Manufacturers, engineers, and purchasers are slowly becoming aware of the expanded benefits of modern powdered metal manufacturing. Beyond the cost savings commonly associated with powder metallurgy, new industries are also seeking benefits in weight reduction, design flexibility, and magnetic properties.
It’s on powder metallurgy companies to keep up with the times.
The future for powder metallurgy companies can continue to trend upward in 2019 and beyond, but only through a renewed push for innovation and education that empowers engineers and purchasers to improve their products.
Forward-looking powder metallurgy companies are keeping a watchful eye on trends in automobile parts manufacturing and putting their own spin on the future -- and applying those innovations to other industries, like lawn & garden and cooling solutions. Another positive development is the recent emphasis on S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects in high school for both boys and girls.
These reasons and more are why education and tech promotion are key to the future success of powder metal suppliers and their customers.
Trends in Automotive Technology & Where Your Powder Metal Suppliers Fit In
Currently the powder metal industry is heavily invested in automotive manufacturing. Well over ½ of PM parts end up in an automobile.
But an article from the Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF) presents a cautionary tale about auto industry challenges. Technology trends in automotive industry manufacturing reveal a global effort to move away from the traditional large internal combustion engines of the past and toward smaller power units or cars with alternative energy sources -- i.e. hybrid or electric vehicles.
Reductions in the weight of powder metal parts could result in substantial cuts to product orders, with the North American market estimated to experience of drop of 1-2 lbs. per vehicle over the next five years. Multiply this by millions of vehicles manufactured, and the number becomes scary.
Yet these improvements are what draw engineers to alternative solutions like powder metal. So your powder metal parts manufacturer should be along for the ride -- in the end, this “lean” innovation is mutually beneficial.
Why Education Is Key
To prepare for potential upheavals and increased competition in the automotive industry, powder metal suppliers should be more creative than ever before. Customers demand it already in Europe, and they’re coming around to it in the United States.
This means a powder metal supplier should offer you:
Unique materials, tailored to your application
Potential for expanding into new markets
Improvements in magnetic performance
New technologies that further your opportunities to benefit from the cost savings of powder metallurgy
Achieving these goals will require a greater emphasis on powder metallurgy education, according to MPIF. Many specifying engineers looking to switch a component to powder metal may not have an in-depth understanding of its capabilities (and drawbacks). Suppliers have to begin driving the cart by workshopping ideas and providing education opportunities.
Education and promotion has grown steadily the last few years as the MPIF has worked to have powder metallurgy recognized as an advanced manufacturing technology in need of strong engineering support. Engineering students are now able to attend conferences and receive grants to increase their knowledge in this field of study. The Federation also holds several educational events throughout the year, and provides e-learning courses to promote the study of metallurgy.
Resources for Powder Metal Education
The MPIF website is a great place to start looking for information on upcoming conference, courses and seminars. Pay particular attention to all the courses that Penn State University holds to help bolster use and research for powder metals, such as their recent Robotics & Automation in Powder Metallurgy Seminar and the Basic Powder Metallurgy Short Course scheduled for August 2019.
Another terrific Penn State resource is the Center for Innovative Sintered Products: Fundamental and Applied R&D in Sintered Materials. Headquartered right at University Park, the center is an outgrowth of the university’s powder metallurgy lab. Here engineers, students, government agencies and scientists team up to conduct research; train a future generation of powder metal specialists; and find new, cutting-edge technologies that can transform your design..
Finally, if you’re looking to do some quick and dirty digging of your own, Horizon Technology has a load of resources for beginners, intermediate, and advanced learners. We believe educating the customer is key to making powder metallurgy -- and their products -- sustainable in 2020 and beyond.
One emerging material group that those working on electromagnetic applications should know about is SMCs -- soft magnetic composites. If you want to know more about how this material can drastically improve part performance, check out our introductory e-book by clicking the graphic above. (Don’t worry: Unlike some of the other educational outlets we mentioned above, our resources are free.)
Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
Nowhere is that more true than in metal manufacturing. The only continuing path for powder metallurgy to gain credibility and acceptance as a viable alternative for small parts manufacturing is to show you what it can do!
If your product line has untapped potential for advances or new applications, consider consulting with an advanced powder metal parts supplier. The ones familiar with advanced soft magnetic materials can help you develop innovative methods to cut costs and improve efficiency.