Tungsten is one of the toughest elements out there, with some of the highest resistance levels of all the refractory metals. Its high melting point, inert stability, and great strength and density all make tungsten a sought-after material for durable machinery and goods.
Since the element doesn’t occur naturally, tungsten ores have to be mined and chemically extracted from minerals that contain them. The most common of these tungstates are scheelite, wolframite, and stolzite. Most of the world’s tungstate deposits are found in China, which produces up to 80% of the world’s tungsten.
Tungsten can be obtained from mining in other countries, too – such as South Korea, Russia, Bolivia, Canada, and Australia – albeit in much smaller quantities.
Once tungsten metal has been extracted, there are many things that can be done with it. Whether alloyed with other elements to create even stronger compounds or used as it is, tungsten is found in everything from drilling tools and aerospace parts to electronics and sports equipment.
Without tungsten, industries like mining, construction, and manufacturing wouldn’t be the same – but where can you buy it? Read on to learn more about the forms tungsten is available to buy in, and how you can obtain it yourself.
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Popular tungsten products
When it comes to commercial uses of tungsten metal, it’s most often found in jewellery or alloyed in collectible cubes. It has a similar weight to gold, but is much cheaper and far hardier – making it a popular alternative material for modern wedding rings.
Though it’s not as valuable as gold, tungsten can still be expensive in large amounts for collectors who want a piece of the high-density metal for themselves. In recent years, tungsten cubes can cost around $20 for 1cm3 and up to $3,000 for 4in3 (which weighs a hefty 41 pounds).
Outside of these trendy uses for tungsten, the metal and its alloys – particularly the extra-tough tungsten carbide – can be found in:
- Cutting and drilling tools
- Sports equipment (e.g. darts, ski pole tips)
- Automotive and aerospace parts
- Light filaments and electronics
- Medical equipment (e.g. radiation shielding)
In order to make apparatus like this, tungsten has to be extracted from mined tungstates, chemically treated, and often combined with other metals or carbon. The resulting pieces of tungsten metal can be shaped and adapted to manufacture various tungsten parts and fittings.
Tungsten parts and fittings
Tungsten metal is often alloyed with at least 5% of another element and manufactured into all kinds of parts and fittings, with a variety of shapes and grades. The cost depends on the purity, type, and quantity of the tungsten parts.
Tungsten can also be introduced into fluorides, oxides, chlorides and other solutions for chemical uses, but alloyed metals or carbides are arguably the most common use of the element.
From powder to pellets, discs to rods, ingots to sheets, there are many ways to purchase wholesale tungsten metal for further manufacturing purposes. Here’s a rundown of eight forms that you can find tungsten available to buy in:
● Tungsten ingots
Ingots, typically taking the shape of bars or bricks, are one of the most affordable forms of tungsten metal. Though relatively small, due to the material’s high density, they can be extremely heavy. These masses of metal can easily be used as blanks for further manufacturing.
Being compact in size, tungsten ingots are easy to store and transport. They can be machined, rolled, or pressed as needed to produce custom parts and fittings. These components can then be used in a variety of applications, including engineering and aerospace.
● Tungsten wire
With tungsten having such a high melting point, it’s ideal for high-temperature applications like lighting filaments. It may not have the highest level of electrical conductivity, but it’s good enough to be used as an electrical conductor where extreme heat resistance is required.
Stretching tungsten into wire allows it to be used in devices where conductive wiring needs to endure high thermal stress without changing shape or size, from lighting and electronics to medical devices and laboratory research equipment. The thin wire makes precise measurements easier.
● Tungsten crucibles
The integrity of tungsten metal under high heat makes it invaluable in high-stress applications. Tungsten crucibles in particular are used across many industries and manufacturing processes, from smelting to alloying, where extremely hot liquids need to be contained safely.
Tungsten crucibles can be bought in a range of diameters and thicknesses, for both commercial and research purposes. These parts are not only useful in the production of steel and alloys, but also in turbines, furnaces, rocket nozzles, and other such high-intensity environments.
● Tungsten sheets
Typically rolled from ingots, tungsten sheets can be rolled to thicknesses from a quarter inch to 1mm thin. With its high durability and resistance to heat and corrosion, sheets of tungsten metal are ideal for forming super-alloys that can be used in aerospace engineering.
Tungsten sheets also serve as a useful blank for cutting, punching, pressing, or turning custom-designed components. just like what Arlington sheet metal bending does. These precise pieces can be used to manufacture anything from electrodes to drill bits, blades to bolts and screws, all to exact specifications.
● Tungsten plates
Similar to tungsten sheet, the metal can also be rolled into thicker plates for higher-density usage. Tungsten plates are usually alloys of tungsten and other metals, including nickel, copper, iron, or molybdenum, which improves qualities such as hardness and electrical conductivity.
Hot-rolled tungsten plates are perfect for use in further machining processes to produce larger pieces, such as punching, deep-drawing, stamping, turning, and grinding. The pieces can be used in electron tubes, furnace heating elements, radiation protection, and more.
● Tungsten rods
Uniformly shaped rods of the metal, also known as tungsten billets, are useful blanks for cylindrical components. They can also be easily drawn out into tungsten wire. It’s just as easy to transport tungsten rods as it is to move and store ingots, but billets are often easier to re-work.
Tungsten rods tend to come in sizes up to a few millimetres in diameter, allowing for precise cutting to produce new parts or to blend with other metals like steel and copper. This is useful for creating tool tips or parts that need to endure high temperatures, including jet engines and rocket nozzles.
● Tungsten strips
Tungsten strips are typically flat blanks, but they can also be formed into twisted spiral strips. The flat bars can be given cutting edges so that the blank can form a cutting blade, though it’s usually mixed with carbon first to form the extremely tough tungsten carbide.
Smooth, flat tungsten strips can be used for forging dies and press tools, as well as motorised cutting tools for metal, wood, textiles, and other industries. When sold as tungsten carbide strips, anything forged from them will last much longer than conventional materials like steel.
● Tungsten foil
Tungsten metal can also be rolled into super-thin sheets known as tungsten foil, which can be as thin as a tenth of a millimetre. While tungsten foil can be bought at 99% purity, since foil is more fragile, it’s often alloyed with steel, molybdenum, or niobium for increased strength.
High-purity tungsten foil can be useful in electrical applications where extremely thin and small pieces are required, or for applying thin film coatings in vapour deposition processes. Alloyed tungsten foil is more often found in engineering and medical imaging equipment.
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Where can you buy tungsten?
It’s fairly straightforward to buy tungsten in any of these forms, either by ordering online or contacting a supplier by phone or email to request a quote. As tungsten parts are typically made to order, the price will depend on the type and quantity you need, as well as the purity or alloys.
You should be able to obtain a free, no-obligation quote for your order, regardless of the size or specifications, which can give you an idea of your project costs going forward. As with all refractory metals, you can buy tungsten parts in standard sizes or have them fabricated bespoke.
The best way to buy tungsten is to get in touch with a metal fabrication specialist, who can dispatch stock parts for next day delivery or manufacture custom parts to your specifications with a fast turnaround via in-house machining.