Price Difference Between Carbide And Steel Wear Parts

Much of the price difference is an issue of materials. Tungsten carbide is primarily tungsten with a few percent cobalt. Any steel has a really high percentage of iron. Iron is much, much cheaper than tungsten or cobalt.

Steel, even high speed and tool steel, is made in huge quantities. By comparison tungsten carbide is made in relatively small quantities. As an example, a ton of steel is very little steel whereas a ton of tungsten carbide is a huge amount of tungsten carbide.

You can machine tungsten carbide once it’s been sintered and fully hardened but it takes a long time and requires the use of diamond tooling.

When tungsten carbide is formed, and before it is fully sintered and hardened, it is softer than sidewalk chalk and you can whittle it into shape.  However tungsten carbide shrinks during the final sintering so you have to whittle the pre-sintered part into something oversize. You want to leave yourself a little fudge room which means it will require some machining after it is sintered and fully hardened.

So tungsten carbide is much more expensive than steel because the materials are much more expensive, because it is not made in anywhere near the volume steel is and because it is much harder to make.

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