Properties of Tool Steel

There are three primary properties of tool steel. Do you know what they are? They are toughness, wear resistance and heat resistance. These three properties are inherent to the tool steel. Hardness is another property in tool steel that is developed through the heat treating process.

Toughness is a steels ability to resist cracking, chipping or breakage. Toughness is usually measured in foot-pounds of energy required to break the steel. The testing is usually performed on a Charpy V-notch test machine. Steel in its simplest form is very tough. As alloying content is added, steel loses some of its toughness. Low alloy grades of steel will have better toughness than higher alloy grades.

A tool is in constant movement, either against another tool or work material. This constant movement can wear away the surface of the tool. The tool will need to have some amount of wear resistance. Wear resistance is the steels ability to resist erosion. Wear resistance in tool steel is achieved by the presences of carbides. Chromium, molybdenum, tungsten and vanadium are the four carbide-forming elements commonly found in tool steels. They are listed in the order of the hardness of the carbides that they form. So a tool steel with vanadium carbides should have more wear resistance than a tool steel with the same amount of chromium carbides. Many tool steel grades will have more than one type of carbide to balance with the other properties. Wear resistance testing is non-standardized, but the grades are always compared in relation to each other.

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