For low-budget manufacturing, tools steels with many different expensive alloying elements may not be justifiable. Water-hardening tools steels offer a good compromise of cost and mechanical properties. These grades get most of their enhanced mechanical properties from high amounts of carbon and not from other alloying elements. They are rapidly water quenched to form hard, brittle microstructures that can withstand wear. Examples of water-hardening tools steels are W1, W2, and W3. They are frequently used for low-budget operations that require high wear resistance.
Cold-work tools steels are ideal for low temperature applications. They consist of air-hardening and oil-hardening tools steels. They do not require as rapid a quench as water-hardening tools steels because of the increased amounts of alloying elements such as chromium, manganese, and molybdenum. This generally makes them more costly than water-hardening tools steels, but with the benefit of enhanced mechanical properties. Examples of these tool steels are D2, O2, and A7. They are used for punches, dies, gages, and many more cold-working applications.
Plastic molding usually requires the use of a special type of tools steel. This tool steel falls under the Type P family of tools steels. They are generally not used for any other type of tooling applications aside from the manufacture of plastic molds or molds for metals with low melting temperatures. Examples include P2, P3, and P5.
There are special types of tools steels available for unusual applications. These are usually proprietary. At Metal Supermarkets, we can help you determine the best tools steel to achieve the desired mechanical properties.