Carbide Block Die Blanks:Types,Applications,Operation

Overview of Carbide Block Die Blanks

Carbide block die blanks are blocks of tungsten carbide that can be machined into custom shapes to create dies and other industrial tooling. Carbide offers high hardness, wear resistance, compressive strength, and chemical stability, making it an ideal material for forming and stamping tools, extrusion dies, drawing dies, and more.

Key details about carbide block die blanks:

  • Made from tungsten carbide with cobalt binder
  • Available in a range of carbide grades and grain sizes
  • Offer high hardness (~90 HRA) and resistance to abrasion/erosion
  • Withstand high compressive stress without distortion
  • Maintain strength and edge sharpness at high temperatures
  • Can be precision machined into complex die and tool shapes
  • Require diamond grinding/EDM to shape – resistant to conventional machining
  • Used for manufacturing dies for metal forming, stamping, wire drawing, extrusions, etc.
  • Also used to make pelletizer dies, trim dies, bearing races, and other tooling
  • Enables long production runs with minimal die wear or maintenance
  • Higher initial cost but longer lifespan than steel tooling

Types of Carbide Block Die Blanks

There are several types of carbide grades and binder contents used for die blank blocks:

Carbide GradeDescription
Straight GradeMost common general purpose grade, 8-12% cobalt binder
MicrograinVery fine 1-3 micron grain size, optimal hardness
SubmicronUltrafine submicron grains for smoother finishes
Coarse GrainLarger grains with higher fracture resistance
Medium/Fine GrainBalanced grain size, lower cost option
Binder ContentDescription
6%Minimum binder, highest hardness, more brittle
8-12%Standard binder content, optimal combination of hardness and toughness
15%+High binder for increased fracture resistance
carbide block die blanks

Applications and Uses of Carbide Block Die Blanks

Carbide block die blanks have many uses across manufacturing:

ApplicationUses
Metal formingPunch/stamping dies, draw dies, bending dies
Wire drawingCarbide drawing dies with precise hole dimensions
ExtrusionComplex extrusion dies for metals and plastics
PelletizingPelletizer dies for making plastic and pharmaceutical pellets
AutomotiveTrim/piercing dies, bearing races, custom automotive tooling
ElectronicsLeadframe trim/punch dies, semiconductor wafer handling
MedicalTablet punch dies, surgical blades, dental drills
AerospaceAircraft riveting dies, turbine blade formed dies
Military/DefenseAmmunition forming dies, armor panel dies

Specifications of Carbide Block Die Blanks

Key specifications for carbide block die blanks:

ParameterDetails
DimensionsThicknesses from 1/4” to over 6”, diameters up to 30”+
TolerancesCustom tolerances down to +/- 0.0005”
Surface FinishUp to 4 Ra microinch, some down to 2 Ra
HardnessUp to 90+ HRA depending on grade
Transverse Rupture Strength500,000 – 600,000 psi
Density14.95 g/cm2
Thermal Conductivity60 W/m-K
Maximum Service Temperature1000°C / 1800°F
Thermal Expansion Coefficient5.2 x 10-6/K
Electrical Resistivity25-50 x 10-6 Ω-cm

Standard grades meeting ISO specification and M grade ultrafine submicron carbides are common. Custom requirements can also be met.

Suppliers of Carbide Block Die Blanks

Top suppliers of carbide block die blanks include:

SupplierDescription
KennametalGlobal leader, grades include KC850, KC925, KC994
Mitsubishi MaterialsTop grades are AC2000, AC2500, AC3000
CeratizitHigh precision Swiss carbides, MAXICARB grades
Kyocera SGSJapanese brand, wide thickness range
Midwest CarbideBroad selection of dies and tool blanks
Global TungstenTungsten and carbide supplier, precision machining
Eagle AlloysLarge inventory of barstock and blocks
Scientific Cutting ToolsCustom fabricated blanks, quick delivery

Carbide blocks are priced based on size, grade, and order quantity. Small blanks can range $150-$500 each while large 30”+ blocks for progressive dies can cost over $5000 each. High precision submicron grades carry a premium.

Installation, Operation, and Maintenance

  • Carbide dies and tooling require precision machining on CNC mills with diamond wheels
  • All machining stresses must be minimized to prevent microfractures
  • Critical dimensions should be finish ground to final tolerance
  • Pieces require lapping/honing and edge blending for optimal performance
  • Careful handling is imperative – carbide is brittle and can chip if struck
  • Dies should be secured in holders/fixtures with even clamping force
  • Dies must be sharpened periodically to restore sharp cutting edges
  • No aggressive chemicals should come into contact with carbide parts
  • Dies should be inspected periodically for wear, cracks, or edge rounding
  • Damaged parts may need welding repair or replacement if reuse is not possible

Proper installation, operation, and maintenance helps maximize carbide die life and performance. Partnering with experienced carbide machinists is key.

How to Choose a Carbide Die Blank Supplier

Key factors in choosing a carbide block supplier:

  • Range of grades and binder content options
  • Consistent quality standards and ISO certification
  • Dimensional accuracy and surface finish capabilities
  • Custom fabrication and value-added services
  • Experience with required applications
  • Competitive and transparent pricing
  • Lead times and inventory availability
  • Customer service and technical expertise
  • Domestic availability or imports/logistics services

Work with sales reps to understand capabilities and get product samples before purchasing large quantities. Check references and shop drawings/quality control. Choose reliable partners able to deliver throughout the life of production contracts.

Advantages and Limitations of Carbide Block Die Blanks

Advantages:

  • Extreme hardness for long die life
  • Resists abrasion, deformation, and thermal stress
  • Maintains sharp cutting edges at high temperatures
  • Enables large production runs with minimal maintenance
  • Consistent dimensions over hundreds of thousands of cycles
  • Smooth surface finish quality on extruded/drawn parts
  • Withstands high compressive loads without distortion
  • Chemical inertness protects against corrosion
  • Can be precision machined into complex shapes

Limitations:

  • Brittle with lower fracture resistance than steel
  • Difficult to conventionally machine requiring diamond grinding
  • Higher initial cost than fabricated steel tooling
  • Production lot minimum orders on many grades
  • Low supply chain availability of premium ultrafine grain sizes
  • Lead times can be longer than steel depending on supplier
  • Repairing/reforming damaged areas is often not possible

Carbide Grades Comparison

GradeHardnessFracture ResistanceWear ResistanceCost
Straight GradeMediumMediumMediumLow
MicrograinHighLowHighMedium
SubmicronVery HighVery LowVery HighHigh
Coarse GrainMediumHighMediumLow
  • Straight grade provides the optimal balance of properties at the lowest cost
  • Micrograin offers maximum abrasion resistance for long run tools
  • Submicron is best for very high precision finishing applications
  • Coarse grain sacrifices some wear resistance for improved toughness

There are always tradeoffs – work closely with suppliers to match the carbide grade to the specific production needs. Getting sample blanks for testing is recommended.

Carbide vs. Steel for Die Blanks

ParameterCarbideSteel
HardnessUp to 90+ HRAMax 50 HRC
Wear ResistanceExtremely HighModerate
ToughnessBrittleMuch Higher
MachiningVery DifficultReadily Machinable
Typical Die Life100,000+ hits<50,000 hits
Initial CostExpensiveLower Cost
Lead TimeWeeksDays to Week
Typical ApplicationsHigh Production, Fine FeaturesShort Runs, Basic Features

Carbide blank advantages really emerge in high volume production situations where the increase in die life offsets the higher initial cost. The hardness enables small delicate features and fine finishes. Steel is preferable for short production runs where cost and flexibility is paramount.

Carbide Die Blank Grades FAQ

Q: What is the most commonly used carbide grade for die blanks?

A: Straight grades with 8-12% cobalt binder offer the best all-around properties for most applications. KC850 and KC925 from Kennametal are popular.

Q: When does it make sense to use more expensive premium grades?

A: Micrograin and submicron grades excel in high precision finishing applications like wire drawing or plastic extrusion. The additional cost pays off in very long die life.

Q: What is the hardest grade available?

A: Carbide can be made with less than 6% cobalt for maximum hardness over 90 HRA. However, at this end of the spectrum toughness and EDM machinability suffer, making shaping complex dies difficult. 8-10% binder offers the ideal hardness/toughness balance.

Q: Can carbide be repaired or reformed once damaged?

A: Unfortunately no – once chipped or cracked the die area is permanently weakened. Some welding or epoxy repairs are possible but high pressure use is not recommended afterwards. Damaged carbide dies are generally discarded and replaced.

Q: Should surface coatings like TiN be applied to carbide dies?

A: Coatings do little to enhance the inherent wear resistance of quality carbide grades. However, they can provide lubricity benefits for non-ferrous wires and help release sticky materials. Any coating thickness impact on tolerances must be considered.

Conclusion

Carbide block die blanks enable manufacturing of durable, high precision dies for demanding metalworking applications. Their extreme hardness and wear resistance allows large production runs exceeding 100,000 hits with minimal maintenance compared to steel tooling. However, the high cost means carbide is most advantageous when high volumes justify the investment. Understanding the properties of various carbide grades is the key to selecting optimal materials based on required tolerances, production runs, and part finish requirements. Proper handling, machining, sharpening, and implementation by experienced operators helps maximize the working life of carbide dies.

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