Food grade stainless steel is metal that is safe to use in food preparation and/or water storage. Since you cannot die cast stainless steel, many companies take to investment casting or machining not realizing that metal injection molding (MIM) is a great alternative for high volume, complex stainless steel molds.
Metal Injection Molding for Food Grade Metals
When needing a food safe metal, customers are typically searching for an alloy that is strong and corrosion resistant. While aluminum, zinc, and even copper can be used for food safe metal components, each has to be coated after casting, which could potentially leach into foods. That is why the most popular metal used within the food industry is stainless steel. Not having to coat or plate stainless steel helps cut down on secondary operations and cost.
It is also very important that residual metal and flash do not break off and mix with food or water. MIM tools are designed to have less flashing because the metals used in most MIM applications are much stronger than die casting alloys and cannot be corrected as easily after the fact.
Popular Food Safe Stainless Steel
One of the most important aspects of food grade stainless steel is the sanitary finish. It needs to be easily and reliably cleaned and sanitized. If not, the surface may be susceptible to harmful bacteria growth—which is not compatible with FDA regulations.
Most food processing equipment is made from 304 or 316 austenitic stainless steels. While OptiMIM offers a variety of stainless steels for metal injection molding, MIM-316L is most widely used when it comes to components that are safe for food and clean water. Not only does MIM-316L have high strength properties, but it is also very corrosion resistant—which is important for metals that come in contact with acids that break down and change the alloy composition over time. The high alloy and low carbon content of MIM-316L make it a great fit for food grade applications.
Use our metal selector tool to compare mechanical and physical properties of other MIM alloys.
Designing For MIM
Metal injection molding offers design freedom from the traditional constraints of shaping stainless steel. Not only can you create complex stainless steel parts at high volumes, but MIM makes it possible for designers to mold parts with:
- Holes and slots
- Undercuts, both internal and external
- Ribs and webs
- Knurling, lettering and logos
With metal injection molding you can achieve tighter tolerances by only having to place material where it is needed for function and strength.
Download our free MIM Design Guide to learn more about the advantages of MIM.
If you have a small, complex part that requires higher strength requirements, corrosion resistance, and food safe qualities, we suggest contacting one of our design engineers to walk you through the MIM process and its benefits for food safe applications.