The term “powder metallurgy” is
no longer adequately broad to encompass the evolved state of our present-day
technology. To begin with, today’s advanced materials are seldom made
of metals and metallic alloys alone, often incorporating ceramics, ceramic
fibers, and intermetallic compounds. What’s more, some materials, such
as whisker-reinforced ceramic matrix composites or oxide dispersion-strengthened
intermetallic compounds, do not contain any metals or alloys.
Even the word “powder” does not accurately capture the full
diversity of forms that today’s advanced materials can take. What used to
be limited to fine spherical or somewhat irregularly shaped particles has
become an array of material shapes that includes various forms of fibers
and whiskers that often have aspect ratios as high as 1,000.
Thus, the term “particulate materials” has come to be used to
embrace the full range of materials the industry uses to produce complex
components with special properties for such high-value applications as medical,
electronics, and consumer products.
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