Hats Off to Drill Bits – Tiny Manufacturing Warriors
Those of us that spend our days in a manufacturing environment can easily take for granted the simple tools about us. Have you ever wondered, though, what drill bits must be made from in order to carve through the many substances that they are pitted against?
Steel Drill Bits
As ever, our friend steel is a popular choice for drill bits for a cross-section of applications.
Low Carbon Steel
Soft or low carbon steel is one of the cheapest options but has a limited life span. Ideal for soft wood, these drill bits will struggle with harder woods and are not the best choice for drilling into metal or mortar.
High Carbon Steel
Unlike its softer counterpart, high carbon steel has been tempered and can, therefore, withstand harder woods and metal drilling.
Drill bits made from high-speed steel are made to withstand higher temperatures than high carbon steel, which can lose its temper if it gets too hot. Ideal for hard wood, metal and most other materials, high-speed steel enjoys a long-life span and quicker cutting speeds.
Alternatives to Steel
Tungsten carbide is an incredibly strong option for drill bits but can prove brittle and is a costly option. A compromise has been to tip high-speed or high carbon bits with tungsten carbide which offers a solid, strong cutting edge minus the risk of breakage. Smaller drill bits are being made more frequently out of solid carbide which can be trusted for long-term, accurate use.
One of the hardest tool materials available is polycrystalline diamond (PCD) which consists of a tungsten carbide bit tipped with diamond particles. This pricey but hardwearing bit is used on the hardest components such as carbon fibre plastics but is not used on ferrous metals due to a reaction between the carbon and the iron content.
Drill bits - the small but essential additions to our workshops and manufacturing plants deserve recognition as a crucial piece of the engineering process.