According to the new report on the world linear and torque motor market by IMS Research the biggest threat to the market is the continuity of supply of rare-earth magnets. It is widely accepted that China produces 97% of the world’s rare-earth material and so controls the world market for it. According to China Custom Statistics, in 2010 China exported 39,813 tonnes of rare earth material, much less than the nine-year average of 60,000 tonnes a year (As estimated by www.chinamining.org).
Furthermore, according to latest press reports, the Chinese Government intends to cut export quotas of rare earth material by 35% for the first half of 2011. The market for linear and torque motors had recovered to pre-downturn levels by the end of 2010 and is set for further strong growth in 2011 and 2012. How are direct-drive motor manufacturers going to ensure continuity of supply of rare-earth magnetic components; and what is the motivation behind the Chinese Government’s manipulation of rare-earth supply? Is it simply driving up the price of a commodity under its control; or is it looking to increase local value-added production and level of technology?
The increasing number of direct-motor manufacturers opening production facilities in China or entering into partnerships with Chinese companies to produce rare-earth magnetic components suggests the latter. With the price of rare-earth material increasing with restricted exports, China is making a healthy profit made from those companies that choose to import rare earth raw materials - a win-win situation.