tungsten carbide powder (chemical formula: WC) is a chemical compound containing equal parts of tungsten and carbon atoms. It is a grey-black powder that can be pressed and formed into shapes through sintering. It has high melting points and is used in industrial machinery, cutting tools, abrasives, armor-piercing shells, jewelry, and other materials.
It is two times as stiff as steel and has double the density of steel. It is abrasive and can be polished to superior hardness. It is a preferred choice for cutting tools, grinding wheels, wear-resistant coatings, and high temperature heat exchangers.
The use of tungsten carbide is limited by the fact that it is susceptible to oxidation and corrosion. Its resistance to oxidation has been improved by the addition of cobalt.
A common tungsten carbide cermet is made by blending micron-sized tungsten carbide grains with cobalt or nickel powders. This mixture is then placed in a mold and compacted to a net shape before being sintered. The cobalt or nickel then melts and combines with the tungsten carbide grains to form a composite.
In solid form, tungsten carbide is safe to handle and has no known health hazards. However, when it is ground, welded, or sprayed, it can become a gray dust or powder-like substance that can easily be inhaled or come into contact with the skin and eyes.
A worker should always be wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE) in a workplace that contains tungsten carbide. This includes a full body suit and the proper filtration and exhaust systems in place. It is also important to keep a close eye on how much time is spent working with tungsten carbide, as it can lead to short- and long-term health issues.