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The implementation of powder metal (PM)components in automotive applications increases continuously, in particular for more highly loaded gear components like synchromesh mechanisms. Porosity and frequently inadequate material properties of PM materials currently rule out PM for automobile gears that are subject to high loads. By increasing the density of the sintered gears, the mechanical properties are improved. New and optimized materials designed to allow the production of high-density PM gears by single sintering may change the situation in the future.
Powder metallurgy (P/M) is a precision metal forming technology for the manufacture of parts to net or near-net shape, and it is particularly well-suited to the production of gears. Spur, bevel and helical gears all may be made by made by powder metallurgy processing.
The heat treatment processing of powder metal (PM) materials like Astaloy requires four steps -- de-waxing, HT sintering, carburizing and surface hardening -- which are usually achieved in dedicated, atmospheric furnaces for sintering and heat treat, respectively, leading to intermediate handling operations and repeated heating and cooling cycles. This paper presents the concept of the multi-purpose batch vacuum furnace, one that is able to realize all of these steps in one unique cycle. The multiple benefits brought by this technology are summarized here, the main goal being to use this technology to manufacture high-load transmission gears in PM materials.