close search button

capabilities > Materials We Work With > Tool Steel

Heat Treating for Tool Steel

Quality Processing for Tool Steel

Leveraging decades of experience and a commitment to technological innovation, Paulo provides unmatched heat treatment solutions for tool steel applications. By understanding the unique demands of the tool and die industry, Paulo ensures that every treated component offers enhanced performance, resilience, and longevity. Our partnership with manufacturers goes beyond heat treatment; we collaborate closely to understand their challenges and objectives, delivering customized solutions that drive their success.

Inherent Strength and Wear Resistance

At the core of tool steel’s exceptional performance is its inherent strength and wear resistance. These characteristics are crucial for tools that must withstand extreme pressures, repetitive impacts, or abrasive conditions without compromising their integrity or performance. The alloying elements such as chromium, molybdenum, and vanadium, in precise quantities, grant tool steel its remarkable durability and resilience. This allows tools and components made from tool steel to maintain sharp edges, precise shapes, and reliable functionality over extended periods, even under harsh operational conditions.

Enhanced Performance for Cutting Tools, Dies, and Molds

In the tool and die industry, where precision, reliability, and longevity are paramount, tool steel brings many benefits. Tool steel’s ability to be metallurgically enhanced to become the strongest steel available today makes it the material of choice for high-performance dies, punches, molds, and other tooling components. Its ability to withstand high temperatures, resist deformation, and maintain dimensional stability under stress ensures that tools and dies can produce accurate and consistent parts, run after run. This not only improves the efficiency of manufacturing processes but also significantly reduces downtime and maintenance costs, enhancing overall productivity and profitability.

Tool Steel Components We Process

  • Automotive tooling
  • High-pressure die casting dies
  • Aluminum stamping dies
  • Permanent mold dies
  • Cutting tools
  • Metal stamping dies
  • Molds
  • Rotary dies
  • Rotary anvils
  • Gears

Tool Steel Alloys We Process

A2 Tool Steel

Known for its excellent hardness and strength, A2 tool steel is an air-hardening grade cold work steel with good wear resistance. It contains about 1% carbon and 5% chromium, which provides an optimal combination of strength and durability that limits the risk of distortion or cracking during heat treatment. This material is ideal for punches, dies, and other tools where resistance to abrasion and impact is required.
A2 Hardness Ranges:
A2 is most commonly heat treated to a hardness of 58-60 HRC range, but can go as low as 52 HRC for some applications.

D2 Tool Steel

D2 cold work steel is characterized by its high chromium content (up to 12%), leading to superior wear resistance. It is a high-carbon, high-chromium air-hardening tool steel that maintains its hardness up to 425°C. This makes it suitable for applications demanding sharp edges and high surface stability, such as cutting tools and stamping dies. However, its high chromium content can make it more challenging to machine.

D2 Hardness Ranges:
D2 is most commonly heat treated to 58-60 HRC range, but can go as low as 50 HRC for some applications.

H13 Tool Steel

H13 stands out for its exceptional hot hardness and resistance to thermal fatigue, thanks to its chromium, molybdenum, and vanadium alloying elements. This hot work tool steel is air-hardening and has excellent resistance to shock and abrasion at high temperatures, making it perfect for hot-work applications like forging dies, aluminum extrusion dies, and die-casting tools.

H13 Hardness Ranges:
H13 is most commonly heat treated to 44-46 HRC, but the achievable range is 40-52 HRC.

S7 Tool Steel

S7 steel is the go-to choice for shock-resisting applications due to its unique combination of high impact resistance and strength. Its lower carbon content compared to other tool steels helps maintain its core strength under high-impact conditions. S7 is particularly well-suited for tools subjected to repeated impacts, such as chisels, hammers, and other impact tools.

S7 Hardness Ranges:
S7 is most commonly heat treated to 56-58 HRC, but the achievable range is 47-60 HRC.

Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF)

Powder Metal Tool Steel

Powder metal tool steels are produced using a unique metallurgy process that involves atomizing molten steel into fine particles, which are then compacted and sintered into a dense, homogeneous mass. This process allows for a more uniform distribution of carbides throughout the steel, leading to enhanced properties compared to traditional tool steels made through conventional melting and forging methods. The powder metallurgy process results in tool steels with improved wear resistance, strength, and the ability to retain a sharp edge for longer periods— ideal for cutting tools, dies, and knives where superior performance and longer tool life are critical.

Several grades of powder metal tool steel are available, each tailored for specific applications. Common grades include 3V, 9V, or 10V for industrial applications requiring high wear resistance or toughness. Each grade offers a balance of wear resistance, toughness, and edge retention suited to its intended use.

Powder Metal Tool Steel Hardness Ranges:
3V: 58-60 HRC
9V: 58-62 HRC
10V: 62-64 HRC

High-Speed Tool Steel

M2, M4, and M42 are commonly used high-speed tool steel, which are well-suited for tools that cut and form materials at high speeds. Each of these grades has unique properties that make them suitable for specific applications.

M2 is one of the most widely used high-speed tool steels, thanks to its well-balanced combination of wear resistance, toughness, and heat resistance. It contains approximately 0.85% carbon and 6% tungsten, along with molybdenum, vanadium, and cobalt. M2 is known for its ability to maintain a sharp cutting edge at high temperatures, making it ideal for general-purpose high-speed cutting and forming tools.

M4 is similar to M2 but with higher carbon (about 1.3%) and vanadium content, leading to significantly increased wear resistance and hardness. It also contains molybdenum, cobalt, and tungsten. M4’s exceptional hardness and resistance to abrasion make it suitable for cutting tools that encounter very high wear, including high-speed cutting tools for tougher materials.

M42 has a high cobalt content (around 8%), which significantly increases the steel’s hardness and hot hardness. This material also contains about 1.1% carbon, along with tungsten, molybdenum, vanadium, and chromium. M42’s exceptional heat resistance makes it ideal for machining difficult-to-cut materials like stainless steel and superalloys.

High-Speed Tool Steel Hardness Ranges:
M2: Commonly heat treated to 63-67 HRC, but can go as low as 54 HRC.
M4: Commonly heat treated to 60-62 HRC, but can go as low as 58 HRC.
M42: Can be heat treated to 64-67 HRC.

Heat Treatment Processes for Tool Steel

Vacuum hardening

Also known as through hardening or neutral hardening, this process is performed in our vacuum furnaces. It provides the wear and impact resistance, along with the strength necessary for your dies to withstand strike after strike during manufacturing operations such as metal stamping and fineblanking.

Ferritic nitrocarburizing (FNC)

Performed in an atmosphere-controlled furnace, FNC creates a ceramic outer layer on your block that provides wear- and corrosion- resistance without distortion. FNC is performed on finished tooling often as a final step after neutral hardening and finish machining.

Gas nitriding

Similar to FNC, gas nitriding is often performed as a final step on finished tooling to lend wear resistance against effects such as galling. Gas nitriding is well suited for parts used in load-bearing applications where sliding wear in a chief concern. It is conducted at a relatively low temperature (usually around 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit), which allows tooling blocks to remain in their ferritic state, thus preventing distortion from occurring.

Quenching for large dies

Paulo has the largest 20 bar quench furnace in North America. It can accommodate dies in excess of 6,000 pounds.

Vacuum hardening

Also known as through hardening or neutral hardening, this process is performed in our vacuum furnaces. It provides the wear and impact resistance, along with the strength necessary for your dies to withstand strike after strike during manufacturing operations such as metal stamping and fineblanking.

Ferritic nitrocarburizing (FNC)

Performed in an atmosphere-controlled furnace, FNC creates a ceramic outer layer on your block that provides wear- and corrosion- resistance without distortion. FNC is performed on finished tooling often as a final step after neutral hardening and finish machining.

Gas nitriding

Similar to FNC, gas nitriding is often performed as a final step on finished tooling to lend wear resistance against effects such as galling. Gas nitriding is well suited for parts used in load-bearing applications where sliding wear in a chief concern. It is conducted at a relatively low temperature (usually around 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit), which allows tooling blocks to remain in their ferritic state, thus preventing distortion from occurring.

Quenching for large dies

Paulo has the largest 20 bar quench furnace in North America. It can accommodate dies in excess of 6,000 pounds.

Metallurgy Support for Tool Steel

Heat treating tool steel involves a series of controlled heating and cooling cycles that refine its microstructure, enhancing its mechanical properties to suit specific applications. Processes are tailored to the specific type of tool steel and its intended use, ensuring the material achieves the optimal balance of hardness, strength, and wear resistance. Paulo’s expertise in heat treatment allows for the customization of tool steel’s properties, making it suitable for specialized applications ranging from intricate cutting tools to robust dies and molds.

Ready to Get Started?

Let’s work together to enhance thermal processing results for your additively manufactured parts. rn

Start a Quote
Subscribe to our emails to recieve updates on new content and more.

Email Subscription - Call to Action Module

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Before You Go...
Before You Go...
Subscribe to our emails to recieve updates on new content and more.

Email Subscription - Call to Action Module Mobile

en_USEnglish
Send this to a friend