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Tungsten Carbide Dicing Blades

SMART CUT® Series
Tungsten Carbide Slitting / Dicing Blades

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What are Tungsten Carbide Slicing & Dicing Blades

Tungsten carbide dicing or slitting blades bear some resemblance to diamond cutting blades in terms of their outer diameter (OD), thickness (TH), and inner diameter (ID). However, a significant distinction lies in their cutting mechanism. Unlike diamond blades that use embedded diamonds to grind through materials, tungsten carbide blades are equipped with teeth that slice through the workpiece. This fundamental difference in design affects both their applications and operational parameters.

Design and Operation

These blades are particularly suited for slow-speed cutting machines, typically operating at rotational speeds below 1,000 RPM. The design of tungsten carbide blades incorporates finely crafted teeth, which are essential for the precise cutting of delicate materials. When operated at high speeds, as is common with standard dicing saws designed for diamond blades, the teeth on tungsten carbide blades can suffer immediate damage due to excessive wear and thermal stress.

Applications

Tungsten carbide blades are ideally used for cutting a variety of composite materials and delicate substrates including:

  • Green ceramics
  • Printed Circuit Board (PCB) substrates
  • Fiberglass
  • Laminates
  • Molded Lead Frame Packages (MLP)/Quad Flat No-leads (QFN)

These materials are chosen because they do not typically require the high-speed cutting that more robust materials might necessitate, allowing the blades to function effectively within their mechanical limits.

Optimal Performance Parameters

The optimal performance of tungsten carbide blades is achieved within specific operational parameters. For example, cutting QFN packages yields the best results at speeds ranging from 500 to 800 RPM, with a feed rate of approximately 100mm/sec. At these settings, the blades can provide superior cut quality with minimal burrs and spearing—a critical requirement in precision applications. This controlled operation also contributes to a high-quality surface finish on the cut edges.

Advantages and Trade-offs

A significant advantage of using tungsten carbide blades is their ability to maintain a high feed rate, which enhances productivity. However, this comes at the cost of reduced blade life. In typical applications, a tungsten carbide blade might last for approximately 200 meters of cutting, which is less than some other types of blades might offer under similar conditions. Thus, while these blades are effective for specific applications, they may require more frequent replacement compared to their diamond counterparts.

How They are Made

There are several variations of tungsten carbide blades, each tailored to meet specific cutting demands. Some blades feature thinner profiles, enhancing precision and reducing material waste, which is particularly advantageous in fine machining applications. However, a common choice in the microelectronics sector is the WC (tungsten carbide) saw blades. These blades are preferred due to their exceptional hardness and ability to produce clean, precise cuts in delicate electronic components.

The manufacturing process of these blades is a sophisticated operation that begins with the sintering of carbide powders mixed with metallic binders, typically cobalt, to form a solid, durable matrix. A critical technique employed in this process is the HIP (hot isostatic pressing). During HIP, the blade blanks are subjected to simultaneous high pressure and temperature, which eliminates internal porosities and significantly improves the mechanical properties of the tungsten carbide.

The HIP process not only increases the blade's toughness, evident in its enhanced transverse rupture strength (TRS), but also optimizes the balance between hardness and wear resistance—two attributes that are typically difficult to optimize simultaneously. The use of ultra-fine carbide powders is a key factor in this optimization. These powders create a more homogenous and dense material structure, allowing the blades to achieve superior hardness without compromising their toughness.

This fine-grained structure of the sintered material does more than enhance mechanical properties; it also impacts the blade's cutting performance. Blades with a finer grain size can maintain a sharper edge and exhibit better wear resistance, enabling them to maintain performance over longer periods and through more demanding cutting tasks. Additionally, these blades can be engineered with specific grain orientations to further enhance cutting efficiency and durability, making them highly suitable for a variety of applications beyond PCB fabrication, including the cutting of composite materials and ceramics.

Blade Geometry

The design of tungsten carbide saw blades is a critical aspect that significantly impacts their performance and application effectiveness. Three key elements define the blade geometry: the teeth's shape, their number, and the surface finish of the blade.

The geometry of the teeth on a tungsten carbide blade encompasses several parameters, including the tooth profile, pitch (the distance between the teeth), and the tooth angle. Each aspect is engineered to suit specific materials and cutting requirements. For instance:

  • Tooth Profile: Flat-top teeth are ideal for cutting fibrous materials, while alternate top bevel (ATB) teeth are better for precise, clean cuts in solid materials such as metals or hardwoods.
  • Tooth Pitch: Finer tooth pitches are used for cutting harder, more brittle materials to reduce the material's tendency to chip. In contrast, a coarser pitch is effective for softer materials, allowing faster feed rates and quicker cuts.
  • Tooth Angle: Positive angles are aggressive and cut more quickly, suitable for softer materials. Negative angles are typically used for cutting harder materials, offering smoother cuts and greater wear resistance.
Number of Teeth

The number of teeth on a blade directly affects the cut's finish and the blade's feed speed. More teeth lead to smoother cuts but require a slower feed rate to avoid overheating and premature wear. Conversely, blades with fewer teeth remove material faster, beneficial for rough cuts where finish is not the primary concern.

  • More Teeth: Blades with a higher tooth count produce finer, smoother cuts and are preferable for precision work where a clean finish is important. These blades are ideal for cutting harder or more brittle materials like metals or hard plastics, where minimizing chipping and splintering is crucial. However, because each tooth removes less material, these blades operate best at slower feed rates and can generate more heat due to increased friction.
  • Fewer Teeth: Blades with fewer teeth are designed for faster cutting speeds. They remove more material with each pass, which makes them suitable for rough cuts in softer materials or when speed is more important than the finish. The downside is that the cuts are generally rougher and there can be more tear-out or splintering, especially in brittle materials.
Spacing Between the Teeth

The spacing, or pitch, between the teeth affects how quickly and efficiently a blade can cut through material and manage waste and heat:

  • Tight Spacing: Close spacing between the teeth is advantageous for creating smooth, fine cuts. This arrangement is beneficial when working with metals or other materials where precision is paramount. The downside is that tightly spaced teeth can lead to quicker accumulation of heat and might require more frequent cooling pauses or slower feed rates to mitigate the heat buildup.
  • Wide Spacing: Blades with teeth widely spaced apart can clear more material per cut and are typically used for faster cutting in softer or non-abrasive materials. The wider spacing facilitates better chip ejection, reducing the risk of clogging and allowing for higher feed rates. However, the broader spacing usually results in a rougher cut surface.
Application Specific Design

The ideal number and spacing of teeth on a blade depend heavily on the specific application, including the type of material being cut and the desired outcome of the cut (e.g., surface finish, speed, heat management).

Surface Finish

The surface finish of the blade, particularly in the gullet (the space between the teeth), influences chip removal and heat dissipation. A smoother finish in these areas can enhance the saw's ability to expel chips efficiently, reducing the risk of clogging and overheating, which in turn prolongs the blade's operational life. Advanced coating technologies such as titanium nitride (TiN) or diamond-like carbon (DLC) can be applied to improve surface hardness and reduce friction, further enhancing cutting efficiency and the durability of the blade.

Blade Diameter

The diameter of the blade not only determines the maximum depth of cut but also affects the blade's stiffness and cutting performance. Larger diameters provide deeper cuts but require more power from the saw, which can influence the choice of blade based on the available equipment. The stiffness of a larger diameter blade can also reduce vibration during cutting, improving cut accuracy and smoothness.

Tungsten Carbide saw blades come in various diameters, typically ranging from 50mm (2") to 152mm (6"), with the majority having a diameter of 114.3mm (4.5"). The available blade thicknesses start from as thin as 0.127mm (.005") and can be thicker, depending on the blade's application. Thinner blades, while more delicate and prone to breaking, are necessary for specific precision cutting tasks. The blade's longevity and performance are highly dependent on the quality of the WC (tungsten carbide) material, the finish of the teeth, and the blade's overall design. Maintaining a sharp edge is crucial, and specific angles in the blade geometry, such as a subtle side release angle on both sides of the blade, optimize the blade's cutting ability and longevity. This side release angle, typically less than 1°, ensures minimal blade deflection and maximized cutting accuracy throughout the blade's life

Why Work With Us?

Comprehensive Source Of Information On Dicing Blades

We understand that your success depends on select the right dicing blade, and optimizing your dicing parameters to best fit your applications/needs. The more you understand about what we can do for you, the better our partnership will be. On our website you will find the Most Comprehensive Source of Information on Everything you wanted to know about diamond dicing blades & industrial diamond tools.

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Largest Inventory of Precision & Ultra Thin Diamond Dicing Blades in the U.S. Available in different sizes, thickness, arbor sizes, diamond concentrations, diamond mesh sizes, and bond hardness's.

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Over the years we have enjoyed working with all types if clients, regardless of size. Proprietary dicing blade chemistry, precision manufacturing methods, modern quality control methods, allow us to control and regulate the dozens of variables that affect blade life, quality of cut, surface finish. Reducing and often eliminating additional steps often required after cutting.

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