Carbide Die Blanks:Grades,Uses,Types

Overview

Carbide die blanks are precision pre-machined blocks used as starting workpieces for manufacturing dies, molds, and tooling inserts. The extremely high hardness, compressive strength, and wear resistance of carbides make them ideal materials for producing long-lasting tooling components.

Carbide blanks enable machining complex die cavity geometries to tight dimensional tolerances using electrical discharge machining (EDM), milling, grinding, and other techniques. This guide covers the properties, manufacturing, grades, applications, and global suppliers of carbide die blanks. It includes helpful comparison tables summarizing technical specifications for various blank configurations.

Selecting the optimal carbide die blank requires matching the carbide type, binder, size, shape, tolerance, and finish requirements to the tooling application and machining capabilities. This guide provides product engineers, tool designers, mold makers, and procurement managers an in-depth understanding of carbide blank options to facilitate optimal material selection.

carbide die blanks

Types of Carbide Die Blanks

There are two primary categories of carbide used in die blank materials:

Carbide Types Used in Die Blanks

CarbideDescriptionKey Properties
Tungsten carbideWC formed with cobalt binderHighest hardness and wear resistance
Titanium carbideTiC as primary carbide componentExcellent corrosion resistance

Tungsten carbide is most prevalent, providing extreme hardness levels along with good fracture toughness. Cobalt content varies from 3-25% to balance hardness against impact strength.

Titanium carbide offers the highest heat resistance and chemical inertness. It is blended with other carbides in engineered compositions optimized for specific applications.

Grain size and carbon control during carbide powder sintering further tune hardness, strength and toughness. Smaller carbides resist fracture better under stress.

Manufacturing Process for Carbide Blanks

Carbide die blanks start as powder metallurgy compositions containing microscopic carbide grains consolidated under heat and pressure into a solid carbide mass.

Key Production Steps:

  • Carbide powder milling – Forms carbide particles with uniform size distribution
  • Powder mixing – Carbide powder combined with metal binder elements
  • Compaction – Powder consolidated into a solid green body by pressing
  • Sintering – Binder liquefaction bonds carbide particles into a dense structure
  • Hot isostatic pressing – Further densifies the microstructure
  • Annealing – Heat treatment to optimize mechanical properties
  • Rough machining – Blanks saw cut and ground to shape from sintered blocks
  • Finish machining – Required blank dimensions and tolerances achieved

Blank quality hinges on precise control of powder characteristics, composition, and achieving full sintered density free of voids.

Grades of Carbide Die Blanks

There are many standard blank compositions formulated by powder metallurgy to offer a balance of hardness, fracture resistance, and manufacturability.

Common Grades of Carbide Blanks

GradeDescriptionHardness RangeKey Properties
C2/C3Straight tungsten carbide + cobalt89.5-91.5 HRAUniversal, low-cost grade
C5Enhanced toughness and EDM speed88.5-90.5 HRAGood wear resistance
C6-C8Improved resistance to brittle fracture90-92 HRAHigh impact strength
C10-C20High hardness compositions92-94.5 HRAMaximum wear performance
TiC0.3Titanium carbide-nickel cermet85-88 HRACorrosion resistance, stability

Higher cobalt content improves fracture resistance but reduces hardness in tungsten carbide grades. Nanograin compositions provide both hardness and toughness.

TiC0.3 contains an engineered nickel alloy matrix supporting titanium carbide for optimal chemical inertness.

Uses of Carbide Die Blanks

The combination of extreme hardness, compressive strength, and dimensional stability makes carbide blanks ideally suited for manufacturing:

  • Plastic injection molds
  • Metal die casting dies
  • Extrusion and drawing dies
  • Blow molds
  • Compression and stamping dies
  • Trimming/punching dies

Carbide withstands aggressive stamping and drawing processes when shaping tough alloys like stainless steel or titanium without excessive wear. The corrosion resistance provided by titanium carbide blanks resists acidic materials and environments.

Precision EDM machining of carbide enables fine details, smooth surface finishes, and complex internal coolant circuits within the die cavity not possible with other tooling materials.

Carbide Die Blank Specifications

International standards from ASTM and ISO help define:

  • Allowable compositions
  • Mechanical property ranges
  • Acceptable microstructure
  • Permissible flaws
  • Sampling methods
  • Test procedures

for tungsten carbide and titanium carbide die blank materials to ensure reliability and performance consistency.

Carbide Die Blank Specifications

StandardScopeHardness RangeDensityMicrostructureDefect Limits
ISO 513WC-Co grades89-95 HRA>14.5 g/ccCoating uniformityPorosity, carbide agglomerations
ASTM B776TiC-based cermet grades85-92 HRA4.9-5.2 g/ccTiC distributionCracks, pits, voids
JIS R1601Testing methodsFlaw characterization
ASTM B312Standard EDM test block90 HRAFine grained WC-CoMachinability indicator

These specifications promote quality, consistency, and reliability when designing tooling with carbide die blanks across their demanding production lifetimes.

Carbide Die Blank Manufacturers

Carbide die blanks are supplied globally by many major manufacturers as well as smaller regional producers near customer hubs.

Leading Carbide Die Blank Suppliers

SupplierCapabilitiesMaterialsPricing
KennametalWidest grade selection, custom sizesWC-Co, TiC, cermets$$$/lb
SandvikHigh accuracy, maximum dimensionsWC-Co, TiCN$$$/lb
Carborundum UniversalGrades for high temperature stabilityWC-Co, HfC, cermets$$/lb
ErasteelSpecialists in large and multi-ton blocksWC-Co$$/lb
Hyperion MaterialsCustom blank engineeringWC-Co, TiCN, Cr3C2-NiCr$$$/lb

Cost varies from around $20/lb for standard C2/C3 tungsten carbide up to $100/lb or more for special geometries, grades, and finishing operations.

Larger sizes, higher material performance, and precision machining increase pricing. Smaller regional suppliers can offer competitive pricing.

Selecting the Best Carbide Die Blank

Choosing the optimal carbide blank requires matching:

  • Hardness level to required die life and abrasion resistance
  • Grade uniformity for consistent machinability and performance
  • Toughness to withstand stamping loads without chipping
  • Corrosion resistance if needed for chemistry compatibility
  • Accuracy and surface finish to ease EDM machining
  • Maximum die size capability for complexity and number of cavities
  • Service and technical assistance from the supplier

Get input from machining subcontractors on specific grade recommendations and seek technical advice from vendors early when designing a major tooling program. Prototype smaller areas first before committing to large tools.

carbide die blanks

FAQ

What tolerances are typical for carbide die blanks?

Standard machined blanks range from +/- 0.005″ on basic rounds up to +/- 0.0005″ for precision squares and special geometries. Finer EDM machining can achieve +/- 0.0001″ or better as needed.

Which provides better wear resistance: fine or coarse grain carbide?

Finer carbide grain size improves fracture toughness and resistance to both abrasive and adhesive wear mechanisms. However, coarse grain is more resistant to plastic deformation and can be advantageous for high Cr grades.

When would TiCN be used over tungsten carbide?

The corrosion resistance and stable structure of titanium carbonitride are advantageous for super-finishing dies, hydroforming, and chemically aggressive processes like glass molding or resin transfer molding.

What causes sinks and distortions when EDM machining carbide?

Uneven heating of the electrically conductive cobalt binder can create localized thermal expansion effects. Slower cutting and more frequent flushing mitigates distortion when burning fine details.

How large can carbide die blanks be produced?

Standard blank dimensions range up to 30″ diameter and 24″ thick. Larger rectangular formats are possible through specialty suppliers. EDM sectioning can join smaller blanks into large inserts.

What post-sintering treatments improve carbide die blanks?

Hot isostatic pressing (HIP) increases density and removes internal voids. Annealing relieves residual stresses from grinding. Complete sequences enhance structural uniformity and performance consistency.

Conclusion

Carbide die blanks deliver the prerequisite hardness, wear performance, and dimensional precision required for manufacturing tooling that can withstand millions of demanding molding cycles. Matching the carbide’s composition, quality, accuracy, and size to the end application results in robust, long-lasting dies and reduced total lifecycle costs. Ongoing advances in nanostructured grades continue expanding the capabilities of carbide tooling materials.

know more Tungsten carbide

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