PCD vs carbide tools

Identifying the most suitable cutting tool for the job is a crucial process. Cutting tools can be made from a number of materials such as high-speed steel, cemented carbide, ceramic, or diamond. In modern, high-volume, constant-output machining a common choice is PCD vs carbide tools.

Each cutting material type will have a suitable application. The decision as to which material is most suited is based on a number of variables such as:

  • The type of material to be machined
  • The type of machining process
  • The machined part’s surface finish

PCD vs carbide tools: overview and characteristics

Carbide tools (also known as cemented carbide) are produced by mixing tungsten carbide and cobalt powders and processing the mixture through a high-temperature, high-pressure sintering process. This produces cutting tools that have:

  • High wear resistance
  • High toughness

Carbide tools are well suited to roughing and finishing processes and are suitable for cutting most types of Ferrous and Heat Resistant Alloys

PCD tools, on the other hand, are produced in a laboratory through a high-temperature, high-pressure sintering process in which diamond crystals are bonded to a tungsten carbide substrate. The spaces between the diamond crystals are filled with a cobalt alloy. The result is a cutting tool that has:

  • High wear resistance
  • Low friction
  • High shock resistance

PCD tools can be used to cut many materials, especially abrasive materials like carbon fibre or fibreglass which would quickly wear out carbide tools. PCD tools are not suited to cutting ferrous metals because of the reaction between the carbon atoms in the diamond and iron particles that form iron carbide, breaking down the diamond structure.

PCD tools produce very high-quality surface finishes as they are able to retain sharp cutting edges for longer.

Advantages of PCD tools

PCD tools offer a number of advantages over carbide tools. These include:

  • Longer tool life
  • Reduced processing time
  • Superior surface finish
  • Better process control
  • Reduced downtime
  • Reduced cost
  1. Longer tool life

With their high wear resistance, PCD tools can be used for longer. Depending on the product being cut, PCD tipped tools can outlast carbide tools by a significant amount of time. This makes PCD tools an excellent choice for high-yield production facilities.

  1. Reduced processing time

PCD tools can reduce lead times and increase machining capacity as they can be run up to 10 times faster than carbide tools at their peak efficiency. This means that more work can be completed without the need for additional machines or personnel.

  1. Superior surface finish

Both PCD tools and carbide tools produce high-quality finishes. However, whereas carbide tools start to deteriorate from the first cut, PCD tools retain a sharp cutting edge for longer. This may negate the need for secondary finishing processes like grinding as high-quality surface finishes can be maintained.

  1. Better process control

Because PCD tools retain their sharp cutting edge for longer, tighter tolerances can be maintained over a longer period of time. This results in machining processes capable of maintaining machining tolerances for longer, potentially reducing inspection frequencies.

  1. Reduced downtime

Both PCD tools and carbide tools can be resharpened. The higher wear resistance of PCD tools means less-frequent resharpening, resulting in reduced downtime. 

  1. Reduced cost

The initial, upfront cost of a PCD tool may be 2-3 times as much as that of a carbide tool. However, longer tool life, reduced downtime, and reduced processing time mean its ongoing pound-per-linear foot machining cost is up to 80% less, resulting in long-term cost savings. 

In conclusion

Understanding your machining requirements and the advantages of PCD tools over carbide tools will help you in selecting the most suitable cutting tool material. The best applications for PCD tools are machining abrasive materials, and performing high volumes of the same cut.

To learn more about suitable PCD tooling solutions for your business, contact the Exactaform team today.

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