How Well Does Artificial Intelligence Understand Metal Injection Molding?

With the rapid rise in use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to solve problems and offer technical advice on subjects, the engineers at Advanced Powder Products wanted to judge the accuracy of responses pertaining to Metal Injection Molding (MIM). Using the most popular AI platform, ChatGPT, the team at APP asked a series of basic MIM questions. The results are outlined below: 

Question: When designing for MIM, what is the minimum wall thickness required? 

AI Answer: The minimum wall thickness required for a Metal Injection Molding (MIM) part depends on several factors such as the material being used, the geometry of the part, and the intended application of the part. Generally, the wall thickness for MIM parts should not be less than 0.5mm (0.020 inches) to avoid issues such as warping, distortion, and part failure during the molding process.  

APP Feedback: Disagree- While AI got the fundamentals of the process correct, the actual recommended minimum wall thickness for a MIM part is 0.010 inches. However, walls as small as .008” have been manufactured successfully in micro applications.  

Question: How small of a part can MIM reliably manufacture? 

AI Answer: The size of the part that can be reliably manufactured using Metal Injection Molding (MIM) depends on several factors, including the complexity of the part, the material used, and the equipment capabilities. However, in general, MIM can reliably produce parts as small as a few millimeters in size with complex shapes and features. It is also important to note that as the size of the part decreases, the manufacturing process becomes more challenging. For example, handling and filling small molds with metal powder can be difficult, and the sintering process may require careful control of temperature and atmosphere to avoid distortion or cracking of the part. 

APP Feedback: Inconclusive - AI does a decent job explaining the factors that go into designing a small part using MIM but comes up short on delivering an actual answer. Although small, a “few millimeters” leaves quite a wide margin of size when you are talking about intricate items, such as implantable medical devices or internal components of a cell phone. Both of which can be produced using MIM. At APP, we have successfully manufactured components that weigh less than .05 grams with intricate features.  

Question: How large of a part can Metal Injection Molding reliably manufacture? 

AI Answer: The size of the part that Metal Injection Molding (MIM) can reliably manufacture depends on several factors, including the complexity of the part, the material used, and the equipment capabilities. However, in general, MIM can reliably produce parts up to a few hundred grams in weight and up to several inches in length and width.  

APP Feedback: Inconclusive- As with the question above, AI explains the challenges of manufacturing a larger part using MIM but comes up short on giving specific dimensions. At APP, we prefer MIM components under 100 grams with the average being 10-15 grams. Components over 100 grams are technically feasible but come with increased risk. These risks include increased sintering distortion, low-density, increased probability of sinking, and the economic advantage of MIM is reduced.  

Question: Do you need to draft when designing for MIM? 

AI Answer: Yes, it is recommended to include draft angles when designing parts for Metal Injection Molding (MIM). Draft angles are small tapers added to vertical surfaces of a part to facilitate easy removal of the part after it has been formed. Draft angles help to prevent the part from being stuck in the mold due to suction forces that occur during the injection molding process. Without draft angles, the part may be difficult or impossible to remove for the mold without damaging it or the mold itself. The recommended draft angle for MIM parts typically ranges from 0.5 to 2.0 degrees, depending on the complexity of the part and the type of material being used. Including draft angles in the design of MIM parts can help ensure that they can be manufactured consistently and efficiently, while also reducing the risk of defects and improving overall part quality. 

APP Feedback: Agree- AI does a decent job explaining the need for draft angles and giving a specific degree range to work with.  

While it seems the era of gathering information through artificial intelligence is here, it is also important to note that AI still does not have all the answers. When it comes to advanced technologies like Metal Injection Molding, AI seems to have the fundamentals in place, but lacks the precision details needed to give specific answers. As with many MIM parts, it often takes a collaborative effort between the client and engineers to think outside of the box for solutions to unique application challenges. While AI can give you the foundational data and a generalization on thresholds, it is still apparent that it takes a human element to produce the best solution for a company. Thinking you might need some human advice on MIM? Reach out to our expert team with your questions.