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Brazing of carbide-tipped cutting tools

Marian Bronny; Max Schimpfermann, Umicore AG & Co. KG; Hanau Brazing of cemented carbides is not always a success. Either the brazing alloy does not bind properly to the cemented carbide or the strength of the brazing alloy is inadequate. Not uncommonly, cracks or detachments occur in the cemented carbide in the cooling phase. Such defects can be avoided by selecting the right brazing alloy and brazing flux. One of the decisive factors determining the operating efficiency of a cutting tool is the way the cutting material is processed. One of the cutting materials frequently used for machining and dissecting manufacturing processes is cemented carbide (Figure 1). Due to the hardness and temperature stability of cemented carbides, they are eminently suitable for milling, turning, drilling and sawing of metal, wood, plastics and other materials. In many cutting tools, the specific characteristic properties of cemented carbides come into their own by combining them with tool steels as support material. Crucial for the success of the tool is the bond between the cemented carbide and the support material. Brazing is one of the most important bonding techniques [1]. Depending on the silver brazing alloy selected and the quality of the brazing, tensile strengths in the joint of approximately 150 to 300 MPa can be achieved. Soldering of cemented carbide-faced tools takes place at temperatures above 450C. In terms of definition, a brazing process is consequently involved. In order to ensure a reliable, high strength braze joint between the cemented carbide and steel a few important points need to be taken into consideration when choosing the brazing alloy and flux. The need for special brazing alloys and fluxes Cemented carbides are sintered materials consisting of hard materials, usually tungsten carbide, which are embedded in a metallic binder matrix, usually cobalt. Due to the high proportion of metal carbide, cemented carbides are considered to be materials difficult to wet. For this reason, silver brazing alloys together with alloying elements that promote wetting, such as manganese, are preferably used for brazing of these materials. The brazing alloy Ag 449 according to DIN EN ISO 17672 (e.g. BrazeTec 4900) is a typical representative of these brazing alloys (Table 1). Since universal fluxes (type FH 10 according to DIN EN 1045) are usually insufficiently active, brazing of cemented carbides requires special fluxes (e.g. BrazeTec spezial h or BrazeTec h 900) (Table 2). These correspond to type FH 12 according to DIN EN 1045. By using these fluxes, it is possible as a result of their oxide-dissolving properties to effect brazing in the air by flame or induction heating. The wettability of cemented carbides is considerably improved by a cobalt or nickel layer applied by electroplating. This is true in particular in the case of cemented carbides with a very low proportion of binder. The above-mentioned metal coatings have a further important effect: they prevent the oxidation of cemented carbides. The same applies to brazing of cemented carbides as to any other brazing operation: the surfaces to be joined should be free from oxide and grease as far as possible. Thermal effects and states of stress During brazing, it is essential to take the fact into account that the thermal coefficients of expansion of the materials to be joined, namely cemented carbide and steel, are quite -6 -1 different. As a rule, they are 5 to 7 10 K in the case of -6 -1 cemented carbides and 11 to 14 10 K in the case of steels. The thermal expansion of steel is thus two to three times higher than that of cemented carbide [1]. Cemented carbides are basically sensitive to tensile stresses. The impact of this characteristic varies, depending on the type of cemented carbide and the geometry of the structural part, and affects the bond during the cooling phase following brazing (Figure 3).

Figure 1: Section of a cemented carbide-faced saw blade Source: Umicore

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When the combination of cemented carbide and steel is heated the steel expands more strongly due to its considerably higher coefficient of thermal expansion. At the brazing temperature, the parts to be bonded are still loosely connected through the liquid brazing alloy; they are unstressed. Once the brazing alloy solidifies, the cemented carbide is firmly bonded to the steel. Thus a direct force transmission can occur between the two materials. During cooling of the structural part, the cemented carbide contracts considerably less than the steel with the result that tensile stress is transferred through the steel to the cemented carbide by a type of bi-metal effect. This can cause irreversible damage to the cemented carbide evidenced by cracks directly after brazing, grinding or use. Sandwich alloys reduce stresses The use of special sandwich alloy foil allows crack-free joining of cemented carbides. Brazing alloys sheets have a sandwich construction. The core is formed by a ductile intermediate layer which is plated with silver base brazing alloy on both sides. The diagrammatic representation of a cross-section through a sandwich alloy sheet is shown in Figure 2. The intermediate layers generally consist of copper or copper based alloys which absorb the Figure 2: Diagrammatic crossstresses occurring during section through a sandwich alloy; Source: Umicore cooling. Figure 3 shows the simulated state of stress in cemented carbide following brazing with brazing alloy in the cooled state. As can be clearly seen, when a sandwich alloy is used, a distinctly smaller area with lower tensile stress is formed in the central area than without the use of sandwich alloy. Moreover, the forces acting laterally on the cemented carbide are equally reduced. The shear strength of the bond is determined by the strength of the intermediate brazing alloy layer. By using plus special intermediate alloy layers (e.g. BrazeTec 49/Cu ) the shear strength of the bond can be increased by more than 20 % compared with a standard intermediate copper
Temperature
Steel Steel Cemented carbide Cemented carbide Alloy layer Alloy layer Sandwich alloy Sandwich alloy

layer (e.g. BrazeTec 49/Cu). The optimum width of the sandwich alloy strip with respect to the widths of the parts to be joined is often a matter for discussion. Numerous tests and simulation calculations have been carried out on cemented carbide-faced blades of circular saws. Basically, a continuous intermediate layer should be present across the entire joining surface for an optimal reduction of stress. (Figure 4, illustration A) [2]. Figure 4 shows how the absence of intermediate layers affects the states of stress in cemented carbide on the example of cemented carbide teeth on circular saws. In practice, it has been found that in certain cases cemented carbides with small joining surfaces can be brazed only with low-melting silver brazing alloys without an intermediate layer. The stresses occurring in the cemented carbide increase substantially with increasing size of the joining surface. Higher stresses in the join are counteracted by using greater intermediate layer thicknesses [3]. Another possibility is to conduct the stresses to the generally ductile brazing alloy by widening the soldering gap. The gap width can be adjusted by a nickel network (e.g. BrazeTec 49/NiN) incorporated into the brazing alloy. The way the stresses increase in the narrowing brazing gap is illustrated by the error patterns B to E in Figure 4. The gap decreases in the tooth ridge from 0.2 mm (B) until the press fit (E) is reached. Particularities achieved by special applications The multitude of tasks is achieved by way of different cutting materials, cutting material modifications or additional coatings. This can lead to special aspects for brazing. If the anti-wear protection of cemented carbides is improved by vapour depositing a layer of hard material consisting of titanium carbide (TiC), titanium nitride (TiN) or titanium aluminium nitride (TiAlN), for example, allowance must be made for the process conditions of CVD (chemical vapour deposition) or PVD (physical vapour deposition) coating processes. If the process temperatures are above
Temperature

Brazing temperature

Brazing temperature

Room temperature

Room temperature Time Time

Time

Figure 3: State of stress in the join: left: brazing alloy; right: sandwich alloy; Source: Umicore

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A perfect Sandwich braze

B bottom no Cu t=0.2

C bottom no Cu t=0.1

D bottom no Cu t=0.05

E bottom no Cu t=0.0

F top no Cu t=0.3

G AgCu braze

CVD thick layer diamonds) can be soldered directly with so-called active brazing alloys (e.g. BrazeTec CB4). For special applications such as in medical or plastics engineering the stress-equalising intermediate layer must satisfy anticorrosion requirements. These are often not satisfied by pure copper. In order to be able to braze cemented carbides nevertheless successfully, intermediate layers consisting of copper-nickel-iron-alloys are available (e.g. BrazeTec 49/CuNiFe). As illustrated, brazing technology provides solutions for brazing cemented carbide cutting materials. The materials of first choice are the brazing alloys which are capable of reducing the thermally induced tensile stresses acting onto the joint as a result of their excellent ductility. When used in combination with the right flux, cemented carbide brazing operations which are considered to be difficult, will be successful.

Figure 4: Influence of the intermediate copper layer on the stress distribution in cemented carbide, source [2]

400C or if the operation takes place under vacuum, this must be taken into account when selecting the brazing alloy. Zinc, a typical alloying element of low-melting, silvercontaining brazing alloys begins to evaporate at 400C as a result of its relatively high vapour pressure, with a consequent negative influence on the quality of the coating and the strength of the braze joint. Against this background it is recommended to braze cemented carbides which are to be used in such a coating process with a zinc-free silver based brazing alloy such as BrazeTec 6488 or BrazeTec 64/Cu. By using polycrystalline diamonds (PCD, abbreviation: DP), monocrystalline diamonds (MCD, abbreviation: MD) or polycrystalline cubic boron nitride (CBN, abbreviation: BN) sintered onto one side of a cemented carbide base body, the anti-wear protection of cemented carbides can be further improved. Due to the temperature sensitivity of the hard material layers applied by sintering it is advisable to avoid brazing temperatures above 700C. Strict temperature control during soldering is essential. If fairly small cemented carbide areas such as those typically used on turning tools and milling cutters for wood working are involved the use of sandwich alloys, as described above, can be dispensed with. If this is the case, use can be made of the low melting silver brazing alloys BrazeTec 5600 or BrazeTec 5507. Their brazing temperature is 30 to 40C below that of BrazeTec 4900. It deserves to be mentioned in passing that diamonds (e.g.

Marian Bronny, Regional Sales Manager, Umicore AG & Co. KG, Hanau, marian.bronny@eu.umicore.com Max Schimpfermann, Manager Applied Technology Brazing Center, Umicore AG & Co. KG, Hanau, max.schimpfermann@eu.umicore.com

Literature [1] Weise, W.; Koschlig, M.; Herzog, H.; Beuers, J.: Broschre Einsatz innovativer Lote in der Schneidetechnik. Degussa-Hls, 1995 [2] Magin, M.; Rassbach, S.: Stress Analysis on Brazed Hartmetal Saw Teetf, 17. Plansee Seminar, Reutte 2009 [3] N.N., Brochure Technik die Verbindet, Volume 30, Degussa AG

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Table 1. Selection of brazing alloy for brazing cutting materials of cemented carbide based on tungsten carbide

Brazing alloy

Remarks Sandwich alloy; Intermediate copper layer Sandwich alloy; Intermediate alloy layer of increased strength Sandwich alloy; Intermediate nickel network layer Sandwich alloy; Intermediate CuNiFe layer Sandwich alloy; Intermediate copper layer, TiN coatable Silver-based brazing alloy Ag 427* Silver-based brazing alloy Ag 449*

Brazing temperature [C] 690

Composition [% by wt.] Ag 49 Cu 27,5 Zn 20,5 Mn 2,5 Ni 0,5 In

BrazeTec 49/Cu

BrazeTec 49/Cuplus

690

49

27,5

20,5

2,5

0,5

BrazeTec 49/NiN

690

49

27,5

20,5

2,5

0,5

BrazeTec 49/CuNiFe

690

49

27,5

20,5

2,5

0,5

BrazeTec 64/Cu

770

64

26

BrazeTec 2700

840

27

38

20

9,5

5,5

BrazeTec 4900

690

49

16

23

7,5

4,5

BrazeTec 4900 A

Silver-based brazing alloy

690

49

27.5

20.5

2.5

0,5

BrazeTec 6488

Silver-based brazing alloy

770

64

26

*according to DIN EN ISO 17672

Table 2. Selection of flux for brazing cutting materials of cemented carbide based on tungsten carbide

Flux

Remarks

Flux colour

Designation according to DIN EN 1045 FH 12

Effective temperature [C] 520 to 1030

BrazeTec spezial h

For brazing cemented carbides and higher alloyed steels

brown

BrazeTec h 285

Binder-stabilised type for machine application optimised

brown

FH 12

520 to 910

BrazeTec h 900

BrazeTec h 80

Binder-stabilised type for machine application optimised; specially chemically activated for brazing special cemented carbides For large surface soldering and short brazing times

brown

FH 12

520 to 850

white

FH 10

550 to 850

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