The most common solid carbide material properties are a high hardness (up to 10K Vickers) and impact resistance, along with high strength and compressive strength. They have higher hardness and toughness than all known melted, cast and forged metals and alloys. They are also resistant to oxidation, have good low temperature resistance and have excellent dimensions stability with no heat treating required.
Carbides are binary compounds of carbon and elements with lower or equal electronegativity. Most often, these are metals or metal oxides such as calcium carbide, silicon carbide and iron carbide (cementite). They are characterized by their high cold hardness and their ability to withstand high temperatures.
Tungsten carbide is an incredibly tough compound with very high hot and cold hardness. It is also highly wear resistant and can withstand high cutting speeds. It is used in drilling, milling, grinding and other high pressure industrial applications.
A key factor in the mechanical characteristics of tungsten carbide is the binder metal used to hold it together. Cobalt and nickel are commonly used, but a variety of other metals can be added as well. In general, the higher the binder metal content in a cemented carbide, the tougher it will be.
Tungsten carbide is typically manufactured into a round, button-like insert that is then mounted in a softer matrix of metallic cobalt or another binder metal. The combination is then used in drill bits, rock drills, roller cutters, long wall plough chisels and raiseboring reamers.