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A New Frontier in Cutting Tool Carbides

The closeup of lathe machine cutting the steel shaft with coolant fluid and  the cutting tool.Metal working in factory.

One of the most exciting aspects of the cutting tools industry is its existence on the forefront of technological advancement. From the incorporation of AI to the introduction of collaborative robots, or cobots, the cutting tools industry continues to explore the boundaries of technology, making it one of the most dynamic and innovative industries today. While these large-scale innovations are certainly exciting, it is often the unsung advancements that really speak to cutting tool industry’s acceleration. For those of us who truly understand the industry, there may be no developing innovation more exciting than those in cutting tool carbides.

Breaking the Mold

Traditional carbides have long been a mainstay in many cutting tool applications. By combining carbon with another element, typically titanium or tungsten, carbides have redefined several elements of cutting tool construction, such as surface coatings. Complex carbides are not unheard of in the field, as there have been a few that have been constructed combining carbon with three or more elements, but they have largely been restricted to laboratories as it has proven difficult to create stable combinations. Researchers found that for a complex carbide to deliver stability, an entirely new approach would be necessary.

Stability from Chaos

The newest class of carbides comes from a team of researchers at Duke University. They found that by combining nonmetallic carbon with five metallic elements, the could create a complex carbide that gained strength and stability from combining a broad range of elemental structures. Out of 91 available elements, the Duke team determined 8 elements offered the greatest opportunity for producing a quality carbide compound. After a series of modeled interactions and further research, the team discovered that there were five elements consistently found across all successful models. Ultimately, by combining molybdenum, niobium, tantalum, vanadium and tungsten, a standout compound was discovered.

Applications and Possibilities

Carbides have certainly reshaped the world of cutting tools, and these new complex carbides present the very real possibility of further shaping the industry. From an application standpoint, these carbides appear to be harder and lighter than earlier carbides and additionally have higher melting points. Perhaps the most promising and pragmatic aspect of this new carbide is that the mixtures used to form them are relatively inexpensive.

As with many new and exciting innovations, further research is required to determine the long-term viability, but regardless, such a development continues to exhibit the future-focused world of cutting tools. At Davalyn, it has been our extensive success and sincere interest in the cutting tools industry that has enabled us to operate at the front of talent acquisition. Knowing not only where the industry has come from, but being able to understand where it is headed allows us to recruit the most qualified candidates for our clients. Partner with Davalyn today to continue operating at the forefront of the industry.

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