Wednesday, December 28, 2011

No. 394: Responding to the growing prices of rare earths (December 29, 2011)

Companies that need rare earths for their products are hastily formulating measures for the growing prices. Green CycleSystems, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Electric, will start to collect rare-earth magnets including neodymium used in the compressor of air-conditioners next year. The company will install equipment to collect rare-earth magnets from compressors it collects from the home appliances recycling plant that is another Mitsubishi Electric’s subsidiary. It plans to collect about one ton of rare-earth magnets per year starting in 2012.

Mabuchi Motor, one of the leading producers of small motors, developed a motor that does not need neodymium. The company uses ferrite magnet in place of neodymium by improving the circuit. The new motor is smaller than the existing product, and it is 54 mm long and 45 mm in diameter. Mabuchi plans to sell it for such electric power tools as screw driver, drill, and lawnmower. Okamoto Glass, a producer of special glass products, will develop a technology to decrease the consumption of rare earths in the production process. The company currently uses a cerium compound as an abrasive. It also plans to eliminate the polishing process by increasing the precision of the mold used to press glass products. The import prices of rare earths increased 7-10 times last July because of the production and export restrictions imposed by the Chinese government.

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