Shaping processes for function integration

Fraunhofer IFAM has expertise in a wide range of shaping processes that enable function integration. For example, processes for shapeless materials such as powder and melt have the decisive advantage that an integration of additional functions into the final product can be simultaneously considered and implemented in each individual manufacturing step along the process chain. The use of additive manufacturing technologies, in which components are created without tools from powdered materials in almost any and very complex shapes directly from CAD files, enables the production of both prototypes and highly customized products. Functional printing can also be used to subsequently functionalize components.

In casting technology, too, the development of function-integrated castings is at the forefront of the work. During casting production, for example, metallic or polymer structures are integrated directly into the casting as a composite structure, or fibers such as carbon, ceramic or glass fibers are embedded in the metal, which selectively change properties such as tensile strength or stiffness. Cast-in sensor structures or RFID transponders enable load measurements directly in the component or the clear marking and tracing of cast components and offer particularly intelligent plagiarism protection.

Up-to-date manufacturing and materials science know-how and many years of experience form the basis for the work of the Shaping and Functionalization core competence at Fraunhofer IFAM. In the following, we present some of the shaping processes available at the institute.

Powder metallurgy: pressing technology, debinding and sintering


Powder metallurgical technologies offer unique opportunities for the development of sintered and composite materials with tailored properties and property combinations. The starting point for powder technology solutions is always the material used. By mixing powders, materials with the required property profiles can be produced. For example, properties such as hardness, toughness, Young's modulus, wear and thermal expansion can be adapted to the requirements.

Metal Injection Molding (MIM)


Metal injection molding combines the molding capabilities of plastic injection molding with the material selection and material properties of powder metallurgy. The process enables a wide range of materials to be processed and a high level of geometric component complexity to be produced in large quantities. In the MIM process, metal powder is made flowable by adding thermoplastics and waxes and then molded in an injection molding process. The plastic content is then removed again and the component is densely sintered.

Additive manufacturing: From CAD data directly to the component


By using additive processes, components can be created from powders in almost any and very complex shapes from 3D CAD data. The manufactured components are given their final properties directly in the process. Common to all commercially available process variants is the principle of tool-free, layer-by-layer construction of the component on the basis of the three-dimensional CAD model. These processes are used in particular in the implementation of rapid product development in prototype and small series production and, in the area of sinter-based processes, increasingly also in the series production of geometrically complex components.

Printing Technologies


In industrial production, there is a great need for functional structures to optimize the properties of a wide variety of components. For targeted functionalization, structures can be applied to the required component locations with a precise fit using printing processes. Sensors or electronic components can thus be integrated into existing products and give the component additional or completely new properties.



The production of metallic semi-finished products by extrusion is based, like metal powder injection molding, on the processing of a flowable mixture of metal powder and binder components. By means of extrusion, as in the extrusion of plastics, virtually endless solid and hollow profiles with complex cross-sectional geometry can be produced. Immediately after shaping by the extrusion die, the semi-finished products are calibrated in the green state if necessary, cut to length and then debinded and sintered. Single-screw extruders with a range of different test tools as well as depositing devices for the extrudate strand are available for feasibility studies to produce smaller geometries while developing optimum feedstock and process parameters.

Casting technology


Fraunhofer IFAM supports industrial customers in the casting of an idea from the first prototype to the final product. For this purpose, the institute has extensive plant technology for die casting, low-pressure die casting, and investment casting. Aluminum, magnesium, zinc, copper, steel and customer-specific special alloys are processed here. Research focuses on the development of novel core and molding materials (e.g. salt or ceramics) as well as the development of casting applications in the field of alternative drives with the aim of providing customers with a broader range of applications for their products and technologies. Another focus is on hybrid casting, which enables cast components with integrated structures to be bonded to other types of materials such as fiber composites or sheet metal and profile structures. By combining this with simulation, simulation models and interface modeling can be built directly in parallel with the development of the technologies. Further developments concern the direct integration of sensor structures into cast components as well as requirement-specific solutions for individual and secure component marking.