Originally Published 1/3/23
In this post, we had the opportunity to speak with Midwest Tungsten General Manager Kevin Anetsberger in which he provided his expertise and insight into all things tungsten. Kevin provides excellent information and tips on how and why tungsten is used in addition to its importance in our daily lives.
1 .Why is tungsten considered a “scarce” metal?
Geologically speaking, tungsten is about as prevalent as copper, so not that scarce. However, tungsten does not exist in pure metallic form in nature and is difficult and costly to refine. It is the processing necessary to make pure tungsten metal that accounts for it being less abundant commercially than other metals.
2. What makes tungsten unique to other metals?
Tungsten is unique for several reasons. It has the highest melting point of any metal. It is very dense, about 2.5 times the density of iron. It is quite hard. It is a very effective radiation shield.
3. What is tungsten used for that many people may not know?
It is used as ballast weight for race cars. Before CGI, very fine tungsten wire was used to make objects float on camera. This is because tungsten wire has a very high tensile strength, reaching into the hundreds of thousands of psi for very fine wires.
4. What industries would you say use tungsten the most?
The manufacturing and metal cutting industry as well as earth drilling industry all use tungsten carbide bits. Tungsten carbide cutting tools are one of the main uses of tungsten today. Also tungsten welding electrodes used in TIG welding.
5. How is tungsten utilized in the people’s daily lives?
For many years prior to CFL and LED lighting, incandescent light bulbs created light by running electricity through a tungsten filament wire. This worked because of the high melting point and the high tensile strength of the tungsten wire.
6. When did you first learn about tungsten?
In 1985 when I began work at Midwest Technical Service, which later spun off part of the company into what is now Midwest Tungsten Service.
7. What were your sentiments and thoughts the first time working with tungsten?
It was fascinating to learn that tungsten was used as a heater to melt and boil other metals in order to create metal steam that could be used to deposit a reflective coating onto items such as auto headlamps and trophy parts.
8. When explaining what tungsten is and how it’s used, what do you tell people who have not heard of it or know much about it?
I stick with the basics. Tungsten melts at 3410°C, the highest melting point of any metal. Tungsten is very dense, for example a 1 foot cube of it weighs 1440 pounds. Those two facts usually spark enough curiosity that people start asking their own questions.
9. What makes Midwest Tungsten Service a leader for customers needing and utilizing tungsten?
We’ve been in business for a long time, since 1958. We carry a large inventory in order to ship quickly. We have a knowledgeable staff to help with application questions. We have our own machine shop that specializes in machining tungsten, which can be challenging due to the hardness of the material.
10. What are your thoughts on the future of tungsten in industry?
Tungsten will remain crucial to many industries – manufacturing, aircraft, medical, and aerospace to name a few. When you need the properties that tungsten possesses, there are no substitutes.