Transport, data flow, waiting in queues; we live in a world where we seem to want everything to go faster. But this is far from being a modern trait - the history of High Speed Steel (HSS) can be traced back to the 13th century BC! You may not have heard of HSS before but you will certainly have benefited from it as it has many uses across the scope of industry and commerce - one of its primary uses is for drill bits (also known as screw bits) and cutting tools. So, what exactly is HSS?
HSS really did originate all those centuries ago. A form of hardened steel was produced in China in the 13th century BC but the properties were accidentally imbued due to the differing combinations and types of iron ores used in the various locations. It wasn’t until 1868 that Robert Forester Mushet, a metallurgist, developed the true ancestor of modern HSS - an alloy of carbon, manganese and tungsten known as Mushet steel. Manganese came to be replaced by chromium and, in 1919, the first formally-classified HSS received AISI designation. It was patented by Crucible Steel Co. at the turn of the century and the rest, as they say, is history!
HSS is a tool steel, an alloy (using either molybdenum, tungsten or a combination) that is imbued with a number of desirable properties. HSS belongs to the multi-component alloy system Fe-C-X (Fe=iron, C=carbon and X=tungsten, vanadium, cobalt, chromium or molybdenum) and the X component included generally above 7% (with over 0.60% carbon).
The Uses of HSS drill bits
Drill bits are often made from HSS and can be used to drill reliably through most materials, including hardwood and metal. The properties of HSS have allowed it to largely replace carbon steels and the material is also used to fabricate saw blades, tool bits, gear cutters, planer blades, punches and dies. Many hand tools also use HSS in their manufacture, including chisels, files and penknives.
High levels of working hardness and wear resistance
Excellent compressive strength and toughness
Efficient retention of hardness
Dramatically improved strength to prevent any breakage at the crucial cutting edge or drilling point
Increased cutting/drilling speeds (hence the name High Speed Steel)
Unaffected optimal performance even at high temperatures