Any modern tool and die, injection mold making or precision machining operation uses carbide cutting tools extensively. With the huge variety of cutters available, such as indexable end mills, carbide cut off saw blades, face mills, tapered end mills and spade drills, there is a tool for every purpose.
Most tooling manufacturers specialize in one or more areas, and have developed technologies that provide efficiencies that were unthinkable, even a few years ago.
Hard machining is a good example of this development. The high end machine tools, such as the Mikron HSM 400, or the Sodick HS430L are capable of very fine finishes, fast metal removal rates, and a high degree of accuracy.
High speed machining demands a high level of performance from the carbide cutting tools. Usually these cutters are coated with any one of several materials to enhance the performance and extend the tool life.
Another, somewhat new machining practice is hard milling. This eliminates a great deal of time and can save money in the manufacturing of mold cores and cavities and other industrial tooling applications.
For example, sinker EDM time is greatly reduced, finish grinding and polishing is also reduced. Yet it is the ability of the lowly end mill to perform that plays a critical role in this process. If any part of this integrated procedure breaks down, then entire process stops.
The use of indexable end mills is also a common practice in tool shops around the world. The designs that permit a 90 degree shoulder on the edge of the mill allows for very controlled and accurate machining. In the past, these tools had a positive or negative angle that required a secondary operation to achieve a square side-wall in the part being machined.
Many industries rely on carbide for their cutting. Woodworking, metal fabrication, hobbyist work, stone cutting, porcelain, aerospace and many other industries use these tools on a daily basis.
The furniture industry uses this very hard material in the use of routers and saw blades extensively. The speed and feeds attainable, as well as the fine finishes and long tool life make this the material of choice for almost any production process.
Where a high speed steel router would quickly dull, the carbide cutter shows almost no sign of wear. Probably the chief weakness to this material is the fact that it is brittle. This means that it can easily chip when used in an interrupted cut. Lathe work, for example, could require the cutter to pass over screw or dowel holes that interrupt the cut, causing a stress that creates cracks and chips in the cutter.
Major manufacturers all have extensive application charts and brochures to guide the user in selecting the appropriate tool for the job. Usually they also have specialists who have a great deal of hands on experience as well to help with the particular job and it's demands.