Cemented Carbide Sintering : Constitutive Relations and Microstructural Evolution

Abstract: Cemented carbides based on tungsten carbide and cobalt arecommonly produced by a powder metallurgy route including liquidphase sintering. The pressed compact densifies to almost halfits volume during sintering due to pore elimination. Thesintering behaviour changes with material composition, such ascarbide grain size, binder fraction, carbon content andaddition of cubic carbides. This thesis is devoted to the study of constitutivebehaviour, in particular densification, and the microstructuralevolution during cemented carbide sintering. Dimensionalchanges are monitored using dilatometry with and withoutapplied external load. The microstructural evolution isinvestigated with light optical microscopy and scanningelectron microscopy. Thermodynamic calculations are used asreference. Constitutive relations are derived for uniaxial viscosity,viscous equivalent of Poisson’s ratio and sintering stressbased on relative density and temperature. The relations areextended to a model describing sintering shrinkage withexplicit dependencies on carbide grain size and binder content.The model is divided in three stages of which two pertain tothe solid state and the third to liquid phase sintering. Solidstate shrinkage is suppressed in a material with coarsecarbides and in the stage of liquid phase sintering grain sizestrongly influences the uniaxial viscosity. The binder contentaffects primarily the later densification. The effects of carbon content and grain size distribution onshrinkage have been studied. High carbon content enhancesshrinkage rate, but the effect of grain size distribution israther small. The mean carbide grain size is insufficient todescribe densification for very broad distributions only. Shrinkage occurs through rearrangement andsolution-reprecipitation. Rearrangement is studied through theevolution of the pore size distribution and simulatedgenerically using a discrete element method. Keywords:Cemented carbides, Sintering, Constitutiverelations, Microstructure, Densification, Modelling