Establishing alternative value chains will result in the need for increased MIM production capabilities"

BASF and OECHSLER have been business partners for many years in the fields of plastic injection moulding, additive manufacturing and, most recently, for metal injection moulding (MIM) production, which is newly established at OECHSLER. Dr. Sven Fleischmann has been part of the BASF Group for twelve years and has been in charge of sales for Catamold - the starting material for MIM - since 2021. He is sharing some insights on Metal Injection Molding.

Interview with Dr. Sven Fleischmann, Head of Sales Metal Systems Europe BASF

Short Description Metal Injection Molding (hereafter MiM)

Catamold® is a ready to use Feedstock for Metal Injection Molding (MIM). Metal Injection Molding is a near net-shape metal forming technology that offers high tolerances and good economy of scale. Standard Injection molding machines are used for the forming step in which the feedstock is melted into cavities to yield the so-called “green part”. In subsequent post-processing steps, the polymer binder is catalytically removed to give a “brown part” which is eventually sintered to full density at high temperatures to yield the final metal part. The Catamold® process has been successfully proven in a variety of industries such as Automotive, Healthcare, Consumer Electronic Products and others.

Can you please tell us about the path of BASF to metal injection molding - when did you first meet this technology, when and how did you recognize its potential and become enthusiastic about it?

BASF has been a renown powder producer (Carbonyl Iron Powder, CIP) for more than 80 years. CIP was found to be a versatile raw material for MIM feedstock making and BASF served this market. BASF had recognized that MIM industry can only grow with a few changes. All feedstocks available in that time were based on solvent (water or organic) debinding systems. Solvent debinding, however, is a slow process, not readily scalable and has many technical pitfalls. BASF realized that a faster and more scientifically comprehensive system had to be developed for MIM technology to exploit its full benefits. BASF introduced the POM-based catalytic debinding system marketed und the brandname Catamold® 30 years ago. For its recognized benefits, the catalytic debinding enabled the MIM technology to grow vastly into a variety of industries and became the first choice production tool in Consumer Electronics Products (smartphones, smart watches, etc). This success set a lighthouse example to grow into other high-scale industries such as Automotive. The technology is now growing in Europa tremedously as customers, Tiers and brandowners are more and more relying on local supply and production capacities.

BASF belongs to the partner-of-choice when it comes to MiM – materials. Can you elaborate on the advantages and specialties of BASF materials?

This is best described by a triangle of key competencies: 1) Team - we have profound, well educated and trained personnel with high motivation and commitment to the customers and the industry. 2) Innovation: BASF not only invented the modern feedstock system based on catalytic debinding but continues to develop new products and processes. With our motion grades we introduced a new product line with many advantages for applications in the Automotive sector. With our 3D printing activities in metals BASF will be able to significantly contribute to the future development of MIM. 3) Process ownership: BASF is proud to serve the MIM industry from a broad basis. BASF is a renown metal powder producer with long-term experience and commitment, possesses the formulation know-how and equipment for MIM feedstock production as well as application expertise and laboratories to support customers from prototyping to mass production. The triad of the aforementioned advantages is BASF’s pivotal differentiator to offer sustainable solutions for the MIM industry.

We can see a continuous growth of the MIM technology in Europe for the upcoming years. Automotive OEM’s and Tier’ s have added MIM to their toolbox of production methodologies for selected part groups. The trend of establishing alternative value chains is clearly visible and will result in the need for increased MIM production capacity in Europe. It will be an exciting journey to work with all stakeholders to realize this growth.

Sven Fleischmann
Head of Sales Metal Systems Europe BASF

MiM processes are used cross-industrial from automotive to healthcare and industrial solutions. How does the BASF material portfolio serve the required standards for the specific materials?

BASF ‘s MIM business is certified according to several ISO standards. The quality management strategy is geared to industry requirements and specific industrial requests are taken into account by implementing additional QM measures. For example, BASF has aligned the quality management of the MIM business to the needs of the automotive sector and implemented key elements such as APQP or GageRR.

What are the expectations of BASF regarding MiM in the upcoming years, and which of the segments are you extremely excited about?

We can see continuous growth of the MIM technology in Europe for the upcoming years. Automotive OEM’s and Tier’ s have added MIM to their toolbox of production methodologies for selected part groups. The trend of establishing alternative value chains is clearly visible and will result in the need for increased MIM production capacity in Europe. It will be an exciting journey to work with all stakeholders to realize this growth. MIM will see many opportunities and challenges and must be frontrunner to successfully transfer the industry into a sustainable future.

BASF and OECHSLER are partnering already for a long time. From your perspective can you describe on what makes OECHSLER unique?

OECHSLER is recognized within the entire BASF group as a highly capable partner in Automotive industry. OECHSLER possess high innovation power, excellent process know-how and a pool of talented people. With technical capabilities reaching from plastic forming, ceramic and metal parts production, Oechsler will be able to differentiate successfully in the market and elaborate unique solutions for their customers.


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