Because magnets are so versatile, they’re used in many applications. Occasionally, however, customers come to us wondering if they can expand a magnet’s capabilities though cutting, drilling, soldering, or welding. While this is possible under the very best circumstances, it’s extremely difficult to perform correctly. If one isn’t careful, a powerful magnet will quickly crumble or lose its magnetic field. That’s why it’s generally best to go with a custom-ordered magnet instead of modifying a production magnet yourself. 

What’s Not Possible With Modifications

Neodymium magnets are by far the strongest in terms of magnetic pull. The problem: They don’t react well to drilling, welding, or soldering. The reason is how they’re manufactured. Neodymium magnets basically start as a powder that is pressed into molds by hydraulics and then sintered, they are then heated almost to melting point. Because the powder never melts together, the final product is extremely strong, but also very brittle.

As a result, neodymium magnets don’t react well to drilling or cutting. Instead of reacting like a normal piece of metal, these magnets are likely to crumble or break off — especially once the magnet’s casing is damaged. But the magnet’s efficacy isn’t the only concern during modifications. The dust produced during machining, drilling, or cutting can be explosive, so extra precautions must be taken to ensure modifications are performed safely.

In addition, neodymium magnets don’t react well to hot temperatures; depending on their design and composition, they begin to lose their magnetism at around 80°C. Consequently, heating through soldering or welding can quickly ruin a perfectly good magnet, often with no way to get the original magnetic strength back.

What is Possible

While modifying neodymium magnets is difficult at best, AlNiCo magnets can be machined extensively. Take note: This only works with cast AlNiCo magnets. Like neodymium magnets, sintered AlNiCo magnets are hard and brittle, so that’s a distinction you’ll need to check for before modifying an AlNiCo magnet. Once you have a cast AlNiCo magnet, proceed with caution; improper handling may result in demagnetization.

Another option: Ferrite magnets. While you can drill into ferrite magnets, you must be careful; ferrite is brittle, so collisions and mishandling can cause the magnet to quickly fall apart.

Regardless of what type of magnet you decide to use, it’s best to have all modifications done by someone with extensive experience modifying magnets, as this individual will understand all precautions that must be taken in order to be successful. Your best bet: Have a professional perform custom modifications instead of experimenting in your shop.

The Best Alternative to Modifying Magnets

Magnets are difficult to work with during modifications, regardless of the magnet type. Because there are so many variables involved, we often recommend ordering a custom-made magnet designed to your specifications. With the custom-built magnet, you can be confident it’ll perform exactly the way you need it to — without having to worry about the magnet being ruined during a modification.

For more information on your options with magnets, contact our team at Apex Magnets. By figuring out exactly what your project entails, we can help you decide whether a normal magnet or a custom magnet is the best option for your specific application. With a little work up front, you can move forward, confident your project will be a total success.