Sintering in the powder metallurgy sector: 5 decisive advantages

Anyone involved in powder metallurgy will find it impossible to avoid the topic of sintering. This tried-and-test method of processing metal powder scores points through the numerous advantages it offers compared to other approaches. We have summarised the five most important arguments for making sintering an integral part of your powder metallurgy activities in this article.

Powder metallurgy and sintering: A real dream team

Manufacturing or purchasing metal powder may initially not really seem to be the best choice to make. After all, this means having to either reprocess materials that are already available or purchase these in powder form at comparatively high prices. However, when you finally unite powder metallurgy with sintering technology, what feels like taking the long route in the production process suddenly makes absolute sense. This is because sintering offers a number of advantages that provide convincing arguments for many component manufacturers. Not without reason is this method of processing currently being implemented across all industries: From the automotive to the dental technology sector, sintering is now an integral part of the day-to-day business.

Advantage 1: Processing and combining complicated raw materials

Normally, if you wish to combine two different raw materials, this can prove difficult to impossible – depending on the respective combination. Different melting points or materials with different solubility means that mixing these is a complicated affair. Metal powders, on the other hand, are easy to mix – almost as easy as salt and pepper. These compounds can then be bonded during the sintering process to form a new material.

As no one wants to liquify the raw materials, their different melting points no longer play a role. The only important thing to note is that the melting point of the materials is not exceeded during the lowest phase. For specific individual materials, sintering may also prove to be the best processing option. This is the case, for example, where a metal has an extremely high melting point, such as tungsten. Such materials can only be reasonably processed and moulded as part of a powder metallurgy/sintering process if the amount of time and energy invested is not to reach too high a level.

Advantage 2: Production of complex moulds

Metal powders have a great advantage over other raw materials: They can be formed into any shape – effortlessly and without a lot of preparatory work, such as melting – if the right tool is available (comparable to a casting mould). Sintering thus allows you to produce even highly complex components in just one single step – without the need for mechanical processing. Toothings, grooves, profiles or similar can be easily worked into the desired component. Having to grind, file or otherwise mould the component by hand or using more machines later on is rendered unnecessary. This saves time, money and the use of materials.

Another added bonus: Due to their porosity, sintered parts weigh up to 25% less than comparable components made of solid materials. This facilitates their transport and storage. If these components are later used in the automotive industry, for example, important kilos can be saved through the lightweight design of these sintered parts.

Advantage 3: High dimensional accuracy

In most applications, however, easy handling alone is not sufficient to obtain satisfactory results. After all, at the end of the day, the degree of accuracy also has to be right. This is also an aspect where sintering can score points. Compacting the materials in moulds produces components with a very high level of dimensional accuracy. Depending on the calibration of the tool in question, the tolerance values in the perpendicular direction of compacting can be optimized up to ISO tolerance grade 5. With respect to the depth of the components, the differences are somewhat greater but can be easily minimized through subsequent finishing. This means that you can also use sintering for critical components where accuracy plays an extremely important role.

Advantage 4: High reliability and replicability levels

For producing single components or components in small quantities, purchasing a sintering tool and the corresponding accessories is too cost-intensive. In the metallurgy sector, sintering is instead used whenever a large number of components need to be produced. This naturally means that both the reliability and the replicability of the results also play a decisive role when evaluating the procedure. As already mentioned, using sintering to mould complex components, in particular, where it is not so easy to correct deviations, is ideal. The stability of the tools (moulds), professional calibration and a software-supported process control system enable the results to be reliably replicated.

Advantage 5: Environmentally friendly technology

In the daily business of companies across all business sectors, environmental friendliness and sustainability are gaining in importance. Whereas sustainable changes can be quickly implemented in office jobs – ranging from LED lamps to regional organic fruit baskets –, industrial enterprises are often still looking for the ways and means of achieving these goals. One approach could be to deploy alternative methods of processing materials. Sintering is namely considered a green technology in the powder metallurgy industry – for several reasons:

  • The materials are optimally utilized, there is no waste.
  • Ideally, any residual product material can be reused.
  • There is no waste, such as chippings or similar.
  • You consume less energy for sintering as the temperatures needed are lower than for melting, for example.
  • The micropores allow sintered parts to be soaked with lubricating oil, making them suitable for self-lubricating bearings, thus reducing lubricant usage.
  • The minimized weight also indirectly contributes to environmental protection: Transporting these lightweight sintered parts also requires less energy.

If you are looking for an environmentally friendly alternative to your current manufacturing methods, sintering may be just what you need.

It is virtually impossible to imagine powder metallurgy without sintering

Sintering is the number one method for refining metal powders. Compared to other methods in which solid materials are used, sintering scores points through the advantages it offers – across all sectors. Ranging from the simple handling of raw materials that are otherwise complicated to use to being able to reliably produce even highly complex components in large quantities to the sustainability aspect within the context of corporate social responsibility, sintering knows how to deliver a convincing performance.

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