The International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (iNEMI) recently released a white paper entitled, “Rare Earth Metals: Current Status & Future Outlook.”
The paper, which can be downloaded from the iNEMI website, discusses the sources of rare earth metal (REM) ores and processed materials, the technologies that have increased the demand for REMs, and the political and economic climates that led to the current supply situation. Potential solutions to prevent future supply constraints are suggested for further discussion.
“Demand for rare earth metals has increased significantly in the past decade,” said Bill Bader, CEO of iNEMI. “REMs can be found in every electronic device produced today. But the electronic industry is not the only sector requiring an increased supply of REMs. These materials can be found in every hybrid automobile and most batteries, as well as every fiber-optic amplifier, LED, fluorescent light, and even in wind turbines. As demand continues to grow, shortages are a real risk.”
Bader says iNEMI developed its REM white paper to inform the electronics industry about the REM situation worldwide and to urge that the industry take steps to become better informed and ready to react appropriately to future challenges. He notes that some affected industries, particularly the battery, lighting, catalyst and magnet industries, are developing policies and alternative technologies to reduce their dependence on REMs and/or mitigate risks to their supply chains, and that the electronics industry should consider taking a similar approach.
“REM availability is not critically compromised at this time,” explains Bader, “iNEMI recommends that the electronics industry proactively monitor the use of REMS, promote and develop technological advances in alternative solutions, and watch regulatory or political developments that may affect REM issues. The more aware we are, the better prepared we will be to avoid serious supply shortfalls.”
The International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative’s mission is to forecast and accelerate improvements in the electronics manufacturing industry for a sustainable future. This industry-led international consortium is made up of more than 100 manufacturers, suppliers, industry associations and consortia, government agencies and universities. iNEMI roadmaps the needs of the electronics industry, identifies gaps in the technology infrastructure, establishes implementation projects to eliminate these gaps (both business and technical), and stimulates standards activities to speed the introduction of new technologies. The consortium also works with government agencies, universities and other funding agencies to set priorities for longer-term industry needs and R&D initiatives. iNEMI is based in Herndon, Virginia (near Washington, D.C.), with regional offices in Shanghai, China; Limerick, Ireland; and Tokyo, Japan. For additional information about iNEMI, go to http://www.inemi.org.