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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.
Material Properties of Tungsten
Tungsten metal powder is used to make ordnance for the military. Tungsten has a high density (19.25g/cm3) and high hardness. The melting point of tungsten is also very high at 3,422°C (6,191°F), making it a good choice for high temperatures as well.
The BBC's article titled "Tungsten: The perfect metal for bullets and missiles" explains why tungsten powder is a great choice for ordnance (in a round about way).
Dives Versus Belly Flops
Bunker busting ordnance made from tungsten powder penetrates underground shelters. This ordnance needs to be very heavy but it helps to have a small surface area. With tungsten you can have the same weight in a smaller package. Think of the difference between a belly flop and a dive to get into the water. The tungsten allows the bomb to dive into the ground and penetrate further. Less dense materials belly flop and don't go as deep.
Armor piercing rounds typically use a tungsten core. The Firearm Blog describes armor piercing rounds made for the US military. The rounds need to have the same size to fit the barrel of the weapon. The tungsten core provides a more stable center that improves its effectiveness.
Tungsten Heavy Metal in Ordnance
Tungsten heavy metal powders are often used to make ordnance. This type of tungsten powder contains binder materials such as nickel or iron. These alloys make it more machinable. Without these alloys tungsten is brittle and difficult to work with. Grinding shapes the solid heavy alloy parts into finished projectiles.
A less conventional form of ordnance using tungsten powder that has been studied is kinetic bombardment with large tungsten rods. Business Insider discussed the potential of dropping tungsten rods dropped from space. These kinetic energy penetrators would destroy everything in their path. They would not release radiation that would harm nearby areas.
Tungsten Powder Supplier
Buffalo Tungsten provides tungsten powder for ordnance applications. All of our material is reduced into tungsten powder in the USA. We are a small business for United States federal contracting purposes. Our co-reduced powders are an engineered powder. They contain nickel, iron, copper or other alloys. This makes heavy metal easier to process. Ordinance of different types use other types of powder. If you use tungsten powders to produce ordnance Buffalo Tungsten can supply your needs.
Sporting goods products use tungsten because it has a very high density. With a density of 19.3 g/cc, tungsten products are a great choice for many athletes and outdoorsmen. Those who compete at the highest levels of sport need any edge they can get. Tungsten is able to provide that edge in many cases.
Fishing sinkers of the same weight made from tungsten are smaller than ones made of lead or other materials. Darts made with tungsten tips are slimmer. Fishing tackle and line made with tungsten sinks faster. Golf clubs made with tungsten weights can balance the swing. Golf balls using tungsten can focus the mass and generate spin. The strategic use of tungsten in sporting goods allows athletes to perform at a higher level.
Tungsten is an eco-friendly element. Many studies show it is not toxic. One study of hunting products concluded that "the use of tungsten in lead-free shot is not associated with environmental toxicity..." (Thomas, V.G., et al., Assessment of the environmental toxicity and carcinogenicity of tungsten-based shot, Ecotoxicol. Environ. Saf. (2009),doi:10.1016/j.ecoenv.2009.01.001) The US National Parks Service displays the full text of the study.
Because of this, tungsten is a good material for hunting and fishing products. Any sporting goods products remaining in soil or water after use can safely be made from tungsten.
Tungsten carbide is very hard. This allows it to provide traction and grip on surfaces like asphalt and rock. It has excellent wear resistance. The high wear resistance allows equipment to last longer and need less frequent replacement.
Take a look at Carbide USA's post on the topic. They point out several products designed for sports and recreation that are made from tungsten carbide.
Tungsten Powder for Sporting Goods
Buffalo Tungsten sells tungsten powder and tungsten carbide powder for use in many sporting goods products. If you think the properties of these materials can help you develop an edge over the competition, we can work with you on developing products that can be used to put you over the top.
What is Tungsten Carbide?
The carburization of pure tungsten powder creates the alloy tungsten carbide. The International Tungsten Industry Association provides an outline of the conventional carburization process that produces it. WC is the chemical formula for the resulting powder, so it is also referred to as WC powder.
Tungsten carbide is a very hard material. In a pure form it is too brittle to be used in many applications. Cemented carbide parts are are made by pressing and sintering to overcome this. The parts made by this process are often called hardmetal parts.
Making Hardmetal Parts
Tungsten carbide powder is combined with binder materials such as cobalt or nickel powder to create hardmetal. The binder materials make finished parts that have better durability and toughness. The powders are pressed into a shape in a mold at a very high pressure. The resulting piece is then sintered in an oven at a very high temperature to melt the binder materials and bond the part together. The individual WC particles are suspended in the melted binder materials.
A common product made from WC powders is cutting tools. Hardness is an important property in this application. Tungsten carbide tools are more expensive than steel. They cut several times more material before they wear out. Efficiency improves because the tooling does not need to be replaced as frequently. In your local home improvement store you see labels like "carbide tipped" on may of the drill bits and saw blades. This indicates that they have a hardness that will allow them to last longer.
Hardmetal parts that are made with tungsten carbide are often referred to simply as carbide. Other forms of carbide are produced through a similar process.
If you are looking for a carbide material with the greatest hardness make sure that you have tungsten carbide and not titanium or tantalum carbide. The other carbide materials are used in applications where the toughness or other properties take priority over the hardness.
Tungsten Carbide Powder Supplier
Buffalo Tungsten produces tungsten carbide powder in a wide range of particle sizes. We produce standard powders from 0.8 microns to 50 microns and use special carburization techniques to make larger particle sizes. The carbon content is carefully monitored and the level of free carbon is reported on our standard certificate of analysis. We also use tungsten carbide powder in our engineered powders that are used for infiltration applications.