The Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF) proudly announced a new industry-wide sustainability initiative at PowderMet 2010 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Although powder metal is already a very sustainable manufacturing process, the initiative aims to promote sustainability into other industries while reducing energy consumption worldwide.
The U.S. Department of Commerce defines sustainability as “the creation of manufactured products that use processes that are non-polluting, conserve energy and natural resources, and are economically sound and safe for employees, communities and consumers.” However, expanding on that is the idea that sustainability is only achieved when environmental efforts are economically sound as well. Sustainability is continuing to be seen as an opportunity rather than a barrier. Most often, maximizing efficiency will not only result in lower energy use, but lower costs as well.
The powder metal industry has proven to be sustainable in its use of materials, energy, facilities, employment, and the environment. First, chip-generating machining can result in roughly 40% of the original material being cut and discarded. While this material can be recycled, it serves as a net loss to the material and energy eco-efficiency of the final component. In one example done by the MPIF, a 300g part created by chip-generating machining loses 260g of its original weight, utilizing just 54% of the material. Compared to a 312g powder metal part (which loses just 16g and utilizes 95% of its material), powder metal’s 41% advantage shows its obvious efficiency. Furthermore, it is estimated that 85% of all powder used is produced from recycled materials.
MPIF recently conducted a comparison of the production of a notch segment for a truck transmission. The original manufacturing process took 17 steps and used 2.847 kWh/piece. The powder metal process eliminated 11 of those steps and reduced energy usage to 1.243 kWh/piece. Per kg, powder metallurgy uses 29MJ, the lowest of any metal-forming process.
The powder metal industry’s facilities boast an ISO 14001 registration rate of over 25%. Nearly the entire industry has earned ISO 9001, QS 9000, ISO 14001, or practices Lean Manufacturing. A high level of automation and leanness keeps labor to a minimum, keeping the industry competitive with offshore competitors. Powder metal employees also possess safe and high-paying jobs. Employee safety is always at the pinnacle of importance, and it is not uncommon to see anywhere from 6-10 facilities post no lost time accidents. Also, compared with the 2009 U.S. manufacturing average of $32/hour, powder metal employees average $35/hour. This is made possible by a 2009 net sales per employee average of over $150,000.
The MPIF states, “Starting with recycled metal scrap and uncommon metallurgical and mechanical ingenuity, the use of PM as an energy-efficient and eco-friendly metal-forming technology should enable it to continue to exhibit its intrinsically sustainable advantages and benefits to the world for its use in the future.”
Automated Cells & Equipment has been serving the powder metal industry for more than a decade, and fully supports the powder metal industry’s “green” initiative. ACE aims to continue to expand the idea of sustainability by continuing to facilitate powder metal manufacturing through its robots. Contact us to get your own sustainability initiative started today.
Information and statistics courtesy Powder Metallurgy- Intrinsically Sustainable