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Tool Materials

Training Objective

After watching the program and reviewing this printed material, the viewer will become familiar with further
aspects of tool design by exploring the materials used in toolmaking.

Tool material selection is highlighted

Physical and mechanical properties are discussed
Both ferrous and nonferrous tool design is shown
Nonmetallic tooling is explored

Tool Material Properties

The principal tool materials are ferrous metals, nonferrous metals, and nonmetallic materials. Proper
selection is based upon how the materials physical and mechanical properties will affect the tools
performance and capabilities.

Physical properties are inherent in the material and cannot be permanently altered without changing the
composition of the material itself. They include:

Electrical conductivity
Thermal conductivity
Thermal expansion
Melting point

Mechanical properties can be permanently altered by either thermal or mechanical treatment. Those
properties include:

Hardness resistance to indentation

Wear resistance resistance to abrasion, grinding, and rubbing
Toughness ability to absorb sudden impact
Brittleness tendency to fracture when a sudden load is applied
Plasticity ability to deform without fracture (ductility and malleability are associated with plasticity)
Surface finish influences tool quality and tool life expectancy

Tests for the basic mechanical properties are:

Strength various mechanical devices are used to place material specimens under a variety of loads such
as tensile, compressive, shear, and fatigue.

Hardness the degree of indentation is determined by using a variety of tests, with the most common being
the Brinell or Rockwell tests.

Toughness determined by either the Charpy notched bar or the Izod notched bar test.

Certain mechanical properties can be obtained by the use of thin film coatings. Surface hardness, wear
resistance, reduced friction, and thermal conductivity are typical properties obtained with coating or layers of
coatings which often total .001 of an inch (.025 of a millimeter) or less. Strength, hardness, and toughness
are mechanical properties that can be enhanced by various heat treating processes including through-
hardening, surface hardening and softening processes.

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Tool Materials
Ferrous Tool Materials

Ferrous tool materials have iron as a base metal and include the carbon steels, alloy steels, tool steels, and
cast irons. Ferrous tool materials are used in the cast, hot-rolled, cold-rolled, or ground condition.

Carbon steels contain mostly iron and carbon, with small amounts of other alloying elements. They are
designated as having low, medium, and high carbon content ranging from .05% to 1.5%.

Alloy steels are carbon steels with additional alloying elements added to enhance specific mechanical
properties. Such elements include manganese, silicon, nickel, molybdenum and chromium.

Tool steels are comprised of high carbon, high strength alloys with additional elements that provide
characteristics needed for specific tool purposes. There are seven major families of tool steels:

Water-hardening steels
Cold-work steels
Shock-resisting steels
High-speed steels
Hot-work steels
Plastic mold steels
Special-purpose steels

Cast iron is essentially an alloy of iron containing from 2% to 4% carbon, .5% to 3% silicon, .4% to 1%
manganese, plus phosphorus and sulfur. Other alloying elements may be added depending on the properties
desired. Cast iron appears in gray, nodular, malleable, white, and alloy forms.

Nonferrous Tool Materials

Nonferrous tool materials have a base metal other than iron, with the most commons types being aluminum,
carbide, and cermet.

Aluminum is used for special tooling. The principal advantages to using aluminum are its high strength-to-
weight ratio, nonmagnetic properties, corrosion resistance, and relative ease in machining and forming.

Carbide is a powder metallurgy product made of hard carbide particles bonded together by a metal binder.
Typical carbides are tungsten, titanium, tantalum, and niobium. Most carbide tools have additional coatings,
including titanium carbide, titanium nitride, aluminum oxide, titanium carbonitride, titanium-aluminum nitride,
and combinations of some of these.

Cermet is a very hard material consisting of titanium carbide or titanium nitride along with a nickel or cobalt
binder. Cermet tools are used primarily for semi- or final-finish turning and boring.

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Tool Materials
Nonmetallic Tool Materials

Nonmetallic tool materials are used mainly for limited parts production and where the cost of using tool steels
and other materials are not economically practical. They may incorporate metallic elements to enhance
performance and longevity. The principle nonmetallic tool materials include:

Wood, which is used in a variety of forms within low-cost, limited-production tools. Some common
applications include short-run or prototype thermoforming molds, steel-rule dies in which wood supports the
rule, and jig plates with inserted steel bushings.

Composites, which consist of a reinforcing material and a matrix. Special composite tooling materials are
used as economical alternatives to metal tooling for composites manufacturing. Composite tooling is
desirable since it can have the same thermal expansion characteristics as the composite parts being
manufactured and cured.

Rubber, which is used in special drawing, blanking, and bulging die operations, as well as for protective
elements and other special tools. Silicone rubber, specifically RTV or room temperature vulcanizing silicone,
is used as a rapid means of producing soft tooling for low-pressure molding.

Ceramic, which has high compressive strength, high hot strength, and resistance to abrasion and galling,
along with low heat conductivity. It is used primarily in high-speed cutting tools on very hard and abrasive
materials. Ceramic cutting tools can be divided into alumina-based ceramics and silicon nitride-based
ceramics, with each having specific applications.

Diamond, in synthetic or natural form, is the hardest of materials, and finds limited use for turning and milling
operations, grinding wheels and grinding wheel dressers. Diamond tools cannot be used on ferrous metals,
such as steel, Because of their high affinity to carbon.

Cubic boron nitride or CBN is the second hardest tool material after diamond. It has a compressive strength
of 700,000 psi (4,830 mega pascals), twice the thermal conductivity of copper, is thermally stable and
resistant to oxidation up to 3,500 F (1,925 C). CBN is used to machine both ferrous and nonferrous metals
that cannot be readily cut by other materials.

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Tool Materials
Review Questions

1. The physical properties of tool materials are:

a. inherent
b. variable
c. heat treatable
d. altered by cold working

2. Malleability is associated with:

a. softness
b. hardness
c. plasticity
d. wear resistance

3. The Charpy notched bar test provides a measure of:

a. tensile strength
b. compressive strength
c. toughness
d. fatigue strength

4. Thin film coatings on tool surfaces total:

a. .005 of an inch (.127 of a millimeter)
b. .003 of an inch (.0762 of a millimeter)
c. .010 of an inch (.254 of a millimeter) or more
d. .001 of an inch (.025 of a millimeter) or less

5. The carbon content of carbon steel ranges from:

a. 2% to 4%
b. .05% to 1.5%
c. less than .05%
d. less than .01%

6. The range of carbon content of cast iron is:

a. 5% to 10%
b. 4% to 7%
c. 2% to 4%
d. .01% to .15%

7. Cermet tools are used primarily for:

a. final finish turning
b. interrupted cutting
c. deep hole drilling
d. rough turning

8. Diamond tools cannot be used on:

a. aluminum
b. steel
c. composites
d. ceramics

9. Cubic boron nitride (CBN) is thermally stable to:

o o
a. 1,100 F (593 C)
o o
b. 2,500 F (1,370 C)
o o
c. 3,500 F (1,925 C)
o o
d. 3,800 F (2,093 C)

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Tool Materials
Answer Key

1. a
2. c
3. c
4. d
5. b
6. c
7. a
8. b
9. c

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