Cemented carbide has a history of more than 80 years since it came out as an important tool material and structural material in 1923. Over the past 50 years, especially since China’s reform and opening up, China’s cemented carbide industry has become a real large cemented carbide producer. However, when we are immersed in the achievements we have made, we should also clearly see the hidden worries in the development, seriously think with a high sense of responsibility, and strive to explore the way to eliminate the worries, so as to ensure the sustainable development of China’s cemented carbide industry.
Rapid development of cemented carbide industry in China
China’s cemented carbide industry basically started from the establishment of Zhuzhou Cemented Carbide plant in the 1950s by introducing a full set of technology and equipment from the former Soviet Union. In the long planned economy era, after many years, a series of advanced equipment and technologies in the cemented carbide production process, such as high-efficiency ball milling, spray drying granulation, high-precision automatic press, vacuum sintering equipment, pressure sintering equipment, grinding coating equipment and high-precision mold manufacturing, can be basically solved in domestic manufacturers. Foreign advanced equipment and domestic advanced equipment have been applied in different cemented carbide manufacturers to varying degrees. The technology and equipment level of tungsten smelting and milling production in China has reached the international advanced level. In the 21st century, the CNC carbide blade production line of Zhuzhou Diamond Cutting Tools Co., Ltd., which is controlled by Zhuzhou Cemented Carbide Group Co., Ltd., is designed and built according to the advanced level of contemporary carbide production in terms of environment, equipment, process technology and quality standards, laying a good foundation for the development of high value-added CNC carbide blades and tools in China.
In addition, the deep-processing technology of China’s cemented carbide industry has also developed to a certain extent. The production proportion of three series of deep-processing products of cemented carbide cutting tools, geological and mineral tools and wear-resistant parts in cemented carbide production enterprises has gradually increased. In 2005, the proportion of deep-processing products of cemented carbide enterprises has reached more than 10% of the total production of cemented carbide. More and more cemented carbide manufacturers have introduced advanced deep-processing technology and equipment from abroad, or developed deep-processing technology and equipment by themselves and established professional deep-processing production lines. The former, such as cemented carbide micro drilling and integral tool processing, and the latter, such as top hammer and roll processing lines, have played a good role in technological progress and economic benefit improvement of enterprises.
Three issues worthy of attention in cemented carbide industry
1.Haphazard development of medium and low-grade products and disorderly competition
Since 2004, China’s annual output of medium and low-grade cemented carbide has reached about 16000 tons, accounting for about 40% of the world’s annual output of cemented carbide. However, it is unimaginable that China’s cemented carbide production capacity has exceeded the annual output of 28000 tons, and the production capacity is less than 60%. What is more frightening is that new factories producing medium and low-grade cemented carbide are still emerging, and the production capacity continues to increase. This phenomenon leads to vicious competition among enterprises, which can not be avoided. In addition to a big price war, all kinds of non-standard competition behaviors such as kickbacks, fake and shoddy products, and local policies can be found everywhere. The bad result is that the enterprise has low efficiency and can not increase the investment in science and technology, which seriously affects the technological progress of the industry. Even the enterprises with strong technical strength also suffer from the difficulties caused by history. They do not control resources, do not regulate their competitiveness, and are forced to stay on the survival line, which has seriously damaged the development ability of high-grade and high value-added cemented carbide products.
2 Slow development of high-end products
The development level of such products in a country or an enterprise reflects the development level of cemented carbide in that country or enterprise to a certain extent. For example, Israel is a small country. Israel’s iska factory only produces more than 300 tons of cemented carbide annually. However, their proud high-performance CNC cemented carbide blades and cutters sell well all over the world, with an annual sales of more than 1billion US dollars, which is two to three times that of Zhuzhou factory with an annual output of more than 4000 tons of cemented carbide, fully demonstrating the status of a powerful cemented carbide producer and a strong enterprise.
As far as domestic manufacturers are concerned, Zhuzhou Cemented Carbide Group Co., Ltd. is undoubtedly the most important manufacturer of such products. Its “diamond” brand was rated as the only domestic brand among the top ten “most popular domestic tool brands” and “the most competitive tool brands in the Chinese market”. However, compared with foreign advanced manufacturers, the competitiveness of Zhuzhou Diamond Industrial Park is not strong.
Taking the high-precision and high-performance CNC blades as an example, the lathe blades in Zhuzhou factory are basically complete, but they prefer rough machining and semi precision machining products, while there is a large gap between precision machining and ultra precision machining products. When milling blades, the difference between conventional machining blades is very small, but there are differences between precision milling and large workpiece machining blades. There is certain clearance between other blades, such as thread machining blades, gear machining blades, broaching blades, cutting blades, etc. In addition to NC blade clearance, the bigger problem is that tool matching has just begun.
In this way, we can only replace the imported blades in a certain part or link of processing, so it is difficult to enter the advanced automobile production line, which greatly limits the promotion and application of the products. Due to advanced technology and complete supporting facilities, foreign advanced manufacturers can meet the requirements of a full set of blades and cutters for the processing line. As a result, it is easier for them to take over large orders of blades and cutters for high-level machining lines in the manufacturing industry.
The gap between China’s Cemented Carbide numerical control blades and cutting tools and foreign advanced level is finally reflected in product production and product promotion and application, but the reasons for these gaps are various:
(1) cutters production line should be updated
the production of cutters is out of line. For decades, the production of cutters in China has been separated, and the problem of mutual matching has not been considered. This situation continues. The production of cutters and cutters by foreign advanced manufacturers is integrated. They often take the cutter design as the source, closely linked to study the tool matching, and constantly introduced new supporting tools when they continuously introduced new cutters. At present, some tool factories in China are introducing foreign cutting tool production technology and products, but they do not consider the problem of matching with domestic cutters. As a result, it is still equipped with other people’s cutters instead of domestic cutters. The production and development of domestic cutters and cutters are restricted.
(2)no famous brand
the national standard for cutters is not sound. At present, China’s national standards for cutting tools are not perfect, and the imported cutting tools are open. Therefore, there are various kinds of imported cutting tools, and the cutting tools used are often restrained by which standard. On the contrary, the export of cutters and cutters in China is restricted by foreign standards. If this problem is not solved, it is not conducive to the export of China’s cutters and cutting tools, nor to the popularization and promotion of China’s advanced CNC cutters and cutting tools.
(3)short-handed advanced cutting tools supply
insufficient attention is paid to the promotion of advanced cutting tools. Many manufacturing enterprises in China are far from enough aware of the promotion and application of advanced NC cutters. If they do not realize the application of advanced cutting tools, they will have advanced processing technology. In the internationally developed manufacturing countries (such as the United States, Japan and Germany), the average annual consumption of machine tools is about US $4billion, while the consumption of cutting tools is about US $2billion. In 2005, the consumption of machine tools in China was close to 10billion US dollars, while the consumption of cutting tools was only about 1.3 billion US dollars, which is far behind the consumption proportion of machine tools in developed countries. Many enterprises are willing to buy advanced numerical control machine tools, but they are not willing to spend money to solve the application problems of advanced cutting tools. They buy advanced processing equipment and use backward cutting tools everywhere, which also affects the development process of advanced cutting tools.
(4)week tool application
China’s CNC cutter and cutter manufacturers still lack the concept that cutters and cutters must also have high efficiency. They cannot provide the best application technology for their products like foreign advanced manufacturers. Therefore, they cannot give full play to their application functions of advanced cutters and cutters. This has also affected the promotion and application of CNC cutters and cutters in China.
(5)insufficient production technology content
The production of high-precision and high-performance CNC cutters and tools involves the research on cemented carbide materials, tool structure and groove, coating technology, equipment automation and intelligence, tool processing technology and tool application technology. Its production technology is much more difficult than ordinary medium and low grade cemented carbide production. In order to catch up with foreign counterparts in talent and talent allocation, China’s production enterprises must strive to achieve this goal through the long-term unremitting efforts of all parties concerned.
3. low industrial economic benefits
The problems existing in the development of China’s cemented carbide industry will inevitably lead to the low economic benefits of enterprises, which is seriously restricting the sustainable development of the industry. Some of the world’s leading cemented carbide enterprises, such as Sweden’s Sandvik tool company, the United States’ Kenner company, Israel’s iska company, etc. in 2005, the turnover of cemented carbide and cemented carbide tools of the above three companies was about 2.6 billion, 2billion and 1billion dollars respectively.
In 2005, the sales revenue of cemented carbide industry in China was about 9billion yuan, less than 50% of the turnover of Sandvik tools.
In 2005, Sandvik Tools Co., Ltd. realized a profit of about 560million US dollars, with an operating profit margin of 21%, while the profit of China’s cemented carbide industry was about 540million yuan, with an operating profit margin of about 6%, which was also less than one eighth and one third of Sandvik Tools Co., Ltd.
The reason for the low efficiency of cemented carbide industry in China is actually closely related to the problems existing in the above development.