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Magnets make better products

We all use devices and machines incorporating permanent magnets every day, although few of us are aware we do – as they can be found in everything from cars, videos, PCs and loudspeakers to pumps and mobile phones. Neorem Magnets – now part of the VACUUMSCHMELZE Group – specialises in permanent magnets for large motors, offering a better power transfer ratio than induction-type motors and using less electricity.
Neorem Magnets Oy

Neorem is Europe’s second largest producer of sintered NdFeB magnets after VACUUMSCHMELZE, and will double its output of large magnets in 2008 following the completion of its current expansion programme, and further expansion is in the pipeline. This new capability will enable Neorem to expand into sub-assemblies that combine magnets with other materials.

VACUUMSCHMELZE – a producer of permanent magnets, soft magnetic materials, and inductive components – acquired Neorem in 2007, and together the two companies form an even stronger player in the permanent magnet marketplace today. Neorem specialises in permanent magnets for large motors, while VACUUMSCHMELZE focuses on smaller and medium-sized magnets, particularly for industrial motors and automotive applications.

Neorem itself produces two series of sintered NdFeB magnets: the 400 series, which is manufactured from book mould alloys; and the 500 series, based on strip cast alloys, giving better chemical stability.

Working with VACUUMSCHMELZE and its worldwide partners, Neorem can offer a full range of neodymium iron boron, samarium cobalt, and plastic-bonded magnets as individual magnets or as magnet systems featuring complex, multi-functional shapes. Plastic-bonded magnets are made possible using injection moulding technology, which cannot be used with conventional ceramic and metal magnets.

Neorem’s permanent magnets have made a valuable contribution to ABB’s Azipod® marine propulsion units, enabling them to be more efficient and resulting in smaller pod diameters with enhanced hydrodynamics.

More power to the wind

Typical of the areas where Neorem’s products are pushing the market for permanent magnets forward is wind power, where new-generation direct drives using Nd-Fe-B magnets and either no gearboxes or very slowly rotating gearboxes are being introduced.

Systems of this type offer both high reliability and low maintenance, which are both particular priorities in offshore applications, which are likely to see some of the strongest growth in the industry in the years to come.

Another area where Neorem’s permanent magnets are yielding benefits is lifts. New designs that eliminate the traditional machine room and incorporate Neo-magnet motors make it possible to install lifts in old buildings and locations where conventional systems could not fit. New designs without a balance weight make it possible to increase the size of lifts and reduce the weight of motors significantly.

At sea and on the road

Neorem’s permanent magnets have also made a valuable contribution to ABB’s Azipod® marine propulsion units. These incorporate a synchronous motor installed inside a submerged azimuthing pod and coupled directly to an extremely short propeller shaft, giving smooth torque over the entire speed range. Permanent magnets have enabled these units to be more efficient, and resulted in simplified cooling systems and smaller pod diameters with enhanced hydrodynamics.

Permanent magnets are also being used in increasing numbers in cars. Compared to as little as one in a car of the 1950s, today’s cars normally have an average of around 100 magnets, while top models can feature more than 200 – in window systems, air conditioning, power steering, fuel injection systems, air bags, and automatic transmissions. Hybrids, combining a petrol or diesel engine and electric power, are a potential growth area for permanent magnet-based motors.

More efficient and reliable paper machines

Neo-magnet motors also have the potential to replace a range of induction motor-based systems and conventional gearboxes in the paper industry.

Installing significantly more powerful permanent magnet motors in existing paper machines could increase overall productivity significantly. New machines fitted with these types of motors can also be smaller than their predecessors, helping to reduce construction costs. Better reliability and lower energy consumption mean lower operating costs as well.

Neorem Magnets is also part of a project developing a new technology for removing metal particles from grinding coolants and other processes with the help of permanent magnets.

The Magnetic Technology Centre, supported by Neorem and a number of its customers and partners, uses 3D CAD software for magnetic circuit design work.

A promising future

The future for permanent magnets looks very promising, and Neorem and VACUUMSCHMELZE, are well-placed to be part of this future, thanks to their growing expertise and commitment to ongoing development work.

The Magnet Technology Centre (MTC), supported by Neorem and some of its customers and partners – including ABB, KONE, Luvata, Prizztech, and Philips Medical Systems – is set to play its own part here. The centre, which works closely with various Finnish universities and research centres, is intended to support the development of new magnet applications, and uses a 3D computer program for magnet circuit design work.

> Mauri Veistinen
(Published in HighTech Finland 2008)