Interview Tool steel rides high, but other materials are gaining ground
Regardless of rapid developments in materials technologies, die and mould makers still rely heavily on tool steel. Rolf Krusenbaum, sales director for plastic mould steels at Deutsche Edelstahlwerke, notes that another type of steel has been expanding its market footprint.
ETMM: The technologies for metal additive manufacturing continue to advance at a breathtaking pace. Are you worried that you could lose market share to these production methods? Do you have any areas in this sector about which you are already concerned?
Rolf Krusenbaum: We have been monitoring these trends; however, this development has not affected us so far. From our point of view, additive manufacturing is primarily suitable for single-part and one-off production, as well as small production runs. Tool steel is still the first choice for complex high-tech applications produced on a large scale. Therefore, we do not regard additive manufacturing as competition, but consider it a supplement.
ETMM: How mature is the market for die and mould steels?
Krusenbaum: Things are not at a standstill, but the constant development of revolutionary materials is not a top priority, either. Instead, we try to orient ourselves towards trends, e.g. the trend towards moulds and tools made of corrosion-resistant tool steel or hot-work steel for press- hardening tools. In these areas, it is not possible to completely re-invent the wheel but the goal is to try and refine existing materials so that they meet the changing and increasing requirements of toolmakers and their customers.
ETMM: Have there been any recent breakthroughs in metal technologies for the die and mould sector?
Krusenbaum: We think the most important development in tool and mould design is the trend towards moulds that are completely made of stainless steel. This is true especially for the plastics industry, which increasingly uses corrosive plastics in production. A very long tool service life is especially important to this industry. We have completely adapted ourselves to this requirement with our all-stainless material package, which consists of four tool steels – Formadur 2083 Superclean, Formadur PH X Superclean, Corroplast and Corroplast FM. All four have one thing in common – they achieve a fine balance between essential corrosion resistance, required hardness and machinability. Which of the four materials a toolmaker selects is determined by the customer's individual application. Important selection factors are the degree of machining, polishability, operational environment and wear resistance requirements.
ETMM: What are your most popular alloys for dies and moulds? How has this changed over the years?
Krusenbaum: Depending on the production quantity, the classic P20 materials (1.2311, 1.2312, 1.2738) are the most popular. However, we frequently observe a trend towards corrosion-resistant tool steel qualities, which must also have excellent machining properties in the interest of economic efficiency. We are convinced that this trend will continue – particularly because of the worldwide boom in the PET sector.