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Normally, the extremely hard tools for machining, forming and process technologies are produced using powder presses, which requires time-consuming post-processing. Additive manufacturing enables complex carbide tool geometries, but until now has been restricted in terms of hardness and component size.

Fraunhofer IKTS has managed to adapt the fused filament fabrication (FFF) 3D printing method – originally from the plastics industry – for ceramics, composites and carbides and produce the required filament from carbide powders with organic binders. Depending on the material structure, by reducing the grain size and binder content the hardness and compressive and bending strength of carbides can be increased. Dr. Johannes Pötschke from IKTS explains: “The filaments can be used as semi-finished products in standard printers. For the first time ever, it is possible to print carbides with a very low binder content of just 8% and an ultra-fine grain size of under 0.8 micrometers into extremely hard components with 1700 HV10.”