Over the years we’ve learned of many success stories and even more failures with regard to the outcome of a heat treated tool or piece of steel. The discussion following the failures is seldom calm and, hindsight being 20/20, most of the failures could have been avoided if the details were discussed during the early stages of planning. While all failures can’t be avoided we want to encourage you to ask questions both of your material suppliers and heat treaters before launching that new important project or making that critical tool for the customer with the downed production line.
Having the discussion with the heat treater during the beginning phases of the job can help you to accomplish at least two critical things you’ll need to be successful: achieving the optimal properties for the steel and giving yourself enough time to have the material processed to meet your lead time.
Here are a few pointers that can help maximize a positive experience with your heat treater:
- Ask if they work with tool steels and which grades they understand the best. Not all heat treaters understand tool steels as well as they do alloy or stainless steels.
- Verify with your heat treat processor their standard practice for heat treating tool steels. How many and at what temperatures do they preheat. How long do they soak at the hardening temperature. What are their quench methods and how many times do they typically temper their tool steels. (We typically suggest two tempering cycles minimum). What you want and what they do on a normal basis could differ greatly. You won’t find this out unless you ask.
- Talk about properties, not hardness alone. Figuring out the best process to produce the toughest S-7 is a much different conversation than asking if they could make the S-7 55 rockwell. Not all applications require the same hardness and not all grades perform the same way at the same hardness.
- Ask what their normal lead time would be, or what they would expect your special process to take in their shop. Add a few days just to be safe. Expect the best and plan for the worst. Anything can go wrong and it’s not always going to be the heat treater’s fault.
- Get their feedback on part distortion. If you have time, send a part print in for discussion and ask how they think you could produce the part with the least amount of distortion or movement.
We encourage anyone to work as closely as you can with your heat treat company to make sure they know what you want and can accommodate your request prior to sending in the material and process request in. This will go a long way in making your tool the best it can be. Of course, we encourage you to work with Hudson Tool Steel for your steel selection. We understand that all the best processing is for nothing if the steel you’re starting with is of substandard quality.
At Hudson, our goal is to “Make Tool Steel Easy”. We hope the discussion in future posts will help you gain a better understanding of materials and processing through asking the right questions. Have a question for us? Call us at 800-996-0411 or send an inquiry through our “Have a Question?” form. We look forward to helping you with any of your tool steel questions.