Tool Steel Industry: General Market Overview, Types, Key Players, Prices and Applications
Tool steel is a type of alloy and carbon steel which is produced by using a special composition of various raw materials and carbon content. Tool steel, as the name suggests, is used to make tools, which are used for various purpose including cutting, digging, forging, punching and moulding. Its applications are quite wide ranging from hand tools to mechanical fasteners or machinery parts such as die press, where wear resistance, toughness, mechanical strength required for the better performance. Alloy tool steel can be classified into three main classes which are relatively low-alloy tool steel, intermediate alloy tool steel and high-speed tool steel.
Tool steel grading and specifications
- Other special purposes
Tool steel for high temperature and high-speed applications are designated as T and M type grades. These grades are known as high-speed steel (HSS). The conventional T type or Tungsten steel grades largely replaced by M type or Molybdenum high-speed steel grades. H types represent the grades for hot working operations. W type is for water hardenable while D types are for cold works. Some special group includes the P types which are used for making injection and blow moulding dies for plastics.
Usage of these grading depends on application requirements. Major alloying elements used in tool steel are chromium, cobalt, manganese, molybdenum, tungsten and vanadium. Some tools steel is made from stainless steel.
Tool steels are heat treated, and the higher carbon grades tend to be for cutting and stamping applications. Those categorised as “cold working” are for applications where surface temperatures remain below 200°C and “hot working” denotes applications above 200 °C.
The high-performance requirement in the operations needs more controlled composition and process to produce various grades of tool steel which increases the cost significantly.
Tool steel prices also depend on prices of raw materials such as tungsten, chromium, vanadium and Molybdenum. Its prices are on average around $4000/tonne but can vary widely depending on grades and sizes. High dispersions in prices are due to a variety of alloying elements and manufacturing processes involved in the production of various grades.
Key players in the industry
The global supply of tool steel is assessed to be over 3 million tonnes in 2018, and dominated by China. Some major producers are Voestalpine and Schmolz+Bickenbach, ArcelorMittal, ThyssenKrupp, Baowu Steel, Fushun Special Steel, Qilu Special Steel, Dongbei Special Steel, Tiangong Group and Qilu Special Steel.
In addition to the quality of tool steel, advancements in materials and metallurgical process also play an important role in determining the company market position. Prices of some tool steel can command high margins due to the nature of its applications.
End-user applications of tool steel
By application type, cold work tool steel is widely used followed by hot worked and plastic mould types. The demand growth is mainly driven by manufacturing, construction, automobile and mining sectors. We understand that the demand for tool steel is highly correlated with industrial production.
Drilling down further by end-user applications, tool steel is used mainly in the transport industry for engine parts, stamping and pressing dies of car bodies and parts exposed to wear and tear. It is also used in mining machinery like excavators teeth. In the manufacturing process, tool steel is used to make grinders, cutters and shapers, drill bits, stamps and presses. Moreover, another major end user of tool steel is the mould manufacturing industry for plastics products.
Would you want to explore this topic further, please feel free to contact us at Research@commodityinside.com