Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

FP7

ACCOMIM Report Summary

Project ID: 641476
Funded under: FP7-JTI
Country: Spain

Final Report Summary - ACCOMIM (ACtuator COmponents made by alternative Metal Injection Moulding)

Executive Summary:
Nowadays, most small and complex metallic parts are produced by traditional and cost intensive machining operations. Furthermore, complex design shapes are manufactured by assembling different parts, which means big amount of chipping of unused material. These factors increase the cost and environmental impact of the parts, as well as the energy used for manufacturing. The alternative production of these parts by MIM (Metal Injection Moulding) can reduce costs and energy, and allow a higher complexity in a single manufacturing step.
Metal Injection Moulding is a near-net-shape process, which starts with the injection of metallic powder mixed with a polymeric binder in a mould, to produce a final full metallic part by means of a complex debinding and sintering process. The result is a fully metallic part with nearly the same material strength as components made by milling and turning from metallic bars. This process is well established for manufacturing small and complex metallic parts in a wide variety of sectors (automotive, valves, locks, weaponry, surgery, etc), but not in the aerospace industry, especially for actuator components in the primary and secondary flight control systems.
The goal of the ACCOMIM project is to identify the small and complex components in the actual actuators used in the primary and secondary flight controls that can be produced by MIM technology, being the target the component requirement. Several MIM prototypes and sample tests have been manufactured using industry facilities with the most adequate material and industrial processes for this critical application. The high strength and quality of the prototypes and test samples is assessed by strict quality controls and tests (visual, dimensional, metallographic, corrosion and non-destructive testing). Design criteria, standards for materials and final controls, and control data sheet for each reference have been adapted to the characteristics of this new technology to produce actuator components for the aircraft sector, including a prospective view of industrialization, reduction on environmental impact and manufacturing cost of the components.
Thus, the main activities carried out in the project are the following:
- Analysis of the state of the art of materials which can be used as feedstock for the metal injection moulding process
- Selection of possible materials to proof material strength values for the application and substitution of traditional metallic bar materials used in aircraft applications
- Analysis of the feasibility to substitute flight control parts by parts made from MIM process
- Selection of several parts (depending on part complexity) and manufacturing of a small batch by means of MIM to proof their quality for later aircraft applications
- Cost and manufacturing analysis in comparison to standard part manufacturing
- Tests on specimens and prototypes for the evidence of sufficient strength and quality values for a later application on aircraft parts
The ACCOMIM consortium is composed by the following two partners:
- MIM TECH ALFA, S. L., a company specialized in the Metal Injection Moulding process, with the required expertise and competences in the MIM technology.
- IK4-AZTERLAN, a technological research centre specialized in metallurgy, which has been responsible of the testing and evaluation of the prototypes and samples.

Project Context and Objectives:
As it is known, nowadays most small and complex metallic parts are produced by traditional and cost intensive machining operations. Furthermore, complex design shapes are manufactured by assembling different parts, which means big amount of chipping of unused material. These factors increase the cost and environmental impact of the parts, as well as the energy used for manufacturing. The alternative production of these parts by MIM (Metal Injection Moulding) can reduce costs and energy, and allow a higher complexity in a single manufacturing step.
Metal Injection Moulding (MIM) is a near-net-shape process, which starts with the injection of metallic powder mixed with a polymeric binder in a mould, to produce a final full metallic part by means of a complex debinding and sintering process. The result is a fully metallic part with nearly the same material strength as components made by milling and turning from metallic bars, with high dimensional accuracy and small tolerances.
MIM process is well established for manufacturing small and complex metallic parts in a wide variety of sectors (automotive, valves, locks, weaponry, surgery, etc), but not in the aerospace industry, especially for actuator components in the primary and secondary flight control systems. This is the reason why ACCOMIM project seeks to apply MIM technology in the aeronautic sector, in order to find new application sectors for the technology and new advanced manufacturing processes for aeronautic industry.

The goal of the ACCOMIM project is to validate MIM technology to be used in the aerospace industry. Design criteria, standards for materials and final controls, and control data sheet for each reference have been adapted to the characteristics of this new technology to produce actuator components for the aircraft sector, including a prospective view of industrialization, reduction on environmental impact and manufacturing cost of the components.
To reach the main goal of the project, several objectives have been fulfilled during ACCOMIM project. They can be listed as following:
- Analysis of the state of the art of the traditionally used materials and processes for small aircraft metallic subparts, and the materials which can be used as feedstock for MIM.
- Selection of actuator components, which are suitable to be substituted by the less cost intensive MIM process.
- Analysis of the preliminary cost of the selected components.
- Re-design of the actuator components for validation of MIM materials and process
- Design manufacturing tools for the actuator component prototypes.
- Define MIM process in terms of flow chart, work instructions, technical data sheet, control plan and finishing operations.
- Design the test samples for validation of MIM materials and process for aircraft applications, and design injection tooling for the test samples.
- Conduct a cost study of new MIM parts and compare them with milling and turning processes
- Review with topic manager and release CDR to start prototype manufacturing.
- Manufacturing and setting up of tools for MIM production conditions
- Production of a minimum of 100 prototypes of each reference number and 100 test samples with different feedstock batches.
- First quality analysis and process adjustment in terms of tools and production parameters to obtain sound prototypes and test samples for final quality evaluation.
- Technical evaluation and validation test on samples and actuator component prototypes. Comparison with results obtained with the traditional process.
- Proof that MIM quality in terms of material and control results over final part are adequate for the manufacturing of actuator components.
- Analysis of reached TRL level, forecasting a prospective view for industrialization and cost reduction possibilities.
The ACCOMIM project has been successfully completed with the conclusion that the capabilities of the MIM technology in the aeronautic sector have been demonstrated although in some cases feasible improvements should be done along with clear definition of the acceptance criteria for MIM parts. This means that, in some cases, a further industrialization step is still needed to accomplish with the exigent requirements of the aeronautic industry.

In order to develop a reliable project and reach the previously indicated objectives, a well-balanced consortium between research, industry and user has been conformed:
- MIM TECH ALFA, S. L. (project coordinator) is a company specialized in the manufacturing of components by MIM for many industrial sectors. For the company, this project represents the possibility of widen the application range of MIM technology and access new high added value markets
- IK4-AZTERLAN (beneficiary) is a research center specialized in metallurgy, member of the well-known IK4 alliance. For Azterlan, the project represents the opportunity to include MIM technology as an alternative manufacturing process for its customers and the capability of using its high technology analysis
- Topic Manager is the end-user who defines needs and characteristics of the prototypes and validates them under functional conditions.

In terms of project structure, this has been divided in the following work packages:
- WP1. State of the art of available MIM feedstock for the production of flight control actuator components. The goal of this WP is to identify small and complex metallic components that are part of actuators that can be produced by MIM technology and to evaluate the availability in the market of feedstock material for the production of such components.
- WP2. Design and process definition for the manufacturing of actuator components by MIM technology. The goal of this WP is to close the design of the parts that will be used as demonstrators, and to define in detail the manufacturing route per each part, together with a control plan and cost analysis
- WP3. Manufacture of prototypes and test samples. The main objective of this WP is to, first, manufacture and set up the tools for MIM injection, second, manufacture prototypes of each reference and, finally, carry out a first quality analysis of the parts produced.
- WP4. Technical validation and economical evaluation of MIM prototypes. Industrialization prospection. The main objective of this WP is to evaluate technically and economically the aeronautic component prototypes and analyse with the topic manager the demonstrated capability of the MIM technology to manufacture aeronautic components.
- WP5. Project management, Exploitation and Dissemination. This is a horizontal WP devoted to all those non-technical activities that are also required to have a successful project. WP5 has been active during the whole duration of the project.

WP1, WP2, WP3 and WP4 have been running sequentially, being the output of each of them the initial input for the following one. For this reason, care have been taken to avoid delays, since any delay in any of the tasks impacts directly in the subsequent activities. WP5 has run in parallel to the activities of the technical WPs.

Project Results:
WP1. State of the art of available MIM feedstock for the production of flight control actuator components

As indicated in DoW, this WP is divided in four different tasks. The main objective of this WP is to identify the different assemblies that exist in actual primary and secondary flight control of airplanes. In particular, the aim is to identify small and complex metallic components that are part of actuators that can be produced by MIM technology.

Task 1.1. State of the art of the used materials and processes for aircraft small components

The aim of this task is to have a detailed description of the different materials and processes that are traditionally used for the metallic components assembled in the actuators present in the primary and secondary flight controls. In particular, this state of the art has been focused on small and complex metallic components that were the most promising target for being manufactured by alternative MIM technology.
The progress achieved in this task can be summarized as follows:
- The most characteristics materials and processes used in the fabrication of small aircraft components for actuators have been identified, including: tensile properties, fatigue, corrosion resistance among others. These properties will establish the target properties for future MIM manufactured components.
- A short review on aeronautic parts produced by MIM has been developed.

Task 1.2. State of the art and selection of the materials which can be used as feedstock for MIM

The aim of task is to identify possible feedstock materials for its use in the production of aeronautic parts, comparing the specific composition and mechanical behaviour with the requirements of the aeronautic industry.
The progress achieved can be summarized as follows:
- Two different MIM feedstock suppliers have been contacted and the data sheets of their product portfolio have been obtained.
- A comparison of the currently used materials for manufacturing of actuators and the available MIM feedstocks has been conducted.

Task 1.3 Selection of screen flight control components suitable to be substituted by MIM process. Technical Feasibility study

The aim of this task is to identify a set of parts which are suitable candidates to be substituted by parts obtained by MIM. Knowing the available feedstock materials and its proof strength and corrosion resistance values, the following steps were made for the identification of actuator components suitable to be substituted by MIM process:
- Benchmark analysis of MIM parts in similar and other aircraft applications
- List with different components that are assembled in the actuator systems of primary and secondary flight control.
- List of geometrical characteristics, materials, mechanical requirements and final controls for each part.
- Technical feasibility study of the advantages and disadvantages of an alternative MIM manufacturing of this part, considering geometric tolerances, shape, mechanical and corrosion requirements,...
- Primary selection of the most promising actuator components for their manufacturing by MIM.
- Cost estimation of the actuator component manufacturing
As a result of this study, 11 candidate parts were selected. Before making a thorough study of the parts, a first selection is performed in order to identify which ones are not possible to obtain in MIM according to the given drawings.

When a MIM customer wants to manufacture a new part, it is very common to evaluate its feasibility according to some technical criteria:
- Material selection availability: it must be checked if the required material is available for MIM as they must be produced in a suitable powder form.
- Mould adherence to the final design: how close the MIM part is from its final design.
- Level of final tolerances achieved in the MIM process: as every process, MIM has its reachable tolerances which are better compared with the investment casting process and worse than the case of machining operations for example.
- Opportunities for deformations/distortions during the MIM process: deformations and distortions might happen if there is not an appropriate sintering support edge.
- Post-machining operations needed after the MIM process: if the mould adherence is not close to the final design, post-machining operations will be needed.
- Volume per year: the MIM process requires the manufacturing of complex and expensive moulds. For that reason MIM is not a competitive process for a low volume of parts per year.
- Weight: MIM is not suitable for very massive parts.
This work was done for all proposed parts. The parts were evaluated according to all these criteria with punctuations from 1 (lowest value/not suitable) to 5 (highest value/totally suitable). The results are not 100% objective as they are based on the experience of MIM TECH ALFA.
Note-1: the anker was finally included among the possible parts for MIM as a redesign was agreed.
Note-2: As a general comment, the drawings of the 11 parts correspond to the machining process. This means that there are unachievable tolerances in MIM and some redesigns and lower tolerances will be necessary, even for the accepted parts.
The subsequent in-depth technical and economic analysis was performed in task 2.1.

Task 1.4 Revision with topic manager. Selection of the components for their validation when they are manufactured by MIM technology

Preliminary technical issues regarding the 11 selected parts were discussed with Topic Manager in order to be fully in line with the requirements of the final application of the parts. The following aspects were discussed:
- Alternative materials. Since the materials defined by Topic Manager for these parts are not available as MIM feedstock, alternative materials were proposed by the project partners, giving evidence of the similarities in terms of chemical composition, mechanical behaviour, corrosion resistance, etc. Nevertheless, the suitability of these materials will be experimentally checked by analysing the test samples and prototypes that will be manufactured.
- Design requirements for MIM. The original design of the parts has been adapted to MIM process, in terms of tolerances, radii, draft angles, etc. Besides, the position of ejector marks and parting line has been agreed.
A good example is the case of “anker” part. This part was initially rejected because of two main reasons:
1. Some unachievable tolerances regarding parallelism, symmetry, perpendicularity and straightness.
2. The lack of a good sintering support edge.
As the anker is a very interesting part, some tolerances have been readjusted and a new redesign proposed in this task

With these changes the part would be suitable for MIM without losing any of its properties or functionality.
Something similar happens with the “pole pieces”. The main change in the geometry of these parts is that four small supports have been added in the position of the ejection points. The reason is that MIM tolerances do not reach the necessary tolerances of that area of the part so it must be machining after the MIM process.
- Standards used for testing. The standards used in the aeronautic sector that have to be applied for material mechanical properties evaluation and techniques used for different control tests have been defined.
- Cost. A preliminary study of manufacturing cost has also been conducted.

WP2. Design and process definition for the manufacturing of actuator components by MIM technology

As indicated in DoW, this WP is divided in five different tasks. The main objective of this WP is to close the design of the parts that will be used as demonstrators, and to define in detail the manufacturing route per each part, together with a control plan and cost analysis.

Task 2.1 Selection of prototypes to be produced by MIM technology

From the 11 candidate parts identified in WP1, four components were selected for their validation in MIM technology. Besides, the specific geometry of a sample for tensile testing has also been defined in accordance to aerospace standards. Test samples will be produced with the same batch materials and in similar production conditions as the actuator component prototypes to be representative of their properties.

Task 2.2 Design of injection tooling

The aim of this task was to determine the correct location and geometry of the filling channels. This is important for die design. Problems of gas entrapment, risk of shrinkage porosity and other defects can be predicted and corrective actions planned before the production of the tool.
As a result, specific designs of the moulds per each part have been developed.

Task 2.3 Process definition

In order to reduce the required time for prototype production, the manufacturing process has to be precisely defined. In this sense, the following activities have been developed:
- The flow chart has been defined for each part, showing the different stages required for a whole manufacturing process: injection, debinding and sintering could be followed by different heat treatments and other finishing operations.
- A control plan has been developed for each part, with detailed description of frequency, control equipment to be used, acceptance criteria and aerospace standards used as reference.
- Working instructions have been developed to reduce process variability by worker production activities.

Task 2.4 Cost analysis

Once the process has been defined, a preliminary cost analysis has been developed per each part. MIM manufacturing and finishing operations costs have been analysed separately and a specific cost breakdown for MIM production has been prepared, including raw material cost, process cost, energy cost, etc.
This preliminary analysis will be in the basis of a future technical-economical comparison of MIM versus machining process.
The details of the four parts have been discussed between the Topic Manager and MIM-TECH ALFA. After a deep analysis of the tolerances, the conclusion is that some of them must be machined because they are out of the feasible MIM process tolerances. Anyway, after the MIM process, near net shape parts will be obtained.
Finally, the control of the quality of the parts is also important, so some tests will be done.
In order to compare the price differences between manufacturing the parts in MIM and doing it by the traditional process, the cost of the parts has been calculated taking into account the same production rate they currently have: 5.000 parts per year (for each reference). They would be divided into 5 batches of 1.000 parts in the MIM process.

Task 2.5 Review with topic manager and release CDR to start prototype manufacturing

Final discussion was held with Topic Manager in order to close all open points and release CDR to start with prototype manufacturing. The following aspects were discussed and agreed:
- Design concept for the part considering possible adaptations or improvements associated to the MIM technology.
- Design concept for the test samples to be representative of the selected parts to be manufactured and to accomplish aerospace standards
- Tooling conception including parting line, draft angles, gate position, ejector position, to avoid that final performance of the component could be affected.
- Process definition, evaluating repeatability and reproducibility of the process, as well as advisable controls to be applied during the process and over the final component.
- Cost of the product and achievable benefit for MIM supplier and final user.

WP3. Manufacturing of prototypes and test samples

As indicated in DoW, this WP is divided in three different tasks. The main objectives of this WP is to, first, manufacture and set up the tools for MIM injection, second, manufacture prototypes of each reference and, finally, carry out a first quality analysis of the parts produced.

Task 3.1. Manufacturing and setting up of tools for MIM production conditions.

The aim of this task is to produce the tools needed for MIM injections, which are the moulds for each prototype reference. They were produced by developing:
- 2D files for each component of the tooling, defining required dimensions and materials and surface treatments that will be applied.
- Manufacturing flow chart and control plan of the tooling to control it during the construction and at the end of its production.
- Checking its main dimensional values, to avoid any significant deviation.
First injections and first rough analysis were done checking for defects associated to the tool, specially: burs, misalignment of the dye, marks and basic dimensional measures. Adjustments were made to correct mentioned defects.
As a result, the moulds for the aimed 3 prototypes (Anker, Pole Piece Upper and Pole Piece Under) and the tensile test sample were completely manufactured assuring good quality prototypes. Furthermore, an extra mould was produced for a new prototype (Bracket)

Task 3.2. Manufacturing of actuator component prototypes

The aim of this task is to manufacture the prototypes under the conditions previously defined in WP2. The main steps consisted on:
- Adjustment of production parameters.
- Making production controls according to control plan and technical data sheet.
- Studying all the gathered data from first controls analysing possible deviations.
- Checking that the main features were in accordance with the control plan.
- Manufacturing a batch of at least 100 parts of each reference.
- After the first injection stage, test samples went together with prototypes during the rest of the process to assure rest of production parameters were coincident.
The progress achieved in this task is the prototypes manufactured.
Besides, the tool for the extra MIM prototype has been manufactured. However the first pats showed some deformations and therefore a correction action was taken consisting of an extra straightening operation. A tool for this operation has been fabricated and the prototype is currently in the validation process.

Task 3.3. First quality analysis of prototypes

The aim of this task is to carry out preliminary controls once parts have been produced under fixed manufacturing conditions and all the data regarding the process variables have allowed a good repeatability and reproducibility.
These main controls were:
- Tomography and X-Ray inspection which detect internal porosity and defects.
- Liquid penetrant inspection which indicates the presence of external porosity and cracks.
- Micrographic analysis which gives information about inclusions, internal porosity and any other problem related to injection or sintering.
The progress achieved in this task can be summarized as follows:
- The liquid penetrant inspection and the micrograph analysis of the prototypes show no significant defects.
- Tomography and X-ray inspection do not show any internal issue in the case of the pole pieces.
- In the case of the Anker prototype, Tomography and X-ray inspection reveal internal defects. That has led to take corrective actions and manufacture a second batch which has shown a small improvement.

WP4. Technical validation and economical evaluation of MIM prototypes. Industrialization prospection.

As indicated in DoW, this WP is divided in three different tasks. The main objective of this WP is to evaluate technically and economically the aeronautic component prototypes and analyse with the topic manager the demonstrated capability of the MIM technology to manufacture aeronautic components.

Task 4.1 Technical evaluation of prototypes.

The aim of this task is to carry out a final technical evaluation of the prototypes once parts and test specimens have been produced. Different controls were performed according to the CDR:
- A dimensional study has been done comparing the real measurements and the drawing dimensions.
- Non-destructive testing has been performed. X-Ray and penetrant testing have been done to 100% of the parts.
- Micrographic analysis has been conducted.
- Tensile and hardness test have been performed and the results have been checked against the requirements.
- All the data has been gathered in a report including a data sheet for each prototype to have an overall view of the component quality comparing in each case the expected results and the real ones.
- The MRL evaluation has been done for the prototypes produced.

Task 4.2. Economical evaluation of prototypes.

The aim of the task is to provide an accurate cost evaluation in order to compare MIM technology versus machining process. As a result, the cost analysis of the MIM prototypes has been developed taken into account all the costs involved in production:
- Material consumption.
- Process cost. Energy consumption of machines, especially heat treatments.
- Direct manpower.
- Destructive and non-destructive testing, an average per part has been considered on the basis of a whole standard batch production.
- Test samples production.
- Scrap rate. First parts produced for machine set up.
- Depreciation includes machines, specific tool for the parts and any other tool for finishing operations that is required (coining tool, special trays to support parts, etc).
- Indirect cost.
- Finishing operations costs have been analysed separately

Task 4.3. Final project report and final meeting with topic manager and prospective view for industrialization

The aim of the task is to extract, together with the topic manager, the main conclusions of the technical and economic evaluation of the prototypes manufactured by MIM technology which allows agreeing the reached TRL, based on the product properties and productivity reached targets.
The progress achieved in this task is summarized in the final report and in the final meeting held at LLI where it was concluded the success of the prototypes and the good prospective view of industrialization that will allow a rapid access of this technology to the market.

Potential Impact:
General considerations

The main result of the project is the development of a new production technology for actuator components of flight control systems, which will have an important impact on the design criteria and manufacturing costs of these specific parts.
Two domains have been identified in the Systems for Green Operations ITD as major contributors to the achievement of the Clean Sky challenges:
- The Management of Aircraft Energy (MAE), which includes the two focus areas of “All - Electric Aircraft Equipment Systems Architectures” and “Thermal Management”.
- The Management of Aircraft Trajectory and Mission (MTM), which includes the two focus areas of “Management of trajectory and Mission” and “Smart Operations on Ground”.
This project and call are included in the Management of Aircraft Energy area which encompasses all aspects of on-board energy provision, storage, distribution and consumption. MAE aims at two major objectives (http://www.cleansky.eu):
- The first one is to develop and demonstrate All-Electric Aircraft System Architectures (power by wire), involving energy users to facilitate the implementation of advanced energy management functions and architectures. This also entails the suppression of hydraulic fluids and related negative environmental impacts.
- The second objective is to adapt and demonstrate the control of heat exchanges (partly necessary due to the all-electric concept) and reduction in heat waste within the whole aircraft through advanced Thermal Management.
These general SGO challenges will be met by:
- The development and demonstration of All-Electric Aircraft System Architectures (power by wire), using as input definition by airframers, involving all energy users to facilitate the implementation of advanced energy management functions and architectures. This also entails the suppression of hydraulic fluids and related negative environmental impacts.
- Achievement of adapted and demonstrated control of heat exchanges (partly necessary due to the all-electric concept) and reduction in heat waste within the whole aircraft through advanced Thermal Management.
Thus, expected impact is not only related to ACCOMIM technical achievement and the topic itself, but there are some environmental issues that must be considered too. Summarizing, the project expected impact includes the following three aspects, which are a relevant part in this project: (a) Technical impact, (b) Industrial and financial impact, and (c) Environmental impact. All of them give Europe a clear competitiveness; considering environmental aspects are so related to European policies, they are relevant for European future minimum specifications for aeronautics.

Technical impact

ACCOMIM contributions related to the technical developments of MIM process can be summarized as follows:
- Design of new parts. This technology will allow new changes in design concepts managed by actual designers in the aeronautic industry. Tolerance constraint in dimensions will reduce excess of material used for later on finishing operations and so the use of resources as raw material and energy will be reduced. All the feed system and the rejected parts coming from this technology can be used again for injecting new parts and so there is no waste generation. Some of the actual parts are limited in terms of shapes, radius, and finishing roughness as far as machining and casting can´t go further in this aspects. With this technology all external shapes and many of the internal can be developed as needed by the designer not being limited by process conditions. Also roughness and other characteristics are achievable in raw condition and so simplification of design regarding extra tools for finishing operations is achieved.
- Raw materials. Actual development of raw materials in MIM technology is based basically in technical feasibility and market demand. The increase in the demand volume of different alloys due to their use in new sectors as the aeronautic can promote the development of new feedstocks for this sector and for actual demanding sectors with low demand volume for some alloys. The knowledge generated in the aeronautic sector about specific alloy conditions for specific applications can be transferred to other sectors for already existing applications. The development of this technique can extend the use of other materials like titanium alloys (depending on raw material’s quality, powder quality). These materials cannot be used for casting products as far as their reactivity is very high and so machined and stamped and welded products are mainly used. These new possibilities in development new materials can bring new weight savings and so reduce fuel consumption in aircrafts.
- Process and Control. MIM process will report new process improvement comparing to the previous existing technologies specially related to energy consumption and time to market. This process allows producing the part net to shape and so no extra resources are added in terms of energy and material to obtain later on the final part. All the material used as feeding systems can be reused to produce new parts up to a certain quantity. MIM parts have specific improvements regarding final quality comparing with other alternative processes as due to the number of variables involved in the final production; it is possible to overcome the technical complexity and to reach a controlled process. The process has fewer stages than other alternatives and the machines used for production come from the plastic injection sector. These machines have a tight control system of the variables involved in the production and homogeneity of the main dimensions and mechanical properties are very stable. Scrap rates are very low and also very few types of defects can appear under this technology, this minimizes the risk of bad parts arriving to the customer. As a consequence, other industrial areas can take advantage of these technology improvements, opening many doors to new research projects. Aircraft industry is the main target market, but others are also to be considered in the future exploitation.

Industrial and financial impact

From the industrial and financial point of view, there will also be an important impact. MIM is essentially a technology for producing complex shape parts in high quantities. If the shape allows the production of the part by, for example, conventional pressing and sintering, MIM would in most cases be too expensive. However, if the required number of complex parts is higher than a certain amount, MIM is cheaper than machining. This is precisely the opportunity this project will work and proof for the actuator components
The effect of the volume production on cost shows that, for example, for the smallest part weighing 4.5g the cost per part falls from $1.4 for an annual production of 250,000 pieces to $0.2 for 3 million or more (based on EPMA association data, http://www.epma.com/mim-metal-injection-moulding). According to European Platform, in the mid-term the following market conditions are expected:
- Market growth estimation 2013-2018 should double (MIM manufacturing, worldwide)
- Asia will be the leader with mobile telephone, electronic and informatics applications. Big players will appear: Indo-US, AFT, Foxconn >100 M$
- Consequence: Europe and America will deepen automotive specialisation, as well as Mechanical Engineering and Medical-surgical areas.
- Aeronautic begins to be in Europe and USA a meaningful market for MIM, even if the future is still uncertain.
In fact considering European MIM manufacturers (28%,), they could be classified in three groups: Big players (big entities), medium sized, and small ones. Some of the big entities are just specialised in an area, as GKN Sinter Metals or Schunk (http://www.sintermetalltechnik.com) for automotive industry, and ETA for clock industry (http://www.eta.ch). And others are cross-sectorial entities, as Parmaco or Mimecrisa.
As medium sized, apart from this project coordinator ALFA MimTech, there are others as Alliance or ITB. And finally there are a few small ones with 5-10 employees and a small volume / turnover.

MIM TECH ALFA expects to be able to grow thanks to this project and aeronautics potential (as MIM application) to be able to compete with the big entities or big players. The estimations for the following years conclude that nowadays MIM manufacturers will not be able to absorb all the demand, and a substantial growth both of market and of the offer is expected. MIM TECH ALFA aims to compete directly with the big entities with a cross-sectorial approach. In fact, the company growth expectations are based on the following facts:
- 2 M€ turnover during 2013, growing close to 3 M€ in 2016 and expectations to reach 4 M€ in 2018.
- Industrial diversification, and access to bigger components (bigger sizes, > 50gr.)
This project is more than relevant in this strategy, considering both aspects. In particular, this project will help to reach those expectations, and an industrial impact in short-time, though concrete outcomes:
- Substitutive MIM Parts. Apart from actuator components, there are many other parts (based on other alloys) that can hardly be produced by other technologies and where higher production costs are involved, which can be transferred to the MIM technology, allowing new available business for the MIM technology. These parts can be complex parts of steel that couldn´t be substituted by titanium or magnesium by their complexity and that now when changing them it will suppose important savings in fuel and energy consumption by the company. In fact at the moment aeronautic industry is not one of the main applications for MIM, at least in Europe, and this project aims to boost this opportunity that benefit both the MIM manufacturers and aeronautic industry, thanks to the technical advantages that would improve the actuator components’ cost-efficiency.
- Design. Actual trends to power by wire aircrafts (PBW) will require integrated hydraulic systems in each actuator, this condition will require smaller parts in quantity and complexity, and hence increase the demand of parts and develop more quickly this technology.
- Cost. MIM is nowadays still developing new applications and it is far from reaching its full potential. Thus, the value-chain itself is still adapting and working through some challenges that would make it more cost-effective. In fact, raw material is still quite expensive compared with other manufacturing process, and cost-effectives is linked to the required volume of raw material. This is already stated by the suppliers (BASF, for example), and it is already a fact that raw material cost is decreasing as the market growths. The feedstock cost is related to the market’s development, and a material that in 1999 had 31,9 €/kg cost, at the moment it is 13,7 €/kg and BASF has the objective of 8 €/kg for 2017, based on the market growth expectative. But to make possible any further advance, the market must proof that it is feasible, technically possible to develop MIM for a wider range of components. That foreseen market development is based on technical opportunities. Thus, developing manufacturing procedures that makes feasible a new range of components and so new markets, is not only interesting for end-users and the application itself, but to the whole value chain, to boost the market for all involved entities.
- Quality. Quality assessment is a very relevant result due to the concept itself more than expected cost saving. MIM manufacturing, due the technology itself already achieves at least a 95% of successful (quality) units, and 98% is expected in many cases. The parameters to be controlled are different: more than measurements (actual situation) porosity, air bubbles, chemistry and other issues must be controlled. Control standards and frequency should be adapted to this new technology taking in consideration aeronautic standards that are currently being used.

Environmental impact

From the environmental point of view, there are two aspects that must be considered as a direct consequence of the ACCOMIM project.
Principal improvement will be the raw material amount decrease, as MIM manufacturing use generated waste as raw material several times as there is a 100% of efficiency, as a direct consequence of the project.
Energy efficiency, water and all the rest environmental issues are improved as a consequence on the manufacturing process. Less raw material processing, affects to the manufacturing process itself, with a collateral decrease of the manufacturing costs comparing with actual manufacturing process and actual energy and other environmental values. Warming, effluents and waste are also decreased directly because needed manufacturing time and process is less than nowadays.

Other impacts

As other impact, it should be mentioned the synergies between different research projects; ALFA, Project Coordinator, and IK4-AZTERLAN have already experience in FP7 as partners of previous FP7 project and Clean Sky project, being an added value the possibility to sum up. Other Clean Sky projects linked to the TM or ITD will also be considered, to have the global picture of both the final Demonstrator and the end-user’s circumstances.
Another consequence, not so linked with European competitiveness but nevertheless with huge relevance, is that ACCOMIM outputs are expected to have essential societal impact. More than 3.0 million people are employed in the European Aircraft and Airlines industry, thus strengthening the competitiveness of this industry and related SMEs through the development of state-of-the-art technologies is vital to Europe’s economic future:
Technologies and tools that will result from this proposal are essential to increase the European market from the current level in the next 10 years, and they will provide opportunities for the employment of highly skilled professionals. This would contribute in solving of heavy societal problems interconnected with the high unemployment in Europe derived from the economic crisis. Jobs will primarily be created at subcontractors and suppliers, due to additional constituents of the material used, and therefore suppliers will need to increase production.
The new technology has broad potential applications in many other industries (automotive and general transportation, etc.) creating opportunities for further employment.
It is estimated that for the consortium there will be 7 additional new jobs in 2 years (due to ACCOMIM project) (in European industry in general it is estimated the creation of 22 new jobs in 2 years),
Summarizing, a successful ACCOMIM project will ensure a strong strategic impact and will have clear Socio-Economic benefits within the next five to ten years by contributing to:
- Enhance European aeronautic industry competitiveness
- Enhance European employment
- Meet societal needs for more environmental friendly, safer and efficient air transport.
- Meet societal needs for more environmental friendly, safer and efficient manufacturing
Finally, in terms of European policies, ACCOMIM project contributes to different top-level research objectives identified in the report “European Aeronautics – a Vision for 2020”, being the most relevant “Securing global leadership responding to society’s needs”.

List of Websites:
Contact details:
Dr. Pedro Pablo Rodríguez
MIM TECH ALFA, S. L.
Phone: +34943820300
Fax: +34943204038
e-mail: prodriguez@alfalan.es

Contact

Pedro Pablo RODRÍGUEZ, (R&D Manager)
Tel.: +34943820300
E-mail
Record Number: 192495 / Last updated on: 2016-12-13
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