Cerium Oxide Impacts Auto Glass Production, Scratch Removal Supplies
April 7, 2011

The shortage of cerium oxide that has been previously reported has grown to include the auto glass industry.

Cerium oxide is an oxide of the rare earth metal cerium, and has been named in many reports regarding a shortage of rare earth elements, as an item in short supply.

Glass Technology president Kerry Wanstrath, whose company manufactures one of the scratch removal systems that uses cerium oxide, says that, as the shortage has grown, he's seen the price fluctuate sporadically over the last few months.

"We experience a price increase sometimes weekly," he says. "It's really out of control."

Wanstrath says it's up to manufacturers to try to assess the market appropriately. "You're walking a very delicate path between making sure you have ample supply and not buying the product at the peak of the price hikes," he says. "It's very hard to control your inventory when a month goes by and the price has doubled and you are told you can't even get it."

China is the major source for the element. "There are only a few companies in the United States where we can even find it," says Wanstrath. "I think most everybody gets it in one way or another from China."

In addition to the use of cerium in scratch removal materials, it also is used in the float glass process. Guardian Automotive officials say they're watching the issue closely on the manufacturing side.

"There are certainly challenging cost pressures within the supply chain -- a fact of business life that all manufactures are grappling with today," says Mike Morrison, president of Guardian Automotive Glass in North America. "At Guardian, we are committed to meeting customer needs with quality products even as we balance escalation in raw material costs. So we are looking at the best ways to address this issue. At the end of the day, however, we also are about running a profitable business. We are watching this situation very closely."

Others are watching as well.

"It's a serious issue—getting this," said Jim Ventre, director of truckload sales for Vitro America, during a recent industry meeting. In fact, the Glass Association of North America's (GANA) Mirror Division has formed a task group to look at the issue, as cerium oxide also is used for both glass polishing and cleaning glass before it is silvered for mirror production. (Click here for more details on that effort from glassBYTEs.com™/AGRR™ magazine's sister publication, www.USGNN.com™/USGlass magazine.)

Stay tuned to www.glassBYTEs.com™ for more on this issue as it develops further.

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