Are Carbide Drill Bits Really Better than High Speed Steel?

When it comes to machining, you want the best possible tools. At the same time, you have a tool budget to think of. Today, many shops are using carbide drill bits for just about every drilling application, but is this a good idea? Let’s take a closer look at this question to find an answer.

What Makes Carbide Better?

It has to do with tungsten married to carbon. When these two elements come together something amazing happens. Tungsten is rare and is not usually found by itself. In other words it is trapped in other materials. Tungsten is extremely hard by nature and by combining it with carbon it becomes a gray powder which can be pressed into a number of different shapes and sizes.

Tungsten carbide is about twice as dense and stiff as steel. In fact it is so hard it can only be finished or ground with something ultra hard like diamonds or boron nitrate. When you take this very hard material and coat high speed steel, you have a carbide drill bit which can drill through some very tough material. But is this always necessary?

Benefits of High Speed Steel Bits

HSS is carbon steel with alloys like vanadium or chrome. This makes steel more suitable for drilling at high speeds. If you have the need to bore through steel, iron, brass or aluminum, HSS bits can perform well and it’s much cheaper than using a carbide drill bit for the job. For drilling jobs in which very high speeds are not required and the material is not real hard, HSS is a cost effective alternative to carbide.

Carbide is Superior

Drill tips tipped with carbide will hold up longer than HSS. Plus, they will not require sharpening as often. If you can afford the extra cost, it is a smart investment.

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