ARCMIM, the combined MIM businesses of the publicly traded ARC Group Worldwide, Inc. (NASDAQ: ARCW), is a relatively new name on the global Metal Injection Molding (MIM) scene but the operations that make up the business are amongst the most widely recognised names in the industry – FloMet, based in the US, and Advanced Forming Technology (AFT), with operations in both the US and Hungary.
In addition to its ARCMIM operations, the company has made a recent move into the world of Additive Manufacturing with the creation of its 3DMT business. In an article published in the current issue of Powder Injection Moulding International magazine Ashley Nichols, General Manager at 3DMT, explained, “ARC expanded into 3D printing for two reasons. First, current MIM customers all want a full service provider that can do rapid prototyping and short run production as well as MIM for mass production. Adding 3D printing capability provides the customer with a solution from the very first plastic prototypes used in concepts to functional metal parts for initial fit and function testing, as well as low volume prototype lots to validate the product before making investments into mass production tooling.”
ARC, however, does not see the 3DMT business just for MIM prototyping, but also for the series production of additively manufactured parts. “MIM doesn’t have the design freedom that is possible in 3D printing. Metal 3D printing is a natural fit for ARC with our experience in metal powders and we can provide customers with new solutions that MIM can’t provide. The greatest strength of 3D printing is to design new solutions that aren’t even possible with conventional manufacturing technologies. 3D printing is a great strategic complement to our MIM business and allows us to expand into new products and markets by providing a solution to our customers that wasn’t available in the past,” explained Nichols.
Various Additive Manufacturing technologies are currently installed and these capabilities are available in both Europe and the US. Nichols stated, “Currently 3DMT can offer Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), Multijet Printing (MJP) and Stereolithography (SLA) for plastic parts. For metals we have powder bed laser melting technology from three different equipment manufacturers. Each technology and piece of equipment has its strengths and fits certain applications. We went with several different metal printing equipment suppliers so that we can select the best equipment for each type of part. Having multiple printers also allows us to run several different alloys without having to switch out a machine. Always having a machine ready with the right alloy reduces the lead-time for the customer.”
“Along with having multiple printing technologies, 3DMT provides all of these capabilities at multiple locations. Currently we have plastic printing capability in three facilities, two in North America and one in Europe. Metal printing is currently available in both North American facilities and will expand into Europe this summer. 3D printing is not just making parts, but providing a solution to the customer on a very compressed timeline, so localising production close to the customer is important.”
Read the full article on ARCMIM in the June 2014 issue of Powder Injection Moulding International, free to download from www.pim-international.com/magazine