It’s been a while, it’s time for another entry. This will be an entry about our visit to GKN Sinter Metals in Germany! As you dedicated readers know, we graduates were on a trip to Germany a while back. Like all the other weeks we’ve travelled, this week too was magical. Apart from fun and interesting study visits, the weather was also perfect – early summer, blazing sun and lots of heat.
Most of our visits on these trips are aerospace related as we ourselves work within aerospace. However, we sometimes choose to visit companies working with other things for various reasons. An example is that we visited Volkswagen in Wolfsburg, which has 70000 (no, not 7000) employees just on this site! Another example was visiting GKN Driveline in Birmingham, to see more of our own business but in a bigger perspective than just the aerospace division.
This time it was time to broaden our horizon and visit GKN Sinter Metals in Bad Langensalza, Germany. Sintering is a manufacturing process where fine metal powder is formed, pressurized and heated until it becomes a solid object. In classical sintering just the metal powder is used for manufacturing of these parts. This means the structure is very sensitive after forming but before sintering. Even touching it can destroy it. However, at GKN Sinter Metals in Bad Langensalza they use a special technique of sintering called MIM – Metal Injection Molding. MIM means mixing the metal powder with plastic beads which is knead into a tight mix of the two ingredients. This is then injected into a formation shell where heat is applied until the plastic melts, creating a solid object. This makes the object much less sensitive than if there was no plastic. The part is then moved to the sintering process where more heat removes the plastic and shrinks the part by about 20% in size. Lastly the remaining material is sintered and the product is finished. If one wishes to perform after-treatment such as chucking or milling that is absolutely no problem.
Some applications where MIM-products are used include common car engines, gear boxes, details in weaponry, locking mechanisms, sensors, and other small delicate metal items. The size of the details produced is from just a few millimeters up to a couple of centimeters. The larger the object the less reliable is the process of MIM.
All in all this was one of our most interesting and fun visits, at least according to me. These visits unrelated to aerospace is very inspiring as one often gets to see products, methods, work forms and more that one didn’t even know existed. Another benefit of being a graduate engineer!
Over and out,