Having a firm understanding of the way that tungsten carbide inserts are made will provide you with valuable insight into the best ways to optimize performance. On average, a single work shop can go through thousands of carbide inserts in just one year. An operator can handle dozens of these inserts every day and never stop once to thing about the complex science from which they are derived. Just the basic knowledge of how these inserts are made will do more than impress coworkers at the shop with trivial tidbits.
The Carbide Insert Formula
The creation of tungsten carbide inserts begins with raw materials. Most of the inserts of today are made up of cemented carbide. Cemented carbide is made by combining cobalt with the tungsten carbide. The hard particles found in the inserts are tungsten carbide, while the cobalt acts as the glue that holds the whole thing together.
The simplest way to alter the cemented carbide properties is with the grain size of the tungsten carbide. Large grains that fall in the three to five micron range will give you softer material. However, the rate of wear will be much higher. The smaller grains that are less than a micron will provide you with a harder material that is much more resistant to wear. On the other hand, inserts made with small grain tungsten carbide will also be much more brittle that those made with the large grains.
For use in applications with incredibly hard metals, tungsten carbide inserts with small grains are going to be the best option. On the contrary, when the application involves interrupted cuts or situations where a tougher insert is required, the larger grains will be the ideal choice.
By altering the ration of cobalt to tungsten carbide, it is possible to manipulate the insert properties. Cobalt is a much tougher and softer material than tungsten carbide. Therefore, reducing the amount of cobalt in the formula will result in a much harder insert. However, while the insert may in fact be harder, it is going to lose a considerable amount of its resistance to wear and it will also be more brittle as well. When you are aware of the way that the grain size of the tungsten carbide and the ratio of cobalt can affect the durability and strength of tungsten carbide inserts, you will be able to choose the ones that will work perfectly for your specific application.