When laypeople think about magnets, they don’t think of them as comprising anything but iron, that most famously magnetic element of all. While everything from your fridge magnet to the industrial electromagnet is probably made of iron, there are a few other elements that are naturally magnetic. One is nickel, the dull gray metal that lends its name to our five-cent coin. Another is cobalt. When manufacturers pair cobalt with the rare-earth metal samarium, the result is a particularly strong and durable product we call a SmCo5 magnet, or samarium-cobalt magnet. By taking advantage of cobalt’s natural magnetism while forgoing iron and its susceptibility to corrosion, the result is a magnet that can take more wear and tear than iron-based counterparts. Here are some of the most common industrial uses of samarium-cobalt magnets—perhaps they can replace the iron magnets in your facility.
Keeping metallic particles from infiltrating or contaminating food and pharmaceuticals is among the more important roles of magnets in industrial settings. Magnetic separators do the job by “scanning” products as they move along a conveyor. This powerful magnet detects and attracts metals, safely removing them from the process before they can reach the market. SmCo5 magnets, with their long lifespans, are well-suited to this task.
Magnets are sensitive to heat. The higher a temperature climbs and the longer it stays there, the more likely it is that a magnet will lose its charge, rendering it useless. While not impervious to demagnetization, samarium-cobalt magnets are far more resistant to it. They can take the heat better than iron magnets, which makes them particularly useful as lifting magnets in steel mills, where the high heat of steel processing would weaken other magnets.
Stepper motors and servomotors provide power to machinery such as CNC lathes and mills, and magnets provide the motion within those motors. Owing to their durability and their tolerance for high heat, many of these motors employ samarium-cobalt magnets. These can be more efficient than neodymium-iron-boron magnets, the other strong and popular alternative to iron-based magnets.
It’s not just motors that make use of these magnets—the pumps that those motors power are among the common industrial uses of samarium-cobalt magnets as well. Pump couplings are what connect the motor to the pump and transfer that motor’s power from point A to point B. Within those couplings are powerful magnets, and with their resistance to corrosion, SmCo5s are the natural choice for dealing with fluids.