Magnet makers enhance grades and product performance to match consumer electronics, industrial and alternative energy applications.
Robust demand from the consumer electronics and industrial sectors is driving the move upmarket among China magnet makers. To match products with advanced performance requirements, manufacturers are boosting output of high-precision upscale models. Enterprises such as Anhui Astromagnet Co. Ltd devote half of selections to these versions.
Many are reducing core loss and enhancing DC bias to cater to power supply applications. They likewise yield types in various shapes and dimensions to meet customers’ specifications.
To elevate performance further, companies are enhancing the product’s grade, which refers to the maximum energy of the magnet’s material expressed in GOe. A grade 35 magnet, or N35, has a maximum energy product of about 35MGOe. Yuxiang Magnetic Materials Industry Co. Ltd has developed an N52-grade NdFeB magnet and is conducting R&D on N54 kinds targeted at DC motors, loudspeakers, medical apparatuses, and transmission and lifting machines. The models can be plated with nickel, zinc, NiCuNi, silver, gold and epoxy resin.
Encouraged by the prevailing trend for environmental conservation and low-carbon economy, manufacturers are looking to new energy industries and applications. For the first, the sectors eyed are solar inverter systems and wind power turbines. The solar power sector is forecast to expand by 20 percent in coming months. The installed capacity in wind power, which hit 200GW worldwide last year, will double to 400GW by 2014, according to the Global Wind Power Outlook 2010.
Manufacturers are also developing magnets for electric vehicles and charging stations. Anhui Astromagnet has rolled out its model N-01 NdFeB magnet suitable for electroacoustic devices for cars, speakers, electric appliances and medical equipment.
Permanent, soft ferrite and NdFeB types will continue to lead China’s output this year amid strong demand. Global yield of the last variety exceeded 1 billion tons in 2010, with the country accounting for 800 million tons. Bonded versions will represent more than 10 percent of this category.
China’s magnet industry posted a CAGR of 15 to 20 percent in the past few years, and the growth is expected to continue, thanks to increasing domestic demand. The entry of more players from home appliances, acoustics and motor sectors will also stimulate expansion.
To take advantage of the upswing, suppliers are boosting capacity. For instance, Shenzhen Poco Magnetic Co. Ltd, a manufacturer of metal magnetic powder cores,has increased capability in its factory in Huidong, Guangdong province by 1.5 times. Yuxiang will raise it by 25 percent this year.
There are currently 200 enterprises in China focusing on permanent magnets, and fewer than 50 offer soft variants. About 75 percent of manufacturers have an annual capacity of less than 1,000 tons, while 3 percent can churn out 10,000 tons and above.
Production is carried out in Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Guangdong and Fujian provinces. About 100 suppliers, output of which accounts for more than 60 percent of China’s total, are based in the first two.
The provinces of Shandong, Shanxi, Henan and Hubei are home to 16 percent of companies, while Sichuan and Guizhou provinces and Chongqing municipality play host to 30 enterprises.
In 2015, the city of Dongyang in Zhejiang is projected to generate 1.4 billion in sales owed to the presence of top manufacturers there.
To strengthen international foothold, local enterprises will continue to broaden reach in North America and Europe and in emerging markets such as India and Vietnam. Makers are also joining trade fairs abroad to boost overseas presence. Shenzhen Poco is planning to attend the Solar Power International exposition in the US this year and the Electronica 2012 in Germany.
Also referred to as permanent magnets, hard types boast higher coercivity than soft versions and retain their magnetism after being magnetized. The mainstream variants are NdFeB, SmCo, ferrite, AlNiCo and flexible rubber.
Made of rare earth elements, the first two are available in sintered and bonded forms. Sintered NdFeB packs the strongest magnetic properties. The sintering process includes hydrogen decrepitation, jet milling, aligning and pressing, vacuum sintering, heat treating, grinding and slicing, coating, pulse magnetization and testing. Bonded methods, meanwhile, comprise crush, press and injection molding.
Because of their high remanence and efficiency, NdFeB magnets outperform AlNiCo and ceramic types, but they are more expensive. Typically found in vehicles, home appliances, computers, printers and speakers, they reduce the product’s volume and weight. NdFeB versions come with nickel plating and operate below 200 C.
As for the SmCo category, the basic kinds are SmCo5 and the general SmCo type. Demand for this version is limited because of prohibitive costs. Flexible rubber magnets, meanwhile, contain a composite of bonded ferrite powder and compound rubber. They boast high plasticity and bendability.
Across the different types, the mainstreams grades are N35 to N45. Models with these attributes make up 70 to 80 percent of sales in hard magnets.
China suppliers also offer units for industrial use such as cow magnets, magnetic filters and power lifts. Some can be utilized in door latches, tool racks, jewelry and toys. Companies can likewise turn out variants in different forms, including discs, rings, cylinders, blocks, tiles, spheres, hooks, and E and C shapes.
The selection consists of metal strip-wound, ferrite and metal powder cores. The first includes silicon steel, permalloy, amorphous and nanocrystalline alloys. Metal powder cores can be divided into Fe- and FeNi-based amorphous alloys, and nanocrystalline alloy.
Soft ferrite, which is less expensive, is categorized into MnZn, CuZn and NiZn.
Metal powder cores, typically adopted in upscale inductors, transformers and inverters, are available in iron, sendust, high-flux and MPP kinds. The last three are considered mainstream.
High-flux varieties contain 6.5 percent silicon iron distributed gapped powder core, which delivers good temperature stability and lower losses than powder iron magnetic cores. They have strong DC bias performance and saturation flux density. The typical applications are in power factor correction chokes, EMI filters, switching regulators and boost inductors.
Shenzhen Poco turns out high-flux kinds under its NPF and NPF-C series. The products account for nearly half of the supplier’s output. PHD versions, which represent 20 percent of yield, target new energy inverter systems and LC filter inductors.
The manufacturer also offers MPP variants that are used in pulse and flyback transformers, power factor correction, switching amplifiers, AC/DC filters and energy storage inductors.
Shenzhen Poco likewise carries NPS, which is made of iron, silicon and aluminum alloy. It boasts low magnetostriction, and good temperature stability and DC bias performance. This type has reduced losses compared with powder iron cores and is less expensive to produce than MPP kinds.
The maker’s NPF184060C model is an FeSi alloy powder core available in 0.8 to 3in. It has high efficiency and low core loss. Because the variant is made of inorganic materials, aging or instability issues are avoided. It is employed in computers, communication equipment and switching power supplies.
Shenzhen Poco’s selection is on a par with magnets offered by foreign companies, at a production cost that is 30 percent lower.
Rare earth elements are the key components of magnets, making up for nearly half of manufacture outlay. For NdFeB variants, the metal types neodymium and boron are the main inputs. Businesses source these locally to take advantage of abundant supply. The key providers are Inner Mongolia Baotou and Ganzhou Chenguang.
The cost of neodymium has climbed by more than 50 percent in the past two months, thereby increasing NdFeB magnet quotes by 20 to 40 percent.
Ferrite magnets, which are suitable for low-end and midrange terminal products, consist of ferrite oxide, the cost of which has recently jumped by 10 percent.
FeSi and FeSiAl powder, meanwhile, are used in magnetic powder cores. These are usually obtained from local vendors, although some makers prefer to import materials to ensure high performance and meet customers’ requirements.
To cut overhead, manufacturers purchase equipment such as sintering and melting furnaces and gas-driven machines. They also automate assembly lines to reduce labor-related expenses.
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All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.
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