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Tool Steel Characteristics and Properties

Tools can be made of a variety of carbon and alloy steels chosen for properties including: resistance to abrasion, hardness and red-hardness (resistance to deformation at high temperatures). Tool steel is frequently used in a heated state, making the preceding characteristics crucial to performance. Other differentiating factors among tooling blanks include the intended quenching method and chemical element content.

For example, water quenching processes require different steel production than oil quenching; higher carbon steel is harder, recommended for stamping dies or metal cutting tools and steel with increased amounts of vanadium or niobium is more corrosion-resistant. Tool steel is also ideal for injection-molded manufacturing systems because of its immunity to abrasion, even after hundreds of uses.

Tool steel grades are assigned according to intended use. For example, A-grades are air-hardening, characterized by a high chromium content. D-grades are also air-hardening, but with a high carbon content, making them more abrasion resistant. H-grades (including Viscount 44) are intended for use in high temperature environments. L- grades are a low alloy multipurpose tool steel. M-grades are a high speed steel, commonly used in cutting tools. O-grades are oil hardening and W-grades are water-hardening, leading to differences in product hardness. Lastly, S-grades are shock-resistant, ideal for battering tools such as jackhammers.

Tool blanks are shaped using a specific combination of heating and cooling procedures which determine the future strength and success of the tool, this is where water vs oil quenching becomes important. Alro Steel manufactures its tool steel with a carbon content between 0.7% and 1.5%, often keeping manganese content low to avoid cracks during water quenching. They also stock tool steel plate (grades A2, A6, D5 and DC-53) and bar (choice of square, round or flat in a wide variety of grades), making them a ‘one-stop shop’ for tool-making needs.


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