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Scaffolding Materials
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Stainless Steels
Classes of Stainless Steel
Tool Steel

7 Things To Consider When Choosing A Tool Steel Grade

  1. Tool steel feature increased amount of carbon and other alloying elements which give them enhanced physical properties, making them the ideal choice for a variety of applications.
  2. Cutting tools, cams, dies, chuck jaws, blocks, gages, and drill bits are just some examples of the many different tools steel applications. Along with many different applications, there are also many different tools steel grades available, including cold-working tools steels that encompass water-hardening tools steels, oil-hardening tools steels, and air-hardening tools steels.
  3. There are high-speed tools steels, hot-working tools steels, and shock-resisting tools steels as well. With so many different choices, it is necessary to be able to identify the correct tools steel for the job. Listed in this article are seven things to consider when selecting a tools steel grade.

Will the tool steel be subjected to large impacts?

  1. Tool steels are generally hard and brittle. When impacts occur on materials like this, it can cause fractures. Shock-resisting tools steels are a group made to better withstand impact as they have a higher degree of toughness than other tools steels. However, this increased toughness does come with a reduction in hardness and wear resistance compared to other types of tools steels.
  2. Therefore, shock-resisting tools steels should only be used in applications that require the steel to undergo large, sudden impacts. Examples of shock-resisting tools steels are S1, S2, and S5. Shock-resisting tools steels are frequently used in chisels, shears, and hammers.

Will the tool steel be doing work at high temperatures?

  1. High temperatures can affect the mechanical properties of steel. This is especially true of tools steels, because many of them have been heat-treated, and reheating them may render that heat-treatment useless.
  2. Hot-work tools steels are a popular option when dealing with high temperature applications because they are less likely to lose their hardness and wear resistance at elevated temperatures. This is because of their relatively high amounts of tungsten and molybdenum. Grades of hot-work tool steels include H12, H13, and H19. They are commonly used for casting dies, extrusion dies, and hot shear knives.

Will the tool steel be used at high speeds?

  1. Some tools are moved so fast that the energy generated can result in elevated temperatures which can impact the tools steel in two ways. The first concern is that the high temperature will reduce the hardness and wear resistance of the tool. The second concern is that since there are many cycles being run on the tool in such a short time, tool wear can occur very quickly.
  2. For operations such as these, high-speed tool steels should be used. They are made to not only have mechanical properties that withstand elevated temperatures, but also have high wear resistance to prevent tool degradation when exposed to many cycles in a short time frame. Examples of high-speed tools steels include T1, M7, and M42. They are used in drill bits, cutting blades, and pump components.

Is cost a concern?

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.

Will the tool steel be performing work at low temperatures?

Tool Steel

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.

Will it be used for plastic molding?

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.

Are there special circumstance considerations?

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.