NEW YORK The Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF) has projected further growth in the North American powder metal industry in 2013, with momentum carrying over from a 9.6-percent increase in powder metal shipments in 2012.
MPIF president Matthew Bulger presented the positive outlook at the Powder Metallurgy and Particulate Materials Conference in Chicago after most metal powder producers, equipment makers and powder metal parts companies reported increased sales in 2012.
Those increases have carried into this year, with the MPIF estimating that the North American market for metal injection molding (MIM) powders, which grew 35.5 percent last year to an estimated $250 million to $300 million in sales, is set to experience another 10- to 35-percent growth this year. The MPIF cited firearms applications as the leading MIM parts market and noted the potential for growth in the automotive market, particularly in components for electric and hybrid vehicles and turbocharged gasoline engines.
Iron powder shipments, which increased 5.5 percent in 2012, were up 6.7 percent through the first four months of 2013, according to the MPIF, while copper powder producers have tentatively forecast 3- to 5-percent growth this year after experiencing a 4.7-percent decline in copper, copper-base and tin powder shipments last year. Those positive figures look to offset a weakening market for tungsten, tungsten carbide and tungsten alloys, the Princeton, N.J.-based trade group said.
The MPIF noted that continued investment in developing metal powder technology, which would improve materials and increase parts applications, is "vital to our industrys future." Powder-based alloys for defense and energy applications, such as aluminum alloys for lighter-weight armored vehicles, laser-sintering 3D printers for sintering metals for complex aircraft parts and iron-based soft magnetic composites for motors and compressors are among the potential applications that researchers are currently studying.