Is Magnesium supply the new crisis facing the automotive industry

Early 2021 saw many industries, including automotive, begin to ramp up production to pre-COVID levels. However, global shortages of semiconductor chips were  in short supply. Many of  the world’s largest automotive manufacturers had to halt production and wait for chip manufacturing to catch up with the renewed demand after starting production post COVID shutdowns.

However, if the automotive industry doesn’t have enough to contend with right now, a new supply issue is set to hit the automotive manufacturing hard. This time, the issue is with global supply of aluminum as magnesium, the key component to make the lightweight metal, is in short supply. And there are no substitutes for magnesium in aluminum sheet and billet production.  

It’s predicted that current magnesium reserves will be exhausted within Europe by the end of November 2021 and in America aluminum producers are working their supply chains to make up for whatever raw magnesium they aren’t able to source.  But even then, there are risks that the auto industry will be forced to stop once again and the impact won’t just be on the automotive industry but consumer electronics and packaging as well.

Importance of recycling

In theory, magnesium is an easily recycled material and it’s possible to recycle up to 99% of automotive parts produced from magnesium alloys. This is excellent news for securing magnesium supply when upstream raw material production is so uncertain. Recycling components usually uses much less energy than using primary metals, and the automotive industry is already under pressure to use recycled feedstock as much as possible.

However, when using recycled materials, meticulous materials analysis is paramount. Any unwanted tramp or trace elements must be detected to prevent them hitting production, and it’s more likely that these will unwittingly enter the magnesium supply chain when sourced from recycled materials.

Thorough materials analysis will ensure that the composition of recycled magnesium is correct for the application.

For example, our OE series of spark spectrometers will detect extremely low levels of tramp and trace elements within magnesium, including nickel, copper and lithium. The OE series of optical emission spectrometers (OES)  is also able to detect a wide range of rare earth elements that are specified within magnesium alloys, including neodymium, praseodymium and gadolinium.

My other product recommendation is our handheld LIBS analyzer, the Vulcan+. Vulcan+ gives fast and accurate results on a range of metal alloys, including stainless steels, Al alloys and Mg alloys. It’s also capable of measuring lithium and boron in aluminum alloys. However, if you need to analyze boron at less than 1% or need a wider, comprehensive analysis, then OES analyzers are the best choice.

Results are delivered in a second, allowing operators to verify a huge amount of material as it arrives at a manufacturing site or to sort at a scrapyard.

Materials analysis to verify new suppliers

As the magnesium shortage has manifested so suddenly, it could be difficult for manufacturers to fully verify new suppliers before current supply runs out. This is where 100% incoming inspection prior to incorporating new materials into production will make all the difference. Today’s production-compatible materials analyzers will deliver a comprehensive breakdown of the type and impurity level of magnesium and aluminum alloys, and this will allow auto manufacturers to use newly sourced materials with confidence.  

Our range of metals analyzers, XRF, OES and LIBS, can help you meet your incoming inspection needs by equally reducing waste and driving efficiency to stop any defects getting into manufacturing from the onset.

In the race to find new supplies of magnesium – whether recycled or not – affordable, high-performance materials analyzers can help you safely incorporate these materials within your production. To find out more how these analyzers can help keep production running, get in touch with our experts to arrange a demo.

Find out more…

From intuitive software to enhanced performance, the ground-breaking OE series could make all the difference to your scrap recycling analysis capability. Get in touch to arrange a demo.


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Date: 24 November 2021

Author: Michael Molderings, Product Manager OES

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