The Physics of Form – Idaho Companies use high-tech furnaces for custom molds

To think big, sometimes you have to first think small.

In Ian Clark’s world, small means about a micron, or a millionth of a meter, but the pieces that come out of his little factory in the Warren K Industrial Park are a big part of many vital components used in a wide range of industries.

They may not look like much, but they’re critical to the operation of some intricate, precise equipment. Take for example the tiny, multifaceted piece not much more than a quarter-inch in any dimension and so light it would take dozens to register on anything but the most precise scale. Yet it’s the essential part in an electrical circuit breaker that handles loads up to six million volts.

"It’s made to tolerances of five to 10 thousandths of an inch," Clark said.

The tiny component is made from stainless steel, but it’s not the stuff found in the place settings at your dining table.

At Form Physics, components ranging from parts of orthodontic braces to products for aircraft and aerospace begin as precisely mixed alloys of exotic metal powders, formed in molds and heated to temperatures as high as 4,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

"It’s a world of complicated shapes and specialty metal composition," said Clark, a metallurgist by trade. "They’re highly engineered powdered particles."

Pathways Thermal Technology

Form Physics

Staff writer

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