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The skyrocketing prices of some rare earths in professional circles have long been a controversial subject. Meanwhile, some rare earths have become so expensive that it now expected to increase the prices of end products. Manufacturers are looking for alternatives.
Dirty and expensive: there is plenty of rare earths, but they are funded almost exclusively in China.
The permanent magnet, many know him as a horseshoe magnet, has become an important part of the auto industry for electric and hybrid drives, which are developed with high pressure. It could also be electromagnets. But many have opted for the simpler permanent magnets - which they might regret in the long run. Because the magnets are not just made of iron, cobalt or nickel. Without neodymium and dysprosium they would not work. These are two of a total of 17 rare earths, raw materials whose prices have skyrocketed.
BMW still can not see any effects. There are no bottlenecks, especially the needs of such magnets for new, alternative drives in the development stage is still low, says a spokesman for the Munich carmaker. Their suppliers would be secured through long-term contracts also. Of course, he must concede, the increased cost could become an issue as soon as a volume production run.
A time bomb is ticking: The skyrocketing prices of lanthanum, neodymium, dysprosium and europium is since 2010 in professional circles has long been a controversial subject. The negative effects that made creating mainly producers on the procurement side, with increased raw material prices are now slowly in the long chain from production to up to the consumer. Thus, the largest European manufacturer of home appliances, Bosch and Siemens HausgerÃ¤te GmbH (BSH), has not ruled out price increases for products 2011/12. This is caused not only become expensive steel and stainless steel, so the whole industry wants to raise prices. Rare earths have become a factor. “We are doing everything that we pass on the increased costs of steel and rare earth is not 1:1 on our product prices,” says a spokeswoman for BSH.
Rare earths BSH needed for the enamelling of stoves. For motors and pumps up those permanent magnets are needed, how they want to incorporate into his BMW alternative drives. The wind turbines are also used in small consumer-related components of information and communications technology and consumer electronics (MP3 player). Rare earths are found in rechargeable nickel-metal hydride batteries, cell phones, tablet PCs, X-ray machines, CT scanners, plasma screens and energy-saving lamps.
The manufacturer of energy saving lamps have justified the price increase on the wholesale distribution of 20 to 25 percent more expensive with the strong resources. Rare earths were once terms of value in the low single-digit percentage, he is now risen to almost one third. These dimensions can be used in the pricing of end products can not be ignored. “The rise in prices of materials are currently the biggest challenge for electronics companies,” said Bernhard Rohleder, Director General of the Association of Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media (Bitkom). He is likely not alone my problems on the purchasing side, but also the challenges in the markets - because the cost is often compared to the excesses of pressure on margins due to fierce competition.
The name confused: Rare earths are not rare. Rather, they are found in very low concentrations in minerals, so their production is complicated and expensive. That is the reason why many countries have largely retreated with resources such as the United States, Australia and the former CIS states from the promotion. They left China the field. The country has the largest presence by far the world and today it is 97 percent. For a long time is the accusation that China is artificially scarce supply.
Now, behind closed doors, according to allegations in industry circles, that the Chinese would not hold well for long-term supply and prices change quickly. So often loses the argument about long-term contracts to hedge on weight. The Munich manufacturer BSH Home Appliances has been working on alternative strategies. “There were already taking measures to reduce the compensation,” said the spokeswoman. “We expect success from it in one to two years.”
The Siemens Group, builder of wind turbines, has agreed to secure its supply base for neodymium permanent magnet, a joint venture with Australia’s Lynas. Lynas, the rare earth supports, would provide long-term partner, the company with raw materials. Computer manufacturer Fujitsu is also, according to a spokeswoman in search of replacement. The extent of the rise was still not fully recognize. Suppliers there have been no suggestion to raise prices. But Fujitsu is cautious: That could indeed come.
This article was translated from German.
By Ruediger Koehn