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In: Powder Metallurgical High Performance Materials, Volume 2, 16

th
International Plansee
Seminar. Eds. G. Kneringer, P. Rödhammer, H. Wildner, Plansee, Reutte, Austria, 2005, pp.
1075-1085.
1075
Residual stresses in hardmetals caused by grinding
and EDM machining and their influence on the
flexural strength
Dongtao Jiang
a
, Guy Anné
a
, Jef Vleugels
a
, Kim Vanmeensel
a
, Wesley
Eeraerts
b
, Weidong Liu
b
, Bert Lauwers
b
, Omer Van der Biest
a

a
Department of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Kasteelpark Arenberg 44, B-3001 Leuven, Belgium
b
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Celestijnenlaan 300 B, B-3001 Leuven, Belgium
Summary
Melting is observed to be the primary material removal mechanism during EDM
machining of WC-Co hardmetals. Upon rapid solidification, considerable thermal
residual stresses on the surface layer can be expected. There is however very little
information in literature on the residual thermal stresses of EDMed hardmetals, which
would inevitably influence the performance in service. In this study, experimental
measurements revealed that a significant compressive stress is present in ground
materials, whereas a tensile stress is measured on EDMed surfaces. Moreover, the
compressive stress in the ground materials is strongly enhanced compared to that of
polished materials. The high compressive stresses on the surface of the ground
samples results in a higher bending strength whereas the tensile stress in the EDM
samples deteriorates the strength, explaining the general strength reduction of EDMed
samples compared to ground samples. The flexural strength reduction is found to be
proportional to the thermal residual stress generated during EDM, and is strongly
influenced by the EDM machining strategy applied. Comparing different WC-Co
hardmetal grades, the relative amount of residual tensile stresses generated after EDM
finish cutting and the strength reduction compared to ground samples increased with
decreasing WC grain size due to a lower thermal conductivity.
Keywords
Hardmetal, thermal residual stresses, strength, electrical discharge machining, grinding
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1. Introduction
Electro-discharge machining (EDM) is a cost-effective way of shaping complex
geometry materials with high accuracy, and is widely used in the hardmetal industry.
Melting is observed to be the main material removal mechanism in EDM machining of
hardmetals. Upon rapid solidification, considerable thermal residual stresses can be
expected on the surface layer, which will influence the component properties. Although
there have been numerous studies on the EDM of hardmetals [1,2,3], there is very little
information in literature on the residual stresses of hardmetals after EDM, which would
inevitably influence its performances in service. In this study, 6 WC-Co hardmetal
grades with different thermal conductivity were used to evaluate the effect of surface
residual stresses after polishing, grinding and different EDM finishing regimes on the
flexural strength.
2. Experimental
The different CERATIZIT hardmetal grades used in this study are listed in Table 1.
Representative scanning electron micrographs are given in Fig. 1. All Wire EDM
finishing cuts were performed on a ROBOFIL 2030 (Charmilles Technologies,
Switzerland) in demi-water with a dielectric conductivity of 5 µS/cm, using a CuZn37
wire electrode (∅ = 0.25 mm, tensile strength of 500 N/mm
2
). The height of the
hardmetal starting material is 35 mm. The EDM parameters of the 4 consecutively
performed finish cutting regimes are summarised in Table 2.
CERATIZIT
grade
Co content
(wt %)
Average WC intercept
length (µm)
Thermal conductivity
(W m
-1
k
-1
)
*3-pt bending
strength (MPa)
GC20 12 0.85 95
4279 ± 61
MG12 6 0.55 90
3078 ± 295
GC32 10 2.17 105
3064 ± 91
MG18 10 0.32 85
3509 ± 168
GC20CR 12 0.93 95
2919 ± 101
SMG13 6.5 0.25 85
2632 ± 545
Table 1. Summary of the hardmetal grades used. *Measured on ground samples

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(a) (b)
(c) (d)
(e) (f)
Fig. 1. Scanning electron micrographs revealing the microstructure of the different
hardmetal grades: GC20 (a), GC20CR (b), GC32 (c), SMG13 (d), MG12 (e), MG18 (f)

The residual stresses in the WC phase were measured by X-ray diffraction, using the
d-sin
2
ψ method. The (300) WC peak, corresponding with a diffraction angle 2θ =
133.31° was used to measure the residual stress. The sin
2
ψ range was varied from 0
1078
to 0.6 in steps of 0.1. 2θ was varied between 130° and 136° at 0.02
O
/steps of 5 s. As
elastic constants ½ S
2
= 2.740.10
-6
Mpa
-1
and -S
1
= 0.460.10
-6
Mpa
-1
was used. The
measurements were carried out on a Siemens D500 XRD.
Microstructural investigation was performed by scanning electron microscopy (SEM,
XL30-FEG, FEI, the Netherlands). The flexural strength at room temperature was
measured in a 3-point bending test. All surfaces of the test specimens (25.0 x 4.7 x 1.7
mm) were ground with a Diamond Board MD40 75 B55 grinding wheel on a Jung
grinding machine. The size of the EDM samples is exactly the same. The span width
was 20 mm with a crosshead displacement of 0.1 mm/min. The reported values are the
mean of at least five bending experiments.

EDM regime E13 E21 E22 E23
Surface Roughness Ra (µm) ± 0.4 ± 0.2 ± 0.2 < 0.2
Material removed (µm) 2 1 0 0
Offset (µm) 134 131 131 131
Open voltage (V) 140 140 140 140
Pulse Ignition Height (A) 5 4.5 3.5 3.5
Pulse duration (µs) 3 1 1 1
Pulse interval (µs) 6.6 4 4 4
Maximum speed (mm/min) 6.1 6.1 6.4 8
Servo Reference Voltage (V) 7 6 6 0
Wire winding speed (m/min) 6.8 6.8 6.6 4.8
Wire Tension (N) 12 10 10 10
Table 2. Applied wire EDM finishing regimes.
3. Results and discussions
Representative SEM micrographs of polished cross-sectioned EDM surfaces are
presented in Fig. 2. After rough cutting, a 10-20 µm recast layer is formed on the
sample surface (Fig. 2.a), which is almost completely removed after finish cutting
regime E23 (Fig. 2.b). Small cracks inside the WC grains are frequently observed in
the top layer carbide grains after finish cutting, as presented in Fig. 2.c and d. These
cracks most probably have to be attributed to thermal cracking of the WC grains during
EDM, since they were hardly found on cross-sectioned ground surfaces.
1079

(a) (b)
(c) (b)
Fig. 2. Scanning electron micrographs of polished cross-sectioned EDM WC-Co
grades. Rough (a) and finish cut (b,c) grade GC20, and finish cut grade GC32 (d)

The surface residual stress in the WC phase of the hardmetal grades was
measured after polishing, grinding and EDM finishing, as summarised in Table 3.
A compressive stress (negative sign) is measured in the WC phase of the polished
surfaces, which can be considered to be in agreement with the stress state of the bulk
material, in which the WC phase is in compression whereas the Co binder phase is in
tension due to the higher thermal expansion coefficient of the Co binder phase
compared to WC after cooling down from the sintering temperature. The compressive
stress is around 150 MPa for the GC20, MG18, GC20CR, and SMG13 grades whereas
it is significantly lower for the MG12 grade and substantially higher for the GC32 grade.
Due to the mechanical impact during grinding, the compressive residual stress in
the WC phase on the surface is dramatically increased. Although it is not possible to
accurately measure the residual stresses in the Co-binder phase, due to the
uncertainty on the W and C content, it is most likely that the nature of the stress in the
binder phase after grinding is also compressive, resulting in a surface layer that is fully
in compression.
1080
After the EDM finishing cuts however, the residual stress becomes tensile in nature
and slightly decreases with increasing EDM finishing regime number, i.e., decreasing
energy input.


Material
grade
EDM regime
E13
EDM regime
E21
EDM regime
E23
Ground
Polished
GC20 / / 131 ± 36 -1807 ± 68 -149 ± 27
MG12 / / 475 ± 45 -2193 ± 41 -59 ± 11
GC32 / / 9 ± 41 -1590 ± 55 -532 ± 32
MG18 546 ± 52 537 ± 51 501 ± 53 -1652 ± 106 -159 ± 24
GC20CR 292 ± 45 245 ± 34 22 ± 32 -1570 ± 60 -182 ± 25
SMG13
/
476 ± 33 375 ± 34 -1736 ± 69 -159 ± 17
Table 3. Surface residual stress (MPa) in the WC phase of different hardmetal grades
after grinding, polishing and different EDM (E13-E23) regimes. a + value indicates a
tensile stress, whereas a – value is a compressive stress


Material
grade
Ra ⊥ grinding
direction (µm)
Ra along the grinding
direction (µm)
Ra after EDM regime E23
(µm)
GC20 0.27 0.09 0.18
MG12 0.22 0.09 0.24
GC32 0.25 0.08 0.15
MG18 0.26 0.22 0.17
GC20CR 0.19 0.09 0.16
SMG13 0.25 0.06 0.24
Table 4. Surface roughness after grinding and EDM finish cutting
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The 3-point bending strength after grinding and a selection of EDM regimes is
graphically presented in Fig. 3. Although the surface roughness after EDM finish
cutting is in-between that of the direction along and perpendicular to the grinding
direction of ground samples, as reported in Table 4, the bending strength of all
investigated hardmetal grades is significantly lower after EDM than after grinding. This
observation can be directly correlated with the substantial compressive stresses
measured on the ground surfaces and the tensile stresses measured after EDM.
Moreover, the strength reduction between ground and EDM E23 regime finish cut
samples increases with increasing tensile stress measured in the WC phase on the
EDMed surfaces, as presented in Fig. 4.
The residual tensile stress is comparable in the 4 EDM finishing regimes (E13-E23) for
hardmetal grade MG18, which corresponds to a similar bending strength of the EDMed
samples, as shown in Fig. 3. For the GC20CR grade, the residual stress levels are
comparable for the E13, E21 and E22 regimes, whereas the residual stress becomes
very small in the final-cut regime (E23), which correlates with a slight increase in
flexural strength. The finding that the improved strength corresponds with a lower
residual stress is in agreement with a recent study by Lauwers et al [4].

0
1000
2000
3000
4000
5000
GC20 SMG13 MG12 GC32 MG18 GC20CR
F
l
e
x
u
r
a
l

s
t
r
e
n
g
t
h
,

M
P
a
E13
E21
E22
E23
GROUND

Fig. 3. Bending strength of ground and EDM finish cut hardmetal grade samples.

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0 200 400 600
20
30
40
50
60
70
GC20CR
GC32
MG18
SMG13
GC20
MG12
S
t
r
e
n
g
t
h

r
e
d
u
c
t
i
o
n
,

%
Residual stress, MPa

Fig. 4. Strength reduction between ground and E23 EDM regime finish cut
samples as function of the measured tensile stress in the WC phase of EDMed
surfaces for the different hardmetal grades.

SEM observations of the fracture surface indicate that both trans- and intergranular
fracture occur, as presented in Fig. 5. Closer observation of the fracture surface near
the tensile side of the 3-point bending sample reveals that Co depletion occurs during
EDM machining, as shown in Fig. 5.b. So the ductile fracture of Co is decreased
beneath the surface of the EDMed samples. On the contrary, the Co phase remains in
the ground samples and exhibits tearing fracture characteristics. Apparently, Co
depletion can be another strength limiting factor for EDMed samples besides the
tensile residual stress in the WC grains and the significant amount of thermal cracks in
the WC grains.
(a) (b)
Fig. 5. Fracture surface morphology of GC20CR after grinding (a) and EDM (b).
1083

Since the thermal conductivity of the hardmetal grade determines the depth of the
thermally influenced layer during EDM, it is interesting to plot the thermal residual
tensile stress as well as the flexural strength reduction against the thermal conductivity,
as shown in Fig. 6. The thermal residual tensile stress and flexural strength reduction
compared to ground samples after EDM regime E23 is clearly inversely proportional to
the thermal conductivity of the hardmetal grade.

80 85 90 95 100 105 110
0
200
400
600
GC20CR
GC32
GC20
MG12
MG18
SMG13
R
e
s
i
d
u
a
l

s
t
r
e
s
s
,

M
P
a
Thermal conductivity, W/mK

85 90 95 100 105
30
40
50
60
GC20CR
GC32
GC20
MG12
SMG13
MG18
S
t
r
e
n
g
t
h

r
e
d
u
c
t
i
o
n
,

%
Thermal conductivity, W/mK

Fig. 6. Measured thermal residual tensile stress and flexural strength reduction after
finishing EDM regime E23 as function of the thermal conductivity of the different
hardmetal grades.


Since the thermal conductivity of a WC-Co hardmetal is directly related to the WC grain
size or the Co-binder mean free path-length, the residual tensile stress and the
concomitant strength reduction should decrease with increasing WC grain size, which
is indeed confirmed in Fig. 7.
The material removal rate during rough EDM cutting however increases with
decreasing thermal conductivity due to the fact that the generated heat remains more
focussed at the surface of smaller grained WC-Co hardmetals, as shown in Fig. 8.
Consequently, the relative amount of residual tensile stresses generated on the
surface of finish cut EDM WC-Co hardmetal and the strength reduction compared to
1084
ground samples increased with decreasing WC grain size due to a lower thermal
conductivity. Although the material removal rate during rough cutting wire EDM
increases with decreasing WC grain size, the strength reduction compared to ground
samples will be larger.

0.0 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5
0
200
400
600
GC20CR
GC32
GC20
MG12
SMG13
MG18
R
e
s
i
d
u
a
l

s
t
r
e
s
s
,

M
P
a
Average WC intercept length, µm

Fig. 7. Measured residual thermal tensile stress after finishing EDM regime E23 as
function of the average WC intercept length for all investigated hardmetal grades.

80 85 90 95 100 105 110
35
40
45
50
55
GC20CR
GC32
GC20
MG12
MG18
SMG13
M
a
t
e
r
i
a
l

r
e
m
o
v
a
l

r
a
t
e
,
m
m
2
/
m
i
n
Thermal conductivity, W/mK

Fig. 8. Rough cutting wire EDM material removal rate as function of the thermal
conductivity for the different WC-Co hardmetal grades.
1085
4. Conclusions
A significant compressive stress is present on the surface of the ground WC-Co
materials, whereas a tensile stress is measured on the finish cut EDM surfaces.
Moreover, the presence of high compressive stresses on the surface of ground
samples results in a higher strength, while the tensile stress in the EDM samples
deteriorates the strength. This explains the general strength reduction of EDM
compared to ground samples. Beside the tensile residual stress in the WC grains, Co
depletion is another strength limiting factor of EDM samples as well as the significant
amount of small thermal cracks observed in the WC grains. The flexural strength
reduction between ground and EDM samples was found to be proportional to the
thermal residual tensile stresses after EDM, which are inversely proportional to the
thermal conductivity of the hardmetal grade and the average WC intercept length.
Acknowledgement
This work was supported by the Flemish Institute for the Promotion of Scientific and
Technological Research in Industry (IWT) under contract number GBOU-IWT-010071.
The authors thank CERATIZIT for the supply of the hardmetal materials.
References
[1] H. R. Cornelissen and J. P. Kruth, Transactions of NAMRI/SME, 1977, Vol. 5,
258-264.
[2] S. H. Lee and X. P. Li, Journal of Materials Processing Technology, 2001, Vol.
115, 344-358.
[3] J. Qu, L. Riester, A. J. Shih, R. O. Scattergood, E. Lara-Curzio and T. R.
Watkins, Materials Science and Engineering A, 2003, Vol. 344, 125-131.
[4] B. Lauwers, W. Eeraerts, U. Lausecker, M. Rieder, M. Dröschel, 16
th

International Plansee seminar, Reutte, Austria, May 2005.