STUDY GOAL AND OBJECTIVES
BCC’s goal in conducting this study is to analyze the current status of the ceramic and metal injection molding (MIM) technology and business. The report covers both powder and liquid processes for metal injection molding. When referring to ceramic and/or metal powder injection molding, the term powder injection molding (PIM) is often used. The term thixo-molding is often used to refer to liquid metal injection molding. All of the processes have the injection molding machine in common, and are at times undertaken by the same companies, which may also be plastic injection molders. The report is designed to provide an overview of the current technology, new developments, business opportunities, and an assessment of the markets. The goals of this report are to:
- Provide an overview of ceramic and metal injection molding technology.
- Explain and forecast the rapid growth of Asian producers in the shifting global marketplace
- Understand the current industry structure and future trends.
- Analyze the business for potential new developments and trends.
- Identify and analyze applications and markets for potential for growth of this technology and business.
- Review and analyze the patents awarded over the past five years and assess technological trends.
- Explain and forecast the economic pressures facing raw materials for these industries.
- Describe the business problems facing the industry.
The study’s primary goal is to give readers a clear understanding of the ceramic and metal injection technology and business and growth potential over the next five years. BCC uses 2009 as the base year, since this report was completed in late 2008. Data for 2009 are forecast based on estimated, full 2008 data. The knowledge of both the market and technological trends will help companies prepare for future developments. The knowledge will be helpful in improving business strategies for growth and success in the marketplace.
REASON FOR DOING THE STUDY
Ceramic and metal injection molding is a near net shape manufacturing technology that is extremely cost effective in producing small complex parts. The technology is growing in importance as design engineers develop new components that require greater mechanical strength than offered by synthetic materials. Concurrently, there is a trend toward miniaturization. At the same time, there is an enormous drive to reduce costs. This has a two-pronged effect on ceramic and metal injection molding: 1) New designs combine functionality or eliminate processing steps, requiring a more complex design that can only be achieved through injection molding; 2) There are drives to boost scale, thus making injection molding a more attractive economic option than competing processes such as machining. Metal injection molding also has environmental advantages over casting, while also reducing energy costs.
Reasons for doing the study (Continued)
Meanwhile, the technologies are vastly improving, particularly in the area of powder size. Better simulation and control systems are being commercialized for injection molding machines processing materials other than plastics. New furnaces also improve economies of scale for big-ticket markets, such as automotive. New standards have also opened bigger markets for ceramic and injection molding, which only started to become an important commercial industry in the last 15 years. The technology is being used to manufacture parts and components for the aerospace, automotive, electronics, telecommunications, consumer, medical, and dental industries.
When MIM technology was developed, there was significant excitement in the industry. Very high growth rates were projected and a significant number of companies came into being to utilize this technology. While initial projections were overblown, the industry has grown significantly. Growth rates slowed some in the 2006 to 2008 period because of soaring metals prices, a slowing auto market, and spotty economic conditions globally. BCC forecasts the industry is due for another growth spurt.
This is the first and only study to include ceramic and metal as powder injection molding, and to include thixo-molding for liquid metals, such as magnesium and aluminum. This is important because these parts are all made on the same equipment and compete in the same markets—sometimes even for the same parts. Any report that fails to include all three processes is inadequate.
BCC also is issuing this report because of significant changes taking place in the global industry structure. Powder injection molding was invented in the United States in the early 1970s by two engineers named Karl Zueger and Raymond E. Wiech, Jr. The United States had a strong lead, with Europe and Japan quickly following. Now the growth is shifting to China and other Asian countries. This report defines the trend and its impact on existing companies in the business.
This report is extremely important to anyone currently in the metal or ceramic injection molding business: those who are considering entry to the market, investors in the marketplace, and those who will be strongly affected by the development of this sector. These groups are described below.
- Engineers and business managers who are looking for cost-effective solutions to vexing performance or cost problems in products they are currently developing.
- Engineers working for existing ceramic and metal injection molding companies. They can see how they stack up against the state-of-the art in design and manufacturing.
- Entrepreneurs who will be able to identify new areas for application of this technology and thus use it to start new businesses. Particularly important in this category are plastic injection molders in the United States and Europe who are taking a beating from low prices, Asian competition, and declining demand.
- The current manufacturers who use the PIM and thixo-molding manufacturing processes. They will understand the global nature of this business, the existing competition, the fluid nature of the industry structure as well as potential opportunities to use the technology to increase their PIM production and sales.
- The businesses that will be able to understand the current industry structure and competition so as to identify threats and opportunities. This information will be useful to anyone considering an investment in the industry.
- The report also provides information that would help a reader understand the MIM business and assist in evaluation of a new business plan, or evaluation of stock values of a publicly owned company that participates in the businesses such as BASF (BF on the New York Stock Exchange) or Precision Castparts (NYSE: PCP)..
- Other individuals will also find this report valuable. Scientists and academia will use it to understand the business and identify the areas for research and training of personnel to support the industry.
SCOPE OF REPORT
- Presents a concise review of the manufacturing technology and clearly identifies the current status and new developments as well as areas for future developments.
- Covers global companies, with emphasis on North America, that participate in the ceramic and metal injection molding business as molders, materials’ suppliers, or equipment suppliers. Emphasis is on the molders and molded components.
- Covers the broad range of markets and applications that are served by the metal injection molding industry. It provides five-year projections for powders and PIM parts made from ceramics and metals. Forecasts are made in constant U.S. dollars or pounds. Historical sales data are actual numbers.
- Describes the diverse products that can be made via powder metal injection molding and thixo-molding technologies and the different markets for parts, including automotive, consumer products, industrial, medical, and telecommunications. The detailed analyses of the applications, markets, market shares, and growth prospects are presented.
- Provides accounts of key business presentations at industry meetings and the individual views of industry executives. Since these opinions may conflict, BCC provides multiple views, and then draws its own conclusions.
- Presents a review and analyses of the industry structure and global competition and raises the issues that need to be addressed by the companies to assess the competition.
A careful methodology was followed to generate all the information related to the current status of the industry. The first step focused on identification of the companies using powder injection molding and/or thixo-molding to produce components. The metals, binder systems, equipment needs and markets were reviewed and researched. The information was generated for many companies in Asia, Europe, and North America. Many of the companies that are listed in the report were contacted to gather the data and gain their perspectives on the industry. The information was reviewed and analyzed to estimate relevant statistics such as market size and market shares.
SCOPE of report (Continued)
Also, forecasts for each market segment were generated. This included analyzing the growth of the U.S. economy and global economy as well as growth of the industries during the forecast period. Emphasis is on three primary regions: North America, Europe, and Asia. Data is also included for rest of the world, which includes South America, non-NATO Europe (including Russia), and Australia for the PIM analysis. A wide spectrum of resources was used to understand and analyze the current state of the industry and potential for future growth. All reported revenue data in this report are constant 2009 U.S. dollars.
A variety of information sources were used to gather the information used to compile this study. Some of the main sources include:
- The manufacturing companies currently using powder injection molding and thixo-molding technologies to serve a wide variety of markets.
- The equipment suppliers as well as suppliers of binders and feedstock to the manufacturing companies.
- Technical reports, product literature, and press reports on metal injection molding technology, the powder metallurgy industry, and the end users of MIM components and parts.
- Trade publications (such as the American Metal Market, the International Journal of Powder Metallurgy, Metal Powder Report, Design News, and Injection Molding Magazine) and interviews with industry participants.
- Statistics and literature from the Metal Powder Industries Federation, the Japan Powder Metallurgy Association, and the European Powder Metallurgy Association.
- Government publications such as U.S. Industrial Outlook, Department of Commerce Studies, and U.S. Census reports on business conditions.
- Sales and marketing data from specialized sources, Web sites of the relevant companies and research institutions, selected firms in the industry and correspondence with willing executives and personnel in the industry.
- The U.S. Patent Bibliographic Database from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and company product brochures, annual reports, and other literature.
Doug Smock has spent more than 30 years as a journalist covering manufacturing industries for several publications, including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Purchasing Magazine (chief editor), Plastics World (chief editor), Modern Plastics Magazine, and Design News magazine. His coverage of the materials and injection molding fields has earned him three coveted Jesse Neal awards of distinction from the American Business Press. He is also the co-author of two highly acclaimed business management books from J. Ross Publishing: Straight to the Bottom Line and On-Demand Supply Management. Smock has the unique perspective of an expert in injection molding and also a world view of the supply management pressures facing the injection molding industry. He is a graduate of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.