The use of metal powders is a technique that dates back to prehistoric times. Excavations from the ancient Inca and Egyptian sites have uncovered ornaments and implements produced by this process.
Powder metallurgy methods progressed slowly through the years as the process was too slow and to expensive to have broad market applications. The first modern use for powder metallurgy parts came in the 1920’s with the development of the self-lubricating bearings and bronze bearings used in automobiles. With the growth of the automobile industry and more demand, better powders and processes were developed to make better parts at much reduced costs.
By the 1960’s, powdered metallurgy processing became more of a proven technique with engineers designing components and assemblies specifically for powder metal, rather than merely using powder metal to replace wrought parts. Improved powder properties allowed for greater design possibilities.
A wider acceptance of powder metallurgy is apparent in the types of products using powder metallurgy parts. By the 1970’s along with the automotive, which has continued to be the greatest utilization, powder metallurgy parts were being used in appliances, farm and garden equipment, hardware, tools, cameras, business machines, sporting goods and military products.
The1980’s have seen growth of powder metallurgy products being used for aircraft turbine engines, as well as growth in both the type and number of parts being used in traditional products like automotive.
The local powder metallurgy industry has its roots in the carbon factories which were located in the St. Marys area. These companies, established in the late 1800’s pressed carbon to produce pure carbon parts for the then emerging electric industry.
After World War II, as employees of the carbon companies became aware of the growing powder metallurgy markets, they realized that their know-how could be transferred to the powder metallurgy business. As employees of these companies gained experience, they would start a company of their own. Today, approximately 40% of all powder metallurgy manufacturing companies are located in the north central region of Pennsylvania. The region has aptly become known as the “Powder Metallurgy Capital of the World”.