What is Ceramic Injection Molding?

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By Jeremy Losek, Sep 14th, 2021

Ceramic injection molding (CIM) is a cost-effective way to produce a large volume of small complex parts. This molding process is used by many industries including printing, aerospace, optical, medical, dental, chemical, and more. It is particularly useful when you must produce a part that requires complex machining operations and a large volume of production.

Ceramic Injection Molding Materials

Ceramic is naturally hard, chemically inert, corrosion and wear-resistant, while having a long lifespan. In some cases, ceramic can be stronger than steel. Common ceramic materials include zirconia, alumina, silicon carbide, sapphire, steatite, mullite, and more. Selecting the right ceramic material depends on your project’s needs for hardness, rigidity, thermal shock resistance, heat resistance, chemical resistance, and abrasion resistance.

Ceramic Injection Molding Process

To begin producing a ceramic part, ceramic powder is mixed with a binder. The binder allows the ceramic to take a plasticized form so that it may take the desired shape of the injection mold. This mix is then delivered to the mold inside the ceramic injection molding machine. The molding process is sensitive to temperature, pressure, and time. Once the part has taken shape, the binder is removed by evaporation and exothermic reaction. Next, the part is then sintered in an oxidizing or reducing atmosphere or a high vacuum at an extremely high temperature. Shrinkage will range from 15-25%. The part may then receive a custom surface treatment, specialized testing, or be packaged.

Ceramic Injection Molded Products

Some common uses for ceramic injection molded products include parts for the automotive, consumer goods, machine construction, communication, and medical technology industries. These parts include textile machinery parts, papermaking machinery parts, faucets and valves,  decorative ceramics, heat exchanger tubes, electrical insulators, head processing tools and fixtures for hard disk drive, pressed and extruded parts, LCD covers, POS scanner windows, and more.

Ceramic Injection Molding Advantages and Disadvantages

Ceramic injection molding is most advantageous when a project requires a complex shape with tight tolerances to 0.5%, consistent quality, and high volumes. The more complex the shape, the more your project will benefit from using injection molding. Using an injection mold machine, these parts can meet high technical standards and aesthetic requirements. This is possible because the injection molding process allows for repeatability, automation, quick cycle time, and low risk of contamination since production occurs in a closed environment. Ceramic is also a naturally hard and rigid material with mechanical strength, thermal stability, and resistance to heat, pressure, and chemicals.

Ceramic injection molding may not be a good fit if your project will not benefit from the complex design, tight tolerance, or consistency. Injection molding is best for jobs that require a high volume of output and may have a higher initial cost that is balanced by a lower unit cost over time.

ICOMold has longstanding expertise working with high volume production projects using ceramic. If you are looking to combine the benefits of ceramic with injection molding, please feel free to contact ICOMold to begin the process of creating your custom part by calling (419) 867-3900 or email sales@icomold.com.

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