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United States Geological Survey Tungsten Reports

The United States Geological Survey publishes statistics and information on tungsten. The monthly and annual tungsten reports contain a wealth of information on the tungsten market that can be found online at their website free of charge. They focus on the imports and exports of the United States, but contain additional information on the world tungsten market.

Mineral Industry Surveys are a monthly report that reflect the price of tungsten concentrates and the main tungsten intermediate ammonium paratungstate, or APT. The import and export data it reports both have the following headings, with the exception being that ferro-tungsten is not listed in the exports

Ores and Concentrates  Ammonium Tungstates Ferro-tungsten Metal Powder Tungsten Carbide Powder Other Total Total Year to Date

Annual Tungsten Reports

The Mineral Commodity Summaries provide a brief overview of the global tungsten market. It is an annual report with the following headings:

  • Domestic Production and Use
  • Salient Statistics—United States
  • Recycling
  • Import Sources
  • Tariff
  • Depletion Allowance
  • Government Stockpile
  • Events, Trends, and Issues
  • World Mine Production and Reserves
  • World Resources
  • Substitutes

The Minerals Yearbook provides a more comprehensive annual report on the tungsten market. It has additional detail on things such as a world review of tungsten mining projects in numerous countries throughout the world. Additional tables on world tungsten production and usage is good background knowledge about markets on the world stage. Buffalo Tungsten and Niagara Refining are both reported as US processors of tungsten. The headings included in the report are:

  • Legislation and Government Programs
  • Production
  • Consumption
  • Prices
  • Foreign Trade
  • World Review
  • Outlook

There are also some Special Publications that are of interest. Some of this information is a bit more dated, but it can be useful as background and provide historical information.

The Special Publications include things like

Historical Statistics for Mineral and Material Commodities in the United States

International Strategic Mineral Issues Summary Report - Tungsten

Those at the USGS over the mineral tungsten are some of the world's leading experts on the tungsten market. Please take advantage of their hard work as you learn more about the tungsten industry. While the tungsten reports are geared to the United States market, they have information that is helpful to a broad audience.

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International Tungsten Market

Tungsten trades in a global marketplace. There are mines and smelters in locations across the world. Shipping containers transport powders and sintered parts from the Americas to Europe and Asia and vice versa. The international tungsten market is growing because of the strategic importance of tungsten.

China has been the dominant source of tungsten materials for many years. Delays with ocean going containers have caused disruption in supply chains this year, with longer lead times to transport material. As a result resources outside of China are increasing in importance.

The International tungsten market has seen a significant increase in prices this year. This is bringing renewed interest in exploration for tungsten resources. Tungsten mines that have not been operating for years have also seen recent investment.

International Website Visitors

Our website has had visitors from over 100 countries this year, showing the global impact of this metal. Most of our visitors still come from the United States. We have also have visits from Algeria and Argentina to Slovakia and Slovenia and many points in between. With people from the six inhabited continents visiting our site there is interest in tungsten from all parts of the globe. The international tungsten market is expanding outside of traditional markets to smaller and less developed nations.

Some of the keywords that lead people to our website also come as a surprise. Most come looking for tungsten powder to use in various pressing and sintering applications. We also have people looking up how to find tungsten ore in the Last Day on Earth video game. Without knowing anything about the game it shows an acceptance of tungsten as an essential material.

As a manufacturer and supplier in the international tungsten market, Buffalo Tungsten stays up to date on changes all over the world. A flood or early winter in one country can have an impact on the tungsten market all over the world.

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Tungsten Powder Supplier

As a major tungsten powder supplier, we strive to put the needs of our customers first. As a manufacturer as well as a supplier we are able to customize our powders to meet your needs. We reduce tungsten powder in our own furnaces, allowing us to control the attributes and quality of the powders we produce. If we know the properties you need we can develop a material that is optimized to your process and equipment.

Having a supplier who actually produces the product helps to assure that you get products that meet your specifications. We measure and test all of the tungsten powders in our own lab, making sure that the physical and chemical properties meet all customer requirements.

Buffalo Tungsten is a tungsten powder supplier for customers of all sizes. We can start with initial sample quantities for testing and move up to shipping full truckloads or containers as your needs increase. Whether you need 10 pounds of tungsten a year or 10,000 pounds, your business is important to us. We are a family owned and operated business, and we think of our customers as a part of our family.

Supplier Considerations

Some of the areas we focus on to maintain a position as one of the world's leading global tungsten powder manufacturers and suppliers are:

Quality - Our powders meet the highest standards of purity and consistency. Quality assurance is important throughout our entire process.

Customization - You don't need to order powder from a data sheet, finding what best fits your needs from the available options. We are a tungsten powder supplier who can custom produce powders to meet your standards for

  • particle size
  • particle size distribution
  • mesh analysis
  • apparent density
  • tap density
  • chemical purity
  • alloy composition
  • other customer requirements

Packaging - As a tungsten powder supplier we understand that our powders have a high density. We can pack your materials in small containers so you can lift them by hand. However, some customers have small warehouses and want their powder in large steel drums that require a machine to lift.

Lead Time - We stock the powder that our regular customers use, so we are often able to ship within 24 hours of receiving an order. As your regular tungsten powder supplier we will work with you to have your forecasted materials in inventory for fast shipment.

Cost - We maintain a low overhead to keep prices down. We control the costs of raw materials through strategic agreements with key suppliers. Preventive maintenance keeps our equipment running amoothly to avoid costly repairs.

Putting the needs of customers first has helped Buffalo Tungsten become a leading global tungsten powder supplier. We are always striving to improve our products and customer service to maintain our position.

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Independence Day

Happy Independence Day! This national holiday has special meaning to all of our customers, suppliers and employees in the United States. To observe the holiday, our office will not be open on Monday, July 5. The concept of independence has meaning to our business for a few reasons.

First, we consider ourselves to be an independent tungsten powder producer. This is because we do not use our material to make finished parts. All of the powders we produce go into the products that our customers make. If we were making the same products that our customers do, we might want to keep the best powder blends for our own use. Our independence allows us to supply the very best materials to our customers without any conflict of interest.

Second, over the past decade we have built a chemical plant so that we can have independence in our supply of raw materials. We can purchase a wide variety of materials, allowing us flexibility in our sourcing. Some of the common options we have are

  • tungsten scrap (hard scrap, compounding scrap)
  • tungsten ores and concentrates (wolframite or scheelite)
  • sodium tungstate
  • ammonium paratungstate (APT)
  • tungsten oxides (BTO or YTO)

This independence on raw materials allows us to purchase from many different sources. If one raw material becomes scarce we can purchase others to meet our needs and maintain supply to our customers.

4th of July Independence Day

Third, our products are made in America. Independence Day celebrates the freedoms that we enjoy. The rule of law governs business transactions as a protection to both buyer and seller. There is a feeling of safety and security that allows us to focus on our business operations without fear. We are free to conduct business operations without undue government control.

The 4th of July holiday celebrates the political independence of the United States from England. At Buffalo Tungsten we had a cookout with hot dogs and hamburgers for lunch today to celebrate this. In addition, we can also celebrate the types of independence that allow us to be a successful company. We are grateful to able to supply our customers with high quality tungsten powder products from the peace and prosperity of a free nation.

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Powdered Tungsten Materials

Buffalo Tungsten has a sole focus on powdered tungsten materials. We don't make finished tungsten products by sintering, compounding or additive manufacturing. We just make the tungsten raw materials that our customers use in their products.

This focus allows us to concentrate all of our efforts on improving the quality as well as the properties of our powdered tungsten materials. We refine our production parameters regularly to optimize our powders.

Types of Powdered Tungsten Materials

Our materials are classified by material composition. Although powdered tungsten is the basis, a number of materials derive from pure tungsten powder. They have unique properties that make them suitable for different applications.

To illustrate, here are the main categories of powders that we produce:

Pure Tungsten Powder - We start with tungsten oxide that undergoes hydrogen reduction in furnaces to become pure tungsten powder. This material is over 99.9% pure tungsten, with our ultra high purity powders reaching five nines at 99.999% pure.

Tungsten Carbide Powder - This is a blend of pure tungsten powder and carbon powder that runs through furnaces at high temperatures to create WC powder.

Engineered Powder - Alloys such as iron (Fe), nickel (Ni) and copper (Cu) blend with pure tungsten powder to achieve special properties in finished products. Our matrix powders are used in infiltration applications and our co-reduced powders are used in heavy metal.

Thermal Spray Powder - These surface coating powders create a protective coating with especially high density and hardness. Various compositions of tungsten carbide (WC) with cobalt (Co), chromium (Cr) and nickel (Ni) provide excellent wear properties as well as oxidation and corrosion resistance.

Our materials are all made to meet custom specifications according to customer need. They come in various particle sizes and distributions. In addition, we crush solid tungsten and tungsten carbide materials to produce granular tungsten in various mesh sizes. Our products can also vary in chemical composition.

To summarize, this video slideshow provides an overview of our company and our custom powdered tungsten materials.

https://youtu.be/D-y4zWvk6vY

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Buffalo Tungsten Uses Clean Energy

With four of the five Great Lakes draining into the Niagara River, over 750,000 gallons of water flow over the Niagara Falls every second! This enormous volume of water generates large amounts of hydroelectric power. In this case, the Niagara Falls State Park's website says the mighty Niagara is capable of producing four million kilowatts of electricity. Buffalo Tungsten uses clean energy generated at the Niagara Power Project to power our equipment to produce tungsten powder.

Clean Energy from Niagara Power Project

The New York Power Authority reserves a portion of the hydroelectric power produced at the plant for local economic development. For example, the Western New York Hydropower initiative offers Expansion and Replacement Power for companies within 30 miles of the Niagara Project. This renewable energy is one of the reasons that Buffalo Tungsten selected Western New York to build our plant. It has also allowed us to expand and provide additional jobs in the area.

Clean Energy

Climate change was not at the top of many people's minds in 1986 when we purchased our site. As many companies find it difficult to transition to clean energy we see increasing value in our initial strategic decision to be in close proximity to a major source of renewable electricity. As a tungsten powder producer Buffalo Tungsten manufactures many materials that are non-toxic and also safe for the environment. Using clean energy is consistent with our eco-friendly product line.

Another environmentally friendly aspect of our company is that we release oxygen into the atmosphere. We generate hydrogen and oxygen gas from water through electrolysis (2 H2O -> 2 H2 + O2). Buffalo Tungsten uses the resulting hydrogen gas (H2) in the reduction of tungsten oxide. We release much of the oxygen gas (O2) into the atmosphere.

Buffalo Tungsten uses clean energy and plans to continue doing so well into the future.

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Tungsten Conference 2021

The International Conference on Tungsten, Refractory and Hardmaterials will occur this year for the first time since 2014. Billed as Tungsten 2021, the Tungsten Conference will be co-located with PowderMet 2021 and The Additive Manufacturing with Powder Metallurgy Conference. The Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF) is hosting all of the events and activities from June 20-23, 2021 in Orlando, Florida.

With over 200 technical presentations, the Tungsten Conference will be a provide a great opportunity for learning. Many presentations relate to tungsten powder production and finished tungsten products. Applications such as additive manufacturing and sintering will each have multiple presentations. Other speakers will address specific research topics of current interest to the tungsten industry. There will also be information on material properties and measurement more general to powdered metallurgy applications as a whole.

Tungsten Conference Exhibition Hall

The exhibition hall will feature over 100 companies. Powder producers, instrument manufacturers, and equipment manufacturers will all be on display in addition to others.

Buffalo Tungsten will provide technical information on all of our products. Some of our recent developments include:

Tungsten Carbide Thermal Spray Powders - Improvements to our processes have increased our densities by up to 20%. The morphology, or shape of the particles, has also changed to provide better flow properties as well.

Ultra High Purity Tungsten Powder - As a tungsten powder producer we are always striving to increase the purity of our powdered tungsten materials. For instance, we have recently added equipment that allows us to produce tungsten powder that reaches 99.999% purity. This is a premium product that results from a difficult multi-step process.

High Green Strength Tungsten Powder - Recent research and development efforts have improved the green strength in our tungsten powders. This is of benefit in particular to customers who are pressing and sintering heavy alloys and other materials.

We are excited to be a part of this wonderful event. The Tungsten Conference is not held every year, and it is a tremendous opportunity for learning and networking. We invite you to visit our booth (117) and hope to see you soon!

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Tungsten Powder Particle Size

One of the important properties of tungsten powder is particle size. The smallest powders are less than one micron and coarse powders can be over 100 microns. While each individual particle has a distinct size and shape, the average particle size is the most common way to charaterize a blended lot of tungsten powder.

An industry standard for particle size is the Fisher Sub Sieve Sizer (FSSS). The technology is from the 1940's, but it still provides a uniform measure of particle size throughout the industry. It works on the principle of air permeability to produce quick and consistent results. An average particle size detemined this way is know as a Fisher number, or FSSS number.

Particle Size Distribution

In a lot of tungsten powder with an average particle size of 5 microns you can expect about half of the particles to be smaller than 5 microns and about half of them larger. The percentages that are larger and smaller create a particle size distribution. For fine powders of this size, Buffalo Tungsten then reports the percentages in increments of one micron up to 10 microns.

tungsten poowder particle size distribution

Some applications require a narrower particle size distribution, so through furnace conditions or supplemental processing the largest and smallest particles can be eliminated or removed.

In both examples the average size is 5 microns, but the second has a narrower distribution around the mean. Buffalo Tungsten is able to meet demanding specifications for particle size distribution, which is necessary in some applications.

Tungsten Powder Measurement

Companies like Microtrac and Malvern make instruments to measure the particle size of metal powders. There are different methods of measuring particle size. Laser diffraction measures the angles that light reflects off of the particles to determine their size. Image analysis takes pictures of the particles and measures them. This can also provide an indication of the shape of the particles.

You can order tungsten powder from Buffalo Tungsten in a wide range of sizes. A certificate of analysis comes with every shipment to report the physical and chemical properties of the material.

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Additive Manufacturing with Tungsten Powder

Additive manufacturing with tungsten powder is in the early stages but has been gaining traction. Additive manufacturing describes the process of adding only the materials necessary to produce a part. Subtractive manufacturing on the other hand refers to taking materials away from a larger piece through processes such as machining or grinding. 3D printing of tungsten powder is an additive manufacturing process.

Powder Bed Fusion and Binder Jetting are two additive manufacturing technologies in use with tungsten powders. These methods have proven effective as rapid prototyping tools to make models of parts before scaling them to full production. 3D printing allows a single model of complex designs to be made to help identify potential problems quickly. As a result, corrections to the actual geometry of a part can be made before continuing the design or manufacturing processes. This makes additive manufacturing of immense benefit to designers and engineers in particular.

Additive Manufacturing Challenges

While there are many advantages to additive manufacturing with tungsten, there are obstacles to scaling the technology for mass production. In most cases it takes longer and is more expensive to make parts. At this time an additional challenge has been achieving the same material properties in the finished tungsten parts. As the additive manufacturing industry develops, efficiencies will reduce manufacturing costs. When this happens opportunities will arise to do larger production runs of parts as the quality improves. Right now there is ongoing research to solve these problems to make additive manufacturing with tungsten powder more practical on a large scale.

Binder Jetting vs Powder Bed Fusion

The binder jetting process for 3D printing uses binders to adhere thin layers of tungsten powder or tungsten alloy powders together. It does not require heat, which makes it faster and less expensive than Powder Bed Fusion. The result is a green part that requires sintering to heat it up and bond the tungsten powder together. The parts will shrink during sintering as the binders melt, so it does not have the same level of accuracy as Powder Bed Fusion.

The Powder Bed Fusion method of 3D printing involves melting the tungsten powders with a laser or electron beam. This makes the necessary equipment more expensive. Each layer also takes longer to print, so it is slower than Binder Jetting. On the plus side it allows for more complex geometries and more accurate parts right off the printer.

In Summary

In summary, additive manufacturing with tungsten powder will continue to grow as costs come down and research continues to improve the properties of finished products. Binder Jetting and Powder Bed Fusion each have pros and cons. Understanding the benefits and limitations of each technology will help you know which to use for your application. Metal AM provides some additional general information about the industry. You can also contact Buffalo Tungsten to see which our our tungsten powders or tungsten alloy powders will work the best for your additive manufacturing applications.

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Tungsten Furnaces

When I tell people that we make tungsten powder in furnaces, they often think of giant vats pouring molten steel. This is not the type of furnace that we use. At Buffalo Tungsten we use pusher furnaces.

A pusher furnace can accurately control the temperature and gas atmosphere inside it. A web page from Harper International describes their design features for pusher furnaces. We have a Harper furnace operating in our plant. Harper's original headquarters is less than a mile from our factory and is now just minutes away.

Renewable Energy and Hydrogen Production

Advanced control systems allow us to adjust the tungsten furnace conditions such as temperature to produce the sizes of powder that are needed.

Our furnaces are all electric. As a result we can have accurate and consistent heating in all temperature zones. The electricity that we utilize is replacement power from the New York Power Authority. Furthermore it is renewable hydropower from the Niagara Power Project.

The atmosphere in our tungsten furnaces is hydrogen gas. We generate hydrogen through electrolysis. Water molecules split into hydrogen and oxygen gases using electricity. We only use the hydrogen gas and as a result release much of the oxygen into the atmosphere.

Tungsten Furnace Operation

To make tungsten powder first metal trays loaded with tungsten oxide enter the furnaces. Then they are pushed through the different temperature zones over the course of many hours. Finally on the disharge end the material comes out as pure tungsten powder. The hydrogen gas in the furnace atmosphere reacts with the oxygen from the tungsten oxide to leave the pure tungsten. Consequently the only byproduct of the process is water, which can be reused.

We often refer to our furnaces by how many tubes they have. Each individual tungsten furnace that we operate has between 2 and 15 tubes. Our smaller furnaces with fewer tubes are used to make specialized powders.

Our furnaces run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It can take days to heat the furnace to temperature. In like manner they can take days to cool down. As a result of the thermal shock from heating and cooling the elements can fail. For this reason they run continuously until we need to do maintenance on them.

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