Powder metal gears boast many advantages over more traditional gear-manufacturing processes.

Powder metallurgy is a manufacturing process that involves compacting metal powder under high pressure and then sintering them at elevated temperatures to form solid components. Miba Sinter USA uses a range of metal powders such as iron, steel, and alloys, depending on the specific application requirements. Powder metal gears are widely used in various industries such as automotive, industrial equipment, and power-transmission applications.

The core process of powder metallurgy includes powder mixing, tooling, powder compacting, green machining, sintering, sizing, packaging, and final inspection. Secondary process includes inductive hardening, heat treatment, machining and nitriding. (Figure 1)

Figure 1: The core process of powder metallurgy includes powder mixing, tooling, powder compacting, green machining, sintering, sizing, packaging, and final inspection. Secondary process includes inductive hardening, heat treatment, machining and nitriding.

Gear Type

Figure 2: Spur gear

Powder metal gears, like gears produced using other manufacturing techniques, can have a variety of tooth profiles depending on the specific application requirements. The tooth profile is crucial as it determines the gear’s performance in terms of load capacity, efficiency, and noise characteristics. Some commonly used tooth profiles for powder metal gears include:

Spur gears have straight teeth that are parallel to the gear axis. They are the simplest and most common type of gear. Spur gears are suitable for transmitting power between parallel shafts and provide high efficiency but can generate noise due to their engagement characteristics. (Figure 2)

Figure 3: Helical gear

Helical gears have teeth that are cut at an angle to the gear axis, resulting in a helix shape. This helical tooth profile allows for smoother and quieter operation compared to spur gears. Helical gears can transmit power between parallel or non-parallel shafts, and they provide higher load-carrying capacity. (Figure 3)

These are just the most common examples of tooth profiles commonly used in powder-metal gears. It’s important to note the selection of the tooth profile depends on factors such as the application requirements, desired gear ratio, torque transmission, and efficiency considerations. Design engineers typically consider factors such as load distribution, noise generation, efficiency, and manufacturing feasibility when determining the appropriate tooth profile for a specific powder metal gear application.

Powder Metal Material

When it comes to material choices in powder metallurgy for gears, several factors need to be considered:

Mechanical Properties: Gears are subjected to significant stresses, including bending, torsion, and fatigue. Therefore, the chosen material must possess adequate strength, hardness, and wear resistance. Common materials used in powder metallurgy for gears include low-alloy steels, iron-based alloys, and some non-ferrous alloys.

Density: The density of the powder metallurgy gear material affects its ability to transmit power efficiently. Higher density materials offer better strength and load-bearing capacity. However, the density must be balanced with other factors such as cost and processability. (Figure 4)

Figure 4: Common materials used in powder metallurgy for gears include low-alloy steels, iron-based alloys, and some non-ferrous alloys.

Lubrication and wear: Gears require lubrication to minimize friction and wear. Some powder metallurgy materials possess inherent self-lubricating properties, such as copper-based alloys or iron-copper-graphite compositions. These materials reduce the need for external lubrication and improve the gear system’s performance and durability.

Cost: Powder metallurgy often leads to cost savings compared to traditional manufacturing methods. The material cost, as well as the ease of processing and secondary operations such as heat treatment, must be evaluated to ensure an optimal balance between performance and cost.

Miba powder metal gears are known for their excellent strength, durability, and precision. With its patented densification process, the company achieves a density of >7,6g/cm3. The high density is mainly needed for gears in the e-drive and automotive industry. Miba’s patented densification process can be  used for inner and outer splines. Due to this densification process, a strength of solid steel can be achieved on the surface of its powder metal gears. (Figure 5)

Figure 5


Powder metal gears find extensive applications in various automotive systems, including:

1. Transmissions: Powder metal gears are widely used in automatic and manual transmissions, providing reliable and efficient power transfer between the engine and wheels. Their high strength and wear resistance ensure smooth shifting, improved gear engagement, and prolonged transmission life.

2. Electric powertrains: As the automotive industry shifts toward electric vehicles (EVs), powder metal gears play a vital role in electric powertrain systems. These gears are employed in electric motor drives, gearboxes, and differentials, delivering the necessary torque and speed required for optimal EV performance.

3. Steering systems: Powder metal gears are employed in steering systems to transmit power from the steering wheel to the wheels. Their durability, precision, and quiet operation contribute to responsive and accurate steering control.

Validation of Powder Metal Gears

The validation process of powder metal gears involves comprehensive testing and analysis to assess their performance characteristics. The goal is to verify the gears meet the desired specifications and can withstand the intended operating conditions. The process typically consists of the following stages:

Design verification

The initial step involves verifying the gear design using computer-aided engineering (CAE) tools. Finite element analysis (FEA) is employed to simulate the gear’s behavior under different loads, speeds, and operating conditions. This analysis helps identify potential design issues, such as stress concentrations, deflection, or excessive wear, which can be addressed before physical prototyping.

Material validation

Powder metal gears are manufactured using specific metal powders and additives. The materials used must undergo rigorous testing to validate their properties and suitability for gear applications. Mechanical tests, such as tensile strength, hardness, and fatigue testing, are conducted to ensure the powder metallurgy process results in materials with the required strength and durability.

Component testing

Once the gears are manufactured, a series of component-level tests are performed to evaluate their performance. These tests include:

Gear tooth strength: The gears undergo tests to evaluate their resistance to tooth breakage or wear. This involves subjecting the gears to high loads and measuring the tooth deflection, stress distribution, and fatigue life.

Gear mesh efficiency: The meshing characteristics of the gears are assessed to determine their efficiency and minimize power loss due to friction. This is achieved by analysing the gear meshing patterns, backlash, and contact ratio.

Noise and vibration analysis: Powder metal gears are evaluated for noise and vibration levels during operation. Accelerometers and sound level meters are used to measure and analyze vibrations and noise generated by the gear system. This helps identify potential issues and optimize the gear design for quieter operation.

System-level validation

Powder metal gears are integrated into the targeted system, such as transmissions or drivetrains, for comprehensive system-level validation. This involves subjecting the gears to real-world operating conditions, including varying speeds, loads, and temperatures. The performance and durability of the gear system are evaluated through extensive testing, including endurance tests, thermal cycling, and accelerated life testing.

Compliance with standards

Powder metal gears must adhere to industry standards and regulations. Validation includes verifying compliance with standards such as ISO, AGMA, IATF, or specific automotive OEM requirements. These standards define parameters such as gear quality, material properties, and performance criteria, ensuring consistency and reliability across the industry.

PM benefits

What are the benefits using powder metallurgy technology for your gear?

Material selection: Miba uses a range of metal powders such as iron, steel, and alloys, depending on the specific application requirements. These materials offer high strength, wear resistance, and fatigue resistance.

Precision manufacturing: Miba employs advanced techniques in powder metallurgy to ensure tight tolerances and high dimensional accuracy. This precision manufacturing process allows for the production of complex gear geometries with minimal post-processing.

Cost effectiveness: Powder metal gears offer cost advantages compared to traditional machined gears. The ability to produce complex geometries and the elimination of secondary operations like machining and heat treatment contribute to cost savings.

Improved efficiency: Miba powder metal gears are designed to minimize friction and wear, resulting in improved efficiency and reduced power losses. They also offer excellent noise and vibration damping properties.

Customization: Miba can tailor the design and properties of powder metal gears to meet specific customer requirements. This flexibility allows for optimized gear performance in terms of load capacity, speed, and noise reduction.

Figure 6: PM tech is considered more environmentally friendly compared to other manufacturing processes. (Courtesy: Powder Metallurgy Review, July 6, 2016)

Reliability: Miba powder metal gears undergo rigorous testing and quality control procedures to ensure high reliability and long service life. They are designed to withstand demanding operating conditions and provide consistent performance.

Light weight: Compared to solid steel, the weight of powder metal gears is lower by about 10 percent.

Enhanced noise and vibration damping: The inherent porosity of powder metal gears acts as a natural dampening mechanism, reducing noise and vibration during gear operation. This makes powder metal gears particularly suitable for applications where noise reduction is critical, such as transmissions and drivetrain systems. The ability to dampen vibrations contributes to increased driver comfort and a quieter driving experience.

Design flexibility: Powder metal technology enables the production of intricate gear shapes and features that are difficult or impossible to achieve with traditional manufacturing methods. This design flexibility allows for optimized gear performance, including improved load distribution, reduced weight, and enhanced efficiency.

Consistency and quality: Powder metal technology offers excellent control over the manufacturing process, resulting in consistent gear quality. The process enables tight tolerances, high dimensional accuracy, and uniform material properties throughout the gear. This consistency ensures reliable performance and reduces the need for post-processing or secondary operations.

Environmental sustainability: Powder metal technology is considered more environmentally friendly compared to other manufacturing processes. It generates less waste, consumes less energy, and reduces the need for raw materials. Additionally, the ability to recycle and reuse excess powders contributes to overall sustainability. (Figure 6)

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Robert Gavran is with Miba. He started his career in 2011 with powder metal gears and worked on many different gear projects mainly for the automotive industry. Gavran is in Detroit, Michigan.