stock.

In the Industrial Motors/Controls & Hydraulics Category for MIM components, an Award of Distinction has been given to INDO-MIM Pvt Ltd., for a cone that acts as a fluid controller in a fuel pump. Molding this complex part with 13 multiple steps and cross-holes without merging lines and weld-line defects is a challenge. The intricate profiles of the part have tight tolerances.

An Award of Distinction, in the Hardware/Appliances Category for Metal AM components, has been given to APG-MIM, a Division of Nichols Portland Inc., for 150 mm (six-inch) pneumatic chuck jaws for work-holding during precision turning. The parts are made using material jetting (MJT) and the printing process allows the inner-lattice structure to be formed without having to de-powder, eliminating the risk of any powder entrapment in difficult to access areas. Mold-jet processing generates little waste, and the wax used to form the mold is recovered and can be re-used for the next build.

In the Medical/Dental Category for Conventional PM components, an Award of Distinction has been given to Metco Industries for a heavy-duty hospital bed rail latch-lock assembly. Two PM parts are included in this nine-part assembly. The latch-lock lever is made in a single level tool that utilizes a special feature to maintain the density of the ramp, which is a critical wear zone. After sintering the parts are milled, heat treated, and plated. Maintaining flatness and minimizing warpage is a challenge with the given wall thickness. The infiltrated parts are resin impregnated prior to zinc plating and this provides a sterile surface unlikely to absorb contaminants in a hospital environment.

In the Medical/Dental Category for Metal AM components, an Award of Distinction has been given to Azoth and their customer Sur-Set Connect LLC, for electromedical connector components comprising a set screw, set screw block, and a spring housing. These components mate with the associated catheter and provide mechanical feedback to the surgeon ensuring proper insertion of the catheter in the patient. The size and complexity of the components led to de-powdering issues when they were made using binder jetting (BJT). The problem was overcome by changing the AM process to material jetting (MJT) and producing 316 stainless-steel parts with high resolution and good surface finish.

An Award of Distinction, in the Electronic/Electrical Components Category for MIM components, has been given to Hangzhou Sino-MIM Technology Group (SMTG) for an ultra-thin base plate used as a heat-dissipation module in an optical communication 5G base-station. Numerous heating components are mounted on the product’s surface, which serves not only as the mounting base but also conducts and dissipates heat. MIM processing cut the product cycle time and reduced the cost of the product by 45%.

In the Electronic/Electrical Components Category for MIM components, an Award of Distinction was also given to Hangzhou Sino-MIM Technology Group (SMTG) for an aluminum alloy smart-watch case. The thin, complex sections of the part require use of a high-fluidity feedstock and a high-speed molding machine. The curved surface of the watch cases necessitates manual polishing to a mirror finish and the parts are anodized to various colors. The light weight of the aluminum alloy parts compared with ones made using stainless steel is a significant benefit.

 

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Editor's Note: For further details or digital photos contact Dora Schember at MPIF dschember@mpif.org / 609-452-7700.

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.

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