Steel is commonly used in a wide variety of applications that require framework strengthening and structural support. Roads, buildings, bridges, airports, and other infrastructures are often built with steel because of its reliable strength and fracture resistance. Aside from the construction industry, steel is also used maximised in manufacturing appliances, equipment, and tools that are intended for daily activities.

One specific type of steel that is used in making tools is a tool steel. Tool steels are carbon and alloy steels that are extremely popular for their hardness, abrasion resistance, and deformation resistance. They are also known for their ability to withstand extreme temperatures and heavy loads.

Properties of Tool Steel

As mentioned, tool steels are carbon and alloy steels that are intended to be used for manufacturing tools such as cutters, reamers, bits, and others. The resistance of tools steels against abrasion, deformation, and extreme temperatures is brought by the presence of carbide formers like chromium, molybdenum, tungsten, or vanadium. Cobalt or nickel elements also help tool steels attain their enhanced properties.

The ability of tool steels to withstand high temperatures allows them to be shaped into a diverse range of tools. They can even come in soft or annealed condition that makes them convertible into different types of products. In manufacturing tool steels, they are typically melted in furnaces and subsequently processed into tools and components. They can likewise undergo further heat treatment after being fabricated and converted into a tool.

Types and Applications

Tool steels can be grouped into three basic categories, namely cold work tool steels, hot work tool steel, and high-speed tool steels. The following, however, are some of the most popular tool steel grades that are used in different industries today.

  • Air Hardening: Part of the cold work tool steels is air hardening tool steels. Their high chromium content allows them to possess low distortion factor during heat treatment. They also have great machinability and can effectively balance wear resistance and overall durability. Air hardening tool steels can be used in producing blanking, die bending, embossing, gages, knives, and lamination.
  • Water Hardening: Compared to other tool steels, water hardening tool steels are much more brittle. Even though they can retain high hardness, this type of tool steels cannot be utilised in high-temperature applications. Instances of warping and cracking may be visible since they must be water quenched. Water hardening tool steels are used to make cutting tools, knives, reamers, and cutlery.
  • D Type: D type tool steels are also part of the cold work tool steels. They are primarily composed of high carbon and high chromium, which help them obtain great abrasion resistance and other properties of air hardening tool steels. D type tool steels are used in fabricating burnishing tools, coining, cold forming, forging dies, knurling tools, knives, rotary slitters, and many more.
  • Hot Working:One primary classification of tool steels is the hot work tool steels. This group of tool steels is best known for its cutting ability under high temperatures. The inclusion of additional alloys allows them to work in applications that have elevated temperatures. Some applications of hot work tool steels are casting dies, hot forging, hot shear knives, hot swaging, and hot trimming.
  • Shock Resisting Types: Shock resisting types of tool steels can easily resist shock at any given temperature. The tensile strength of this type of tool steel is acquired by making its carbon content low. This type of tool steel can only resist impact, not abrasions. Shock resisting tool steels can be used in battering tools, cold or hot gripper, cold or hot swaging, and chipper knives.

Tool steels are used in various applications because of their resistance to abrasion and impact, hardness, and the ability to withstand extreme temperatures and pressures. They can truly help in fabricating different sets of tools that are intended for numerous industries.