GKN Sinter Metals makes precision pressed-powder metal components for use principally in the automotive, lawn and garden, power tool, and home appliance industries. The company uses a process known as powder metallurgy to make intricate and complex parts with performance attributes comparable with components produced through such processes as forging and casting. Its metal components include gears, bearings, and pulleys, primarily for use in engines, transmissions, and other drive mechanisms. Customers include Deere, Volkswagen, and Ford. GKN Sinter Metals, which operates about 30 locations on five continents, is a subsidiary of UK-based automotive components and aerospace concern GKN plc.
The process of sintering involves heating and pressing metal powder -- e.g., aluminum, stainless steel, or iron -- in a furnace until it creates a solid shape. The process reduces porosity and increases strength and thermal conductivity, with additional benefits including material and mechanical flexibility, lighter weight, and less material waste.
GKN's Powder Metallurgy segment comprises GKN Sinter Metals (representing about 85% of the unit's sales) and Hoeganaes, which produces metal powder (about 15% of sales). Together the Powder Metallurgy segment accounts for more than 10% of its parent's annual sales. North America and Europe each generate about half of the segment's sales, with about 5% left over for emerging markets.
Sinter Metals is maneuvering to pick up more of that emerging global market share. Its international locations show special concentration in Germany and the US. The financial meltdown and credit crisis that hit in 2008 and 2009 splintered Sinter and the entire automotive industry. But while the US and Europe suffered the brunt of the downturn, sales in Asia/Pacific and Latin America actually increased, especially in Brazil, China, and India. The automotive industry started showing signs of recovery in 2010. – less