Tungsten, also known as wolfram, is widely used in many end-use industries owing to its inherent properties such as a high melting point, relatively low vapor pressure, and excellent tensile strength. Additionally, tungsten has high corrosion resistance and is therefore resilient to acid attacks. The global demand for tungsten is expected to witness substantial growth during the forecast period, owing to increasing investments in mining and construction activities, driven by technological innovation in machine equipment and the growth of the urban middle-class.
On the flip side, tungsten carbide decomposes at higher temperatures, shifting back to its initial form as carbide and tungsten, which may hamper market growth to some extent.
The global tungsten market is estimated to reach a value of USD 8.1 billion by 2026, registering a CAGR of 7.8% during the forecast period, 2019–2026.
Based on application, the market can be segmented into metal alloys, tungsten carbide, and mill products. The tungsten carbide segment is expected to register the highest growth rate, owing to the material’s exceptionally high tensile strength, which drives its application in tools, bits and gauges, and tough dies. Tungsten carbide is also used in industrial alloys, cemented carbide, ski poles, jewelry, and surgical tools. The growth of these end-use applications dominates the demand for tungsten carbide; for instance, the export of goods – including ski footwear – was worth around USD 38.5 million in the year 2017, as per the Observatory of Economic Complexity.
On the basis of end-user, the market can be segmented into aerospace components, automotive parts, logging equipment, boring, drilling and cutting equipment, electrical and electronic appliances, and others. The boring, drilling, and cutting equipment segment is expected to grow with the highest rate during the forecast period, owing to the rise in construction activities and infrastructure development (roads and railway). As per OEC, the total import of drilling, threading, or tapping tools in the year 2017 amounted to around USD 140 million.
Economic stability in the U.S. and Canada and emerging economies such as Mexico are expected to drive the market in North America. According to World Mining Data, the U.S. was among the biggest mining nations and contributed to around 11.5% of the total mining activity globally. Additionally, the aerospace sector in the U.S. is one of the most competitive industries in the world and contributed around USD 151 billion in sales in 2018, as per Select USA. Mexico is emerging as a leading player in automotive manufacturing; as per the Federal Reserve Bank (U.S.), Mexico’s light vehicle production rose to around 3.5 million units in 2016 as compared to a mere 1.1 million units in the year 1994.
Europe’s automotive and woodworking industries are expected to drive the region’s tungsten market. Tungsten is used as a counterweight in logging equipment and in automotive part manufacturing, tooling, and die casting. The European automobile industry, being one of the most prominent globally, coupled with the growing demand for automobiles, is expected to significantly impart to the growth momentum. In 2018, over 16.5 million passenger cars were manufactured in the European Union, as per statistics released by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association. The figure is indicative of the sheer scope for materials used in the manufacturing of automobiles and parts, such as tungsten.
Asia-Pacific is home to the largest number of emerging economies, including India, China, and Malaysia. The abundance of natural resources, inexpensive labor, and liberal trade policies propel growth in the region. China is one of the largest exporters of tungsten in the global market; the country accounted for 23% of global tungsten exports in 2017, as per data released by the OEC. Furthermore, rising purchasing power, social media influence, and marketing blitzkrieg are propelling the consumer durables industry – another application area for tungsten. The import of electronic goods in the year 2018 was pegged at around USD 53,000 million in India, as per the Indian Brand Equity Forum.
Brazil and Argentina’s manufacturing sector are expected to be among the key growth drivers in Latin America. In the automotive sector, tungsten is used in dyes and coatings. Brazil’s automobile production rose by around 5.2% in the year 2018, which indicates the application scope for tungsten in the region.
In the Middle East and Africa region, South Africa and Dubai have emerged as attractive tourist destinations. The thriving tourism sector is providing impetus to the construction sector in MEA, which is subsequently bolstering market growth as a significant amount of tungsten is used in drilling equipment and the procurement of light bulbs.
Some of the key players in the tungsten market are Xiamen Tungsten Company, China Minmetals Corporation, Japan New Metals Company, Wolfram Company JSC, Specialty Metals Resources SA, Soloro, H.C. Starck, and Guangdong Xianglu Tungsten Company.