What Is a Carbide Cutting Tool?

Carbide cutting tools are used by manufacturers to machine and shape a wide range of tools, products and prototypes from metal. Technically speaking, a cutting tool is any tool which is used to remove material from a workpiece (an unformed block of material) by means of shear deformation. In manufacturing, carbide cutting tools are a key element of the forming and machining of metal tools, fasteners and molds, as they provide the cutting edge for machining lathes and equipment. Carbide cutting tools are used to because carbide offers strength, heat and chemical resistance necessary to cut hard metal materials such as steel and iron.

Cutting Tool Uses & Applications

In order for manufacturers to mass produce consumer products, they need a variety of precisely shaped metal tools, molds, castings and fasteners. Metal molds and castings for injection or blow molded plastic products; cutting tools for machining or shaping plastic or wood; specialty metal fasteners such as screws, nuts and bolds; these manufacturing tools are typically machined from metal workpieces on lathes or CNC machines. Carbide cutting tools are used as the “blade” of these lathes and forming machines.

Inserts & Replaceable Tool Tips

Rather than forming an entire tool from carbide, which is costly and extremely brittle, manufacturers often equip their cutting machines with replaceable carbide tool tips. These tips, or inserts, can be easily replaced when they have worn down, saving manufacturers from the time and expense of removing and sharpening entire carbide tools. In many cases, carbide tool tips are “indexable”, meaning they can be rotated or flipped to provide a new, fresh cutting edge. Indexable carbide inserts allow manufacturers to get more cutting time from each insert, significantly cutting material costs.

Why Carbide?

In order for one material to cut another, the cutting tool must be harder than the material being cut. For this reason, cutting tools used to shape metal workpieces must be harder than metal and capable of withstanding the high friction and heat that results from high speed machining. Carbide tool tips are made from a compound of carbon and tungsten, also known as cemented carbide or tungsten carbide. Tungsten carbide, although fairly brittle, is harder than most metals, but its chemical properties are just as important. Carbide is considered a “stable” material; it is not chemically changed by heat, as steel is, which allows tungsten carbide inserts and tool tips to withstand high speed metal machining for long periods of time.