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Cutting Tool Carbides: Enhancing and Advancing the Cutting Tools Industry

A hole is milled in a flange on a CNC machining center using a carbide endmill

One of the most exciting aspects of the cutting tools industry is its essential placement on the frontlines of scientifically driven technological advancement.  

From the incorporation of AI to the introduction of cobots, and the daily deepening of IoT, 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 the 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. 

Advancements in Carbide Cutting Tool Technology 

In the past, achieving greater wear-resistance in cutting tools often meant compromising on the tool’s toughness. For ages, engineers in the cutting tool development realm have been on a quest for the perfect balance: a tool that doesn’t sacrifice toughness for wear-resistance. Thankfully, recent advancements have brought this dream closer to reality. 

With the evolution of modern cemented carbide manufacturing techniques, paired with precision-engineered substrate-coating combinations, companies like Seco Tools have made significant strides. These innovations allow for a broader application range for carbide grades, ensuring they remain tough yet highly resistant to wear. A prime example is the introduction of the new milling grades, MP1501 and MP2501. Compared to their predecessors, MP1500 and MP2500, these new grades open access to new potentially serviceable areas of manufacturing dependent on cutting tool precision, strength, and stamina.  

These advancements address several challenges customers face in workshops. There’s less need for a plethora of tools, inventory management becomes more streamlined, and the risk of tool breakage – due to inconsistent cutting parameters across the workshop – is significantly reduced. By opting for the likes of MP1501 and MP2501, users benefit from not just versatility, but also enhanced performance. 

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. 

Hard Protective Coatings 

The pressing demands for higher productivity and cost-effectiveness in machining have catalyzed the need for tools that can handle faster feed rates and cutting speeds, all the while retaining reliability. Here’s where hard protective coatings step in. They not only enhance wear and corrosion resistance but also ramp up the thermal stability of tools. For tasks involving the machining of materials like steels, high alloy steels, superalloys, and cast irons, tools coated with hardmetal have become a preferred choice, often complemented by other cermets and ceramics. 

Multilayer Coatings 

Gone are the days when single-layer coatings like TiN, TiC, and TiCN were the norm. The landscape has evolved to embrace multilayer coatings, which merge diverse beneficial properties – from high hardness and wear resistance to impressive high-temperature resilience and oxidation resistance. The research and development in this field has been immense, focusing on optimizing the microstructure and refining the end properties of these multilayered marvels. 

Cemented Carbides 

Cemented carbides, often referred to as hardmetal, are a subset of cermets that combine a carbide phase with a metallic binder. These materials excel in wear resistance, hardness, strength, and fracture toughness when juxtaposed with many hard ceramic materials. Predominantly, the spotlight is on WC-Co and WC-Ni composites within the cemented carbides domain. The proportion of the metallic binder in these compositions can be tailored, allowing customization based on desired properties such as wear resistance and hardness. 

TiAlN Coatings 

TiAlN coatings have established themselves as a superior contender, overshadowing the performances of TiN and TiCN coatings. These coatings are the top choice when there’s a need for high-temperature hardness and remarkable oxidation resistance. TiAlN-infused systems, when used on cutting tools, cater to a broad spectrum of cutting applications, especially in PVD hard coatings. 

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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