Amid the exciting growth of a given technology, lies a range of players whose aim is to help advance its potential while promoting its benefits to prospective end users. The European Powder Metallurgy Association (aka EPMA) is that player for the Powder Metallurgy Industry.

The association has recently held its annual congress & exhibition. From October 13th to 16th, the historical city of Maastricht hosted 1100 participants from all over the world, to discuss 7 main themes that raise questions and address issues of this industry: Additive Manufacturing, Functional Materials, Hard Materials and Diamond Tools, Hot Isostatic Pressing, Metal Injection Moulding, New Materials Processes and Applications as well as Press and Sinter. If AM had a prominent place in the technical programme, it should be noted that, only a dozen companies that specialize in AM were exhibitors.

Furthermore, this edition of the event meant a lot to both the Powder Metallurgy Industry and EPMA, its European Association which celebrates 30 years of activities and continuous support to this niche market. 

In the prevailing euphoria of this event, we caught up with Andrew Almond, Marketing Manager at EPMA, to discuss the role of EPMA in the continuous growth of this industry. 

Powder Metallurgy (PM) covers a range of techniques from which components are made from metal powders. Mass manufacturing of PM-products starts around the mid or late 19th century. To help the industry specialists evolve within this sector, 1989 saw the creation of EPMA. 

Andrew Almond has been part of this journey for 14 years. From the very beginning, the Association aimed at promoting PM in Europe, to represent the European PM industry within Europe and on the global scene, and to support future developments of the sector. 

This mission is still the same today. However, according to the marketing manager, it has taken different forms over time:As the technology and market expand, we have been able to evolve too. Thanks to our supporters, we have managed to create a great industry, where different sectors of the PM industry are represented: press and sinter specialists, HIP, material producers, etc.”

When we looked at this myriad of specialists in the hall of the Maastricht Exhibition  Congress Centre (MECC), something was striking and has been confirmed in one-to-one conversations with participants: despite the competition between the various stakeholders, EPMA has managed to gather an industry where participants feel they belong to a family.

Andrew

A sense of belonging 

This sense of belonging is certainly due to several reasons including the way EPMA organizes each gathering and the quality of its members: 

EPMA counts today more than 220 members across the entire spectrum: Academia, multinationals, researchers, explained EPMA’s Marketing Manager. Each of them can bring something valuable to other members.

Moreover, each annual meeting is organized in a different European country. To organize each event, EPMA collaborates with members of the region that hosts the event to “give a domestic understanding of [that] market”, as per the words of Almond. 

In that sense, participants at this edition of Euro PM2019, learned that a great number of successful initiatives that we use today in metal AM originate from the Netherlands. Companies like HP, BASF, Siemens, Additive IndustriesAdmatecMX3D are a few names in which the region takes pride.

Tours in local facilities and networking activities like “Campfire Meeting”, Welcome Reception or Congress Dinner also facilitate the creation of new relations while emphasizing this sense of belonging. 

Moving with the times 

Staying in the game for such a long time requires to be ready to embrace new initiatives and seize new opportunities. Like any other industry, PM is a sector that is subject to innovations and change. With the advent of industrial production–scale metal powder-based additive manufacturing (AM) in the 2010s, selective laser sintering and other metal AM processes have become a new category of commercially important powder metallurgy applications.

Additive Manufacturing has been integrated for the first time in the technical programme of EURO PM in 2013. Over time, the technology has taken a significant place in the talks. This year, for instance, AM recorded the highest number of sessions compared to other topics: 26 sessions out of 64 were dedicated to AM

According to Almond, despite the evolution of technology, there is still a lack of understanding of several themes among AM operators and players.Users are still surprised to discover the possibilities of this technology: to discover that metal AM powders can be processed in furnaces for instance.”, added Almond. “That’s also the reason why we do not limit ourselves to this congress & exhibition. We facilitate the understanding of our members (and non-members) of crucial challenges they face through seminars and training.” 

Such initiative is even more pivotal at this point where standardization has become a key issue to address for the advancement of industry 4.0. For EPMA, it is an interesting time to inform and train given the involvement of its members in this industry. They will be able to address several other issues such as electrification in aerospace and automotive, that require innovations.

What’s next?  

If EPMA is ready to embrace change in its commitment towards the PM industry, Andrew Almond also hopes the same for their members: 

We are hoping that our members will adapt to changes. We aim to witness their development and their ability to make [intelligent mass] manufacturing in the future. We look forward to the next thirty years, concluded Almond. 

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