Our Powders. Your Products.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
Buffalo Tungsten is hiring operators for our tungsten metal powder operations. No experience is necessary to apply. There are some general and task specific requirements below to help applicants better understand the nature of the job.
Safety is a top priority. It is important for each employee to be alert and conscious of safety at all times. Personal protective equipment minimizes the risks, but does not replace proper care and caution. Safety glasses and shoes are necessary everywhere in the factory. Other items such as fitted respirators are essential for certain operations.
It is important that employees are here on time for every shift. Our furnaces operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. When operating at such high temperatures we can't turn them off for the weekend and start them up again on Monday morning.
The first task new hires are trained on is operating pusher furnaces. Operators load furnaces with intermediate tungsten materials such as blue or yellow tungsten oxide. Pure tungsten metal powders exit the furnace at the discharge end.
Operators follow written instructions and do checks to make sure that furnace conditions are set properly. Normal quality assurance includes checking temperatures, flows, and other important variables. Operators must work neatly around our tungsten metal powders to assure accuracy and prevent spilling. Careful record keeping is a must.
Several people on each shift must have a license to use a forklift. Tungsten powder goes to different parts of the factory to equipment that customizes the powder to meet customer specifications. Palletized inventory and drum attachments for forklifts make material handling safe and efficient.
When powders meet spec we blend them to create a single homogenous lot. Carefully following written instructions is again important to assure the quality of the finished product. The tungsten metal powder is carefully weighed into containers lined with polyethylene bags to maintain purity. Labels indicate the powder type, lot numbers and weights of each container. Pails can weigh up to 50 pounds, so operators must be able to lift and place pails that heavy onto pallets for shipping.
If you or someone you know in the Buffalo area could handle these tasks and job requirements, contact us today!
Tungsten concentrates derive from the mining of tungsten ore. Many locations throughout the world have tungsten ore reserves. There are mines on every continent but Antarctica.
Tungsten ore comes in several forms. See our previous post to learn about the main types. In underground mines, explosives dislodge material from the walls or floor of the mine in small areas. Open pit mines often use larger blasts before scooping up the ore. Underground mines usually have 1% or more tungsten oxide content. Open pit mines can have lower grades.
Producing Tungsten Concentrates
Cone crushers and ball mills reduce the size of the ore to under 2mm in size. Water carries the ore over shaker tables to concentrate it. It works like panning for gold in a river. The ore particles with lower density flow off as tailings while the higher density tungsten concentrate remains.
In small artisinal mines they do not have this equipment. The miners extract ore directly from rich veins. The weight of a fixed volume of the ore finds the density and value of the material. This material often needs more crushing. It needs to be smaller to have enough surface area for chemical processing.
A lab will find the amount of tungsten oxide in the tungsten concentrates. First grade material will have at least 65% tungsten oxide. Some impurities can be difficult to remove or are costly to dispose of. High levels of things like arsenic or uranium are not desireable. A full assay will help determine the value of the ore.
Buffalo Tungsten purchases tungsten concentrates regularly. We have recently updated our purchasing specifications. This shows the grade of material that we are looking to buy. We process the material at Niagara Refining. It is in our factory, so it gives us a secure source of material.
Buffalo Tungsten purchases several types of pure tungsten scrap for recycling. We feel that it is a win-win-win proposition.
It is a way for those who produce tungsten scrap to receive value for materials that might otherwise go to waste. Reclaiming these valuable materials is a benefit to our company as a source of raw material. Recycling also reduces impact on our environment. It lowers the amount of tungsten ore the needs to be mined every year to meet the global demand for tungsten products.
Types of Tungsten Scrap
Buffalo Tungsten does not recycle tungsten carbide (WC) products. However, many other companies are able to provide this service for tungsten carbide materials. As a result, we focus on scrap from parts made with pure tungsten powder or tungsten alloys.
One of the most common forms of material that Buffalo Tungsten recycles are machining or turning chips of tungsten alloys. The chips come from the machining of heavy metal parts.
Tungsten powder scrap and floor sweepings are also materials we can use. If you have spills or waste from your process, we can purchase these powders.
In addition, we take some types of scrap tungsten powder that has been compounded with plastic or rubber. Certain types of tungsten based slurries will work in our recycling processes as well.
The nature of each stream of scrap materials is different. We need to analyze your specific scrap products to determine if they are a fit for our recycling processes. If you send an assay or a small sample we can determine if we are able to purchase your waste materials.
Contact us to see how we can help you get value for your pure tungsten powder scrap. Send us photos of your waste from tungsten alloy parts to see if we can process it. We would be happy to assist you in seeing that you are able to recycle as much material as possible.
We would like to wish a very Merry Christmas to all who have been a part of our success during this difficult year. Tungsten metal powder is used in some of the products that may be under your Christmas trees. It is possible that the electronics such as cell phones, computers and televisions have some tungsten in them. You might not be able to see it from the outside, but it is there, out of the spotlight, helping your devices to function.
The Christmas Truce during World War I is a story that reminds us that we can set aside our differences and come together in peace.