Nearly every new engine in a car for the past decade has featured some version of computer-controlled valve or cam timing to improve fuel efficiency, boost power, and better manage emissions systems. That shift has been a major boon to powder metallurgy (PM) service companies such as NetShape Technologies Inc. Headquartered in Floyds Knob, Indiana, with four manufacturing facilities in North America and two in China, NetShape has grown to supply precision powertrain components to a variety of manufacturers.
“For variable valve timing/variable cam timing (VVT/VCT) components, PM was the original design-of-choice technology because of our ability to form the complex features required with little to no machining,” says John von Arx, NetShape market segment leader for automotive. “With the move to VVT/VCT systems, automakers went away from gerotor-style engine oil pumps to variable-vane pumps, which again, PM is the technology of choice.”
In addition to VVT/VCT parts and variable-vane pump components, NetShape provides camshaft and crankshaft engine sprockets and camshaft assembly components. Von Arx adds that industry trends should have PM parts making up a greater portion of vehicle engines in the future, although the total weight of such parts shipped will fall as automakers continue to shift from V-8 and V-6 engines to 4-cylinder models. PM producers also have an opportunity to provide more transmission components as 7-, 8-, 9-, and 10-speed automatics replace 4-speed and 5-speed models.
As powertrain orders have increased, von Arx says PM companies have invested heavily in new technologies. NetShape has developed a material solution that has properties close to 8620 hardened steel – HP-1, high performance.
“Previously, there was not a viable solution from the PM industry to replace machined, hardened 8620 steel components,” von Arx says. “This will allow us to engage with automotive customers with a solution that combines the net forming capabilities NetShape provides with a material solution that could replace 8620.”
NetShape Technologies Inc.