Tungsten carbide, also known as cemented carbide, is a relatively precious material which is critical to many manufacturing processes. Most metal machining processes use tungsten carbide inserts as tool tips, as cemented carbide has excellent hardness and heat resistance properties ideal for drilling, boring, shaping and forming metal workpieces. Most modern face mills, lathe tools and endmills use these cutting tools.

The only downside of using carbide inserts for such a wide range of machining processes is that the tungsten material used in creating tungsten carbide alloys is both scarce and expensive. With most tungsten reserves in the US and other Western countries exhausted, China supplies over 80% of the tungsten used worldwide. In 2005, the International Tungsten Industry Association estimated that at the current rate of global consumption, all tungsten reserves will be used up within 140 years. Tungsten carbide inserts are typically treated as disposable materials, even though only the cutting edges of the inserts are worn when they’re disposed.

Rather than disposing of inserts, many manufacturers are turning to recycling companies which purchase used tools.

Why Recycle Carbide Inserts?

Financial Benefits
Tungsten carbide is an expensive material, and most recycling companies are willing to pay for used scrap. By turning used inserts over to recycling facilities, manufacturers can recoup at least a portion of their expenses, lowering their overall material costs. Rates for scrap tungsten carbide fluctuate widely, depending on current market values.

Environmental Benefits
Because carbide inserts contain heavy metals, disposing of them in traditional ways can be quite harmful to the environment. Heavy metals may leech into the soil over time, contaminating ground water. By recycling these, these harmful effects can be largely avoided and global tungsten reserves can be preserved for future generations.

How to Find a Tungsten Carbide Insert Recycling Facility

As more manufacturers are becoming aware of the financial and environmental benefits of recycling inserts, more and more carbide scrap recycling facilities are becoming available around the world. Major worldwide toolmaking companies, including Sandvik Coromant, Kennametal and ATI Stellram, offer their own recycling services for customers. While these companies typically offer recycling services to their own customers, they generally offer a reimbursement for the carbide scrap.

Independent tungsten carbide insert and scrap recycling facilities offer an alternative which in many cases may be more financially beneficial to manufacturers. Carbide recycling providers such as Carbide Recycling Company and Machine Tool Recyclers, Inc. tend to offer the highest and most recent going rate for tungsten carbide, so manufacturers may get more in return for their scrap carbide.

Another option is for manufacturers to ask Tungsten Supplier for help finding the best carbide recycling provider. Some manufacturers may offer in-house recycling, or may have some other use for the scrap. The benefit of turning used carbide inserts back over to their supplier is that manufacturers may be able to acquire a credit with the supplier on future purchases.

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