Powder Metallurgy: A Green and Sustainable Technology

June 17, 2019

Let’s flip the page on the P/M process. On that would-be cover page, powder metallurgy produces parts that are porous and self-lubricating. Turning the page in this make-believe informational brochure, the technology shows off a whole other benefit. It’s right there, in quasi-real black and white, that this powder pressing and heating method demonstrates a wide range of sustainable manufacturing advantages.

A Green and Sustainable Manufacturing Process

One advantage makes itself quickly known. With the atomized powder pressed by die-shaped negatives, there’s very little material waste to take care of after a high-volume component production run has concluded. Better yet, there’s no molten slag to clear from the die because the powder metal doesn’t melt. Internalized within the production equipment, there’s the sintering heat, which accompanies the material-pressing pressure. Other than those energies, though, there are no molten metals or oxidized waste products to dispose of during or after the process. Simply put, powder metallurgy operations exhibit high material utilization factors.

Eliminates Subtractive Production Line Waste

Loose mountains of powdered metal are fully mixed with lubricants. The mix is transported to a sintering chamber as a Green material compact. Nothing is left to chance here. Even the pressing lubricant is reclaimed at some critical point. Then, if any of the powdered metal goes unused, it can be reclaimed and returned back to the primary powder mass. Clearly, P/M technology demonstrates a superior recyclability coefficient. That’s not a benefit that finds a match on a machine cutting line. On that equipment line, blanks are cut. The purely subtractive process creates precisely manufactured parts, but then there’s the workpiece waste to tackle. As one example of this issue, punches cut parts out of sheet metal sections, but what happens to that sheet metal after all of the components have been cut free? Unlike the recycled powder, that partially carved up sheet can’t be used again, not without melting it and expending copious quantities of recycling energy.

Not classed as a subtractive manufacturing process, P/M technology is Green and sustainable. Again, that’s because there’s no subtractive metal waste to recycle. If there’s a little powdery waste to take care of, it’s simply cleaned and reclaimed. Furthermore, the powder doesn’t melt, so there’s no oxidized slag to chip away and clear. Finally, all the way back at the powder atomization stage, those loose metal particles are typically sourced from millions of tons of recycled metal objects. The waste items, instead of ending up in some environmentally harmful landfill, are directed to a powder metallurgy factory, where they’re atomized and pressed back into service.

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