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What are the different types of Cemented Carbide?

The Cemented Carbides are a range of composite materials, which consist of hard carbide particles bonded together by a metallic binder.

The proportion of carbide phase is generally between 70-97% of the total weight of the composite and its grain size averages between 0.4 and 10 μm.

Tungsten carbide (WC), the hard phase, together with cobalt (Co), the binder phase, forms the basic Cemented Carbide structure from which other types of Cemented Carbide have been developed. In addition to the straight tungsten carbide – cobalt compositions – Cemented Carbide may contain varying proportions of titanium carbide (TiC), tantalum carbide (TaC) and niobium carbide (NbC). These carbides are mutually soluble and can also dissolve a high proportion of tungsten carbide. Also, Cemented Carbides are produced which have the cobalt binder phase alloyed with, or completely replaced by, other metals such as iron (Fe), chromium (Cr), nickel (Ni), molybdenum (Mo), or alloys of these elements.

There are three individual phases which make up Cemented Carbide. In metallurgical terms, the tungsten carbide phase (WC) is referred to as the a-phase (alpha), the binder phase (i.e. Co, Ni etc.) as the b-phase (beta), and any other single or combination of carbide phases (TiC, Ta/NbC etc) as the g-phase (gamma). Other than for metal cutting applications, there is no internationally accepted classification of Cemented Carbides.

Types of Cemented Carbide

The application range of straight grade Cemented Carbide.

WC-Co grades

Microstructure of WC-Co grade

This group of Cemented Carbides contains WC and Co only (i.e. two phases) and a few trace elements. These grades are classified according to their cobalt content and WC grain size.

The grades with binder content in the range 10-20% by weight and WC-grain sizes between 1 and 5 μm have high strength and toughness, combined with good wear resistance.
The grades with binder contents in the range 3-15% and grain sizes below 1 μm have high hardness and compressive strength, combined with exceptionally high wear resistance.

Types of Cemented Carbide

Microstructure of γ-phase grade

The Sandvik grade program also includes WC-Co grades which utilize a range of ultra-fine WC grain sizes (< 0.5 μm). With such fine, uniform grain sizes, a unique combination of hardness, wear resistance and toughness can be achieved.

The grades of Cemented Carbides in this group contain WC and Co as the main elements, although small additions or trace levels of other elements are often added to optimize properties. These grades are classified according to their Cobalt content and WC grain size and are often called the "straight grades". They have the widest range of strength and toughness of all the Cemented Carbide types and this is in combination with excellent wear resistance. This range of Cemented Carbides can be subdivided into its major application areas as follows: