Tungsten Carbide Powder

Tungsten carbide (WC) powder refers to fine particles consisting of tungsten metal cemented with carbon atoms. Tungsten carbide exhibits extreme hardness, wear resistance, high density, and thermal/electrical conductivity. These unique properties make tungsten carbide widely used across industrial tooling, mining, aerospace, automotive, and electronic applications.

This guide covers different grades of tungsten carbide powder, their composition, manufacturing methods, applications, specifications, pricing details from suppliers, pros and cons, and answers common questions on integrating cemented tungsten carbide into components via powder metallurgy techniques.

Types of Tungsten Carbide Powder

There are several primary tungsten carbide powder classifications based on characteristics like carbon content, particle size, manufacturing method and purity levels:

TypeDescriptionTypical Compositions
Simple carbidesMost common formulation, contain only tungsten carbide (WC) and carbon binder matrixCarbon types: Co, Ni, Fe
Complex carbidesCarbides of tantalum (TaC) or titanium (TiC) added into the tungsten-carbon matrix for increased hardness and heat resistanceWC + (TaC or TiC) particles in cobalt binder
Micrograin carbidesUltrafine nano-scale carbide particles 20-200 nanometers (for higher hardness) cemented using cobaltWC nano particles + 3% Co
CermetsHard tungsten carbide particles dispersed throughout a softer application specific metal matrixWC in a copper, iron or bronze binder matrix

Additionally, powder particle size distributions like coarse, fine and ultra-fine grades mean optimizing raw material flowability, density ratios, and surface finish capabilities for different tungsten carbide product manufacturing processes.

tungsten carbide powder

Production Methods

Common techniques to produce tungsten carbide powder on industrial scales:

MethodDescriptionTypical Output
Carbothermic reductionTungsten ore is reduced using gas mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen at high temperature into tungsten metal powdersIrregular flattened grains with higher oxygen levels
Spray conversion processLiquid tungsten compound aerosolized and reacted with carbonSpherical agglomerated batches up to 3 tons/hour
Fusion methodPure tungsten metal ignited in carbon beds into WC which is crushed and milledBlocky angular powder particles
Sol-gelTungstates precipitated from aqueous mixtures form tungsten gels for calciningVery small nano scale particles possible

The size range, shape and purity of carbide powder required depends greatly on part manufacturing process and application performance requirements.

Properties of Tungsten Carbide Powder

Key characteristics that make tungsten carbide so versatile for fabricating extremely hard, durable tooling and components include:

Extreme hardnessVickers 1300-2400 HV range, among hardest manmade materialsWithstands abrasion as cutting tools, drilling bits, wear surfaces
Heat resistanceRetains hardness > 1500 HV at temperatures near 1,000 °CAllows dry machining without coolants, resists deformation in high heat uses
Corrosion resistanceChemically inert to most mineral acids and organic compoundsDependable long term in exposed industrial environments
High densityNearly double the density of steelMaximizes mass in applications like counterweights or ballast
Thermal/electrical conductivityAs conductive as common metals like steelDissipates heat rapidly during machining, ideal for electrical contacts

These combined traits make tungsten carbide more durable at smaller sizes than other materials – contributing to miniaturization and efficiency gains in precision couplings, seals, pumps, valves and other demanding applications.

Applications of Tungsten Carbide Powder

Major industry uses of tungsten carbide components made from cemented powder include:

SegmentCommon ApplicationsBenefits
Machining toolsCutting tool inserts, end mills, circular sawsHardness maintains sharp cutting edge
Dies and toolingForming dies, stamping punches, rollersWithstands repeated high pressure and abrasion
Mining and constructionDrill bits, rock drills, excavation toolsDurability against cracks or fractures in extreme environments
AutomotiveFuel injection nozzles, valve seat insertsResists wear from high velocity gas and fluid flows
AerospaceAircraft gun barrel linings, radiation shieldingDensity efficienctly absorbs X-ray and gamma rays
ElectronicsElectrical contacts, vacuum tube filamentsConductive with low electronic emission rates

The unique combination of hardness, toughness, heat tolerance and density make tungsten carbide indispensable across these critical industries – facilitating broader trends like faster CNC machining, expanded oil/gas drilling ranges and improved fuel economy.

Specifications and Grades

International standards for consistent identification of tungsten carbide powder properties:

StandardCommon GradesDefinitions
ISO 513 KK01, K05, K10, K20Mean tungsten carbide grain size in microns
ASTM B771WC-6Co, WC-10CoPercentage of cobalt binder matrix
JIS R 1601FFF, FFF-F, FFF-SJapanese code defining grain size and shape
DIN 6580D25-D150 codesGerman oversize grain percentage conventions

Higher cobalt content increases part toughness but lowers hardness. Ultrafine grain powders favor wear resistance but sacrifice impact strength. Work closely with manufacturers to select grade optimized for specific loading needs.

Suppliers and Pricing

SupplierGradesPrice Range
Buffalo TungstenGeneral/Aerospace/Electronic Grades$50-200 per pound
Midwest TungstenWC-Co Grades from 1-20% binder levels$60-220 per pound
Global TungstenISO K01 – K40 grain sizes$90-250 per pound
NanoBoron PromNano grain WC for high hardness$200+ per pound

Costs range widely $50 per lb. for common general purpose unrefined grades up to $250+ per lb. for ultrafine nano-grain tightly specified powder optimized for medical or aerospace applications. Prices also fluctuate based on availability and raw tungsten market spot trends.

Remember – buy the grade specified for application, balancing hardness against toughness strength, not just by initial cost.

Pros and Cons

Exceptional hardness at high temperaturesChallenging/expensive to fully densify green compacts in sintering
Resists abrasionBrittle after sintering, prone to cracks under loads
Biologically inert and non-toxicRaw materials costs fluctuate based on Chinese export quotas driving market volatility
Enables miniaturization of wear componentsSpecific handling precautions needed given reactivity risks at particle scale
Combined strength + conductivity uniqueRequires cobalt binders procuring issues given geopolitical supply chain risks

While demanding production processes from powder metallurgy to finishing means tungsten carbide can cost over 20X more than steel, extraordinary hardness and thermal traits deliver unmatched longevity (measured in decades) in industrial cutting operations like stamping that recover upfront investments in tooling many times over.

Limitations and Considerations

Restrictions when working with tungsten carbide powders:

  • Hard and brittle after densification – avoid sharp radius edges prone to breakage
  • Proper cobalt percentage binder ratios crucial to balance strength versus hardness
  • Prone to oxidizing and decomposing to WO3 above 500 °C forms in machining
  • Carcinogen powder handling precautions plus requiring cobalt means managing supply chain risks
  • Cannot substitute grades in formulations without adjusting production process parameters
  • Purity standards continuing to rise with microchip feature tolerances measured in atoms

Engineers should work closely with powder metallurgy manufacturing experts starting in design phase to customize net shape geometries maximizing density and accounting for post-sintering 20% shrinkage while minimizing trapped internal pockets leading to cracks. Consider coatings like diamond-like-carbon to enhance surface lubrication. Leverage finite element analysis to qualify mechanical loads and fatigue limits from vibration. And work to continually qualify multiple sources of raw materials to mitigate geopolitical availability bottlenecks.

tungsten carbide powder


What is the average particle size range used as feedstock powder?0.5 to 10 microns typically, with nano grade emerging under 0.5 microns
What temperature does tungsten carbide start to oxidize at?Around 500 to 600 °C range, decomposing into WO3 which causes part degradation
What industries consume the most tungsten carbide today?Manufacturing tools and mining industries account for over 60% of global demand
Does tungsten carbide powder expire or go bad?Not generally if sealed against moisture ingress, but retest after max 3-5 years.
Is the powder flammable or explosive?No flammability issues but fine dust explosion risks requiring intrinsic safety handling
What are cancer risks from tungsten carbide dust?Lung cancers documented from cobalt particles. Strict PPE and ventilation mandatory.
What downstream process is typically used?Most compacts go through multi-stage sintering ovens for densification then require diamond grinding finishing.
Which is used more – tungsten carbide or titanium carbide?Tungsten carbide dominates by volume with over 3X consumption globally.

Proper precautions combined with custom mechanical design enable tungsten carbide to revolutionize component durability across the most demanding applications.


With exceptional hardness ratings beyond other metals, the unique material properties of cemented tungsten carbide will continue spearheading innovations from longer-lasting precision surgical tools to enabling economical deep oil and gas drilling in remote regions. Combining particles as small as 200 nanometers grades emerging from leading powder manufacturers with computer-controlled densification processes allows engineers the design freedom to create net shape parts unimaginable through traditional machining means. And continuous tungsten supply chain improvements will stabilize costs while meeting purity levels measured in parts-per-million as tolerances tighten. By accounting for brittleness risks in mechanical design phases and codifying proper handling procedures both at industrial powder handling scales through to nano-scale laboratory research, durability engineers can fully utilize this material’s potential across automotive, aerospace, construction and electronics sectors to maximize efficiency and product lifetimes as application demands intensify. While historically dominant in cutting tools and mining accessories simply due to extreme hardness conveying durability, proliferating additive manufacturing methods will likely expand tungsten carbide growth opportunities across further applications like lightweight aircraft interior fittings or recoil buffer components as more sectors recognize the advantages conveyed across wear, heat and radiation shielding capabilities relative to common metal alternatives.

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