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October 1, 2001

3 Min Read
PIM is growing fast in Europe

Editor's note: Metal injection molding is a growing market that many thermoplastic injection molders around the world are entering. Last month we took a look at the MIM market in Japan ("The MIM Renaissance in Japan," September 2001 IMM, pp. 50-51). Here we focus on growing MIM activity in Europe. 

Before 1990 there were only about 21 injection molders doing powder injection molding (PIM) in Europe—eight were involved in metal injection molding (MIM) and 13 were in ceramic injection molding (CIM). There were no indigenous feedstock suppliers. All feedstock compounding was done in-house, and there was only one binder supplier. Clearly, a lot has changed. 

According to Marko Maetzig of the PIM development department at Arburg GmbH & Co. (Lossburg, Germany), PIM is on the growth fast track in Europe. Today, there are more than 120 PIM molders, running more than 250 PIM presses, and consuming more than 1000 metric tons of powders each year. 

CIM materials remain the more widely used—50 percent of the PIM molders in Europe mold ceramics, mostly alumina oxide. Ceramic cores are a leading application. Metals hold a 35 percent share—52 percent of metal injection molding is in stainless steel. A leading MIM application is molded gears. Cemented carbides account for 8 percent of total consumption and magnetic materials take up the rest. 

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Most of the activity is in Germany. More than half of all of the European PIM molders are located in that country. Switzerland comes in a distant second with 9 percent, followed closely by France with 8 percent. Maetzig says 52 percent of the European PIM presses are 26- to 50-metric-tonners; only 2 percent are more than 100 metric tons. 

Most of the PIM molders in Europe still formulate their own binders and feedstocks, but there are now six feedstock suppliers. BASF tops the list with a 30 percent share of market. Clariant is in second place, followed by Zschimmer & Schwarz. 

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Then and Now 
Where are all the new European PIM molders coming from? Maetzig says most (38 percent) are from traditional ceramic manufacturing sectors, followed closely by thermoplastic injection molders (27 percent), and entrepreneurial newcomers (14 percent). Existing PIM molders also deserve a big hand for growing the business. 

Take Mimtec AG (Rorschach, Switzerland), for instance. When IMM visited Mimtec two years ago it was an ambitious startup. Mimtec had two injection molding manufacturing cells back then and ran just one type of material. 

The company had four cells running last year. This year it expects to add one more cell, triple its feedstock production volume, and run 10 different material types (see "Managing a Successful MIM Startup," December 1999 IMMC, p. 7 for an initial report). 

The five major markets for PIM parts in Europe include automotive, jewelry (including watches), mechanical, electronics, and medical. Maetzig says ceramic optical fiber connectors (ferrules) is an application that could spark yet another round of explosive growth in the European PIM marketplace (see "CIM Conversion Sheds Light on Broadband Nets," April 2001 IMMC, p. 12 for more on ferrules). 

Contact information
Arburg Machinery
Newington, CT
(860) 667-6500
www.arburg.com

Information for this article was drawn
from a presentation given at the
PIM 2001 international conference
held earlier this year in
Lake Buena Vista, FL. Additional
information on PIM 2002 can be
found at www.imspowder.com.

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