My company machines acrylic (Poly(methyl methacrylate) $\ce{(C5O2H8)_n}$), and notices that tungsten carbide tools break down quickly compared to high-speed steel, even though carbide is harder and lasts longer than steel when cutting most any other material.

Obviously, there is mechanical breakdown because of friction, but is it possible that there is also a chemical reaction between the acrylic and the carbide that is causing this faster breakdown?

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    $\begingroup$ Tungsten carbide drills are very brittle. If the plastic melts during drilling, the drag on the bit from the melted blob is enough to shatter the bit. AFAIK, that is not an issue with tungsten carbide blades, though, which have a tough (ductile) metal backing. $\endgroup$ – DrMoishe Pippik Jan 14 '16 at 20:29

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