tungsten carbide tools

What is Tungsten Carbide?

The carburization of pure tungsten powder creates the alloy tungsten carbide. The International Tungsten Industry Association provides an outline of the conventional carburization process that produces it. WC is the chemical formula for the resulting powder, so it is also referred to as WC powder.

Tungsten carbide is a very hard material. In a pure form it is too brittle to be used in many applications. Cemented carbide parts are are made by pressing and sintering to overcome this. The parts made by this process are often called hardmetal parts.

Making Hardmetal Parts

Tungsten carbide powder is combined with binder materials such as cobalt or nickel powder to create hardmetal. The binder materials make finished parts that have better durability and toughness. The powders are pressed into a shape in a mold at a very high pressure. The resulting piece is then sintered in an oven at a very high temperature to melt the binder materials and bond the part together. The individual WC particles are suspended in the melted binder materials.

A common product made from WC powders is cutting tools. Hardness is an important property in this application. Tungsten carbide tools are more expensive than steel. They cut several times more material before they wear out. Efficiency improves because the tooling does not need to be replaced as frequently. In your local home improvement store you see labels like “carbide tipped” on may of the drill bits and saw blades. This indicates that they have a hardness that will allow them to last longer. 

Other Carbides

Hardmetal parts that are made with tungsten carbide are often referred to simply as carbide. Other forms of carbide are produced through a similar process.

If you are looking for a carbide material with the greatest hardness make sure that you have tungsten carbide and not titanium or tantalum carbide. The other carbide materials are used in applications where the toughness or other properties take priority over the hardness.

Tungsten Carbide Powder Supplier

Buffalo Tungsten produces tungsten carbide powder in a wide range of particle sizes. We produce standard powders from 0.8 microns to 50 microns and use special carburization techniques to make larger particle sizes. The carbon content is carefully monitored and the level of free carbon is reported on our standard certificate of analysis. We also use tungsten carbide powder in our engineered powders that are used for infiltration applications.