If you have ever tried to incorporate magnetism into any product you are designing, you will have realised that magnetism is a comparatively weak force and is easily broken. If you only need a little force, a standard magnet may be acceptable. If a more powerful magnetic force is needed, traditionally, a much larger magnet is required. Using a large magnet may not be a problem. However, if you are designing something that you intend to be portable or if the available space is limited, large magnets are a significant handicap, being both large and heavy. In more recent years, a popular alternative to traditional magnets has become available. Rare earth magnets are now widely used across multiple sectors, including manufacturing, transportation, and medical equipment.
How are rare earth magnets different?
The most significant difference between traditional magnets and rare earth magnets is the material from which they are made. Traditionally, magnets were constructed from alnico or ferrite materials. Rare earth magnets are often made from neodymium and allow a much higher degree of magnetism in a smaller package. Neodymium magnets began commercial production in the 1980s, although neodymium has been well-known for more than a century. Extensive deposits of neodymium have been located in many places. Today, most of the neodymium comes out of the ground in Asia before being turned into magnets and exported around the world.
How might you use rare earth magnets?
You can use rare earth magnets in applications as diverse as railway propulsion systems, jewellery, and dentistry. If you are wondering whether rare earth magnets would be a good solution for any design problems you are facing, there are several things that you must bear in mind. While all rare earth magnets operate on the same principles, not all rare earth magnets are the same. The magnets are available from the supplier in several grades, and it is your responsibility to determine which grade will be the most suitable for your situation.
What are the limitations?
When selecting the grade of magnet that you need, you must consider the environment where the magnet will be used. The highest grades of rare earth magnets can be used almost anywhere, but lower grades can be susceptible to environmental damage. If the magnet is required to work somewhere too hot or too cold or if the magnet is exposed to rain and allowed to corrode, it could soon stop working. If you aren't sure whether a particular magnet would be suitable for your product, speak to your local supplier. The supplier should have a good understanding of the operating characteristics of the magnet, and know what you need to buy.