Locksmith industry has historically been a potential sector for our technologies, both in INVESTMENT CASTING and in MIM technology, but it is especially in this last one where the increase in recent years has been more important, positioning itself as one of the main manufacturing markets today.
Why is the locksmith sector growing?
On the one hand, thanks to the companies’ knowledge of our MIM manufacturing process, which allows the production of small parts with complex shapes, fine details, low roughness, high mechanical properties (resistance, hardness, anti-corrosion) and high consumption. And on the other hand, due to the increase in home burglaries and squatting phenomenon, which has led to an increase in house´s security. This has meant that the design of lock mechanisms is much more sophisticated, which entails and involves a wide variety of parts manufactured by steel injection (MIM), especially for anti-panic and security locks.
In Ecrimesa Group, for many years we have been working together with our customers in the sector, not only for the manufacture of parts but also collaborating in their design, in order to ensure that their locks are effective both in operation as in reliability and security. As big manufacturers of several lock components that we are, we have been able to verify first-hand that there has been an increase both in sales and in complexity in the design of parts intended to provide the lock with greater protection and guarantee.
Historically, there are pieces in this sector that have always been manufactured using other technologies or materials such as sintering, zamak or machining. This type of part is still linked to cheaper locks that do not have great mechanical specifications, but many manufacturers are changing to MIM or Investment Casting to provide their locks with better properties.
In fact, it is a great challenge to convert the manufacturing of a part from another technology to MIM. Recently, PIM International magazine published a Case Study prepared by our Technical Director, Manuel Caballero. If you want more information, you can read the article Conversión a MIM de la fabricación de bisagras de puerta fundidas a presión.
What are the advantages of MIM over other metal fabrication technologies?
Doing a comparison between technologies, the advantages of MIM technology would be:
MIM vs. Traditional Sintering: Sintering has shape limitations and does not allow as much design freedom as MIM (greater complexity and greater design flexibility). The parts manufactured by sintering are more porous and weak and also require very big quantities. They get worse thicknesses and worse roughness. They have worse resistance to corrosion and worse magnetic properties (in MIM there are specific materials for magnetic applications, such as FeSi3 or Fn50 for example, depending on the required magnetic permeability).
MIM vs. Zamak: A part made of zamak clearly does not have the same mechanical characteristics as a part made of carbon steel, or of course stainless steel. Zamak has worse tensile strength, less hardness, so its useful life is shorter, a lower melting point (very important for locks with a fire protection version) and worse resistance to corrosion (MIM parts also accept Surface protection, such as nickel-plated, zinc-plated, blued, etc…). A piece in zamak is cheaper, yes (and enough if there is no requirement where it is applied), but it would not be considered in a medium/high quality locks.
MIM vs. machining: the handicap of machining is the medium/high quantities in the sector, which do not compete on price with respect to other technologies. That is, if the quantities are medium, machining is an expensive process compared to MIM. In addition, with MIM the machining of the parts can be reduced (and therefore the cost) because we can get external threads (with two lateral flat surfaces to be able to place the demoulding line) and internal complex shapes that could not be easily machined. Internal threads could also be made, but due to the high cost of producing the mold it is not recommended.
In summary, MIM presents better properties and a greater capacity to combine coupling parts in a single, more complex component. It allows us to achieve most of the complex shapes defined for locks where, as we know, correct working requires meticulous assembly.
Some of the pieces that can be made by Investment Casting or MIM could be: shields, latches, closures, levers, covers, boxes, bowlers, eccentrics, pins, bolts, etc.
It is for this reason that, if we want a high-quality, high-end safety piece, we have to go for a carbon or stainless steel material manufactured using MIM technology. Its price would be slightly higher, but the benefits obtained justify it, due to its resistance, durability, reliability or anti-corrosion.
It may be that the perfect unassailable lock does not yet exist, but there is one thing we can affirm: the most secure locks on the market today have components manufactured by ECRIMESA Group.
Now you can learn everything you need to design and manufacture a metal part with MIM. We have the most complete Guide on MIM: processes, advantages and disadvantages, design rules and advice.