Carbide comes in many grades for many industries. From wear parts, to extremely dense and pure cutting tools.
Carbide is primarily made out of tungsten particles.
One thing that determines carbide grade is the size of these particles. For instance, big particles of tungsten can only be made into fracture resistent type carbide because the big particles can't be compressed to be very dense which is needed for holding fine cutting edges. So when using big particles there is also more binder (like glue) holding the particles together and giving the cabide more elasticity.
Carbide manufacturers use products like nickel, chromium, and cobalt to act as a glue in holding the tungsten particles together.
For longer wearing formulations of carbide as pertains to cutting tools such as saw blades, router bits, and insert cutters, there are special formulations that are for those specific applications. Some carbide is specially made to excel in hardwood, some in softwood, some for melamine, some for aluminum, some for steel, etc. etc.
The hardest carbide is the purest tungsten formulation. This is longer lasting, but fragile due to its extreme hardness and lack of ductility.
The softest carbide (more cobalt and less tungsten) is the most forgiving for things like cutting wood with loose knots.
All carbide is not the same, so be sure you work with a quality company that can give you the best products for your applications.
Yes, there are situations where diamond cutters are superior to everything else, like pergo type flooring. But companies like pergo run the same profile all the time and never change set-ups. The laminate that is the pretty part of what we see in a new floor is about the same product that we refer to as formica. And I'm sure you can imagine the harsh wear this formica type product can have on the side heads of a moulder.
The thickness of this material never varies. So the formica type laminate is always wearing on the exact same spot of the side cutter heads in the moulders. The base material this laminate is attached to seems to be a mdf product, that is very easy to machine. So the Diamond type cutter is only needed for trimming the edge of the formica 24/7. This is a great application for diamond cutting tools.
Jonalloy, Tigralloy, and many others are all probably the same product imported from Europe. This product use to be referred to as Tang-tung, but has since been refined to a higher level and is now offered in insert blank form allowing us to make custom profiled knives for milling hardwoods. Hardwood is what this cobalt / chromium based product really shines at milling. It flat out, lasts longer than carbide in hardwood. It also gives a superior finish over carbide or diamond cutting tools.
Bob Malone - B.A.M., Inc.