There is a small industry conference that takes place every year with a lineup of industry experts that is top notch by any standard. It’s called the Motion, Drive and Automation Conference put on by E-Drive magazine. This year it is located at the Disney Hilton Resort in Orlando and is taking place on January 28 & 29. The conference includes a wide range of industry experts from many fields of advanced electric motor design, advanced motor control concepts, power semiconductors and state of the art motor testing system. There will be a lot of technical and product presentations that showcase leading edge technology in electric motors, precision gear reducers, new technology for motion sensing, and a number of improved power semiconductor devices for the motor control industry. This is a great place to get up to date on the latest technology that will impact of motor and control technology across many industries over the next few years.
In addition, the Magnetics 2010 Conference will be running concurrently at the same venue. Magnets are a strategic material without which many motors would simply not operate. In the ever-changing motor industry, there is always a new design that seeks to make an enhancement over previous solutions, or introduce a new solution to old problems. Declining prices for Neodymium Iron Boron magnets over the last few years have created a number of novel design shifts which have been instrumental in bringing more varieties of permanent magnet machines into the forefront of motion control and mechatronic technology. To the point where over the last two years a resurgance of permanent magnet rotor designs have been created to improve the energy denisty and lower the cost of specialty motors in washing machines and air conditioning compressors.
This last development, combined with the forecast increase of hybrid electric car sales coming this year, are expected to increase the sale of permanent magnets by 10-15 percent by 2011. That’s a staggering jump in a market that is almost exclusively supplied by China. And there is no assurance that China can meet the forecast production.
The US Department of Commerce usually has a say in the sale of products or businesses to foreign countries that are deemed to be strategic or sensitive technology. In fact, I got stuck in a situation where my employer was told specifically that we could not sell a CNC controller to a Korean customer. That’s pretty small potatoes compared to controlling the supply of permanent magnets which influences billions of dollars worth of electric motors manufactured and sold all over the world. So it strikes me as a little odd that the sale of Magnequench to its current owners, Neo Materials, was completed without a much discussion. leaving the US without a domestic magnet supplier.
There will surely be a lot of discussion about this situation at the conference, and I will be in attendance to get the latest information on the subject. So look forward to a review of the conference in an upcoming post.