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DN Insight: What Rare Earth Shortages Mean for Engineers, Part 1

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Beth Stackpole
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Shortages seems to be new reality, so now what?
Beth Stackpole   3/5/2012 6:32:11 AM
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Kristen, thanks for the overview on rare earth metals and specifically the background on what's causing the shortages. I think the three scenarios you keyed in on at the end of your post could be really instrumental for engineers looking for alternatives to these materials or at least a strategy for lessening their dependence on them for their designs. Given the state of the world economy and global tensions, constant price spikes seem to be the new order. I'm sure I speak for our audience when I say I'd love to hear more about each of those three strategies and I'm hoping subsequent posts in your series hit on these tactics.

apresher
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Rare Earth Shortages
apresher   3/5/2012 8:16:59 AM
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Excellent article.  Looking forward to the rest of the report on what these shortages mean for new designs and machinery.  Thanks.

Rob Spiegel
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What about Australia?
Rob Spiegel   3/5/2012 12:10:29 PM
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Nice article, Kristen. And it's an important subject. I know Molycorp had come back online -- now that rare earth elements command a significant price again, but I didn;t realize that dysprosium would not come online for years yet. I know Australian mines have come back online. Will Australia help with some of these shortages? 

Jon Titus
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Why rare-earth magnets work
Jon Titus   3/5/2012 1:18:34 PM
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Wikipedia has an interesting submission that explains why these rare-earth magnets exhibit such good magnetic properties:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare-earth_magnet.  The US Geolgical Survey offers an interactive map that shows worldwide mines, deposits, and occurrances or rare-earth minerals: http://mrdata.usgs.gov/mineral-resources/ree.html.  You'll see that rare-earth minerals are not particularly rare, although it's rare to find sites for economical mining.

naperlou
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Re: Rare Earth Shortages
naperlou   3/5/2012 1:38:33 PM
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As apresher says, excellent article.  This is the type of issue that forces design engineers to adapt an find alternatives.  This is a good thing for all.  Whether the price increases are due to supply shortages, environmental costs other factors, we are often forced to explore alternatives.  Somtimes this efforts leads to better designs.

Dave Palmer
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Real cause of price increases
Dave Palmer   3/5/2012 3:11:02 PM
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Kristin, thanks for a fascinating article.  It was interesting to learn that the price increases were brought about by speculation, rather than the Chinese export limits.  I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

Charles Murray
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Beneath the radar
Charles Murray   3/5/2012 6:36:12 PM
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Great article. We all know the effect of speculation in the oil market, but most of us never think about speculation in the rare earth materials market. The fact that neodymium speculation could create such volatility surprises me.

Alexander Wolfe
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Re: Beneath the radar
Alexander Wolfe   3/5/2012 7:12:52 PM
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The kudos for Kristin's article are justified, and I would also add that this is an example of the longer-form, deeper dive articles we intend to bring to the Design News audience. More to follow...

tekochip
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Investors or Inventors
tekochip   3/5/2012 7:31:57 PM
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While working on a design we always strive to use components and materials that will be widely available throughout the life of a product.  It's astonishing to see that we now must not only examine the actual supply, but also examine whether the material will be wildly traded by speculators because it becomes so popular that it has visibility to investors, instead of inventors.


ghatch
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Re: What about Australia?
ghatch   3/5/2012 11:00:18 PM
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@Rob Spiegel: Molycorp is planning to ramp up rare-earth production by the end of the year. There are insignificant quantities of dysprosium (Dy) and other heavy rare earths at their Mountain Pass deposit in California. The situation is a little better with the Mount Weld deposit in Australia, owned by Lynas Corp ( assuming they can get past the problems of rolling out their separation facility in Malaysia ) - but still, they will not be producing significant amounts of heavies. There are however some promising sources of heavies in Australia, including the Dubbo Zirconia Project owned by Alkane Resources; in the near term we should see some heavies from the Steenkampskraal mine in South Africa, owned by Great Western Minerals. But it will be a number of years until we have significant new quantities online. See www.rareearths.org for info on specific advanced projects that might be of interest. Gareth Hatch Technology Metals Research, LLC

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