Medical device manufacturers can utilize a variety of methods for producing parts, medical devices, and instruments, including complex ones for surgical procedures such as laparoscopic minimally invasive surgery. The key is to choose the best process for the component being created. MIM and metal AM each have their merits.
-Steve Santoro, Micro
Metal Injection Molding (MIM) and metal additive manufacturing (AM) offer medical device manufacturers and their contract manufacturers an alternative to machining for producing durable, high-quality metal components, implants, instruments, and other devices. When functional or life testing is needed, MIM is especially useful for prototype builds compared to AM, and it is often the method of choice for manufacturing small, complex geometries and intricately-shaped parts.
Compared to plastic components, metal as a raw material is costly to manufacture and there are many processes available for fabricating metal components like sand casting process. The key is to pick the best process for each component. Having detailed knowledge of the costs and processing associated with as many of these technologies as possible makes the job easier.
Metal injection molding combines plastic injection molding with metal powder fusion. MIM is often preferred when small or complex parts are required that cannot be efficiently manufactured using any other methods. Injection molding can be automated when high volumes and consistent quality are needed. Post-MIM computer numerical control [CNC] machining can be used to achieve tight tolerances.
MIM parts are strong and can be bent, welded, hardened, and heat-treated like other wrought materials. A wide variety of metals can be processed with MIM, including stainless steel, steel alloys, iron-nickel alloys, cobalt alloys, tungsten alloys, and ceramics.