Tungsten is essential for a wide range of modern technologies. Through it unique combination of characteristics (high density, highest melting point of all metals, low reactivity / toxicity) it is irreplaceable in a wide range of applications.
- Cemented carbides are the major use for tungsten with a share of 61% of global consumption in 2011 according to CM Group. Cemented tungsten carbide (WC) is a ceramic provides a very good combination of hardness and toughness. It is therefore widely used for the production of various machine tools (e.g. wear parts, drill bits and cutting tools). Important users of WC tools are the aerospace & defence, the automotive, the oil & mineral exploration / mining as well as the construction sector.
- Tungsten for high speed steels and super alloys is the second large usage area of the metal with a share of 20% in 2011. The usage of tungsten for certain kinds of steels increases their hardness, durability and resistance to corrosion. Such steels have applications as cutting or drilling tools. Tungsten-containing super allows are used in the aerospace industry, for example in blades for jet engines.
- Mill products include various applications of tungsten as metal and had a share of 11%. Probably the most well known form of tungsten to the general consumer belongs in this group, the filament in light bulbs, although this usage is declining due to new lighting technologies. But tungsten mill products are also used in ammunition and armour, in the automotive and aerospace industry, as furnace elements, in electronics, as jewellery, in medical and nuclear applications, for sports equipment and as welding electrodes. Blocks of tungsten even flew to Mars on NASA’s newest exploration rover Curiosity as balance weights.
- Applications in the chemical industries are the smallest market for tungsten with 7% of global consumption in 2011. There are a large variety of tungsten compounds that are used as lubricants, catalysts, as pigments, in the electronics industry and much more.
China is not only the largest producer of tungsten but also the largest consumer according to CM Group. Since 2010 it leads world consumption currently using a similar amount as it produces. The European Union, United States and Japan are the major consumers behind China. With the significant growth of domestic tungsten consumption in China, less Chinese tungsten is available for the world market. This will support high tungsten prices in the near future.