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.