What Are Alloys?
An alloy is a combination of a two or more elements, so long as at least one of the is a metal. All alloys are crafted by combining a metal element with other substances to produce a new material that maximises its useful functions for specific applications. Alloys can be created for a range of purposes, such as to make a base metal stronger, lighter, or more conductive.
The primary metallic element used to crate alloys is usually called the base metal, parent metal, or main metal, while the other elements in the alloy are referred to as alloying agents. Alloys are everywhere in the modern world. Steel is one such alloy that we encounter on a daily basis, being the combination of iron with a tiny amount of carbon. While iron boasts great strength, it is also brittle and oxidises easily to form rust. With this addition of just a fraction of a percent of carbon, the resultant alloy is far stronger, less brittle, and rust resistant.
Carbides are specific types of alloys that are crafted from an element, usually metallic or semi-metallic, mixed with carbon. Tungsten carbide is one such alloy, forged under great temperatures from carbon and tungsten, the heavy metal with the highest melting point on earth. In the engineering tooling industry, tungsten carbide is simply referred to as “carbide”, but countless different carbides exist and are in use across many industries.
Tungsten carbide is an incredible material, revered for its ridiculous ability to withstand heat and pressure. Pure tungsten’s melting point is 3414°C, the highest of all the metals, while carbon’s comes in at 3550°C, the highest melting point on the entire periodic table. This combination produces a formidable alloy, capable of drilling, cutting, or milling some of the hardest materials on the planet. Oddly enough, tungsten carbide actually has a lower melting point that either of its components individually, yet it is also less brittle and has higher tensile strength, making it the perfect balance of strength and heat resistance for use in CNC tooling.