Printing Magnets

A research center in Spain has been working on ways to solve recent supply chain issues. One of these issues is a shortage of materials to make magnets. Their answer? Recycle ferrite residue by treating it and mixing it with ABS for 3D printing.

The mixing of ferrite with a polymer isn’t the key though, instead the trick is in the processing. The team collected strontium ferrite waste and ground it to a powder. Heating to the point of calcination (about 1000C) creates a superior material with a 350% increase in coercitivity and a 25% increase in remanence over the original waste material.

The material could just be recycled conventionally, but the team created ABS filament bearing the magnetic particles. The resulting prints retain their magnetic properties and allow for low-temperature production of magnets in a variety of geometries. In addition, the magnetic material is chemically inert, so applications that would need to coat a conventional magnet could benefit.

The researchers mention that ferrite magnets are environmentally more friendly than rare-earth magnets. That may be true, but our guess is the rare-earth magnet properties will keep them in use regardless of being able to 3D print ferrite.

We’ve seen 3D-printed magnets before, a few times actually. We still don’t totally grok how they work.

29 thoughts on “Printing Magnets

  1. “environmentally more friendly “: It’s funny you mention it. I don’t think any of our plastic aficionados here give a damn about environment. Everything on this site sits on the idea of production, development, using more energy, spoling more ressources, ordering oversea (assembled pcb’s… come on!) to create totally useless stuff just because it is cool. Everything I read here (especially the commentaries) is completly disconnected from the current environmental situation. Everything. Even when it seems to care, it is so ridiculously small and impactless and pointless than … well, I guess that’s why they call us “nerds”.

      1. I don’t want to lack of respect Elliot cause all your work comes with style and intelligence.

        Thanks for your examples. Here are mines:
        If you click Older Posts 100 times from this page, you will notice that your icerberg (green) is considerably smaller than the deep dark iceberg I’m talking about. Looking closer at these projects (as I usually do) you’ll notice that 95% of the “makers” here order their entire parts list (including the bolts).

        The best example of the three R’s you are mentionning is [Homo Faciens] attempts to CNC, 3D printer and granules 3D printer. It’s admirable … and lucid! Unfortunately, this guy is the future. Because today people like him are no legion.

        I wasn’t criticizing Al’s article. I just feel the emergency growing everyday and, to my view, this reality it’s not mirrored on my fav web site.

        (Reality: By the end of the century our planet will gain an extra 5°C. To have an idea, -5°C meant 2km (1mile) of ice over our heads. That was 11,000 years ago. Try order a pcb with 2km of ice over your head. Tomorrow, it’s +5°C instead, and it’s the same shit. It changes everything. We should not encourage people to beleive the contrary. It’s time, the dreamers must awake.)

    1. Have you considered the impact of bunches of people making PCBs at home?

      – The chemicals are nasty and produce nastier waste.
      – Home made PCBs are more likely to fail (poorly etched, poorly drilled, etc.) requiring more attempts and more wasted materials to get a functioning board.
      – Scraps, leftovers, and failed PCBs are difficult to properly dispose of.

      Having a PCB made by a company that specializes in that kind of thing means better management of the wastes, less waste, and better recycling. It also means fewer hazardous substances in the hands of inexperienced users and less hazardous material being transported through the mail.

      The CO2 produced in transporting a finished PCB by mail is far less a problem than the waste and possible environmental contamination caused by someone etching boards at home and improperly disposing of the scraps and left over chemicals – not to mention accidents that result in nasty stuff going down the drain.

      If you want to discuss problems, how about the smart phone or computer you used to post your comments? They are produced by the million, contain loads of plastic and rare materials. They are transported all over the world by ocean going (heavily polluting) ships, then transported by truck to the stores. Then they waste electricity in operation – strictly speaking, everything you do with a phone or PC is a waste of electricity because you don’t have to post in online forums and everything else can be done in ways that don’t involve a computing machine capable of doing billions of computations a second.

      1. I think the point he was trying to make was more that people just design and create PCBs just for the sake of it because it looks cool rather than actually being useful. I see pcb badges a good example of this, creating circuit boards just because they look cool which is not environmentally friendly and is using up resources for no useful reason.

        1. Positive effect of designing and producing such a “useless” PCB: Learning to use the tools and how to do circuit design.

          I had a PCB made to wear on my hat. In getting it to do what I wanted, I learned a lot about RF circuits and design as well as voltage multipliers. Getting to the point that the circuit would work required understanding the concepts involved, simulating the components used in the circuit, designing the final circuit, and doing the PCB layout.

          The thing itself is comparatively simple. Learning how to do it was not.

          1. This! You could pile up all of the hacker PCBs ever made all over the world, and it probably wouldn’t rate with the number of PCBs thrown away as part of cell phones _last week_.

            Small price to pay for the value gained, IMO.

            But also @Joseph: Meh. Home etching is just fine.

          2. @Eliot Williams:

            I have etched PCBs at home. I still have a jar of ferric chloride liquid and the laser printer I used for doing toner transfer PCBs. I ocassionally make a small PCB if I don’t feel like waiting a week for a manufactured board.

            I used the ferric chloride last week to etch some lettering on a piece of brass sheet metal to make a small plaque to put on a restored sewing machine. It worked, but could have been better. I took it to the local jeweler first to have it engraved – they’d gotten rid of their old fashioned engraver (the kind with the spindle and the preshaped lettering) and hadn’t yet gotten their fancy new laser engraver set up and running. I needed it done soon, though, so I used used my PCB skills to etch the lettering on the brass.

    2. Development is like brainstorming. We aren’t making millions. We’re making one or two just to try it out. Maybe it’s a good idea that works, or maybe it isn’t. Usually it focuses on one part of a item to improve.

      In this specific article, it’s about reusing material that would normally be thrown out. I would say that’s right up the alley of environmentally more friendly. Again, maybe it works well or maybe it doesn’t. But the point is to try and figure it out. If we had all the answers, we wouldn’t have a problem. But at least they are trying to do something about it and not just complaining about it.

    3. There are a great many things on this site that end up at least tangential to environmental concerns, lowtechmagazine is another good though rarely updated website more laser focused in what it does – even has a solarpowered website option

      I think you do miss the point a little though in complaining about production/development etc – much of what is made is research into other processes or educational in nature builds – both of which are vitally important as without free thinking knowledgeable people the problems you face can often have no solutions present themselves, but readers of this site might well have read something, article or comment that sets the ball rolling on such a solution. And the daft for fun things (which can still have crossover with educational) like the recent floppy clock are usually small things that make you smile – which is almost more important as chronically depressed people don’t tend to achieve very much either, and right now we need all the joy we can get…

      Also ordering overseas is often more efficient ecologically (daft as that sounds) because the scale of mass production facilities for x part makes up substantial energy and material consumption reductions – that exceed the shipping cost – can those sort of factories with similar efficiencies be built anywhere at a slightly smaller local scale – probably, but unless they exist you can’t use them. Also worth noting that sometimes the offshore producer is not bound to any environmental protection at all is way worse – Unfortunately there really isn’t much way to tell when you order something, and if you need a part you have to order it from somewhere – sure I could use my lathe to make a bolt, throwing away about 50% of the stock in chips and some portion of my time, or I could buy a roll formed, drop forged or cast bolt where all the starting stock ends up part of the bolt.

    4. @Francois Otis – Well, look at it this way. When the tipping points are passed, the ice caps melt, etc… which will happen almost entirely not due to the small scale stuff we talk about here who will be in the better position to survive? The hackers who have familiarized themselves with all sorts of technology or the people who avoided it?

      But in the meantime, here’s a couple of hacks I would love to see you achieve and share with the world. How about a form of solar panel that doesn’t violate the lifetime warranty of my house’s roof? After that, how about a bio-plastic that doesn’t turn to mush in a hot car? Give me those two and my 3d printer will be almost green!

    5. … so you are ok with telling other people what to do with their time and money but not with other people doing the same to you? If you so vehemently hate 99.9% of the content on this site and find it so pointless then why do you keep coming back? Here’s the end catch, if you want to make change start doing it with your own projects and post them. That’s the point of this site in my eyes, to inspire other’s to build on ideas. Shaming and aggressively critiquing other people to enact change is the least effective method imo as it just results in them getting defensive and causing the opposite effect to what is desired.

    6. I would love to see more hacks made from found and reused materials.

      I go down to the scrap yard to find bits of metal for my projects. I tear apart office laser printers for their stepper motors.

      I agree that ordering small quantities of parts from DigiKey, triple-wrapped in plastic and delivered by diesel-fume belching UPS trucks is not very environmentally friendly.

      Yet, I marvel at the neat ideas present here! I’d just like them to be more creative in the use of found materials.

      1. >> I would love to see more hacks made from found and reused materials.

        Pre-internet those were my favorite. My dream was to become knowledgeable enough to rummage through junk, find the parts I need and build what I want.

        Now if I design something myself I want to share the design and want others to actually be able to replicate it. Or if I find the design online I want myself to be able to replicate it. That’s pretty difficult to achieve with found materials.

        >> and delivered by diesel-fume belching UPS trucks

        Back in 2020 while staying at home as much as possible I ordered some things I ordinarily would never have thought to have delivered. I felt kind of guilty.

        But then I noticed something. Everyone else was doing it too. The delivery trucks were stopping at almost every house, one after another after another. No doubt those delivery drivers had their routes all mapped out ahead of time and the packages placed in the truck such that they could easily be delivered in order.

        How much more efficient must that be than having at least one car from every home, in varying states of maintenance each driving separately to the local store? With apologies to the moms, pops and cashiers that’s probably how we should always be doing it.

        That and getting rid of all the long-haul trucks. Instead there should be a network of local distribution hubs all networked by rail. Trucks should only be used to take goods from origin to hub and from hub to destination.

        1. Indeed delivery often does work out more efficient, and scales much better than every individual doing more trips themselves.

          I would say though that using found materials and expecting others to be able to replicate your design is still very doable – I for instance am using the telescoping legs from a dud tripod and a weighted base from a lamp I built into my bed to make a camera arm that I hope will be far less hassle to use than a tripod – the design has no real parts that can’t be substituted for whatever else you can find to do the job as the whole thing is really quite simple. But the concept and fabricated parts may well just work exactly as they are for most variations on this theme. DIY Perks on youtube is pretty good at that sort of salvage recycle with style build, though never cheaps out with the love of polished brass finishes…

          (I’ve not actually made any effort to share this myself – partly as I’m building the camera arm in the hopes of making documenting things I do that might interest others less onerous/impossible – so its rather hard for it to document itself. But the point stands I could share everything about this design and anybody who can order telescoping fit tubes and a lump of steel or find the charity shop/discarded tripod and a heavy weight could duplicate it with little additional effort.)

    7. There’s a reason I only passively follow the hacker scene and all my own projects are 90% software+existing tech. Electronics can be a win for resource use reduction but most hacks are essentially disposable and only good to stash in a drawer after the novelty wears off.

    8. I think the bigger point in the environmental discussion is that the planet has been warming for 11,000-12,000 years. “Global Warming” is a problem we didn’t start. Even if we stopped all human CO2 production, like planet would continue on it’s present phase of the Milankovitch cycle — in a warming trend. Our ability to deal with it will come from technological innovation from someone. And maybe, they got their inspiration, desire, or idea from this site or one like it.

      1. There is a rather dramatic difference between the current rate of change in temperature to anything else in history (at least that wasn’t caused by an extinction level event in its own right). So that argument is pretty flawed – yes global temperatures SHOULD change over long periods, not at 100x that speed so nothing can adapt…

        Or in short – Global warming and cooling happens naturally to some degree for a variety of reasons, but ‘Global Warming’ is very much a disaster of our own making.

        1. Indeed Foldi-One,
          You are correct.
          Climate change deniers fail at understanding rate of change along with various other high school physics Math(s).

          I’ve left a reply to poster “thepip3r” covering the key points (education so important), these are now effectively irrefutable ie basic Spectroscopy as used across many industries, although couple of minor typos eg log scale of GHG/IR effect, along with the inclusion of psychrometry, QM effects and managing the huge differential between atmospheric vs Earth’s water specific heat (some 4000 times atmosphere) – offering the conclusion measuring ocean temperatures far more valuable and indicative than the comparatively noisey air temperature or local regional maxima/minima. Argo i understand providing excellent data along with increases in RSS resolution recently… Metrology improving a heck of a lot.

          Also worth considering ExxonMobil released a report fully conceding AGW and GHG effect as far back as circa 1982, it was confirmed shortly thereafter by Shell and BP. This follows from early appreciation of GHG effect 120 years ago touched on by Svante Arrhenius, refined and never refuted.

          Whats most interesting is ExxonMobil’s deep research and attention to details especially from a Chemical Engineering perspective their climate model of 1982 is accurate to this day some 40 years later within good error bars too, not surprising from a physics aspect as it does include the effect of water vapour rising causing more evaporation etc as amplifying effect and iirc factors in CH4 & N2O release from agriculture – both far more potent GHGs than CO2.

          RSS satellite data of the last decade or so also confirm ExxonMobil’s models along with ocean temperatures, rising though at a slightly faster rate likely due to albido effects and moderation to a degree by the Atlantic Ocean currents especially the ‘Atlantic Conveyor’ – if this continues to destabilise and causes a chaotic inflection then east coast of Boston and Western Europe would freeze over so badly UK residents could escape walking over channel ice to eastern Europe with Boston and local nearby regions uninhabitable. A new ocean current pattern would need to dump a heck of a lot of higher equatorial heat, likely I understand to southern USA, they’d become so hot as to be uninhabitable as well – untill a new equilibrium is established which could take decades – until then ocean food production drops dramatically along with eastern USA and western Europe crop growing areas :-/

          We need attention to this key existential threats to many in northern hemisphere as well as the wider problems with CO2 regarding food biochem equilibria and effect on lignin in trees eg wild fires of higher ferocity and wider areas too eg arctic…

      2. Beg pardon thepip3r,
        The last 250 or so years of warming and especially it’s rate of change is not correlated with Milankovich cycles.
        Metrology, especially RSS satellite date confirm the wavelengths, the energy change fully consistent with GHG effect of CO2 and also the increase in high atmospheric H2O with the amplifying effect attributed to psychrometry.

        The unfortunate fact is the vast bulk of climate change deniers or rather those attempting to sidestep GHG properties is they have no education or ability to understand spectroscopy, oh and this interesting thing called Math (in USA) or Maths (rest of english world).

        Oh and also many GHG deniers fail abysmally to calculate momenta transfer such as between wideband light infra red (IR) and GHG molecules, ie. Many claim GHG gases “easily” convect any near surface IR (approx 10kms altitude), yet fail at simp!E Arithmetic which shows it does not happen anywhere near the orders of magnitude necessary as much as by 11 or so times !

        A fact also ignored by climate change deniers is the Quantum Mechanics of photon molecule interactions particularly absorption and emission eg some photons pass straight through, some scatter, those that are absorbed cause bond oscillations – when the electric field bond oscillations reach a probabilistic point, the GHG molecule (which rotates in 3 axes simultaneously with various angular momentum) then spits out the IR photon Anywhere at any angle not conserved from the initial absorption.

        IOW added a GHG causes the IR photons emitted to be 50% up vs 50% down, with IR flux much higher than number of GHG molecules there is No saturation hence why it’s a lot response when you do the Math (s).

        Incidentally if the GHG absorption/emission didn’t work then many chemical engineering processes wouldn’t work the way they do and text books going back 120 years would need revision !

        This combination of spectroscopy (education & observations) soundly debunk the base of climate change denial.

  2. There is nothing intrinsically more environmentally friendly about ferrite magnets but rather, it is the practicality of extraction. The good news is that the environmental damage is almost entirely localized.

  3. Fascinating, nice to see.
    Would like to see this sort of thing done with neodymium boron iron magnets from such products as the huge number of dead hard drives. Of course have to; assess strength is magnet type range, disassemble, remove the chrome plating, crush to optimum particle size, maybe correct ratios of metals, post processing etc.
    Have a quite a few oldie hard drives, some under contract for data destruction, need a cluey tech to give it a go…

  4. @Francois Otis

    All generalizations suck.

    Hey, get real. I’d wish a higher concern for environmental issues, here as everywhere else. I think the times make that necessary, and we should be ashamed for leaving to our kids the kind of mess we are.

    But to claim that “Everything on this site…” suggests that you haven’t been reading carefully.

    Challenge: post some hack which helps making our environment better.

    Lesser (but still very important) challenge: support those who do.

    1. I think the only hack is to stop buying non essential stuff. It a change of habits. a hack on ourselves.

      In 1978 I was teen and make scholar research on green house effect. No internet, I worked hard to get my data. At the end, I took the decision to never have a car because I refused to be part of the problem. That’s was my challenge.

      I’ve being able to be an nternational programmer consultant for years and never had to drive. I buy used clothes and eat local food when available. I do electronics , build tools ( CNC, 3D printer, kiln, same as you guys, …) and make programs WITHOUT ORDERING A THING. Challenge this.

      I’m an idiot. I work hard to understand stuff. If I can do it, you all can.

      1. Now define essential – do you need a phone, computer, TV, Books at all, you can survive on almost nothing but water and a few basics foods you could probably grow a large amount of in the average garden, but its not much of a life.

        And there is no way to build complex electronics without somebody ordering something, heck the most basic materials for a kiln or CNC require significant travel distances to produce, doesn’t matter if you drove or somebody else did when its materials for your project you have some responsibility for it… So driving yourself or not doesn’t make much odds, if you want to benefit from it – I guess you could always have a few giant shire horse and a cart, if you can keep them usefully employed its greener than the same volume/mass moved by ICE – but actually much worse if you go letting them idle around most of the time – the car needs no continuous resources to exist really, a little bit of maintenance and protection from the elements….

        Not saying you are wrong, but at what point are you buying ‘essential’ – its a question is very hard to put an answer to.

    1. Not a high current through the material as that would affect the metallurgical properties of the material as well as erratic heating unless perfectly well mixed. The method for spot magnetising ie high current pulse (often repeated) through a suitable coil very close to the material. I write spot magnetising as it’s away to produce a halbach like surface. Eg some magnets from laptop hard-drives have N & S poles close to each other on one side. If you were only making a disc magnet which each side was uniformly N and S on obverse side then just make sure the coil pole covers the disc area and both sides too…
      There a USA co, which does quite wild spot magnetisation where they can “print” a magnetic pattern on any shaped surface eg to force/guide a ball bearing to follow a certain path even if upside down Or print a hidden message only able to be viewed in whole via magnetic indicator plastic – that greenish mylar like dark/light film…

  5. BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. So much digital ink has been spilled here debating the merits of a single grain of sand. I get the feeling most of you have never worked in any kind of commodity harvesting or in a high volume factory. A single smashed plastic pallet is IMO of greater environmental consequence than all the projects most of us will build in an entire lifetime. Care to guess how many of those I’ve seen at one job? Or would you be surprised that I’ve personally hauled about 65,000 tons of pine trees (calculated) to pulp and lumber mills? That job has convinced me that if we could find a way to harvest a few million acres of plantation pine using less or no diesel fuel, it would be the best thing going for the planet.

    If I order a finished PCB straight from China, my carbon budget for it is exactly ZERO, because that ship is churning from Shenzhen to LA no matter what all of us here combined do. Now I’d love to see my PCB manufactured much closer to home and delivered on an ammonia powered hybrid truck, but until that day comes, we all have to keep sharpening our skills and sharing them with the next two generations.

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