Some Knowledge of High Speed Steel (HSS) and Its Market Position

by Hanjiang Wang, Diamond Blade Select
November 19th, 2008. Copyright © 2008-2014. All rights reserved.

High Speed Steel (HSS) is a kind of steel containing some other elements: carbon, tungsten, molybdenum, chromium, vanadium, and/or cobalt. After heat treatments, it will have high hardness even at high temperatures. When the cutting temperature exceeds 600°C, the hardness of HSS will not decrease apparently. The cutting speed of cutting tools made of HSS can exceed 60 meters per minute, thus High Speed Steel gets its name.

Below is a comparison table of HSS grades’ common names, similar ISO names and Chinese names, and their performance data:

Chinese Grade Common Name Similar ISO Grade Quenching Tempering Hardness (HRC) Bending Strength (MPa) Impact Toughness (MJ/m2) Hardness at 600°C (HRC)
W18Cr4V T1 HS18-0-1 63-66 3500 0.29 50.5
W6Mo5Cr4V2 M2 HS6-5-2 63-66 3500-4000 0.30-0.40 47-48
W6Mo5Cr4V3 M3 HS6-5-3 65-67 3200 0.25 51.7
W9Mo3Cr4V     63-64 4000-4500 0.35-0.40  
W6Mo5Cr4V2Co5   HS6-5-2-5 65-66 3000 0.30 54
W10Mo4Cr4V3Co10   HS10-4-3-10 67-69 2350   55.5
W2Mo9Cr4V2Co8   HS2-9-2-8 66-68 2700-3800 0.23-0.35 55
W7Mo4Cr4V2Co5 M41 HS7-4-2-5 66-68 2500-3000 0.23-0.35 54
W12Cr4VCo5   HS12-0-1-5 66-68 3000 0.25 54
W6Mo5Cr4V2Al 501 Steel   66-69 3000-4100 0.25-0.30 55-56
110W1.5Mo9.5Cr4VCo8 M42   67-69 2650-3730 0.23-0.29 55.2
W10Mo4Cr4VAl 5F6 Steel   68-69 3010 0.20 54.2

HSS can be classified as ordinary HSS and high performance HSS by its chemical composition, and can also be classified as melting HSS and powder metallurgy HSS by its manufacturing process.

1. Ordinary HSS

Ordinary HSS can meet general needs. Two commonly sighted types of it are tungsten series HSS and tungsten-molybdenum series HSS.

  • Tungsten series HSS

    Its typical grade is W18Cr4V. After heat treatment, its hardness can reach 63 – 66 HRC, and bending strength reaches 3500 MPa. Its grindability is good.

  • Tungsten-molybdenum series HSS

    Its typical grade is W6Mo5Cr4V2, which is now replacing the tungsten series HSS. Its carbide is small and evenly distributed. It has high abradability, and is at low cost. Its hardness after heat treatment is same as W18Cr4V, but its bending strength can reach 4700 MPa. Its toughness and thermoplasticity are higher than W18Cr4V by 50%. It is usually used to manufacture a variety of tools, such as drill bits, taps, and reamers. It can meet the general processing of engineering materials. Its decarbonization sensitivity is a little bit high.

    Another Grade is W9Mo3Cr4V, which is a new variety developed in China. Its toughness and thermoplasticity are a little bit higher than W6Mo5Cr4V2. Its hardness is 63 – 64 HRC. It is easy for rolling and forging. Its decarbonization sensitivity is low. Its cost is also lower.

2. High performance HSS

High performance HSS has a better hardness. This is a new developed variety by changing the chemical composition of HSS and improving its performance. Its hardness can stay at more than 60 HRC when the cutting temperature reaches 650°C. Its durability is 1.5 – 3 times of that of Ordinary HSS. It is applicable to manufacture the cutting tools for processing high temperature alloys, stainless steel, titanium alloys, high-strength steel, and other hard materials. There are 4 main varieties, namely high-carbon series HSS (its typical grade is 9w18Cr4V), high-vanadium series HSS (its typical grades are W12Cr4V4Mo and W6Mo5Cr4V3), cobalt series HSS (its typical grade is W2Mo9Cr4VCo8), and aluminum HSS (its typical grades are W6Mo5Cr4V2Al and W6Mo5Cr4V5SiNbAl).

3. Powder metallurgy HSS

Powder metallurgy HSS effectively solved melting HSS’s issue of the big carbide segregation in ingot casting. Grade APM T15 powder metallurgy HSS’s toughness is 2.5 times of that of melting HSS which has the same chemical composition. Its hardness in high temperature is also improved by 0.5 – 1 HRC. Its grindability is good.

Because of its high degree of isotropic mechanical property, powder metallurgy HSS’s hardening deformation is small, and it has larger surface which has uniform distribution of carbide particles. These carbide particles are not easily to fall off from the cutting edge of tools. By using powder metallurgy HSS, the abradability of small size tools can be improved by 1.5 – 2 times, and 20 – 30% for large size tools.

The production process of powder metallurgy HSS is more complicated than that of melting HSS, and its costs are higher.

4. The market position and trends of HSS

HSS has played an important role in the development of modern industry. It can be said that no HSS, there would be no modern metal processing industry. Though the applications of other materials like hard alloy have risen, HSS is still widely used to make HSS twist drill bits and HSS saw blades, and has a dominant position in manufacturing the cutting tools which have complex shapes or are difficult to be ground, such as broaches, shaving cutters, pinion cutters, etc. In particular, when high toughness is required, HSS is the very necessary choice.

The main application fields of HSS are machinery and tools manufacturing industries. HSS should adapt to the development of these industries. In the machinery processing, many CNC machine tools, such as processing centers, turning centers, etc., have been used. The metal cutting speed becomes faster and faster. This requires that cutting tools must have high speed performance, that is, good hardness at high temperatures, good abradability and good toughness. Many manufacturers have developed many HSS materials which can meet these requirements.

High Speed Steel, the steel variety which has a century of history, should aim at the specific markets, and improve its own technologies to counter the other materials’ challenges.

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