Because tooling and engineering are large initial costs, extension of mold life is important to the economics of MIM. As a generalization, MIM is not cost effective in hard tooling for production quantities below 5,000 parts per year. Using soft tooling on the other hand, some ceramic and cemented carbide components are produced in lots as small as 200.
Most hardened tool steel MIM molds can operate for 100,000 – 500,000 shots without tool maintenance. Several coating technologies may extend tool life, especially in resisting wear from harder and more abrasive particles. The coatings include intermetallic compounds, boride layers, hard nickel-phosphorus electroplates with embedded Teflon particles, hard sputter coatings, and various spray, vapor, or reaction interfaces. Although they all add expense to tool creation, there are possible gains over time for larger production quantities.
Tool Warranties: Some tool shop offer warranties for their molds. Typically this is done by increasing the part price to accumulate money to repair or replace components that will wear at some point. SMP may do this upon request, but we believe the lowest over-all cost is to pay these costs as they are actually needed. SMP does routine maintenance and cleaning on all tooling and alerts the customer if there are issues that require attention.