Cemented carbides, or hardmetals as they are often called, are materials made by "cementing" very hard tungsten monocarbide (WC) grains in a binder matrix of a tough cobalt or nickel alloy by liquid phase sintering. Cemented carbides combine the high hardness and strength of metallic carbides (WC, TiC, TaC) or carbonitrides (eg TiCN) with the toughness and plasticity of a metallic alloy binder (Co, Ni, Fe), in which the hard particles are evenly distributed to form a metallic composite. Tungsten carbide is the most metallic of the carbides, and by far the most important hard phase. The more hard carbide particles are within the material, the harder it is but the less tough it behaves during loading; and, vice versa, significant increases in toughness are achieved by a higher amount of metallic binder at the expense of hardness.
Within the field of engineering materials, cemented carbides play a crucial role as they combine high hardness and strength with good toughness within a wide property range, and thus constitute the most versatile hard materials group for engineering and tooling applications.