What is Powder Metallurgy Process and Its Significance in Bearing Manufacture?

August 31, 2017

A map of sorts determines just how sintered components are manufactured. It describes an engineering process, though, not some diagrammatic portrayal of a geographical area. On that diagram, the powder metallurgy process illustrates, in steps, the procedures used to transform powdery metal feedstock into refined final products, say a sintered bearing or a brake pad for an automobile. Let’s navigate this processing map.

Following the Powder Metallurgy Process 

In engineering parlance, a block diagram greatly simplifies an overwhelmingly complex series of manufacturing steps. That’s what this “map” is designed for, to clearly illustrate the powder sintering production line. And, when we say “line,” that’s likely misrepresenting the nature of this diagrammatically represented blueprint, for there are branches and convergences taking place on this processing chart, not just a linear manufacturing procedure. It all begins with the raw materials, with the metal powder and additives.

Powder Sintered Procedurals 

To use a quick metaphor, if the powder metallurgy process is a tree, then the raw materials are the roots of that tree. This is the powdered bronze, a popular bearing material that’s chemically deposited or shredded through a special grinding machine. In our first branch on that tree, the powder metal mixes with additives. What are those additives? In the example we’re charting, the mix adds a waxy lubricant. From here, the blend enters a large mechanical compaction stage. Die presses, core rods, and mandrels transform the blended mix into a near solid material. Finally, as the material leaves the compaction block of the diagram we’re describing, it travels into the sintering area, a stage that heats the bronze/lubricant amalgamate until it becomes a solid metal, one that still exhibits a semi-porous microstructure.

An Indispensable Bearing Manufacturing Process 

Ideally, a friction-mitigating bearing would have no moving parts, just a plain surface that magically supports a loaded shaft. The powder metallurgy process isn’t powered by magic, but it does use the material characteristics of a known metal to turn powdery piles into lubricant-infused bearings, which is a kind of magic in and of itself. Essentially, that solid alloy is ground down, then the powder metallurgy process reassembles the metal, this time with a porous structure, one that provides that essential self-lubricating feature we’ve mentioned so often in the past.

Think of the powder metallurgy process as a non-ferrous solids conversion technique. Exposed to grinding machinery, the solid bronze becomes a light powder. The procedures covered above then change the bronze particulates back into a solid bearing, except the material is now loaded with tiny pockets of slippery oil, a product profile that excels as a self-lubricating shaft mount.

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