Printable Carbide Opens Up Interesting Possibilities

Sandvik, a large company headquartered in Sweden, has apparently been producing cemented carbide for a long time — according to them, since 1932. The material is known for being highly wear-resistant. Now the company says they have a process to 3D print the material. You can see a video about the new material, below.

If you haven’t encountered this material, it is essentially fine carbide particles bound in metal. You’ll find the material widely used in cutting tools. The slogan “Freedom of Design has Never Been Harder” is both clever and confusing, but we took their point.

The process is more or less like other metal binder technology. A powder of tungsten carbide and cobalt mixed with glue creates a green body which you still need to fire to get to the finished part.

What kind of things can you make? Here’s a quote from one of Sandvik’s engineers:

For instance, in wire drawing, productivity is usually limited by how fast the wire can be drawn with maintained quality, which in turn depends on the temperature in the wire drawing die. People have been trying to solve this problem for decades, but it’s been extremely difficult. A 3D printed, cooled wire nib is the answer to this riddle. It took a mere four days to produce, from the first basic sketch to the fully sintered product – thanks to our materials and proprietary process.

Don’t plan on loading up your Ender 3 with cemented carbide filament. This is, after all, a metal material. However, 3D printing can offer geometries that would be difficult to obtain with traditional methods. So even if you have to turn to a professional 3D printing shop, it is good to know you can create in this ultra-hard material.

Printing in metal has a different set of issues than using plastics. If you really want your current printer to do metal, it can, but you’ll have to cheat a bit. Or try electroplating.

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