Drill Bit - Characteristics - Materials


Many different materials are used for or on drill bits, depending on the required application. Many hard materials, such as carbides, are much more brittle than steel, and are far more subject to breaking, particularly if the drill is not held at a very constant angle to the workpiece, e.g. when hand-held.

  • Soft low carbon steel bits are inexpensive, but do not hold an edge well and require frequent sharpening. They are used only for drilling wood; even working with hardwoods rather than softwoods can noticeably shorten their lifespan.
  • Bits made from high carbon steel are more durable than low-carbon steel bits due to the properties conferred by hardening and tempering the material. If they are overheated (e.g., by frictional heating while driling) they lose their temper, resulting in a soft cutting edge. These bits can be used on wood or metal.
  • High speed steel (HSS) is a form of tool steel; HSS bits are hard, and much more resistant to heat than high carbon steel. They can be used to drill metal, hardwood, and most other materials at greater cutting speeds than carbon steel bits, and have largely replaced carbon steels.
  • Cobalt steel alloys are variations on high speed steel which contain more cobalt. They hold their hardness at much higher temperatures, and are used to drill stainless steel and other hard materials. The main disadvantage of cobalt steels is that they are more brittle than standard HSS.
  • Hi-moly tool steel is heat-treated at 1196 °C (2185 °F) and then nitro-carburize finished at 510 °C (950 °F) to be measurably harder than high-speed steel. Nitro-carburized steel withstands substantially higher drilling temperatures while maintaining sharpness.
  • Tungsten carbide and other carbides are extremely hard, and can drill virtually all materials while holding an edge longer than other bits. The material is expensive and much more brittle than steels; consequently they are mainly used for drill bit tips, small pieces of hard material fixed or brazed onto the tip of a bit made of less hard metal. However, it is becoming common in job shops to use solid carbide bits. In very small sizes it is difficult to fit carbide tips; in some industries, most notably PCB manufacturing, requiring many holes with diameters less than 1 mm, carbide bits are used.
  • Polycrystalline diamond (PCD) is among the hardest of all tool materials and is therefore extremely resistant to wear. It consists of a layer of diamond particles, typically about 0.5 mm (0.019") thick, bonded as a sintered mass to a tungsten carbide support. Bits are fabricated using this material by either brazing small segments to the tip of the tool to form the cutting edges, or by sintering PCD into a vein in the tungsten carbide "nib". The nib can later be brazed to a carbide shaft; it can then be ground to complex geometries that would otherwise cause braze failure in the smaller "segments". PCD bits are typically used in the automotive, aerospace, and other industries to drill abrasive aluminum alloys, carbon fiber reinforced plastics, and other abrasive materials, and in applications where machine downtime to replace or sharpen worn bits is exceptionally costly.

Read more about this topic:  Drill Bit, Characteristics

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