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Since its development in the 19th century, modern powder metallurgy (PM) has come a long way from being used to create tungsten filaments and military equipment to now becoming a key force driving innovations in a multitude of industries like aerospace and nuclear energy that require complex metal parts with high strength.
Automotive is another industry that has come to recognize the effectiveness of metal powders and powder metallurgy in improving the efficiency and durability of modern vehicles. In fact, a whole 73% of all PM components are produced for automotive purposes. However, the applications of metal powders are yet to reach their full potential in the automotive sector. That’s why we’re sharing the advantages of metal powder for automotive and how powder metallurgy will impact the industry in the coming years.
Benefits of Using Metal Powders in the Automotive Industry
Compared to traditional methods, powder metallurgy increases production efficiency by reducing yield losses from metal removal processes. It minimizes waste by up to 97% since metal powders can be reused.
For automotive, the specific physical and chemical properties (like high-temperature resistance and lighter weight) of different powders allow for more control and precision while constructing different parts. They can be heat treated after production for higher strength and durability as well as spot hardening.
Metal powder-based manufacturing like additive manufacturing (AM) or metal injection molding (MIM) also allows for unique, innovative designs you can’t do with simple metal plates. Complicated shapes can be created with ease and with a smoother surface than would be possible through traditional methods. These minute design choices can improve performance and fuel efficiency.
Applications of Powder Metallurgy in Modern Vehicles
Car design is evolving rapidly, with all new cutting-edge features added to cars every year. The use of PM in vehicles began with miniature components in the early 20th century followed by larger components like synchronizer hubs and power steering parts. Now, metal powders are used for thousands of components that are known to be structurally stronger and have higher resistance to wear and tear.
PM is ideal for gears and engine components such as bearing cups, valve guides, and manifold actuators which have to undergo an immense amount of stress. Some other engine parts that can be produced using metal powders are:
- Valve seat inserts
- PM lobes
- Pulleys and sprockets
- Engine management sensor rings.
Due to the ease of near-net shaping and free alloy design, metal powders are also used in chassis components like anti-lock braking system sensor rotors (ABS) and angular velocity sensors.
Increasing Adoption of Powder Metallurgy
Standardization was a challenge that was severely limiting the wider use of PM for automotive components, but stricter material control and vendor certification while buying metal powder paved the way for greater acceptance.
Developments in raw materials along with improvements in processes such as hot isostatic pressing (HIP), rolling and injection molding, and powder forging have further facilitated the use of PM components in modern vehicle manufacturing.
How Metal Powders Will Change the Future of Automotives
With innovations in modern vehicles, such as the emergence of electric and hybrid cars, the use cases of powder metallurgy will only increase. Reducing carbon emissions and increasing fuel efficiency are concerns for the future that are driving the electrification and hybridization of vehicles — tech where metal powder holds immense potential.
Manufacturers can use PM to slim down structures and increase the efficiency of electric motors for better fuel utilization. But to do that, it’s important to look beyond the current applications as well as make further improvements in existing technologies. By continuing to innovate, automotive and metal powder manufacturers can push the envelope to meet the growing demands of next-generation applications of metal powders.
There’s no denying the latent opportunities that metal powders possess for next-gen vehicle manufacturing, so now it’s just a race to see which companies march beyond the standard applications and adapt faster for the future of automotive.