Qingdao Greenlong Machinery Equipment Co., Ltd., based in Qingdao, China, has developed its first Additive Manufacturing system based on Metal Injection Moulding (MIM) technology. According to the company, the system, titled the P/FFDM 3D Printer, which can be used to build parts in metal, ceramic or plastic, has achieved successful results for the AM of large parts, with most test parts weighing more than 300 g and the largest part said to weigh over 5000 g.
Greenlong developed the machine with the aim of solving a key pain point of MIM – the long lead-times involved in the development and production of tooling for each new product. The machine was developed using plastic Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) technology as its basis, while drawing on Greenlong’s experience as a maker and user of injection moulding machines.
By using the P/FFDM for the production of MIM tooling, companies which use MIM can significantly reduce product lead times. Further, the machine uses standard MIM feedstock and produces parts requiring debinding and sintering using the same equipment as MIM parts, making it relatively simple for MIM operations to incorporate the new system into their workflow. Greenlong additionally stated that if a product produced on the P/FFDM is found to be wrong or defective, it can simply be broken and reformed into feedstock for a future build.
The company added that the production of components on the P/FFDM machine remains quite slow in comparison to MIM manufacturing, and can be an inefficient production method for large volumes of parts. However, it was reported that a new machine is now in the ‘debugging stage’ which will have the capability to produce parts at speeds comparable to MIM. The new machine is set for release in mid-2019.