Development of a process for carbide processing using powder bed-based 3D printing for complex carbide tools

The aim of the research project The HM-Tools is the development of a process chain for additive manufactured carbide tools using powder bed-based 3D printing.


Carbide tools are mainly used in machining, such as turning, milling or drilling. During the machining process high temperatures can occur which reduce the cutting ability of the material and increase wear. Thus cooling lubrication is necessary and to avoid external supply of cooling lubricant, integrated cooling channels are required. Due to the very high hardness and brittle fracture behaviour of hard metals, only a few technologies are suitable for processing carbide tools. So far, complex geometries, such as cooling channels, can only be produced with a great deal of effort, if at all. This can be remedied by additive manufacturing. Additive manufacturing offers the possibility to create complex tool geometries, e.g. internal structures. In addition, near-net shaping reduces time-consuming machining processes and less material has to be removed during post-processing, which guarantees resource-efficient production.


3D printing (Binder-Jetting) has advantages over laser-based processes due to low production costs and high assembly rates. In this research project the development of a process chain and the qualification of a new material system for the economical production of carbide tools are to take place. In addition, possible applications for the complex components produced are to be tested and achievable material properties, such as breaking strength, are to be investigated.


Initially, the focus is on the material system. Especially the production of the green body with high density is challenging. Pore formation during subsequently necessary sintering processes impairs the quality of components. In order to reduce the component porosity and thus improve the material properties, a compression process like hot isostatic pressing usually follows. Consequently, it is important to investigate and test the subsequent processes. In addition, a safety concept for the industrial production of carbide tools is to be developed and the laboratory parameters are to be transferred to industrial plants. In this way, new component geometries can be produced industrially with increased freedom of design and existing process chains can be shortened.


The research project "Development of a process for carbide processing using powder bed-based 3D printing for complex carbide tools" is funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi) as a ZIM R&D project. We thank the BMWi for their excellent support.

Duration 08/2016 - 07/2019
Project partner Inovatools Eckerle & Ertel GmbH, Additive Elements GmbH, Fraunhofer Institut für Gießerei-, Composite- und Verarbeitungstechnik IGCV
Funded by BMWi - ZIM