Carbide Dies Do it to Steel

The role of carbide dies in steel forming is indeed an exact science. From the simple office paper clip and complex parts for high-tech application to 9mm bullets, artillery shells, drill bits and automobile parts, man has learned to shape steel using carbide tool dies. Dies are most often metal blocks used for forming steel into needed shapes and sizes, which we will go into later.

Who Dunnit?

First things first, where did it all start? Who does the steel industry have to thank for discovering carbide, the toughest metal in nature? Fascinating story. Carbide was discovered in the mid-1700s by one Irishman called Peter Woulfe, a renowned chemist and mineralogist in his day. 

Discoveries alone though, don’t always cut it and no knew what to do with this metal that is three times denser than steel. Perhaps it’s just as well. No use could be found for it with medieval knight and castles still reigning supreme. Too heavy for sword manufacture and no catapult was strong enough to fling it over the castle walls.  

It took 200 years for civilization to move on sufficiently to accommodate development. Using cobalt as a chemical binder, tungsten carbide came into its own. And strong as steel most certainly is, it bends and buckles like toffee to the will of tungsten carbide.

Steel Shapeshifting

We promised to outline just how it is possible to form steel into the nuts and bolts that hold our world together. Champion of the tool and die industry, carbide forms steel in a broad spectrum of applications using different processes;

  • Cold forming Dies – steel in literally hit into the die with enough ouch to exceed its strength, causing it to liquefy and assume the shape of the mold it was literally slammed into.
  • Carbide Drawing Dies – to extrude shapes such as tubes and musical instruments, steel is forces through a die, which constricts it. All possible due to tungsten carbide’s ability to withstand extreme pressure and heat.
  • Specialty Dies – thread roll dies, swagging dies and shaving dies are in this category and are responsible for the finer work creating smooth surfaces, adding tapers or points or rounding off and a thread roll die obviously adds a thread to steel rods and the like.

Thanks to carbide, we have stronger cargo ships that can survive hurricane out at sea, and navy cruisers that can take direct hits and a lighter compound was developed for the aviation industry. From the automotive industry to body armour and the electric globe, carbide is steel’s secret weapon without which steel may have been the most overlooked metal in history.