The Powder Metal Process: From Raw Material to Finished Part

Wondering how the powder metal process works?

In general, the development of new products consists of three steps.

First is choosing the metal powder material which will produce the component properties that meet or exceed the Customer’s expectations in their application.

Next, we will compact the chosen raw material into the print’s net shape, or near net shape, after which we sinter the part.

Sintering may be the final operation on a simple structure light duty component, or, dependent upon how complex the component structure is or special metallurgical properties that might be needed, we may have to add a secondary operation or a heat treatment operation.

The following outlines the typical steps we take in the development of a new product at Vision Quality Components, Inc.

team meeting

Step 1:  Team Meeting

After the quotation has been submitted to the Customer, and a Purchase Order placed to Vision for the tools and samples, all new projects begin with an internal team meeting where we go over the print requirements, review the material, the process requirements, the tool design, and the very important quality plan for the production component. This ensures the final product will meet your needs.

obtain raw material

Step 2:  Obtaining the Raw Material

The raw material chosen will now be ordered so that its delivery can be assured on time when the actual tool sample compacting process is ready to start.

Iron, Steel Alloys, Stainless Steel, and Brass are all among your options, as is our VISION 736 MAX STRENGTH blend.  You can learn more about our materials selection here.

compacting and pressing parts

Step 3:  Compact/Press into Mold/Die

When the tools and raw material are both in house and have passed vigorous inspection, the compacting tools will be set up in the appropriate press and samples compacted to meet our process sheet. In many cases, the part is formed to the print’s net shape at this point.

After inspection the “green parts” are signed off by quality, and ready for the next process step.

sintering the parts

Step 4:  Sintering

To begin the process of developing the component’s print size, and physical properties, the next step is Sintering. During this operation the components are subjected to temperature and time at temperature. The parts are conveyed through a controlled-atmosphere furnace where the components are delubed, heated to the appropriate time/temperature of the raw material type, and also cooled for handling at the end of the furnace. The main attribute of sintering is the bonding of the metal particles together to give the component its strength and sintered hardness.

Now, heat treat may be an option to the sintered components to add more strength and to fully harden the component.

 

hard turning secondary operations

Step 5:  Optional Operations like Machining, Grinding, Deburring/Tumbling, and Coating/Plating

At Vision Quality Components we machine both heat treated and non heat treated components.

Not all components need a secondary operation. The reason for a secondary machining operation may be to improve dimensional tolerances, add a feature we cannot compact in, or improve surface finishes. We also offer other secondary processes such as oil impregnation, black oxide, steam treat, plating and chromate, resin impregnation or even ceramic coating. Vision also has vibratory finishing for deburring.

 

quality inspection

Step 6:  Quality Inspection

At Vision Quality Components, we believe you build in the component quality throughout the entire process rather than rely on catching any defects at the end of the process.  Nevertheless, all parts must pass a final quality inspection as outlined in our Quality Plan, developed for each component we manufacture.

We produce components to very precision and close tolerances, so we have some very capable test fixtures and equipment in our Quality Lab.  Our people are very well trained on using this equipment and also most importantly maintaining the integrity of the test equipment and fixtures.

More details on our ISO 9001:2008 Certified Quality System can be found here.

 

packing and shipping parts

Step 7:  Packing and Shipping

When the finished components have passed our final inspection and signed off on the accompanying process traveling instruction sheet, they are sent to our packing and shipping department which also has instructions for the proper packing of every component we produce, as outlined by our process control plan, developed for each component.

Vision is very proud of our quality performance in the Powder Metal Industry. Our Scrap Rate is one of the lowest when compared to our competitors. This has related into near perfect delivery performances to our Customer Requirements.

Since 2003 when we opened our door we have said that VISION WILL BE BRINGING BACK SERVICE TO OUR INDUSTRY, and we feel we have done just that.

If you would like to learn more about how powder metal can work for you, check out our “Why Powder Metal?” page.

Want more information or ready to get started on a project?

Talk to Lesley Kline and see how Vision can help you meet your needs.  Please contact Lesley by phone at (814) 765-1903 x208 or email at lkline@visionqci.com. More information can be found on our “Contact Us” page.