Applications & Markets

Tungsten applications can be categorised by either the MATERIAL perspective, based on tungsten intermediate material type and products thereof (First-Use) or the INDUSTRY in which they are finally used (End-Use).

First-Use applications – the material view

Due to its special technical properties, such as high hardness (tungsten carbide), high melting point and density (tungsten metal) and chemical behaviour (tungsten tungstates and oxides), tungsten compounds (intermediates) can be processed into materials with tailored functionality.

As this is the first step in the downstream value chain of tungsten, the respective applications are referred to as First-Use applications.

First-Use applications are the first downstream production step using tungsten intermediates.

First-Use by material

Tungsten carbide products represent almost two-thirds (65%) of total global consumption.

Tungsten Carbide

The most important First-Use segment is tungsten carbide products, with almost two-thirds (65%) of the total global consumption.

This segment covers the major application for tungsten as tungsten carbide in “hardmetals” (also known as “cemented carbides”, or sometimes shortened to just “carbides”).

A typical example of such an alloy would be 90% tungsten carbide with 10% cobalt, a so-called straight grade. This produces a perfect combination of high hardness (from tungsten carbide) and high toughness (from cobalt). Hardness and toughness are usually conflicting property choices, where one would normally have to choose between one or the other – with hardmetals one can have both!

Hardmetals are used for metal machining, rock drilling, wood and plastic cutting. The high abrasion resistance is used in wear parts for tunnel boring, road construction, agriculture and many more applications.

Steels & Super Alloys

Ferro tungsten (FeW) is the dominant intermediate used in the Steels and Super Alloys First-Use segment, accounting for 14% of global tungsten consumption.

Tungsten acts as a hardening element in steels, such as High Speed Steels used as tools, and makes super alloys high temperature resistant, as is mandatory for turbine blades in jet engines or power generation.

Tungsten Metal

Tungsten metal products are the third largest First-Use segment with a share of 12% of global consumption.

This covers a variety of materials, such as:

  • pure tungsten metal sheets and wires for high temperature applications
  • tungsten copper electrical contact and heat sink materials
  • tungsten heavy alloys (with iron, nickel, cobalt and copper) for ammunition, counterweights, vibration damping and radiation shielding
  • tungsten welding electrodes.

Chemicals & Others

Chemicals & Others are based on ammonium metatungstate, tungsten oxide or tungstic acid with catalysts as their major field of application and a share of 9%.

Tungsten is an enabling element

An end product may not actually contain tungsten but, without tungsten being used during its creation, the product may not exist.

End-Use applications – the industry view

All the First-Use tungsten based materials are ultimately used in different industries and End-Use applications.

A metal machining cutting insert, made from tungsten carbide containing hardmetal, may be used to machine turbine blades of an aeroplane engine, the gear drive of a passenger car, parts of a wind turbine for electrical power generation or the injection moulding tools for children’s toy production.

As all of these End-Use scenarios, based on the same First-Use product, may have completely different demand and growth perspectives, it becomes obvious that in-depth analysis of the End-Use is necessary to be able to determine the current demand for tungsten and predict future demand.

Analysis by End-Use industry application is necessary to be able to determine current demand for tungsten and predict future demand.

End-Use by industry

With an almost equal share, Transport and Mining & Construction account for more than half of global tungsten End-Use consumption.

Industry data 2021


Approximately three-quarters of the Transport segment is automotive, making this industry the single biggest tungsten consumer worldwide.

Hardmetals (tungsten carbide products) are the most important material in this segment and are mainly used as tools for machining and forming.

Mining & Construction

Within the Mining and Construction End-Use segment, 62% of tungsten goes into mining, with the majority used in underground mining.

The major subsegments within Construction are tunnelling and road milling, both equally sized and making up two-thirds of Construction use. Typical products are hardmetal based rock drills and road chisels to remove old tarmac.

Other End-Use industries

Other End-Use industries, with shares in the range between 6% and 14%, are Chemical and Petrochemical (10%), Consumer Durables (9%), Energy (6%), Defence (8%) and Industrial Use (14%).

One smaller but dynamic segment is Medical and Pharmaceutical with 1% of the global share.

Tungsten metal products are prominent within the Consumer Durable and Defence segments, while tungsten chemicals dominate the Chemical and Petrochemical End-Use segment.

Tungsten is the intelligent choice

One proof for intelligent life is the use of tools. All cutting edge tools contain tungsten.

End-Use by geographical region

To analyse the tungsten market by geography, End-Use consumption (tonnage) is allocated to the region where it is consumed.

For example, the tungsten contained in a machining tool is allocated to the region where the tool is used, not where the tool is produced. The tool may be used to produce a car, so it is allocated to the region where the car is produced, not to the region where the car may finally be used.

End-Use geographical region is allocated to the region where the tungsten product is consumed.

End-Use by region

A regional split based on End-Use reveals China as the biggest single region with 36% of global tungsten End-Use (not primary and intermediate production, where China is even bigger).

Europe (20%) and the Americas (17%) are the next biggest tungsten End-Use regions, with Japan (8%), Other Asia (8%) and the Rest of the World (11%) being almost equally shared.

Industry data 2021

End-Use consumption – the global market

As can be seen by the analysis of the tungsten End-Use relevant industries, tungsten consumption is very much linked to the general development of the global economy.

In times of economic uncertainty and/or recession, tungsten consumption suffers, while in times of economic prosperity it goes up.

Despite all the ups and downs, a general growth trend for the tungsten market remains. This has been true for more than 100 years during the period tungsten has been used on an industrial scale.

Despite the impact of the global economic crisis and COVID, the compound annual growth rate from 2007 to 2020 was 3.4%.

A general growth trend has existed for the tungsten market for over 100 years.

Consumption growth

A general growth trend has existed for the tungsten market for over 100 years during the period tungsten has been used on an industrial scale.

End-Use consumption

Despite the impact of the global economic crisis and COVID, the compound annual growth rate from 2007 to 2021 was 3.4%.

Copyright images courtesy of: CERATIZIT, Plansee, Ceram Austria, Epiroc