Product Substitution for Rare Earth Metals

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A hat tip goes to the blog, Terra Magnetica for reporting on an innovation from Japan’s Daikin Industries in conjunction with Professor Shigeo Morimoto from Osaka Prefecture University involving hard ferrite magnets to achieve high torque levels instead of rare earth permanent magnets relying on neodymium or dysprosium for electric motors. Hard ferrite magnets come from multiple suppliers within the US and present an economical alternative to their rare earth peers. This link presents more details about the innovation and offers a more technical explanation.

As Gareth Hatch, Editor of Terra Magnetica mentions in his article, this development supports an argument put forward by Tony Morcos on alternative hard ferrites to rare earths magnets. And though cost limitations may impact design and more importantly, testing of alternative materials, we would contend product innovation, specifically around product substitution appears alive and well. We can all recall one innovation a few years ago that involved the switch from austenitic grades of stainless to ferritic in an attempt to minimize the expensive nickel content. In addition, we know of companies who are largely dependent on one supplier who have active product development projects to identify alternative materials and open up the supply base.

The real challenge, assuming test parameters are met, relates to the whole notion of design-for-manufacturability. In other words, how does a company not only develop an alternative product but also develop a cost effective means of manufacturing the alternative product?

If you care to share any examples, please drop us a line at lreisman (at) aptiumglobal (dot) com.

In the meantime, if you source rare earth metals and would like to learn about learn about rare earth supply markets as well as sourcing strategies, please join us at a brand new conference entitled: Managing Supply Chain Risks for Critical and Strategic Metals from October 20-22 in Washington DC (MetalMiner readers can attend the conference for a discount by clicking on the previous link)

–Lisa Reisman

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