Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - 30

SPONTANEOUS THOUGHTS

a Column by Dr. Stan Trout

Magnet Summer Camp
If you have been following recent events in the world of rare earths
and permanent magnets, there has been a lot of interest in reestablishing a completely domestic supply chain to produce rare
earth permanent magnets, both NdFeB and SmCo. Even though
American research and industry were significant contributors in
the development of both SmCo and NdFeB magnets on a commercial scale, much of their production has moved to China over
the last few decades and has been largely forgotten in the US.
Consequently, this is not going to be an easy proposition with
a simple solution. The Pentagon has even sent out several Requests for Information this Summer, in hopes that the collected
feedback from the various stakeholders will help to paint a picture
of what a re-established supply chain might look like. I am afraid
that they will not find the answer as straightforward as they had
hoped.

ability of people who can be called back to run the plant fulltime
in the event of a national emergency. This is a crucial part of the
proposal. What good is having all the equipment, without having
people with the know-how to operate the plant? I'm calling this
proposal a Magnet Summer Camp. An operation that runs a few
weeks a year to prove the equipment is still working, to supply
some domestic need for rare earth raw materials and magnets
and to train people how to make magnets.

Complicating the picture is the fact that not all users of rare earth
permanent magnets have the same sensitivity or interest regarding where magnets are sourced. For military applications domestic sourcing is likely on its way to becoming mandatory, but it
represents a small percentage of overall demand for permanent
magnets. Other users, like the automotive and motor industries
are many times larger; however, their buyers are more concerned
about price and less concerned about the country of origin.

How would the cost of a Magnet Summer Camp be divided? Ideally it would be nice if the government paid for the entire idea; however, that seems unrealistic these days. Senator Rubio recently
introduced a bill called the Rare Earth Cooperative 21st Century
Manufacturing Act, with some similar aims but different methods.
His bill calls for public private partnerships to fund the program.
My suggestion is to allow all interested stakeholders to share the
cost evenly, much like a neighborhood might share the cost of a
portable generator available for power outages. Stakeholders who
decline to participate would be excluded from the benefits of the
plan. That's a tough stand to take, but necessary to remind people
about the seriousness of the situation.

The other thing we need to identify are the processing steps that
are currently missing in the US. Those missing steps are: 1) separating rare earth ores to make oxides, 2) reducing the oxides to
make metals, 3) casting alloys and 4) magnet processing. I'll be
quick to add that some modest capability exists in some of these
areas.
My modest proposal is to establish a centrally located facility that
can address all four of the missing pieces of the production puzzle. The facility needs to be capable of running at least on a pilot
plant scale on a temporary basis. In some cases, idled equipment
can be moved to the facility and new equipment can fill in the remainder of the requirement.

I would suggest locating the Magnet Summer Camp where there
is less oxygen to adversely oxidize the fine powders, yet not so low
an oxygen level that any breathing apparatus would be required
for the workers. In other words, the magnets should be made at
altitude, such as Colorado where better properties are possible
due to lower oxygen contents in the final magnets.

Will there be a Magnetics Bootcamp at the Magnet Summer
Camp? I can only hope so.
For Magnetics Business & Technology Magazine
S. R. Trout

Why go to the expense of putting everything in one location? The
second part of my proposal is that this plant should only be run a
few weeks a year, unless there is an emergency requiring more
output. The plant should be operated by young engineers, to optimize the longevity of the processing knowledge and the avail-

About the Author: Dr. Stan Trout has more than
40 years' experience in the permanent magnet
and rare earth industries. Dr. Trout has a B.S.
in Physics from Lafayette College and a PhD in
Metallurgy and Materials Science from the University of Pennsylvania. Stan is a contributing
colunmist for Magnetics: Business & Technology magazine. Spontaneous Materials, his consultancy, provides practical solutions in magnetic
materials, the rare earths, technical training, and
technical writing. He can be reached at strout@
ieee.org

30

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Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019

Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019
Contents
Editor’s Choice/ Features
Advancements in Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Open Up Promising New Therapies for Array of Neural Conditions
Barcoded Magnetic Beads and New Diagnostic Systems Revolutionize Battle Against Infectious Disease
European Space Agency Swarm Mission Pinpoints New Magnetic North and Geomagnetic Jerks
Research & Development
Product News
Industry News
Marketplace/ Advertising Index
Magnet Summer Camp Spontaneous Thoughts by Dr. Stan Trout
Spontaneous Thoughts
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - Cover2
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - Contents
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - Editor’s Choice/ Features
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - 5
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - Advancements in Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Open Up Promising New Therapies for Array of Neural Conditions
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - 7
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - 8
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - 9
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - 10
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - 11
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - 12
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - 13
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - Barcoded Magnetic Beads and New Diagnostic Systems Revolutionize Battle Against Infectious Disease
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - 15
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - 16
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - 17
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - Research & Development
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - 19
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - Product News
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - 21
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - 22
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - 23
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - Industry News
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - 25
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - 26
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - 27
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - Marketplace/ Advertising Index
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - 29
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - Spontaneous Thoughts
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - Cover3
Magnetics Business & Technology - September/October 2019 - Cover4
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