Molycorp and its world class separations and processing capabilities derive significant value from long-standing customer relationships and experience built over many years. Typically, some of the key ways this is manifested is in collaborative product development and “market pull” R&D programs and preferred supplier status on competitive new business and contract renewals.
Research and development represents an important part of Molycorp’s client acquisition and retention strategy and plans to continue to invest in the following areas:
- New product development — development of new products in collaboration with customers capitalizing on Molycorp’s technical and production capabilities;
- Existing product optimization and improvement — refinements to existing products, driven by customer requirements and feedback; and
- Process development — aimed at reducing production costs, increasing efficiency and optimizing Molycorp’s overall operations.
Molycorp conducts its R&D internally at research centers located at its flagship facility at Mountain Pass, California; Tolleson, Arizona; Abingdon, UK; Singapore and at the JAMR and ZAMR production facilities. Customer collaborative research is a main vehicle used to achieve customer product requirements in an efficient, timely and cost effective manner. The division also collaborates with selected research and educational institutions in basic R&D.
A number of products currently exist in various stages of development in the Molycorp R&D pipeline. New products are introduced to the market on a continuous basis. The company’s internal target is to derive at least one quarter of its separations and processing revenues from products that either did not exist or Molycorp did not produce three years prior. It is typically these products that contribute the highest margins.
Molycorp considers nanotechnology a key “enabling technology” for the manufacture of rare earths and zirconium products with significantly advanced performance characteristics. The division’s Singapore nanotechnology centre works closely with customers and collaborates with research institutions (such as Nanyang Technological University in Singapore) on applied research and product development.
At its research centre in Abingdon, UK, Molycorp is developing products mainly for use in the automotive catalyst industry. Once development products reach commercialization, production technology is then transferred to Molycorp’s separations and processing facilities. Examples of the division’s nanotechnology derived commercial products include a number of advanced multi-component oxides that exhibit superior high temperature stability and catalytic activity in catalytic converters. Nanotechnology products under development include a high purity nano-zirconium oxide developed for a Japanese consumer for electronic ceramic formulations.
Several products are designed with client directed specifications in mind. Once new products are produced, commercialization timing cycles vary by product, product line and target market based on the client’s qualification process. Evaluation and qualification periods are typically between nine and 24 months, although these cycles can be shortened or lengthened depending on the degree of change and the applications involved.
Molycorp’s established relationships and qualifications position it among the technological leaders in the rare earth sector. These relationships act as a barrier to entry for new competitors who must build relationships and go through extensive qualification periods just to be in a position to compete.
For information on our magnet powder R&D, visit Molycorp Magnequench’s Research and Development page.