This technical information has been contributed by
Caterpillar Industrial Products, Inc.

Powder Metallurgy Components

Caterpillar is recognized as the leader in the earth moving industry and is also recognized as one of the leaders in the field of Powder Metallurgy. A new focused facility allows OEMs to take advantage of Caterpillar's technology and manufacturing expertise. Complex P/M components are produced that are cost-effective and which can be pressed with subsequent machining eliminated or kept to a minimum.

We offer multi-level presses up to 825 tons, CNC machining centers, in-house heat treatment, oil and plastic impregnation, steam oxidation, shotblasting and tumbling. Parts are packaged to the customer's requirements, and bar-coding is available.

The powder metallurgy manufacturing facility has the capability to produce large parts with flexible lot sizes, technical support, and a proven track record in applying this technology. All this adds up to cost effective and innovative solutions to the challenges facing our customers.

Let our experienced team of application engineers demonstrate how your part can be produced more economically using powder metallurgy.

Contact us today to find out how Caterpillar's superior capabilities can work for you.


Caterpillar Inc. entered the powder metallurgy business in 1971 because its suppliers could not provide parts to meet the required design criteria. The first parts were split flanges for hydraulic hoses.

Caterpillar decided to build a new facility specifically for the production of powdered metal components. This 150,000 square foot facility in Rockwood, Tennessee, opened in August 1994. The first parts were produced and shipped in October of the same year.

Other significant milestones include:

Caterpillar is unique as a P/M manufacturer because it is both a producer and a consumer, as its P/M parts are used in Caterpillar equipment. Always aware of the importance of reducing costs and maintaining quality, Caterpillar standards are tough and often exceed comparable industry standards. Using material of the highest quality, Caterpillar makes parts for a variety of external customers and industries.


The use of the powder metallurgy process to create parts began long before ancient artisans learned to melt and cast iron. The Egyptians made iron tools using P/M techniques as early as 3000 B.C., while the ancient Inca Indians made their jewelry and artifacts from precious metal powders.

The first modern P/M product, the tungsten filament for electric light bulbs, was developed in the early 1900s. It was followed by tungsten carbide cutting tool materials in the 1930s, automobile parts in the 1960s and 1970s, aircraft turbine engine parts in the 1980s, and, finally, parts made by powder forging, metal injection molding, and warm compacting in the 1990s.

Today, the P/M parts and products industry in North America has estimated sales of over $3 billion. It is comprised of 150 companies that make conventional P/M parts and products from iron and copper-base powders, as well as 50 companies that make specialty P/M products.

P/M parts are used in a variety of end products, including lock hardware, garden tractors, snowmobiles, automobile automatic transmissions, heavy equipment, washing machines, power tools and hardware, copiers and postage meters, off-road equipment, hunting knives, hydraulic assemblies, fishing rods, radios, and more.

The basic P/M process uses pressure and heat to form precision parts and shapes. The process begins by filling a rigid precision die with powder and then compacting it at room temperature - at up to 50 tons per square inch - to form an engineered shape like a gear. Next, this compact is ejected from the press and fed slowly through a special high-temperature controlled atmosphere furnace. This process, called "sintering", metallurgically fuses the particles without melting them.

After sintering, there are a variety of secondary operations, such as heat treatment, repressing or coining, machining, tumble deburring, steam oxidation, resin or oil impregnation, and plating. In addition, there are a variety of other processes to consolidate powders into finished shapes, including cold or hot isostatic pressing, direct powder rolling, forging, injection molding, and gravity sintering.

Caterpillar combines superior manufacturing technology with the finest customer service. Contact us today for more information.

This technical information has been contributed by
Caterpillar Industrial Products, Inc.

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