Our Powders. Your Products.
On Wednesday, September 30, 2020 US President Trump signed an Executive Order on Addressing the Threat to the Domestic Supply Chain from Reliance on Critical Minerals from Foreign Adversaries. This intends to make America less reliant on foreign sources of important minerals.
This is of particular interest to Buffalo Tungsten as a producer of tungsten powder based in the United States. A diverse and stable supply of raw materials is important to our company. Buffalo Tungsten supplies customers in many countries, but we need access to raw materials in America in order to produce our products.
Rare earth metals receive specific mention in the executive order. It applies to other minerals on the Department of Interior's list of critical minerals produced in May 2018. It also broadly applies to any minerals necessary to protect and preserve the economy and defense of the United States.
We wrote about tungsten as a strategic mineral a few months back. It is good to see action to encourage additional sources of these minerals. Although the executive order does not contain plans or programs, recognizing the problem is an important step in resolving it.
Executive Order Supports Mining and Mineral Processing
President Trump indicates that "the United States must broadly enhance its mining and processing capacity." He also mentions that "by expanding and strengthening domestic mining and processing capacity today, we guard against the possibility of supply chain disruptions." In addition to the strategic importance the President notes that "mining and mineral processing provide jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans."
It will be interesting to see what will be done following the executive order to encourage these objectives. The global nature of the minerals market provides a need for greater efficiency if domestic production is to be competitive. American companies must apply better technology and innovation to the mining industry in order to lead the way. I look forward to the day when our supply chain starts and ends on American soil.
Buffalo Tungsten is assisting with the delivery of food commodities to eight local food pantries. We heard about the project from a friend and wanted to help. Twenty four pallets of food arrived at our loading dock this morning from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The food will be going to small community food pantries across Western New York from Medina to Gowanda.
The church had a problem because of the scale of the donation. They needed a loading dock and forklift to unload the truck. Since the church does not have a loading dock in the area we offered to unload the truck at our facility. It is something small and simple for us to do, but makes a big difference for those coordinating the project.
The larger food pantries in the area have forklifts and pallet jacks, but the smaller local food pantries do not. They are short on resources and sometimes have just a single person to staff them. These donations will help people in the smaller towns and villages in the area that do not have easy access to the resources in larger communities.
The Food Commodities
The smaller local food pantries do not frequently receive donations on this scale. Our employees are helping to sort and palletize 136 cases of chili con carne, 204 cases of green beans, 210 cases of mashed potatoes, 324 cases of spaghetti sauce, 204 cases of salsa, 280 cases of macaroni and 288 cases of spaghetti for delivery amongst the eight local food pantries.
Helping and serving others in our community is a core value of our company. We believe that doing good provides a great return for our business. It does not relate to selling tungsten powder, but community service always provides indirect compensation that brings greater meaning to life.
At Buffalo Tungsten, we take pride in producing American made products because we're proud to be Americans. The American Spirit is alive and well at our company.
Our flag flew at half mast today in remembrance of 9/11. Regardless of religious or political beliefs, it was a time that taught us how to come together as one nation, under God.
We remember 9/11 in the hope that we can retain that American Spirit. We hope to remember across all people and cultures that what unites us is greater than that which divides us. What we have in common will always be greater than our differences.
When that flag raises again tomorrow, we must act with a remembrance of the lessons we learned in September 2001. If we do so, the hope of peace and healing in our nation and across the world can become a reality.
The American Spirit still creates a land of opportunity. The freedoms anjoyed here allowed our factory to come into existence. You can read a little more about our history and rise from humble beginnings.
For over 30 years we have been making tungsten powder. We will never take for granted the great opportunities that we have from living in a free land.
Tungsten is an elemental metal with the chemical symbol W. It is found in several compounds and is mined in underground and open pit mines all over the world. China is the top ore producer, with over half of the world's supply. The primary types of tungsten ores and concentrates are wolframite and scheelite.
Encyclopedia Britannica indicates that Wolframite ((Fe,Mn)WO4) "is commonly associated with tin ore in and around granite." Wolframite ore with very high iron concentrations is ferberite. Those with very high manganese concentrations are hubnerite (heubnerite). As seen in the photo below wolframite is black or brown in color.
Scheelite (CaWO4) is a calcium based tungsten ore. Britannica notes that it "commonly occurs as compact or granular masses in contact metasomatic deposits, high temperature veins, and granite pegmatites." It is white or brown as seen in the photo below.
The ore is concentrated at the mine site until it reaches 65% tungsten oxide (WO3) content. Tungsten has a high density so gravity methods separate it from the waste rock. After crushing the ore it passes over shaker tables with water and the lower density materials are the tailings. Magnetic separators can further increase concentrations in some ore bodies. Float cells can also improve the quality by using chemicals.
Buffalo Tungsten purchases tungsten ores and concentrates. We send them to our joint venture company Niagara Refining for processing. They chemically treat the material to remove impurities to make the intermediates APT, BTO and YTO. We reduce these materials into pure tungsten powder and tungsten carbide powder.
As a leading tungsten powder producer we always have a need for more raw materials. If you have a supply of tungsten concentrates please contact us. Send us an assay of your ore to evaluate. We can analyze a sample in our lab to compare results. If we feel the material will meet our needs we would be happy to discuss an offtake agreement to purchase your materials.
Canadian markets are important to Western New York. Buffalo is located on the border between the countries. Our close ties make it hardly seem like an international market at times.
We often refer to Canadians as our neighbors to the North. Canadian license plates are more common than those from nearby states on our roads. We shop with them in our malls and eat with them in our restaurants. We go to football and hockey games together.
The United States is Canada's largest trading partner. Over 50% of Canada's imports come from the US suppliers. About 75% of Canada's exports are shipped to the US.
The Buffalo Niagara Partnership assists the bi-national economy. They have a web page with facts and figures about trade with Canadian markets. They point out that Canada is New York's top export market. Over $19 billion worth of goods go to Canada each year from our state.
Our position on the border helps with trade between the countries. Customs brokers and shipping companies on both sides of the border know the regulations. They are well versed in free trade agreements and other issues. As a result Buffalo Tungsten imports raw material through Canadian ports. We ship containers in bond through Canada to Europe and other markets. We also ship direct to Canadian customers.
The everyday nature of Canadian business in our region allows Buffalo Tungsten to serve Canadian companies well. Our factory is located just 10 miles from the Peace Bridge. LTL shipments travel on trucks that go between Buffalo and Canada every day. The needed paperwork is second nature in our region. You can be confident that shipments will not be stuck at the border.
For Canadian companies using tungsten powder, Buffalo Tungsten can provide efficient service. We have been shipping to Canadian markets for many years. We know the lead times well, so we can make sure that your material arrives on time and in good condition.
Visitors who come to our factory who have been exposed to many different manufacturing facilities often comment on how clean it is. Insurance auditors, bankers, consultants and customers alike take notice. It has become a source of pride for our company. It takes effort from everyone to maintain a clean factory environment.
Tungsten is Dirty
Tungsten metal powder is a dark gray, while tungsten carbide powder is black. The larger sizes appear more like grains of sand or salt. The smaller sizes are very fine and look like flour. The tungsten dust can spread throughout the factory in the air if it is not contained. If fine tungsten powder gets on your hands or clothing it is hard to get off. It takes multiple washings to get them clean again.
It would be quite easy to say that it is just not realistic to keep our factory clean. After all, it is a few hundred thousand square feet. Instead, we make efforts every day in order to keep up with the challenge. Filtration systems, exhaust fans, floor sweepers and shop-vacs are all employed to keep the tungsten powder at bay.
It isn't perfect, and it is still a factory. I can't say that I would eat off of the floors, but I'm not afraid to take people on a tour. I must admit that it always feels good when people ask how we keep things so clean. When a vistor says that they have been in many industrial environments and they don't see many as clean as ours I like to pass along that compliment to those who do the most to keep it that way.
Customers do not visit our factory frequently, so we do not keep it clean because we need to impress anyone. Not only is it an OSHA requirement, it creates a better work environment for those who work here on a daily basis. It shows that we care about doing things the right way.
Attention to Detail
At Buffalo Tungsten the same diligent, consistent effort that it takes to maintain a clean factory goes into making our products. We give the same level of attention to the quality of our products and packaging. We recognize that these are often the only things that our customers see. They know our company by what they see getting off of a truck at their dock, not by how our floors look. They know the material they put into their process and whether or not the results are what they expect.
The consistent, high quality products that they see all stems from the same attention to detail that we put into keeping the floors clean.
Although tungsten is a strategic mineral, it is also a minor metal. The demand for tungsten is low relative to base metals like nickel, zinc or lead. As a result, commodity exchanges do not trade tungsten ores and concentrates. Trading occurs on a negotiated basis between the parties involved.
Tungsten ore is mainly in the form of wolframite ((Fe,Mn)WO4) or scheelite (CaWO4). Mines are typically underground hard rock mines. Up to 80% of the world's tungsten ore today comes from China. There are active mines throughout the world in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.
Tungsten ores and concentrates sell on the basis of their tungsten oxide (WO3) content. The ore undergoes gravity separation to concentrate it at the mine. A chemical flotation process can remove additional impurities to increase the concentration before shipping. The industry standard for first grade tungsten concentrates is a minimum of 65% WO3.
The trade in tungsten concentrates has decreased since many of the companies controlling the mine output have vertically integrated to produce tungsten intermediates. The most common of the intermediates are ammonium paratungstate (APT) and tungsten oxides such as yellow tungsten oxide (YTO) and blue tungsten oxide (BTO).
Price references for tungsten concentrates are based on private transactions. Companies such as Argus Media and Metal Bulletin have regular contact with industry sources to ask for current offer prices in the market and report a range with a high and low price. The price of APT is the most common reference material. Many long term contracts will be based on one of these published references.
In international markets the unit of measurement for tungsten concentrates is the metric ton unit, or mtu. An mtu is 1% of a metric ton. Both tungsten concentrates and intermediates such as APT, BTO and YTO use the mtu as the standard measure.
One Metric Ton (MT) = 1000 kg
One Metric Ton Unit (mtu) = 10 kg
Praxair installed a new liquid hydrogen tank at Buffalo Tungsten to replace one that was 30 years old this week. They are a first class supplier and have done an excellent job of maintaining our hydrogen supply for the past three decades. They brought a trailer based hydrogen sled to supply our needs during the transition. The shiny new tank looks great!
We would like to express our sincere thanks to Praxair for doing an outstanding job with the efficient replacement of our hydrogen tank. Clark Rigging got everything in place without any issues.
Although there are other ways to reduce tungsten oxide, the use of hydrogen gas in tungsten production is the most common. The basic chemical equation is
WO3 + 3 H2 -> W + 3 H2O
Tungsten oxide (WO3) travels through our reduction furnaces in a hydrogen gas (H2) atmosphere. The chemical reaction takes place at temperatures that are commonly between 700C (1300F) and 1000C (1800F). The result is water vapor and pure tungsten powder.
Buffalo Tungsten creates hydrogen gas through the electrolysis of water in a hydrogen generator. The basic chemical equation for this is
2 H2O -> 2 H2 + O2
We use the hydrogen gas in the reduction of tungsten oxide. We use the oxygen in the recycling of scrap materials. By making our own hydrogen gas on site we are able to have a secure a supply of this critical process gas for our tungsten powder production. It also reduces the final cost of our tungsten powder for our customers. The hydrogen that we purchase from Praxair supplements the output of our hydrogen generator at times of high demand.
We also have a bulk tank from Praxair to supply liguid nitrogen. We use nitrogen primarily as a purge gas that is less volatile than hydrogen in the presence of the oxygen contained in the air. Praxair again receives high marks as our nitrogen supplier.
Water vapor is a byproduct of the hydrogen reduction process. In order to reuse some of the hydrogen gas that exits our furnaces the moisture content must be reduced. We dry our hydrogen gas in a specially designed sled to allow it to be recycled back into our furnaces.
This recycling of this critical process gas decreases our operating costs. It is yet another way that Buffalo Tungsten is able to provide better value to our customers.
With the importance of hydrogen gas in tungsten powder production we will always need to maintian a ready supply of it. We hope that the new tank from Praxair will last another 30 years as Buffalo Tungsten continues to supply your need for tungsten metal powder products!
According to the US Geological Survey tungsten is a strategic mineral that is "essential to the economic and national security of the United States." The text of the report can be found here. Forbes magazine's story on the topic found here might be easier to read.
Many industries use tungsten as a critical material. Some examples are
Energy - Oil and gas exploration and production use tungsten. Diamond drill bits often contain tungsten carbide. Different forms of tungsten are catalysts in chemical reactions for petroleum. Hydraulic fracking in gas wells use tungsten in shaped charges. The production of nuclear powder uses tungsten for radiation shielding.
Defense - Armor piercing munitions use tungsten. It is a critical material that is essential to our national defense.
Tungsten Carbide Thermal Spray Coatings - Turbines, shafts and propellers use thermal spray powder coatings to extend their service life. These materials also rebuild parts back to their original specifications. Tungsten carbide based powders have a high hardness and extend the wear life.
Telecommunications and electronics also rely upon tungsten. Cellular telephones use tungsten as a counterweight to help it vibrate. Heat sinks and contacts also utilize tungsten.
Diversify Supply of Critical Materials
Tungsten is a critical material to make products in many industries. China currently produces 75 - 80% of the tungsten used in the world. Buffalo Tungsten has good relationships with Chinese suppliers. We have also cultivated a diversity in our supply chain. This limits our dependence on any one area of the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of a diverse supply.
Buffalo Tungsten manufactures tungsten powder materials in the United States. Our materials serve the needs of manufacturers in many industries. Buffalo Tungsten has remained open during the COVID-19 outbreak because tungsten is a strategic mineral. In order to supply the needs of manufacturers of many essential products we have continued operations with social distancing and sanitizing practices in place.
Tungsten hexafluoride (WF6) has one of the highest densities of any gas. To produce tungsten hexafluoride gas, pure tungsten metal powder (W) reacts with fluorine gas (F2) between 650F (343C) and 750F (399C). These elements combine to create a gas that has a density of 12.9 g/l. The air we breathe has a density of about 1.28 g/l, making WF6 ten times heavier!
Tungsten hexafluoride ships as a liquefied gas that is toxic, odorless and corrosive with a pale yellow color. It is used in a sealed chamber and must be handled carefully to avoid exposure. Proper ventilation is important and monitoring of the air quality is essential when tungsten hexafluoride is in use.
Tungsten hexafluoride gas is a specialty gas primarily for use in the semiconductor industry. It creates a thin layer of tungsten on semiconductor wafers through a chemical vapor deposition process. A chemical reaction causes the tungsten metal to adhere to silicon wafers. Tungsten is conductive, so it forms electrical connections between the various components on the wafers.
To satisfy the performance requirements in the semiconductor industry the purity of the gas must be greater than 99.999%. In order to achieve this the tungsten powder used in making it must be of a very high purity. This typical tungsten hexafluoride product data sheet from Linde shows the properties of the gas.
Tungsten Powder Manufacturer
Buffalo Tungsten produces tungsten powder used to manufacture WF6 gas. We do not produce the gases ourselves, but our stringent quality standards allow us to meet the demanding chemical specifications required to produce extremely high purity tungsten hexafluoride.
Some of the world's largest semiconductor manufacturers rely on the gases made by Buffalo Tungsten's customers. If your company is looking for an American producer of tungsten powder for WF6 production, you can contact Buffalo Tungsten to meet your supply requirements.