The elements of the periodic table are the basic building blocks from which everything in the universe is created. Of the elements that humans have discovered, the majority of those naturally occurring are metals. The abundance of metals in our planet has facilitated human progression for thousands of years, allowing us to craft tools and technology. But often, metals need a helping hand from another material in order to strengthen them, or to improve their features. A perfect example of this is iron, which is incredibly strong, but easily oxidises, which produced rust and causes the structure to corrode.
What Are Alloys?
Alloys are composite materials created from two or more elements, so long as one is a metal. Alloys are used to combine the best features of multiple elements, in order to create a bespoke material that exhibits the ideal features for its purpose.
The base metal, sometimes known as the parent metal or main metal, is the primary metal used to create the alloy. For example, in steel, iron is the base metal, while the addition of carbon prevents oxidation and rust but maintains the strength of the iron.
Alloys Used in Engineering Tooling
A carbide is a specific type of alloy created from the combination of a metallic or semi metallic element with carbon. Tungsten carbide, known in the tooling industry simply as ‘carbide’ is the combination of tungsten and carbon, with additives like cobalt to help create strong bonds between the elements.
Tungsten carbide is often used to create specialised drilling and milling tools like carbide end mills due to the strength and heat resistance the material boasts. Both tungsten and carbon have insane melting points, 3414°C and 3550°C respectively, some of the highest on the periodic table. The combination of these elements, of course, also boasts an unbelievable high resistance to heat and pressure. The alloy also enjoys higher strength and less brittleness than either of its individual elements.