China has very rich rare-earth resources. The capacity is about 80% of the total in the world. The proven reserve is about 48 million tons and the prospective reserve is over 100 million tons. They are mainly located in Baotou in North china (light rare earth), Jiangxi in South China (middle-heavy rare earth), Sichuan Mianning in Southwest China and Shandong Weisanhu in East China. In 2001, the total output of Rare Earth (according to rare-earth oxides) is 71,000 tons, which is 9.2% increase over last year. The market share is about 80% of the world. The following figures show the increase tendency of product output of rare earth in China in recent years.
For rare-earth permanent magnets, the cost of raw materials depends mostly on rare-earth metals (turning to on rare-earth oxides), in Nd-Fe-B magnets, the formula of main phase is Nd2Fe14B and the atomic ratio (Nd:Fe:B) at=2:14: lwhile the weight ratio (Nd:Fe:B)w~=26.7:72.3:l. As a matter of production, the content of Nd is about 30 wt% in Nd-Fe-B magnets. The cost of Nd (and other rare earth such as Dy) is more than 80% of the total cost for Nd-Fe-B raw materials. In China, the main resource of Nd oxide is in Baotou. During last twelve years, the price of Nd metal (oxide) changed like a sine curve (please see the figure below). The maximum price of Nd metal was up to 42 USD/kg in 1989 while the minimum price was down to 8 USD/kg in the middle of 2002. This price drop has caused a corresponding big price drop of sintered Nd-Fe-B magnets, tt is expected that the current price of Nd oxide and Nd metal would be maintained for a couple of months.
The output of sintered Nd-Fe-B magnets of China has standing increase in recent years and as well as of the world. The global output of sintered Nd-Fe-B magnets was about 285 tons in 1987 and 13940 tons in 2000. The output of sintered Nd-Fe-B magnets in China was 6500 tons in 2000 which was more than doubled the figure of 1996 (2600 tons). Due to the world economy weakeuing in 2001, the Nd-Fe-B magnet industry was stricken especially by the PC industry. The output of sintered Nd-Fe-B magnets of Japan was 5200 tons in 2001, which was about 7% less than that in 2000. The output of sintered Nd-Fe-B magnets of China still kept increase tendency and reached 7800 tons in 2001, which was about 20% more than that in 2000. During last eight years, the average increase rate of the output of sintered Nd-Fe-B magnets of China is about 26%.
The above figure shows the output increase of sintered Nd-Fe-B magnets in last 15 years. The sintered Nd-Fe-B product of China is more than 40% of the total in the world. It looks that the Chinese output almost marched the Japanese output, but in fact for the final products the Chinese output is still lower than the Japanese output since the statistic figure of China is most for the sintered blocks.
At present, there are about 130 factories of sintered Nd-Fe-B permanent magnets in China. About 30 factories have capacities over 100 tons per year and a few factories have capacities over 500 tons per year. Zhong Ke San Huan, having 4 factories for manufacturing sintered Nd-Fe-B magnets, is the leading group in China @1/4 of China's total output) and one of the biggest producers of Nd-Fe-B magnets in the world. Ningbo Konit (a plant ofZhong Ke San Huan) and Ningbo Yusheng are the biggest factories in China, with product output over 1000 tons in year 2000 and in 2001.
The factories manufacturing sintered Nd-Fe-B magnets in China are located mainly in three areas. Beijing-Tianjin area: San Huan Lucky (Tianjin), Jing Ci, Innovation (Beijing); Shanxi Province: Hengci, Jingshan, Gangyu, Tianhe. Ningbo-Shanghai: Konit, Yunsheng, Jinji, Hangzhou PM Group and Raco.
San Huan was the first licensee in China that signed License Agreements with Sumitomo Special Metals Corp. (SSMC) Japan and General Motors (now Magnequench) U.S.A. in 1993. Beijing Jingci and Beijing Innovation were granted by SSMC in March and September 2000, respectively. Ningbo Yunsheng became a licensee in March 2001. China now has become a big supplier of licensed Nd-fe-B magnets in the world.
Many Chinese companies of sintered Nd-Fe-B magnets have been increasing their production capacities. At present, Zhong Ke San Huan has 4000 ton/year, Ningbo Yunsheng has 2000 ton/year, Shanxi Hengci has 2000 ton/year, Beijing Jingci has 1000 ton/year and Beijing Innovation has 500 ton/year.
Some new investments have made recently into sintered Nd-Fe-B magnets business and most of them are in Shangdong, Inner Mongolia and Sichuan Province.
The tremendous progress in magnetic performance of sintered Nd-Fe-B magnets has been made during last few years. Now many factories can produce sintered Nd-Fe-B magnets with grades of N45, N38H, N35SH, N28UH and a few factories can even supply magnets with higher grades such as N48, N45M, N44H, N39SH and N35UH. Zhong Ke San Huan has started to supply magnets with top grades of N50 series: N50, N48M, N46H, N42SH and N38UH.
Since China has very rich resource of rare earth, Chinese government pays very much attention to the rare earth industry and as well as the related industries. The National Engineering Research Center for Rare Earth Materials and the National Engineering Research Center for Magnetic Materials (especially on Nd-Fe-B magnets) are set up for rare earth high-tech application research and development. The High-Tech Advanced Materials Research and Development Program (so called "863" Program) has been setting projects for the development of high grade Nd-Fe-B permanent magnets since 1996.
Recently, bonded Nd-Fe-B magnets in China is getting up rapidly and there have been about 30 manufacturers for bonded Nd-Fe-B magnets. In 200l, the output of bonded Nd-Fe-B magnets was 3500 tons in the world and was 620 toas in China. Although the output of sintered Nd-Fe-B magnets in west countries was decreased in 2001 while the output of bonded Nd-Fe-B magnets ahnost kept a same level in 2000 and 200 [. Please see the following figure for the output of last four years.
SEIKO-EPSON has moved all the production from Japan to Shanghai Epson. Chengdu Galaxy is the biggest Chinese factory of bonded Nd-Fe-B magnets, its production output ranks the third place after Daido and Seiko-Epson. The following are some other typical manufacturers of bonded Nd-Fe-B magnets in China: Dongguan Qiaozhi Motor, Tianjin Ja Hwa Electronics, Tianjin Samsung Motor, Zhong Ke San Huan, Advanced Technology & Materials, Ningbo Yunsheng, Ningbo Daoyou and Tianjin Jinbin
Magnequench has closed its plant in Anderson, Indiana, USA and has set up a new plant in Tianjin, China, which is located about 80 km from Beijing.
A group led by Prof. Yingchang Yang, Department of Physics, Peking University, has been developing Nd-Fe-M-N (M=Mo, V, Ti) nitride permanent magnets with ThMn12-structure. A middle-scale test production line is under construction. The production capacity is about 100 tons per year.
A group led by Prof. Yaofu Xiao, Beijing University of Science and Technology, has made some progress on anisotropic Nd-Fe-B powder by HDDR. It has been found that the origin of anisotropy is primarily related with the disproportionation step. The desorption is very sensitive to obtain a good combination of anisotropy and magnetic properties. The Zr or Co and other addition only expand the condition range for getting good anisotropic powder. The production of anisotropic Nd-Fe-B powder by HDDR with low cost are expected soon.
Computers, magnetic resonance image (MRI) and motors are the biggest application areas for Nd-Fe-B magnets. The applications of computer and its related equipment for both sintered and bonded Nd-Fe-B magnets have about 60% of the total applications in the world.
In the last few years, the application field for Chinese Nd-Fe-B magnets in loudspeakers still occupies a big portion. The other applications for Chinese sintered Nd-Fe-B magnets in dewaxers and separators are maintained
With the progress of Chinese Nd-Fe-B magnets, some Chinese high-grade Nd-Fe-B magnets have started to be applied in pick-up of CD/VCD/DVD ROM, receivers of mobile phones and motors.
The application in motors for Chinese Nd-FeoB magnets is getting wider and wider. A large application is in the electric bicycles in China. By now there are more than 100 manufactures in China on electric bicycles. The production output is 270,000 bicycles in 2000 and 527,000 bicycles in 2001. The biggest manufacture of electric bicycles in China is Nanjing Tiandi San Huan High-tech Co., Ltd. and its production output was 50,600 bicycles in 2001. China is a country of "riding on bicycles" so that the market for electric bicycles is huge. The production output is expected to be one million in 2002. Another example is large motors. The motors of 35 kw to 75 kw have been used in oil field.
The four licensees in China: Zhong Ke San Huan, Beijing Jingci, Beijing Innvation and Ningbo Yunsheng have a production capacity of about 7000 tons per year. They all have set a sales window in the United States and some of them have agents in Europe. China has become a big supplier for licensed Nd-Fe-B magnets.
The fundamental composition patent for Nd-Fe-B magnets will expire next year in Japan, 2004 in Europe and 2006 in the United States. Some modified patents will expire in 2014 in the United State. After patent expiration the market competition of Nd-Fe-B magnets will become stronger and stronger. The quality and cost of the products will be the key factors for market competition
China has its unique advantages of rich rare-earth resource and low labour cost. The Chinese own manufactures will grow bigger and stronger and meanwhile the foreign manufactures may move the factories into China to reduce production costs. Sumitomo has been setting up a machining workshop in Dongguan, Guangdong. It was reported that Showa Denko K. K: is going to set a joint-venture company in Baotou, inner Mongolia to produce Nd-Fe-B alloys with annual capacity of 5000 tons.
China is going to become the largest producer of the Nd-Fe-B magnets in the world.