About Tool Steel
Tool steel refers to a variety of carbon and alloy steels that are particularly well-suited to be made into tools. Their suitability comes from their distinctive hardness, resistance to abrasion, their ability to hold a cutting edge, and/or their resistance to deformation at elevated temperatures (red-hardness). Tool steel is generally used in a heat-treated state. Many high carbon tool steels are also more resistant to corrosion due to their higher ratios of elements such as vanadium and niobium.
How Is tool Steel Manufactured?
With a carbon content between 0.7% and 1.5%, tool steels are manufactured under carefully controlled conditions to produce the required quality. The manganese content is often kept low to minimize the possibility of cracking during water quenching. However, proper heat treating of these steels is important for adequate performance, and there are many suppliers who provide tooling blanks intended for oil quenching.
Tool Steel Grades
A2 tool steel: a versatile, air-hardening tool steel — good toughness and stability
D2 tool steel: wear resistant but not as tough as lower alloyed steels — very sensitive to heat treatment
O1 tool steel: cold work and low-alloy steel — more forgiving
S7 tool steel: air or oil hardening tool steel — known for high-impact toughness
DC53 tool steel: a general purpose, cold work die and mold steel — strength and toughness is like that of high-speed steels
Tool steel grades are made specifically for different applications so it's good practice when selecting a grade to ask yourself a few questions first. For example - is a keen cutting edge necessary, as in stamping dies, must it withstand impact loading and service conditions encountered with hand tools such as axes, pickaxes, and quarrying implements. Edge temperature under expected use is an important factor of both composition and required heat treatment. Higher carbon grades are typically used for such applications as stamping dies, metal cutting tools, etc.
Tool steel is commonly used in injection molding where resistance to abrasion is an important criterion. Its toughness also gives it non-deforming properties, allowing it to hold a cutting edge at various temperatures.