3D printed carbide tools with adjustable mechanical properties

The Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS, best known for its applied research on high-performance ceramics, is all geared up to present hard metal 3D printed cemented carbide tools at the World PM2016 Congress & Exhibition. This is the much waited metal powders event to be held in Hamburg, Germany. Binder jetting 3D printing method has been used by the scientists at IKTS to produce these tools as the conventional cemented carbide is an extremely hard material.

3D Printed Carbide Tools Promise Exceptional Quality

According to the researchers, 3D printed cemented carbide tools produced using the binder jetting technique are comparable to the traditional ones in terms of quality and in fact, can be created in more complex shapes. Although, Fraunhofer IKTS has been developing ceramic carbides through methods such as extrusion, shape cutting, pressing and injection, creating complex geometries such as a helical still posed a major challenge. When used to produce drilling, cutting and stamping tools of tungsten carbide, the conventional method resulted in high costs.

3D printed carbide tools

However, with the latest 3D printing technology, Fraunhofer IKTS has been able to create these designs with ease. According to Dr. Tassilo Moritz, group leader of "Shaping" at Fraunhofer IKTS, “it is known that through resource-saving and tool-free 3D printing, even complex, individualized ceramic geometries can be realized quickly”.

During the process, granules of a ceramic hard material like tungsten carbide are deposited in layers and wetted by the print head. The binding material used is often of nickel or cobalt that acts as an adhesive in between the layers. The toughness as well as flexural strength of the dense component 3D printed produced thereof, are totally adjustable too. Lowering the binder proportion can make the component harder.

The initial prototypes contain binder content of twelve and seventeen percent by weight and possess a structure that is much similar to the tools manufactured using conventional techniques. The powder metals conference in which these prototypes will be displayed first will take place on October 9-13 in Germany.

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