Your Questions Answered: How to Prototype PM Parts
We are often asked how we can prototype designs or materials to evaluate the design or test new materials in existing applications. Powdered metal tooling can render these types of testing a costly undertaking but there are alternative options.
Unfortunately, it is not feasible to manufacture production components from any sort of temporary tooling. However, prototypes can be made from a PM blank, also known as a slug or puck, which is manufactured so that material characteristics, such as density and chemistry, closely mirror that of the desired production component. The component geometry can be machined by traditional methods, like milling, wiring or turning, from the PM slug. In some instances, after the machining operation is completed, and depending on how aggressively the slug is machined, the component may be re-sintered to ensure that residual stresses are relieved. Heat treated or harder materials may require a pre-sintered slug so that the material is soft enough to machine, followed by a second, full sinter to reach the material's optimal physical properties. If the prototype component is to have a finish, any residual machining coolant must be removed prior to resin impregnation and/or the application of the finish.