Materials producer Sandvik continues to expand its portfolio of materials and applications in additive manufacturing. The expert in hard materials has introduced 3D printed cemented carbide developed with a patented process.
Due to their composite structure – a wear-resistant phase bonded together by a ductile binder metal –, cemented carbides are an ideal fit for metal cutting, agriculture, food, and oil and gas. Those materials integrate inherent hardness, and are quite difficult to machine – This difficulty increases when operators deal with complex geometries.
The materials expert has successfully succeeded to make the material compatible with AM. As a reminder, the company relies on a “Plan it, Print it, Perfect it” approach to additive manufacturing. This approach has already been used in other material developments. The approach is based on the fact that printing is just one of the seven steps you have to master in order to succeed with the industrialization of AM – and that obtaining the most optimal material, tailor-made for your AM process and end component, is the first and perhaps most important step.
Anders Ohlsson, Lead Product Manager at Sandvik Additive Manufacturing, explains: “The most critical component in our process is working with powders that have the just-right properties. Above all, high density crucially impacts the quality achievable in terms of material properties and geometry. Sandvik has developed both a powder and a process that are unique. My view is that with commercial powders, you can make things that look cool – but don’t really work. Our powders are optimized to print components that look great, work well – and are fit for use in actual applications, demanding environments, and serial production. It’s also well worth mentioning the ability to 3D print cemented carbide speeds up our time-to-market rather dramatically. Prototyping used to take 6-12 months – and now our lead time to date is a matter of weeks.”
“Cemented carbide is one of the very hardest, if not the hardest material available in 3D printed shape as of today. When implementing additive manufacturing into your business, you basically eliminate all previous design restrictions – enabling you to focus on designing components based on operational needs and requirements, without having to adapt to a specific shape or form. One example is this wire drawing nib from a recent R&D project in our workshop. The closed loop spiral coolant channels enable efficient cooling of the nib, while the wire remains dry. This would have been impossible to achieve without additive manufacturing”, he adds.
That being said, what distinguishes this material from other hard materials is that other alloys are often brittle, to some extent – while cemented carbide, with its’ matrix structure consisting mainly of cobalt and tungsten carbide, is uniquely tough. Thanks to the extreme durability of the material, the printed components are well suited for most industries looking to optimize production efficiency – including those operating in challenging environments.
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