REProMag concept and objectives
Our lives become more and more dependent on the use of RE-metals, especially the use of magnets made for use in applications such as smartphones, headphones, electric cars, micro-mechanical devices. However, Europe remains highly dependent on external sources of RE-metals since 80% of the manufactured RE-metals in 2010 were in China (only 3% in Europe) and some of the producing countries are reducing export licences. Therefore, there is a need for Europe to develop processes for the efficient use of these materials from sustainable sources.
In this way, the main objective of the REProMag project was to develop and validate a new net shape processing route for high specification permanent magnets that allows the 100% waste-free production of hard magnetic parts with complex geometries e.g. for electrical motors, sensors, actuators, grippers and fixations in the fields of (electro-) mobility, energy, aerospace, industrial, mechanical engineering and medical technologies. This new manufacturing route is called SDS process (Shaping, Debinding and Sintering).
The SDS process is an integrated solution overcoming today‘s limitations in the production and use of RE-magnets:
- Recycling Use of recycled RE-metals (please refer to the EU-project REMANENCE) to develop sustainable RE-powder and feedstock
- Shaping Development of net-shape and waste-free production method for RE-magnets with complex geometries through metal injection moulding and 3D-printing. Magnetic alignment of parts is done in parallel
- Debinding and Sintering Represent the processing part. The debinding phase is the removal of polymer binded to shaped RE-metal. The sintering phase is the increase of density and mechanical strength of the parts.
No other post-processing phase is to be used, except an innovative coating method to avoid corrosion of magnets.
- Application Once the coating is done, parts are ready for application. Once used, parts can be recycled and re-enter the cycle.
Through the development of this innovative and economically efficient SDS processing route for the production of high specification permanent magnets (up-scaling of the SDS process from the laboratory scale to industrial production), REProMag expected to reach the following objectives:
- Guaranteeing sustainability in the use of critical raw materials (Rare-Earth metals) by using 100% recycled feedstock and implementation of a completely waste-free production method
- Reduction of the raw material charge of RE- materials by 30-40% during production
- Completely waste-free production
- Energy savings by 30% during the production process by avoiding energy-intensive post sintering treatments such as machining
- Increase of the magnetic energy product by 10-40% allowing the use of complex and 3D structured parts in miniature applications
- Provision of a computational modelling tool enabling end-users to easily select the most appropriate shaping process according to the features and functions of the product/ application.
- Smooth up-scale of production through metal injection moulding, while ensuring same properties and features without further validation ste